Key Skill: Bumming a Ride
Part of the NENST's beauty comes from its isolation--it's off the Appalachian Trail corridor (where most Bay Staters hike), and two hours from Boston. But that can make finding a shuttle tricky if you opt to bring just one car (or are abandoned by friends, family, or your significant other). Here's how to beg, barter, and deal your way into a ride (in order of descending usefulness).
Trailhead Strike up a conversation with other hikers before starting or hang around the parking lot at the end and approach obvious outdoorsy types. Offer a few bucks. Virtually all ride providers will turn down cash, but a six pack of local suds is a solid gesture.
Street Stand in the roadway's shoulder (stay off the pavement to remain strictly legal), be relaxed, smile, make sure your backpack is visible, and if possible, pair up with someone of the opposite gender (this looks less intimidating). Always turn down offers from sketchy folk, and if you need out of a stranger's car pronto, pretend you're going to puke.
See This: Royalston Falls
A .3-mile walk from the Trustees Shelter takes you past a series of small falls to a 45-foot plume splashing through a narrow gorge into a shallow pool. The emerald mist will mesmerize, but take care: There's a steep pitch along the side and moss can make the rocks slick. Heading back upstream, wade in a series of cool, calf-deep pools, and look for two mini natural bridges, cleanly polished in the sandstone by time and the elements, as though punched by a wrecking ball.
"At almost any hour of the day they were seen wending their way single file in various garb up or down the shelving rocks of the peak," noted Henry David Thoreau while exploring Mt. Monadnock in 1860. Since it tops out at 3,165 feet and isn't far from Boston, it is said to be among the most-climbed mountains in the world (company to Mt. Fuji and China's Mt. Tai). With more than 30 trails totaling over 30 miles, it's possible to approach Monadnock from nearly any direction. The least traveled route is also the longest: The 4.4-mile (one-way) Pumpelly Trail, which begins at Dublin Lake, northeast of the mountain. Blueberries line the path in June and July; classic red, yellow, and orange leaves appear in September. With a few steep exceptions, the grade remains mild, eventually reaching an exposed ridge leading to the top from the east. Pack a lunch and channel Thoreau by exploring the glacier-deposited boulders, tiny pools, and the remains from buildings of centuries past.