Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mount Monadnock-July 4th

My trail running  friend Tom and I decided to hit Mount Monadnock this 4th of July.  No running this time but hiking which was nice as it would give us time to enjoy the mountain and the views.

By the time I got up there the skies had cleared and the sun was out with temperatures still nice.  I'd look at my watch realizing I had about 20 minutes to kill before I was supposed to meet Tom so did a little exploring up the White Dot Trail.  Birds would be vocal including a nice Blackburnian Warbler and I could pickup the scent of a camp fire nearby so all of my senses would be alive and I couldn't think of a better way to spend the day.  Sure enough it was time to turn back as 10 o'clock was getting closer.

The place would start to pick up at this point so I went to a local picnic table and watched an American Crow who was very tame and photogenic.  I'd realize it was now 10:15 and no sign of Tom so I'd call him on his cell to see where he was.  Reception would be bad and it would take me 5 minutes to finally get my call through.  Once I got a hold of him I'd realize he wasn't lost but rather at the Gilson Pond Parking area as we were going to be taking a different trail than White Dot and realized I was the one that was lost so after getting directions to his location off I went and a tad embarrassed over my over site but what else is new.

I'd get there and see him on the road waving me down so of course I smiled and waved as I was happy I didn't get lost considering my tendency to do that.  Tom would tell me he already told the parking guy I'd be coming so he'd just let me through since I'd already paid admission at the other location. Okay, I'd reply as I went up the road.  I'd look in my rearview mirror and Tom would be running behind and I'd laugh to myself and think "That Tom, he just loves to run".  I'd drive a little more and realize it was quite a distance to the parking lot and perhaps I should go get Tom.  The road would be narrow though and I'm lousy with three point turns so figured by the time I did all that, he'd catch up and then I'd have to do another three point turn to turn around to get us back which would delay us more, so I just kept going.  I'd see the parking guy and tell him I was the woman who went to the wrong place and he'd smile and wave me through.  "Where's your friend" he'd ask.  I'd sheepishly tell him he'll be along shortly as he was running back.  "Really" that guy responded, obviously impressed.  "Yes, really", I'd reply realizing just how crazy we must both look to the guy by now.  After I parked Tom would make it back seconds later and I'd feel horrible and apologize for not offering him a ride as that would have been logical.  It would be then I'd also realize I never had to do any three point turns but just pull my car over and wait for him  and then we'd both drive to the parking lot together which would totally make sense obviously.  He said he too didn't think it was a long distance so all was welll.   Thank God Tom knows my air headed tendencies so he didn't take it personally which is why Tom is one of my greatest buddies!  :-p

So we'd set off at about 10:30 or so and by then the humidity would start to kick in again.  The Birchtoft Trail was nice though with nice wooded trails and wood warblers including both the Black-throated Blues and Greens, as well as the Ovenbirds and MANY American Redstarts.  The bugs would also be out much to my dismay because even with bug spray on, they still drive me crazy.

The pond would look quite refreshing at this point and scenic as well.

We'd make it to here and Tom would ask if I was up for a challenge with Spellman which of course I was as when am I not!

And I'd be so happy we decided to take this trail as it was lovely.  In the beginning it would be all wooded with the smell of pine, the sound of birds and trickling streams nearby.  We'd make our way to this small running stream of water and put our hands in it to splash off and the water would be surprisingly cool which was nice.

It would be so nice, it would be the perfect place for a photo.  This would also be the first time we'd come across other hikers (we were almost 2 miles in at this point) which was so much different than White Dot which is the most popular trail in all of Monadnock.  I could have stayed here much longer seriously!

  Tom posing as well.  Notice the nice mini waterfall in the background.

We'd make our way toward the rockier part of the Spellman and my camera would go back into the day bag.  While many of the rocks were dry at this point, quite a few would be wet after the morning rain.  Neither of us brought poles so we'd crawl up them paying careful attention to foot placement and balance as it was very steep in many spots and the wet rocks made it worse.

After navigating through one of the steepest parts we'd stop to take in the magnificent view and drink some more much needed water.  Tom would be re applying sunscreen as I was trying to figure out who the bird was making a two phased note call and it would be driving me crazy at this point as I heard it the entire time I was climbing up the steep rocks but couldn't figure it out for the life of me.  I'd apologize to Tom for causing a delay in getting to the summit but I just had to figure out what the bird was.  Out would come the Droid where I'd play songs of birds I didn't know like the Red Crossbill.  I figured we were too far south for them but what did I know as I know nothing about the bird of New Hampshire.  That would be a strike out of course so then I'd resort to pishing which is something I'd never done in front of a non birder before but desperate times called for desperate measures. ;-).  This wouldn't phase Tom in the least as he's used to it by now, but I do try and control myself when hiking with non birders as I don't want to ruin their good time   but the view was so nice it was a good excuse to rest for a bit and take it all in.  

We'd finally make it above tree line and there would be this incredible breeze that was much needed after navigating those rocks in the hot sun.  It would be here that my ears would be greeted with one of my favorite bird songs of all time and that would be the White-throated Sparrow which I only get a tease of late winter and early spring when I hear them in my yard.  To hear them above tree line and in vast numbers was amazing and I'd be very happy making my way to the summit.  Until I heard that bird again with the two noted call.  I am again looking for the culprit and I'd shout out to Tom asking if we can stop as I think I spotted it.  Tom would stop as he realized this has been driving me crazy the entire time and even he too was curious on what it could be.  I'd spot the bird perched in a small  tree and whip out my camera as I had no binoculars with me and would get one lousy shot and off it would fly "effin bugger", I'd yell.  I'd spot what I thought was the bird again so we'd have to stop as I attempted to sneak up on it.  Off it would fly and I'd realize at this point the bird I was looking at was a Dark-eyed Junco to mess with my head even more considering I thought I'd perfected their call but would obviously need to dig around Xeno Canto as there are other variations.  This is not what should be going on through ones head while hiking up a mountain but welcome to the mind of the Curious Birder!

Soon enough the views got so incredible that my mind stopped with the obsessing as I drank it all in.  There would still be a breeze and the views from all around were incredible.

Stopping for another picture

There would be Common Raven's here and Turkey Vultures as well but not really putting on a show which was probably just as well as I never would have left that spot if they were.  HA

Almost there!

And finally we'd make it.

We'd stick around for a while and rehydrate while we took in all the views. After a while we'd decide to head back down the mountain and both the White-throats and juncos would still be heard.

While stopping every so often for some wild blueberries.  So good and wish we could have found a spot with tons as I brought ziplock baggies in case it rained to put my electronics in and could have used them for fill ups for muffins when I got home, no such luck though as there were only enough to us and the other hikers passing by.

No Spellman on the way back so we took Red Dot the entire way down which would bring our total millage to almost 6.5 miles round trip.  I'd pick up a couple new birds down this trail including a Wood Thrush (heard Hermit closer to the summit) and a Magnolia Warbler which is always welcome.

Tom brought his Garmin thankfully as I forgot mine and these are some of the read outs from the climb.  Definitely not my pace at Mount Wachusett this past Sunday but Monadnock is no Wachusett! ;-)

Love the elevation chart because it really puts the climb into perspective

I'd finally be making my way back home and drinking more water as I had a head ache from the heat (I'd be on my 6th pint by now believe it or not!).  I'd be cruising along Route 140 still thinking about that bird and how uneasy I felt about it being a Dark-eyed Junco with that 2 noted call and didn't think it was shaped like one when I saw it at quick glance.  It would be then I'd remember that I was able to get a distant photo so sped up a little in an effort to get home to finally find out who the culprit was.  I'd get home, drop my bags, grab a bowl of chocolate ice cream and head straight to the computer to dowloand my photos.  I'd go straight to that photo of course in disbelief (allthough I shouldn't by now).  Anyone want to guess what it was?

That's right, it would be a Yellow-rumped Warbler!!!!  My excuse to myself is that I was above tree line and all bird song sounded a little different on the ears as they were so clear and the wind carried it tunes in odd directions.  I'm now determined to get this bird song in my head so will be replacing my Swainson's Thrush ringtone with the ring tone of the Yellow-rumped.  Despite a few hiccups along the way, the hike was wonderful and something I'm looking forward to doing again.  I had no idea how nice of a drive it is to get up to New Hampshire so I'm looking forward to exploring some of the less populated trails along Mount Monadnock, but will probably wait until the temps cool a bit more.

Take care all.

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