On a recent Friday evening Andrew was invited to be part of a panel of speakers in Jaffrey, NH. It was the first Monadnock State Park Managers Forum moderated by The Society for the Protection on NH Forests. Andrew managed the park for 8 years (2000 – 2008), but had worked there for a total of 15 years before we moved to the White Mountains. We were told that Charlie Royce (manager from 1962 – 1972), Ben Haubrich (manager from 1972 – 1993) and the current manager, Patrick Hummel would also be part of the panel discussion. Before the event we met up with Ben and Robin for dinner at Harlow’s in Peterborough. Peterborough was bustling with activity on Friday evening and we sat outside in the sun talking and having a good time until it was time to head over to the old Meeting House in Jaffrey. The attendance was light at the event, but more than we expected and the panel of managers entertained the crowd with stories of the summit refreshment stand, lost hikers, budget woes, dog rescues, famous people sightings, and changes to the mountain. We hung around afterward and chatted with friends and then made our way to our good friends, Chuck and Lee’s, to set up our new tent.
We woke up in our new tent, satisfied with our latest purchase: The Lynx Pass by Big Agnes. We usually splurged with a 3 person tent for the extra room, but this time we opted for a 2 person tent thinking we might do some backpacking soon.
In the morning, Chuck had to work for a few hours, so Lee treated us with breakfast and we took our time getting ready for a hike up Mount Monadnock. We arrived at the Old Toll Road entrance off Route 124 around 10, just as Chuck arrived. We chatted with Ranger Jeff and were lucky to hitch a ride up the road with the Hollisters, who live in the mansion at the top of the Toll Road. We thanked the Hollisters and Andrew promised to stop in next time we were down for another visit.
From the Halfway House site we took the Thoreau Trail and then ventured to some abandoned trails and then eventually back onto the Cliff Walk. We took a break at Kiasticuticus Peak when Lee got a text message from Ranger Jeff warning of thunderstorms coming from the southwest. Sure enough we had a clear view of what was coming our way and we had to make a decision on what to do. The plan was to get into Paradise Valley (the Valley just below the summit between the White Dot and White Arrow Trails) to wait out the storm, so we high-tailed it to Smith Connecting Trail and onto the abandoned Daddy Bicknell to Paradise Valley.
Lindsay checked the radar from her phone and estimated it was another 20 – 30 minutes until the storms reached the area. It was enough time to tag the summit and get back down under cover so we snuck out of the Valley and onto the White Dot trail. We rushed to the windy summit where winds were easily 45 mph. We all felt a little uneasy in the strong winds and dark skies to the southwest, but just as we made our way back off the summit, Lee checked her phone again to find several texts from Ranger Jeff. There was a broken ankle just below the summit on the White Dot. We then realized the group of people huddled around the bottom of Virginia Falls that we had skirted by just 10 minutes earlier wasn’t just a group hanging out, that was the accident.
We started down toward the group wondering if we could get by without having to get involved, but when we saw that it was only the SCA Americorps interns on scene and the 4 of us had so much more experience that morally we just couldn’t walk on by. Lee stayed with the patient and group while Andrew, Lindsay, and Chuck headed down into Paradise Valley to get the litter (stretcher) from the locked cache box. We were in rescue mode. It had been 4 years since Lindsay and Andrew had been part of a rescue, but it was like riding bike.
In the Valley, Andrew and Chuck grabbed the litter and left Lindsay in the sheltered valley. She wouldn’t be able to help carry so it didn’t make sense for her to go back up, especially with the looming thunderstorms. Lindsay put her raincoat on and obsessively watched the radar from her phone. The winds were picking up, but it looked like the storms were passing just to the west of the mountain. A few minutes later Ranger Dave and Ranger Sylvia came up Paradise Valley and a quick reunion ensued with Lindsay before they headed up to the patient. Meanwhile Andrew and Chuck made it to the group who had managed to carry the patient several hundred feet trying to get her off the exposed rocky summit. The strong winds ruled out a helicopter rescue: we would have to carry her down. Lee had gathered close to 40 hikers that were willing to help carry the litter down and Andrew easily led the group on the best way to package and strap the patient into the litter. Luckily the patient’s roommate happened to be a nurse and helped wrap the ankle that was clearly broken.
Back down in the Valley, Lindsay waited patiently, putting on all her extra clothes and was glad that even in the heat of the summer she still packed her winter hat. An hour sitting just below treeline with wind whistling up the valley was chilling her, but still no rain fell, and finally the group was making their way down through the Valley. The easiest way to get a patient down from the summit in these conditions is to take her down through Paradise Valley across to the White Arrow trail to the Halfway House site, where an ambulance could drive up the Toll Road.
The rescue group was filled with young hikers, many from Franklin Pierce University on their freshman orientation hike, and other hikers that were fit and willing to help carry. We made it to the White Arrow trail in no time at all opting for the continual pass method. The rocks were slippery and when the rain did eventually start this method was the least exhausting, most effecient with the number of people, and more than likely prevented more injuries.
When it began to thunder and rain, it poured hard down on the group, mixed with some hail, but spirits were still high among the group. There were so many people to help carry, more than either one of us ever remembered being on a carry-out before. We thought about how we’d done this exact carry or very similar ones with only a dozen helpers and how exhausting and long it had been, reaching the bottom well after dark. Or the time we only had to carry less than a 1/2 mile on a relatively flat trail, but with a patient topping close to 300 lbs and we could only manage enough for one crew of 8 people on a quiet Wednesday morning. Today, we were lucky. We stopped at a level spot and set the patient down for Ranger Dave and the roommate nurse to reassess the patient. She cried out in pain a lot throughout the carry and even more when they re-did the wrapping to check her pulse and circulation. It’s never easy to hear a patient crying, but a crying patient means a couple of things. It means she’s conscious and breathing, and she’s actually hurt. The opposite not being so good: an unconscious patient, a not breathing patient, or worse of all: a patient that refuses ambulance treatment and gets in their car and drives away – making all of us feel like we were just duped into giving someone a free ride down the mountain.
With 20 minutes left to go from the road, the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team arrived and their fresh, strong arms took over on the mostly flat terrain now. New Hampshire Fish and Game Conservation Officers arrived and assumed the lead responsibility. Andrew ran ahead to visit with his old Fish and Game buddies that he hadn’t seen in years while Lindsay joked with them about being the first F&G employee on duty and having to be in charge until they showed up.
We had made it down in record time, but we still had one more stop before we drove back up to the White Mountains. We said goodbye to Chuck and Lee, watched Ranger Jeff ride off in his motorcycle, and waved to the Rangers and rescue crew. Before heading home, we took a swing through the sleepy town of Nelson to visit Marshall, Julie, and Lee as another wave of thunderstorms blew through the area.
On the drive home, we thought about the whirl-wind of activity in the past 24 hours and thought, “Yup, that’s just a typical 24 hours on Mount Monadnock.” And we were both happy that we were driving away. Just 4 years ago all of that would’ve been on Andrew’s shoulders. The rescues, the searches for lost people, the crowds of visitors wanting their moment on Monadnock. It was ironic that Friday night we spent the night discussing the history of the park and less than 24 hours later, we were a part of yet another carry-out off the Mountain. The cast of characters might change on the mountain, but everything else remains the same. We drove all the way back up through the White Mountains that night and smiled as we passed the quiet State Park that we now live nearby, and pulled into our driveway at midnight. A long day, but it’s so nice to be home.