Three thousand one hundred sixty
five feet above sea level to be exact. From a campsite in the youth
campground within Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, New Hampshire scouts were
greeted by a rising sun and a clear, blue sky. As the boys prepared
breakfast, the first hint that the weather was changing; an early morning mist
drifting in through the trees is not uncommon.
At 8:30, the scouts heard a presentation by Rachael, an Interptetive Ranger at the state park. History of Mt. Monadnock, examples of local wildlife, and the ten essentials of safe hiking were covered. Next, the scouts packed up trail lunches for everyone, then proceeded to pack up their personal gear for the hike. It was expected that what was thought to be fog would burn off by noon.
Mount Monadnock offers a variety of well marked trails; something for people of all ages and abilities. So off they set upon their hikes from a base camp elevation of 1465 feet. There are many scenic overlooks along the trails. Expecting great views, the fog never went away as the hike up the mountain continued. Coming out of the trees near the summit, the scouts and other hikers were grateful to find cairns, man-made piles of stone, that could be followed to the top. The visibility was so bad that you could not see the trail markers painted on the rock.
Among the last groups that was allowed to reach the summit, the scouts were treated to ten foot visibility, a 32 degree temperature, and a constant winds with gusts to 50 miles per hour. The troop gathered for a picture with the American Flag then sought shelter from the wind behind rocks. It was time to add a layer of clothing to keep warm and to eat lunch. During their time on the mountain, the scouts would help many other hikers who were less prepared and in need.
The scouts returned to the shelter of their campsite, again taking different trails. It was still damp from the constant drip from the trees but they had gotten away from the wind and cold; it was 55 degrees at camp. A cheerful fire lifted everyone’s spirits as darkness approached. The patrols cooked dutch oven dinners from scratch. An evening campfire was full of skits, stories, and songs.
It would take until after we returned home on Sunday to learn that we had been under an inversion the previous day. The weather conditions were a result of cold air being trapped near the ground with warm clear skies above. The experience for all was fun, left a lasting memory of how to stay safe in conditions that you did not expect, and was something the scouts could be proud of successfully completing.