Tuesday, September 02, 2003

The Granite State
My wife and I have been going on a few excursions within NH recently. A few weekends ago we drove to the world famous Polar Caves. When I was young there was nowhere else I would rather be than here. Caves such as the Lemon Sqeezer and the Orange Crusher were just too cool to avoid. And I was fascinated with the boardwalk and series of ladders that were built to accommodate you into the caves. And the petting zoo was cool too, though I can't say it was truly a zoo since the variety of animals amounted to a few deer, ducks, and pheasants. The other people going through the caves were annoying however. Lots of bratty kids screaming inside the caves (lovely echo chambers they are), overprotective parents deciding if the cave was safe enough for their child to explore, and preteens doing their thing which is oftentimes awkward and humorous, whatever it is. All of this was sort of a bummer because it intruded upon my idyllic memories of childhood, where going through the caves was to enjoy real adventure. It's tough to get that kind of escape now in a place like Polar Caves where every section has enough hand railings, electric lighting, and arrows to navigate you safely around. The gift shop was cool though. Lots of souvenirs and stuff. Gemstones, moccasins (who buys, much less wears a pair of moccasins?), and pieces of wood with scenes of fantasy airbrushed on them. There were some pieces of ironwork that looked attractive, but I refrained from buying something that would remain hard to explain to guests if they saw it displayed in my house.

Moving on to this past weekend excursion, my wife and I climbed Mt. Monadnock. Before the climb, we fueled up on pancakes, eggs, and other breakfast items at Parker's Maple Barn. What an awesome place! The inside was styled out like a rustic hunting lodge and the musty smell and fireplace would have been familiar to the Teddy Roosevelts of an earlier time. As soon as I walked in and looked around, I instantly wanted to be wearing plaid. We were seated and ate up a tasty breakfast of the usual breakfast items. However, all the heavy food weighed us down some for all the hiking yet to be undertaken. On our way to the trailhead we passed by the boyhood home of Samuel Wilson, better know to us as Uncle Sam who made his fortune selling canned meats to the US army during the War of 1812. Not sure why he isn't also known as Uncle Spam since it would appear to be appropriate. But I leave that question for other minds to ponder.

It took a bit of navigational try-agains to find the trailhead for the Dublin Trail, but we did find it and soon strapped on our boots for the climb ahead. I had never climbed Monadnock, and had not even gotten a glimpse of the mountain until a few years earlier. The lone rocky peak is indeed a fantastic site and it doesn't surprise me that Thoreau, Frost, and Emerson were inspired by it. Indeed, many people seek out its inspiration as it is figured to be the world's most often climbed mountain (after Mt. Fuji). The Dublin Trail was attractive though a bit tiring (many rock ledges and brief descents), but the summit was above the treetops and the views over the surrounding flat terrain were expansive. (Here's a site with a few pics from the Dublin Trail approach). The summit cone was crowded with many hikers, but none of this mattered as I indeed enjoyed myself nonetheless. Its days like these that reaffirm my appreciation for this Granite State.


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