About 30 years ago, when the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway in southern New Hampshire was new, a friend from work and I walked all 50+ miles of the entire trail in a single day. As I recall, we did it to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Wearing light daypacks with just some water, food, a change of socks and a flashlight, we climbed Sunapee in the pre-dawn darkness, walked the 50 or so miles (the route was different in those days and I don’t remember the actual mileage) to the summit of Monadnock at a brisk pace, and climbed down by flashlight. Funny, I don’t recall it being a particularly difficult day. . . . Maybe 50 miles was shorter then?
In 2006, to celebrate the Summer Solstice, EasternsSlopes.com Publisher David Shedd and I decided to see how much of the trail we could do in a single day. In what we dubbed “The Long March,” we ended up covering over 26 miles and were sore enough (mostly from boot issues) that neither of us could hike the next day.
A few days ago, we “finished” the trail. Common sense had set in, and we took two days with an overnight at one of the established campsites along the way.
Some friends kindly agreed to drop us at the trailhead up Monadnock and shuttle our car to Pitcher Mountain in Stoddard where we’d ended before. Hikers who want to leave a car at either end of the trail need to contact Monadnock State Park, the Mount Sunapee ski area, or Mount Sunapee State Park and let the staff know what your plans are so your car doesn’t get towed.
We carried lightweight packs, solo tents and summer sleeping bags. With plenty of water and lots of good food the packs weighed about 30 pounds each to start, which, believe me, is plenty to carry up Monadnock.
No matter which route you take, Monadnock is a good hike. We followed the Old Toll Road (easy) and the White Arrow Trail (steep in spots) to the summit, ate lunch admiring the spectacular views, then started on the M-S Greenway proper. As always when you are carrying a pack, getting down the mountain was harder than going up. Trekking poles help.
Once we got off Monadnock’s well-worn trails, it quickly became clear how little use the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway gets. While the trail was easily discernable, it was overgrown in spots with raspberries and ferns. Our day’s total was 8.6 miles with a lovely lean-to shelter at the Spiltoir campsite at the end. We had the site to ourselves and pitched the mesh bodies of our solo tents inside the shelter for bug protection.
The second day was long, about 15 miles to hike, but the walking was generally easy and our packs were much lighter. Unfortunately quite a bit of the route is on dirt roads and some blacktop. A violent windstorm had closed several miles of trail into the village of Nelson and that added two-plus miles of road walking.
If you hike north to Pitcher Mountain, be warned: the last mile or so is poorly marked, has many blowdowns to negotiate, and is overgrown in many places. It’s just another indication that this trail isn’t getting used as much as it should, which is amazing considering how well-laid out and accessible it is.
So we’ve now “done” the entire Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway. But we haven’t, really . . . we’ve missed a couple of sections along the way. . . . Perfect excuse to go back. This trail is a gem and well worth exploring completely.
Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!
Gear Notes: Going Light.
Going light was the key to this enjoying this hike, and David and I were testing out some new gear that performed beautifully:
Boots: I tried some new lightweight “Pole Creek” hikers from Columbia. Very light, very well made, waterproof, and probably very comfortable. But I hadn’t broken them in sufficiently before this hike and developed a blister in a spot where I always develop blisters with new boots. My fault, not the boots. David had some new L.L. Bean Trail Model light hikers. Also really nice boots, same problem with not enough break in.
Packs: David used a superlight “Jam” pack from GoLite. At only 1 pound, 13 ounces, it’s comfortable with 30 pounds but lacks some features like a top pocket. I used an extremely comfortable REI Flash 65. It weigh 3 pounds 2 ounces, but has most of the bells and whistles. Great value.
Hydration: Hiking in the summer means drinking lots of water. Our real discovery for the trip was an ultralight highly efficient water purification system from SteriPEN which uses U-V light to quickly sterilize water. This allowed us to carry less water as we walked and drink safely from sources along the route. Amazing new technology!