On a clear day, you can see better than forever: on a clear day, you can see Boston from Pack Monadnock Mountain in southern New Hampshire.

Although my hiking buddy wasn’t in the mood to pose for pictures, today Reggie and I headed to Miller State Park in Peterborough, NH, about 20 miles southeast of Keene. Although you can drive to the top of Pack Monadnock, a smaller version of the great matriarchal Grand Monadnock, Reg and I hiked the 1.4 mile Marion Davis Trail to the top of the mountain before hiking another 1.4 miles along the Wapack Trail back to our parked car. Dogs aren’t allowed in Monadnock State Park, but they are allowed in Miller State Park. So since the day was brilliantly clear and mild, it seemed the perfect opportunity to procrastinate yet more to-do’s by climbing another moderate (2,300 foot) southern New Hampshire peak.

(The only reason I asked some folks from Long Island to snap the above picture of me and my squirmy dog resting on the summit was they’d asked me to take their picture, so it only seemed fair for me to ask them to return the compliment.)

I’ve never understood the human impulse that drives people to climb mountain summits and then look back upon the cities that they’ve left. Viewing Keene from atop Beech Hill makes sense since Beech Hill is in Keene: you are, in a sense, viewing another side of Keene as you view her from her highest eminence. But when we lived in Boston and I’d strive to “get away from it all” by retreating to the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, MA, I was always flummoxed by the folks who’d climb Great Blue Hill in order to catch a glimpse of Boston. Didn’t they get their fill of Bean Town simply living there? And weren’t there lovelier things to look at atop Great Blue Hill and her sister summits?

So when the dog and I arrived at the Pack Monadnock’s “tamed” southern summit, I was bemused by all the signs pointing toward the Boston view. I knew that South Pack was more developed than its more distant North Pack: South Pack Monadnock has both a fire- and a radio-relay tower, a stone shelter, an assortment of picnic tables, and the usual park-issue his ‘n’ her outhouses. I wasn’t expecting wilderness atop the South Pack since an auto road wends its way to a parking lot there. But I didn’t climb Pack Monadnock to get a glimpe of Boston; I climbed Pack Monadnock to get a view of Grand Monadnock and the rest of the surrounding New Hampshire hillside.

And that indeed is what I got:

When I first sat down to enjoy an apple and some almonds at a weathered picnic table facing this so-called “Boston view,” I couldn’t see what it was that the signs were talking about. Boston view? I can’t see Boston from here…and heck, Boston is some 70 miles from Peterborough! But after I’d caught my breath and grown accustomed to the bright summit glare, the city shimmered into consciousness out of the horizon’s haze.

The picture is admittedly fuzzy, taken with full-zoom and cropped to smithereens. But like hazy shots of Bigfoot, there’s proof in those blurry lines. Once I’d acclimated to the summit sights, I could see with my naked eye the crenelated edge of Boston skyscrapers on the southeastern horizon: through binoculars I could delineate (albeit not name) the shapes of individual buildings. “Well, I’ll be damned,” I thought to myself. “That is pretty damn cool that you can see Massachusetts buildings from atop a New Hamsphire mountain.” Again, we can choose to either accept or reject the works of humanity: is the sight of Boston a blight on the natural New Hampshire landscape, or is this sighting, like the spotting of the Great Wall of China from outer space, an awe-inspiring glimpse of how Culture can make an impress on Nature?

The sight of Boston shining like a city on a hill notwithstanding, my favorite sight from Pack Monadnock were the various glimpses the summit afforded of Grand Monadnock gleaming in stone-topped majesty atop green hillsides and above the glistening jewel of Dublin Lake. Just think of how many years Dame Monadnock has sat in isolated splendor, consorting with the lesser North and South Packs while watching over both Boston and Keene, her flanks ascended by teeming droves from both. So many visitors from Boston and Keene have paid their respects to Dame Monadnock, and yet she’s never returned the compliment. Could it be that the fuzzy sight of human culture viewed from her lofty vista has failed to impress Mother Nature’s majesty?