Hiking is great. There's nothing like being out there, far away from the humming of the roads, the lights of the cities, and endless rivers of pavement. Hiking grounds you, awakens something primitive inside. I've always seen going to the mountains as going home, to our natural state.
There's something extraordinarily special about sunset and sunrise hikes - not only being one with nature and experiencing the scenic wonders of the world, but also celebrating the goodbyes and hellos that the sun gives to the landscape.
I've done a few sunset and sunrise hikes in the past, and every time, I am more and more tempted to make it a more regular ordeal.
Last weekend my friend asked me if I was down to head to Mt. Monadnock, an hour west of where I live, and two hours west of where I work - after work. I'm no stranger to hiking at odd times of the day, so I said, why not.
With its close proximity to the Boston area, and given its relatively tall prominence over the surrounding landscape, Mount Monadnock is often claimed to be the second most-climbed mountain in the world, after Mt. Fuji. While that might be slightly far-fetched, it's still an amazing place to head for a day hike. With over a dozen distinct trails on all sides of the mountain, the opportunities are plentiful for both long and short day hikes.
For our sunset ascent, we chose the shortest way up to the summit, the White Arrow trail, which starts from the Old Toll Road on the southern end of the mountain. The entire hike is roughly 3 miles round trip. We arrived at the parking lot shortly after 6 and headed up. During the winter season, White Arrow is far from the easiest way up as giant slabs of ice cover virtually most of the trail, but during the snow-free times of the year, it's a quick walk to the top. We summited at 7:30, just as the sun started to put on a show over the fresh spring landscape.
We were the only ones on the summit - a very rare occurrence on Monadnock. And then it happened...
It's always windy on the summit of the mountain. And wind, added with springtime chill, creates something similar to a mild frost bite; but we were here, enjoying the sun-filled valleys of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Sunset is an excellent backdrop for some yoga - the beauty of the place has an enchanting effect, capable of deepening one's practice, so we've practiced some yoga - and to prove the awesomeness and the power of place, I've been able to hold Bakasana (crow) for an entire 8 seconds.
It was an amazing evening, a hike that sparked me to make this into a series this summer. Sharon, Elise and I got to enjoy the beauty of the New Hampshire landscape in a renewed way.
We'll be back here soon, for more sunset hikes. Part of the magic is that every day has something different to offer.