Finding Pumpelly Cave

A brief adventure into the woods

October 12, 2015

An Early Start

After almost no sleep, I'm up at 2:15am to motorcycle to my friend John's house 35 miles away. Bathroom selfie FTW.

Preparing to Ride

I prepare to set off; the streets are alive with people on their way home from a night out drinking. The GPS is set, let's go.

John's House

I reach John's house after a cold 40-minute ride. As he prepares to leave, he strikes a wonderful pose for my photo.

Parked at Mount Monadnock

We reach the mountain's parking lot at 5:30am. I switch my camera's flash on and startle John with this shot. Loving the headlamp, man.

Stars. So many stars.

I didn't set a long exposure for this shot, this is actually what my eyes could see. It was amazing.

The Trailhead

It's still pitch black outside as we somewhat reluctantly start on the trail. The wind is blowing hard and it's much colder than we had expected. John waits patiently as I fiddle with my camera settings.

Hiking through the woods in complete darkness is a new experience for me. It was more than a little unnerving, but after some time I grew more comfortable with it and stopped mentally freaking out at every random sound in the darkness.

First Light

We're still on the trail as the first light arrives, so we speed up in order to get to our planned vantage point in time for sunrise. John plays Angry Birds on his iPhone. Just kidding. I don't know what he's doing.

We switch from Cascade Link to Spellman Trail, the most difficult trail on the mountain.


The sun is rising and we're almost at a ledge near the summit - our first planned resting point where we'll have breakfast.

Waterfall Negotiations

We carefully step over wet, mossy rocks during the Spellman Trail portion of our hike.

Running Behind

The sun has officially risen and we're not quite at our vantage point yet.

An All-Fours Climb

Spellman Trail often requires you get down and use all available extremities.

Vantage Point

We reach our first planned resting point, where we'll take a break to brew coffee and make hot oatmeal for breakfast.

A Well-Earned Rest

John having a rest in a perfectly shaped seat.

Building a Fire

It was a bit chilly on our breakfast ledge, so we built a little fire to warm up as we waited for our coffee's water to come to a boil. John creatively made some coffee tea bags to simplify the brewing process.

Making Coffee

We ended up just adding the coffee grinds directly to the pot of boiling water and used the tea bags as filters to pour the coffee through into our cups.


After waiting for more water to boil, we made ourselves some hot oatmeal for breakfast. It was enjoyed while sitting back against a perfectly curved rock and taking in the view.

Off Again

Breakfast finished, we head out again. But now we're headed off the trail to battle through the underbrush and over boulders in search of Pumpelly Cave.

Pumpelly Cave

After over an hour of tediously making our way through the woods, boulders and underbrush, we spot the roof of Pumpelly Cave. Traveling off-trail is slow-going, but it was worth the time and effort.

The cave was built in 1902 by two kids. They hauled sheets of metal, bags of concrete and other materials up the mountain to build it.

Various Artifacts

There was an old military ammunition box inside the cave. It held M&M trail mix, two bags of white rice and a bag of black beans.

There were also various notebooks where previous visitors and discoverers of the cave had left behind their messages.

Light a Fire, Leave Your Mark

We got a fire going inside the cave. I'm quite not sure why - we weren't cold at this point and we had brought a stove for cooking. But, fire is fun.

We also joined past visitors in leaving our names on the cave structure.

Time for Lunch

We brought along tortellini and pasta sauce to have a hot meal for lunch.

There is nothing quite like enjoying a hot meal out in nature, surrounded by beautiful views, after exerting yourself for hours.

The Descent

After lunch, we made our way down through the woods, waterfalls, boulders and underbrush toward the Cascade Link trail, on our way back to the car.

Gilson Pond

At the base of the mountain lies Gilson Pond. On our way up in complete darkness we hadn't even realized that we were walking right past it, so we stopped to check it out.

Homeward Bound

Past the pond and back to the car, the hike is finished. Thanks again, Monadnock.

The Camera

Fujifilm X100T

The camera I used for this hike was the Fujifilm X100T. It has a fixed 35mm equivalent f/2 lensĀ and predictably wonderful Fujifilm colors.

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