Last Updated on September 26, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
“Man in these crags a fastness find
To fight pollution of the mind;“
A few days ago, a friend of mine posted a photo she had taken on the White Dot trail on Mt. Monadnock. As soon as I saw the picture, a flood of memories hit me like a punch in the stomach. No, more like that one time in sixth grade when I absentmindedly walked too close to the batter in a game of whiffle ball, and accidentally took their swing right to the gut.
In other words, it knocked the wind out of me.
I don’t like how homesick I’ve been recently.
As we approach the 8 month mark of living in South Carolina, in the same exact town I spent 9 years in previously, I feel like I should be able to say that THIS is my home. But try as I might, I don’t feel that way, not even close.
I’m truly trying to live in the present; not the past, not the future. I’m trying my damndest to appreciate the good in my current surroundings. I’ve got my amazing kids. My Geoffrey. A job. A nice apartment. The beach is indeed beautiful.
But things have been tough. Employment around here is ridiculous, and having all of the financial burden on my shoulders while Geoff tries like hell to get a job has been really hard. Not to mention an ever changing schedule and a daily (sometimes twice) long commute that makes me cringe. I realize that sometimes the “grass is greener” phenomenon occurs when you look back to easier times, even if those easier times were less than perfect themselves. That’s likely what I’m experiencing right now. And I’ll hold my head up and power through, but I’d be lying if I said I was “sailing” instead of “trudging”.
I hate to whine, I truly feel blessed to have what we have. But in the spirit of being transparent: this transition is wearing thin on me.
And damnit I miss my mountains. So, I want to talk about them. Actually, one mountain in particular: Monadnock. She was the first mountain I called *mine*.
Of course it’s not mine, in fact, it’s supposedly the second most hiked mountain in the WORLD. Yes, out of all of the majestic, behemoth mountains on this planet, little ol’ 3,165 foot Monadnock claims most popular title only second to Mt. Fuji in Japan. Hell, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau both frequented and wrote about Monadnock, so my meager blog post here is nothing new.
Though everytime I would round a corner in Keene NH to see Monadnock towering over the town, I would smile and say “that’s my mountain”.
Despite having spent a good bit of my childhood hiking local favorites like Mt. Moosilauke and Mt. Ascutney, it wasn’t until I discovered Monadnock at the age of 30 that I fell in love with mountains.
Delayed onset mountain seeking, if you will.
I’m not sure if it was the unique beauty of the trails and summit itself, or the circumstances and situations I was going through at the time that I mentally hashed through while on the trails. But she was my first mountain love, and that first summer I spent in Keene, I hiked (or ran) up and down her every chance I got.
Though she may be tiny by mountain standards, Monadnock’s terrain, especially on my favorite trail, White Dot, can certainly give you a taste of technicality. Climbing her steep trails, huge boulders, and rocky faces on both my hands and knees introduced me to a whole new world of adventure. I saw plenty of unprepared tourists in flip flops or flat tennis shoes sliding on their butts down rocky faces to avoid falling down while trying to either summit or head back down the trail. I saw people huffing and puffing as they tried to ascend the mountain, and I saw people bloodied and bruised from having taken an obvious fall.
And I managed to do both myself, more than a few times.
While gorgeous and considered beginner friendly, she will be the first to remind you that she is still, indeed, a mountain…and a force to be reckoned with.
I summited Monadnock a handful of times with friends. While enjoyable, the most memorable and most profound climbs were the ones I tackled alone (even though the above sign always warned me not to. )
It was out there alone that I learned to truly appreciate both the silence and sounds of nature. Though having grown up in Vermont, it wasn’t until then that I truly saw the beauty of mother nature. And it was on those trails that I forced myself to be alone with myself; my thoughts, my dreams, my fears…and be OK with all of them.
On that mountain, I constantly grew as a person. There is something amazing about pushing your physical and mental limits. There is something so satisfying about accomplishing difficult and slightly dangerous things. There is something so peaceful about being outdoors. And there is something so humbling about standing on the summit of a mountain and realizing that you, and your problems, are truly so very, very small. And while all of those emotions were tied into the reason why I fell in love with that mountain, there was more. More that I struggle to find the words for.
Perhaps it was the sense of overcoming something physically big, in this case, a mountain, that helped me to mentally overcome something emotionally massive. In that case, the recent turmoil I had found myself in as a newly single mom dealing with some really heavy sh*t. Perhaps it was the fact that each summit, especially the times I ran/power hiked with my lungs and legs screaming, was a boost in confidence proving that I’m capable of more than I had previously imagined.
Or maybe it was because it was just really flipping pretty up there.
When Tara posted her picture a few days ago, I immediately felt compelled to dig up all of my own photos and share my own words about Monadnock. I’ve started and stopped this post a dozen times. Three days later this post just doesn’t seem to do justice. It hardly conveys the feelings and emotions in my head and heart, the ones I’m usually pretty good at relaying into written word. But I guess I love the pictures enough to prevent me from scrapping the post as a whole.
So instead I’ll say this: I miss my mountain. Homesickness is hard. But I take comfort knowing that there are countless more mountains out there to explore, all over the country and all over the world. And for that excited anticipation, the one that drives me to seek adventure and summits, I have Monadnock to thank.