New Hampshire is known for the beautiful rocky peaks in the White Mountains. It is also home to the 3rd most hiked mountain in the world! In the small town of Jaffrey, Mount Monadnock is a very popular hike. It’s bare rocky peak is often filled with hikers on any summer weekend. The park is open year round 365 days including Christmas! Even in January on a wintery day, the headquarters’ parking lots were filling up quickly. Though smaller than the 4,000 footers in the White Mountains, Monadnock’s 3,166 feet have a big mountain feel. The tricky sections on trails, above tree line exposure and a beautiful summit make for a great hike close to home for many.
So Many Secret Spots
Both Frank and I had hiked Monadnock a couple of times before, but this hike would be a different type of hike. We were on a mission to find an elusive secret of Mt. Monadnock. The mountain is known for being home to numerous hidden spots, with 10 or more located in the park. Some of these spots are natural caves, one even rumored to have housed a spy for a bit! The most intriguing of all and the goal of our hike was to locate a manmade shelter built in the 1900’s known as Pumpelly Cave (aka Megalithia).
Mysteries and Conspiracy
Of course I was intrigued by a secret cave that few could find! After some internet research which only gave vague hints of the location, we set out to find the cave. It seemed no one wanted us to find this mysterious spot. Everyone we spoke to would not give us information. Even our GPS failed, as if there was something interfering in the signal (conspiracy theories abound).
If at First You Don’t Succeed
On our first attempt at finding Megalithia we came up empty handed. We were no strangers to repeating a hike for a goal though. Fortunately for us, a friend had planned on hiking Monadnock and visiting the cave a couple weeks later. She agreed to let us join on the hike as long as we did not reveal the secret location of the cave. The cave is a well protected secret by all those that know its location. Rangers in the park will not share any information. Megalithia is off trail and rangers wouldn’t want anyone getting injured trying to find it. Hikers also keep the location secret partially to keep the cave from being vandalized as it has been in the past. Also the challenge of finding the cave is part of what makes the experience so special. As many say- “getting there needs to be earned!”
Up We Go
With the buildup of Megalithia pre- hike we were ready to get up the mountain and see this mysterious spot for ourselves. From the main parking lot we headed up the most popular trail- White Dot Trail. The trail is fairly gradual and considered one of the easier trails on the mountain. The trail still gains 1800 feet in elevation to the summit so easy is relative. Despite it being winter in New Hampshire, the sun was shining brightly and the wind was low. It was the perfect day for a hike. From White Dot trail my memory gets fuzzy on the lefts and rights we took (that’s my story). Of course I’m sworn to secrecy, so I cannot reveal which trails we took!
From what looked to be a random spot on trail we left the trail, and after about 10 minutes we were pushing through the trees. Bushwhacking (hiking off trail) is not always easy. As the name infers getting whacked by trees is not uncommon. It was made all the more challenging, when we were then blindfolded so we wouldn’t be able to get back to the cave on our own. Ok, I’m kidding but couldn’t resist! Still the hike to Megalithia was challenging and I doubt I could even find my way again if I tried.
I nearly walked over the cave, with the snow covering the metal roof it was nearly hidden. On arrival those of us that had never been to the cave explored inside with excitement. Inside was a small fireplace, it looked like this once was a cozy retreat. A box housed a log book which we signed our names in, marking that we were part of a secret club of sorts. The cave was built of rock and cement, some of the wall’s boulders were very large. The unique triangular shaped door was my favorite. A painted palm tree decorated the outside of the door, I’m sure it had a secret meaning unknown to me. The inside of the door and the support for the roof were old wood logs. It was a special place that you could feel the history and knew that the walls wanted to share the stories of the past. We took in the last of the views and headed back to trail a little reluctant to leave such an interesting place.
A Summit Bonus
Many of the group were ready to call it a day after seeing the cave, the goal was met. The summit was so close though, it called to me. Frank humored me and we went on with the group heading to the summit. Despite the cold weather the winds were not too bad. The 360 degree views were well worth the effort. The bare rocks were coated in a thin layer of frosty ice, the sky was brilliantly blue and I was at home in the mountains! Adventures don’t have to be big to be special. I find the summit of any mountain is special and a great place to roar!
Check out some more of New Hampshire’s finest hikes!
This blog was later featured in the Monadnock Ledger -Transcript newspaper