Mount Monadnock is a mountain in the state of New Hampshire, known for being featured in the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. At 3,165 feet (965 m), Mount Monadnock is the most frequently climbed mountain in North America and the second most frequently climbed mountain in the world after Japan’s Mt. Fuji. Monadnock resides in the tradional lands of the Abenaki.
Riding horseback to visit the past, author Francelia M. Clark and her two friends (Pam Godin and Shelley Mozier) seek out and follow old trails and wagon roads that joined settlement to settlement and settlements to nearby villages. All roads went around the mountain, and the three took parts of three days to accomplish it at a pace comfortable to them as well as their mounts. It certainly sounds like an intriguing adventure, and it turns out to be such under the leadership (and pen) of Francelia M. Clark, a retired college teacher and writer.
From the Preface:
Some early roads can still lead a hiker or horseback rider over long distance – such as King’s Highway, laid out in 1768, from Peterborough to Washington, and the traces of “great roads” rounding Monadnock. These have historic links to, at least, the long arteries made by travelling settlers and Revolutionary War soldiers. So certain bypassed historic roads, by means of some hunting, can still take us through countryside – with the discoveries that this entails. From such discoveries, we have emerged full of admiration for the animal carrying us, respect for hard survival, and the urge to help others explore their landscapes in these ways.
Cellar Holes and Historic Inns
As they travel these ancient trails and roads, they encounter many cellar holes. Now, prior to reading this book, I had no idea what a cellar hole was or what it looked like. That situation has been rectified, thanks to Ms. Clark (A cellar hole is all that is left of the house after time or fire has destroyed the upper portion). The three of them set out on horseback tracing the old settler routes around Mount Monadnock, stopping to investigate various cellar holes and relating them back to known settlers and their homesteads in the area back in the 1700s. (“Cellar holes and ruins are the history written by the rest of us” writes author Howard Mansfield¹) They would overnight at historic inns* before continuing on in a loop around the mountain. At the end of the ride, Ms. Clark sums up her thoughts:
Looking back later on our three days on the mountain with horses, what can we see? For me, the friends and the bonding with our horses in the beauty of this place are still constantly present. And have we gained insight into settlers’ lives? I think so. Though we can never experience Monadnock settlement farming, we have touched some fabric of the experience.
The book is full of colour images of many cellar holes, views of the mountains, maps and historical photos as well. It has been beautifully produced by Bauhan Publishing of New Hampshire and was released in 2018.
I certainly enjoyed this book much more than I anticipated. Ms. Clark has done her research and uses the trails to relate back to the reader the stories of some of the people who settled and inhabited the area on and around the mountain.
You can find a Mount Monadnock webcam here: https://www.franklinpierce.edu/webcam_monadnock/
Monadnock State Park: https://www.nhstateparks.org/visit/state-parks/monadnock-state-park.aspx
*Historic accommodations visited in the book:
- East Hill Farm: https://east-hill-farm.com/
- The Grand View Estate (formerly the Milliken Tavern): http://thegrandviewestate.com/
¹Quote is from the book Summer Over Autumn by Howard Mansfield (2017, Bauhan Publishing)
Circle Around Monadnock: Time Travel With Horses by Francelia M. Clark
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