Mountain climbing is for optimists with really good nonslip soles. October and November are perfect weather-wise, but avoid wet, icy or snowy trails. Late morning is the best time to start as the fog has usually lifted off the peaks and the vistas can be pristine and awe-inspiring.
Always hike with at least one other person, because you'll need someone to help you up or down (or both) or to call the paramedics if you fall down a ravine. Many hikers wear walking shorts even in cool months, but I recommend dark, roomy pants (when you fall or sit in the muck or moss, it won't show) and white socks so you can look for ticks while you soak your sore feet.
Mount Monadnock and its modest 3,165-foot ascent is the most climbed mountain in New England and has many trails to choose from. Beware of friends that have a well-thumbed AMC Trail Guide in their car, along with hiking poles: These folks are likely to want to try a new trail every time they climb, and you'll be hiking that trail too.
So my journey began one sunny October morning. We were supposed to leave for the four-hour hike at 10 a.m., but that got pushed up. Meatloaf sandwiches and chocolate bars packed, we set off, two men, one 11-year-old boy and me. Thankfully, I brought along the Twenty Questions card game because our driver, looking for his favorite old Dublin Trail, got a bit lost, so we circled the same narrow winding roads about five times. We stopped three times to ask directions and each time we all chirped, "Great thanks!" (including the driver), and yet not one of us actually paid attention until finally we found the trailhead only because it was packed with cars!
It was after 1 o'clock, and we all stood around the truck's tailgate and wolfed down the meatloaf sandwiches and started at a fast pace. Soon kids from a local hiking crew passed us, and then an older couple walking with their granddaughter, and, well, we slowed down, agreeing, "Let's take our time, so we can see everything."
Soon I was pooped and stopped enjoying the scenery and the trail. While the men continued up, I hiked down. It would be three hours before they came back down. Suddenly the trail seemed very quiet, a few lone chickadee sounds were soothing, and then suddenly in the far distance, I saw it. A large dark brown hairy thing coming towards me. My mouth got very dry; I tried to remember what I was supposed to do if ever I was faced with a bear. I knew it was not to run or climb a tree. (I was too tired to do those anyway.) Should I be quiet? No. I should make lots of noise; bears are shy and will run. I started to sing "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music at the top of my lungs the, and then I heard barking. A bear barking? Turns out the big hairy thing was a dog walking ahead of his master. (This is supposed to be a dog and pet-free trail.)
I sat on a giant boulder and started to laugh and as I looked down at the small babbling brook close to my feet. I had an immediate tingling sensation (which I've had before). I said aloud, "I am going to find a projectile point and it is going to be right here." I reach down in the brook and there it was. The fourth I had found in the last three years.
Back at the base camp I napped, ate, read and waited. Down came the men bathed in sweat but joyous. "You missed it all!" they shouted, "What views."
"I got what I wanted," I replied, and held out my prize. Richard said, "That is amazing, thousands of people have walked that trail and this thing sat there until you found it."
"But I was looking," I said smugly. "I had a feeling I would find it, that's why I walked back when I did." The three skeptics looked at me, "Lame!' they said in unison. I will be hiking the Dublin trail all the way to the top before winter sets in, and I have a very strong feeling that I will find another arrowhead.