Saturday, September 10, 2016

From North Pack Monadnock to Pack Monadnock | New Hampshire

Back in August before our first day of real classes, I went on a hike in New Hampshire with our school's outdoors club. It was my first time seeing the great outdoors of New England, which is basically a jumble of granite, deciduous trees, and Algonquin place names.

Looking out over New Hampshire

This is New Hampshire from the summit of a monadnock, an isolated rock/hill/mountain common around these parts. They come to be when a harder rock endures erosion around it; because this is New Hampshire, these monadnocks are made of granite.

By the way, New Hampshire is called "The Granite State." It also has the most intense state motto ever: "Live Free or Die."

Entering Wapack National Wildlife Reserve

The drive up from Boston was only about an hour, and it amused me to think how quickly we crossed a state line. Because there were so many of us, we got there via yellow school bus, which are required by law to stop and open their doors at every railroad crossing. Incidentally, New Hampshire is full of railroad crossings, and charming images of saltbox houses and meadows and farms right out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

We started at the head of Ted's Trail on Old Mountain Road at around 1300 ft above sea level and had a pretty easy stroll through private woods (presumably Ted's) to Wapack National Wildlife Refuge.

These low stone walls are a common sight in New England, and we encountered many during the hike. As I learned in my American Environmental and Cultural History class last year, these stones were uncovered not in the colonial times, but in the 1800s after a period of great deforestation and farm-raising. Previously buried stones surfaced and were made into useful little walls. Read more about them here.

Left: gaining a little altitude
Right: lots of rocks

I tried to identify the trees that I saw, but of course, many of them were unfamiliar to me. There was spruce, hemlock, and pine, but the majority of the trees we saw were deciduous: more birches than I'd ever seen before, and chestnut, ash, elm, and aspen. If some astute New Englander wants to nitpick, then I apologize. I'm from California and am new to this place and your trees.

Oh yes, and huge granite boulders everywhere.

The view from North Pack Monadnock

The trek up North Pack Monadnock was a good one; not strenuous, but enough to work up a sweat. I'll take a moment to brag that I was in the small group that led the pack and was completely stunned by the wide expanse of blue. The visibility was incredible, and the landscape filled with such an impossible variety of green and blue.

We ate lunch at the summit at 2278 ft and welcomed the light drizzle. I had this great buzz of excitement in the back of my head from this scenery: the rolling lowlands, the lush greens and blues, and the great clouds that seemed to pull the landscape ever faster to the horizon.

More landscape

We continued hiking on the Cliffs Trail, which essentially circled around to different vista points before merging with the Wapack Trail. Every turn was a new view, with ominous clouds casting intense shadows on the bucolic New Hampshire countryside, with the occasional white or red barn cutting through the green.

The first of many cairns, but the only one I took a photo of

We encountered some friendly hikers on the trail, reinforcing my impression of New Englanders as being an active, outdoorsy bunch. While I certainly don't think this compares to the truly wild beauty of the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe, I needed this hike, and want to see much more of this part of the country.

LL, cairn, clouds, New Hampshire

With all these greens and blues, I do wonder what this place looks like in the autumn. I interviewed in Boston last September before most of the leaves started changing colors, and have yet to see what autumn really looks like around here.

Lots of granite everywhere

The next portion of our hike was on the Wapack Trail in the wildlife reserve. At about this time, I broke off with a few others and charged ahead to leave behind the pack. It sounds harsh, but a large, noisy group is difficult to enjoy the great outdoors with. That's juts my opinion.

One thing that I found interesting was that our hike bounced from private to public, briefly back to private, and then public land. It's a well-traveled route, but still seems unfamiliar. Most of the hiking I've done in California was completely contained on public land.

More walls
Not many photos at all of the hike between the mountains, but it was much the same. I wish I'd taken more photos, but I suppose I just forgot. The weather was pretty fickle, but fortunately not terribly hot. Thankfully, I got at least one spooky forest photo.

Blueberries, road into the state park, shrubbery, and granite

The final ascent up Pack Monadnock was harder than the first peak, and hot and sunny up at the top. Pack Monadnock, at 2290 ft, is at the northern edge of Miller State Park. It amused me that all the hiking we did took us through private property, a reserve, and barely into an official park. Anyhow, there was water at the top, as well as a weather station and fire lookout tower.

The weather station and fire tower

This was the hottest and sunniest part of the day. I had some energy left and went up the tower and around the summit looking for photo-ops (and fires). It looks like rain somewhere in Massachusetts.

The view from the fire tower on Pack Monadnock

Apparently, Boston is visible from here. I'm not too sure about that, but this is indeed looking south.

I forgot to mention that the trail is teeming with wild blueberry bushes. Many families park their cars at the summit of Pack Monadnock and go around with buckets to pick them. They were small, pretty sweet, but I didn't want too eat too many.

My favorite photo of the day. I'm 70% sure this is Mt. Monadnock (a bigger monadnock than either of that day's monadnocks)

I had some great conversation with my classmates on this hike, and am more excited than ever to hike and explore New England. I don't really know what I thought about New Hampshire before this trip, but I do hope to see more of it over the next four years.

Our route
In total, 5 miles and 1500 ft altitude gain (up a peak, back down, and up another). We embarrassingly got lost and looped back to our starting point in the first 1.5 hours of the hike so I'm not too sure about time, but we got in at around 10 AM and left before 4 PM IIRC. The end going up Pack Monadnock is fairly steep, but does not require scrambling.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A review of S/S 2016 wardrobe additions

Though I am not entirely sure when Boston changes from summer to autumn, I can safely say that I will not be purchasing any warm-weather garments in this calendar year. A few months ago, I outlined the garments I planned on purchasing in this sartorial season in this post. Of the five planned items, I purchased only two. In reality, I did not even look for a Breton shirt, a red polo, or anything seersucker.

Black linen shorts - GAP

These shorts were essential this summer. With the drawstring, loose fit, and opaque linen, these shorts are the ultimate heat wave garment. I appreciate the fact that they are just as comfortable as workout shorts, but far and away less sloppy.

Boat shoes - Sperry

Did I buy these because I knew I was moving to Massachusetts? Somewhat, but these turned out to be pretty great regardless. I have worn these almost every day since I got them in late March, sometimes with socks and sometimes without, in rain, shine, etc. I do switch to my Salt-Water sandals on particularly hot and sunny days or if I'm wearing a dress, but for the most part, these have been my default spring and summer shoes.

The lighting here is quite forgiving. The leather is very worn, very scuffed up, and in need of some TLC. Sockless + hot days = foot odor, so plan accordingly. The liner has become unglued, and I need to fix that soon. The heel wear is annoying because I don't think these can be easily resoled, but that's the consequence of several months of essentially continuous wear.


While my S/S 2016 acquisitions were not as planned, I did look ahead and buy some unplanned, but very necessary items.

Bean boots - L.L. Bean

First are a pair of the famous L.L. Bean duck boots. I'll probably write about these in more detail later, but many native and non-native New Englanders recommended these for the winter. My wardrobe planning going forward must include winter wear, of which I have none (except these boots, of course).

I really liked this colorway and bought it at the expense of extra lining and insulation. A rookie mistake? Perhaps, but if this comes back in the winter to freeze off my toes, I can take advantage of L.L. Bean's godly return policy and get a more practical pair.

So, about the aesthetics. Dark brown bison leather, red soles that looked more like hamburger meat online, dark brown rubber upper. It looks sharp. I feel like I could go back in time and roam the snowy woods of Maine with Leon Leonwood himself. Anyways...

...I'm normally a 6.5 or 7 and sized down as per L.L. Bean's suggestions to a 6. They fit snugly if I'm wearing double layers of socks, which will be thick wool socks in the winter. These probably won't see action until October at the earliest, even if we may be clipped by tropical storm Hermine tomorrow.

Doctor costume

Lastly, the medical stuff. I got a pair of scrubs for gross anatomy, $8 for the set at Goodwill. Sustainable fashion fans may scourge me, but I am most definitely going to be throwing these away after our anatomy block.

And actually lastly, my white coat. It's a purely symbolic garment at this point, but we are required to wear them to patient panels and in clinics/on the wards. Including it in this here blog post is pretty self-indulgent, but let it be a promise to be a good, useful member of the profession and to deserve this (honestly speaking) status symbol.

Anyhow, I will continue wardrobe planning because it is both fun and prudent. F/W 2016 post coming right up.