Peak-Bagging

Sign at the summit of Mount Washngton, New Ham...

Sign at the summit of Mount Washngton, New Hampshire, United States. (1,917m/6,288ft) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Peak-bagging is hiker jargon for those who get satisfaction in summiting mountains. Peak-baggers will climb (bag) peaks usually in some type of organized quest. It’s how I developed a passion for hiking.

Some years ago, I met a hiker in the White Mountains who said he was going to summit all the 4000 footers in New Hampshire. There are 48, and he was up to 23. I checked my journals and realized I’d done seven. Over the next years, I finished the ones in New Hampshire and went on to complete all the 4000 footers in New England. There are five in Vermont and fourteen in Maine.

This whole idea can become addictive. There are lists of the 100 highest mountains in New England, the Northeast, and the USA. There are backpackers who try to “bag” all those peaks. I stopped after the 4000 footers in New England, but will begin a quest of the 4000 footers in the Adirondacks of New York state this autumn. There are 46, so it will take me a while.

The landscape photo with the towers is New Hampshire’s Mount Washington, the highest mountain in the northeast, at 6288 feet. The other landscape photo is from Washington’s peak, looking down on Lakes of the Clouds Hut on the shoulder of Mt. Washington. The profile photo shows the Franconia Ridge Trail up to the peak of another 4000 footer, New Hampshire’s Mt. Lafayette (5260 ft).

Most peaks are scenic and peaceful, the perfect place to dream, plan, hope—all that good stuff.

New Hiking Trail

Hiking New Hampshire's Cohos Trail

Cohos Trail--New Hampshire

Hiking the Cohos Trail from New Hampshire's White Mountains to Canadian Border
Cohos Trail–New Hampshire

Something new for hikers in New England. The just completed Cohos Trail blazes north from New Hampshire’s White mountains to the Canadian border. This 162-mile Appalachian-like trail was the dream of Kim Nilsen who conceived the idea 33 years ago.

This trail is remote and wild and is “the largest trail system to be built in the northeast in generations.” As the third major trail in New England (complementing the Appalachian Trail and Vermont’s Long Trail), the Cohos offers true solitude to the hiker. Sue Kenn is the first thru-hiker of the Cohos Trail, and she has confirmed how wild and remote the trail is. It offered, Kenn says, “the chance to do something new, but also to be in a quiet place, and really just be by myself.”

It’s remote because most New Hampshire hikers continue to Maine after hiking through the Presidential Range. They don’t swing due north towards Canada. “Everybody knows the Presidential Range,” Nilsen says, “but there’s a whole ‘nother 100 miles north of that filled with dramatic peaks and huge lakes and waterfalls galore, and we made it possible for people to trek out there, to steep themselves in the magic of that part of the world for a little while.”

I can’t wait to hike this trail. If you are looking for a new trail that promises pristine beauty, and want to be with only a few friends and not run in to scout packs and groups of hikers, I can’t think of a better place to plan a hike. When I’m in the mountains, I often wonder what it must have been like when Native Americans roamed the lands. What did they see? I bet the Cohos Trail in northern New Hampshire will get you very close to the untouched beauty of Indian times.

Backpacking the Cohos Trail in New Hampshire

New Hampshire--view from the Cohos Trail

photos from Internet public domain

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Hikers and 9/11: A Memorial

Hiking Mt. Lincoln, White Mountains, New Hampshire

9/11 2004 Mt. Lincoln

On September 11, 2004, I hiked the Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. My friends and I didn’t realize that hikers had prepared to install a USA flag on all the 4000 foot peaks in New Hampshire that day. It was to commemorate those killed on 9/11, three years earlier. This commemoration still happens every year on or about September 11. It’s called “Flags on the 48” and you can read all about it here.

For my hiking buddy, Hank, facing us next to the flag, the day brought back harsh memories. He had been working at his desk on the 61st floor of the north tower when it was hit.

Here’s to all the lost lives, fire-fighters, survivors, and anyone else associated with that dreadful day. We salute you!

Hiking Mt Lafayette, White Mountains, New Hampshire

9/11 2004 Mt. Lafayette

Hiking in Autumn

Hiking the White Mountains in New Hampshire in Autumn

Autumn in New England

Ah, September. Is there a perfect time to hike? If you live in the Northeast as I do, autumn, for me, is the perfect time. Next week I’m climbing Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks. The following week, it’s off to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I plan to round out my trip with a visit to Baxter State Park in Maine, where I hope to interview some Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.

You can feel fall in the air. The breezes on the ocean shore are a fond memory, and now I get more excited about breezes in woodlands and on mountain tops. The weather is cooler but invigorating. Colorful leaves, the smell of wood smoke, squirrels chasing nuts, harvest fairs; it all comes together for me in autumn, and the mountains are where I want to be.

I remember the pull of the mountains in autumn when my wife and I took our children every year to New Hampshire for a foliage weekend. The thrum of the engine and cables excited us as we squeezed into gondolas at Loon Mountain and were pulled to the top. The splendor of fall foliage surrounded us as we were towed ever higher. But I was happiest when we climbed out at the top and walked around the peak. 

In later years we started climbing and exploring the White Mountains; Mt. Liberty, Mt. Osceola, The Flume. This was where my passion for hiking developed. It hasn’t abated–especially now that it is September. Turn off the TV, turn off your cell, shut down the computer. Load up your pack, pick up your sticks, and invite your friends for a hike in the mountains. It’s September in New England.

Backpacking in New Hampshire mountains in the fall

September in New Hampshire's White Mountains

Tips For Hiking With Kids

Hiking with kids

Mt. Liberty--NH, Anthony and CJ

Backpacking with children
Anthony (right) and CJ–White Mountains

Young kids need to stay active. They also thrive in new and challenging situations. Why not take them on an overnight camping trip in the mountains?

A few years ago, I took my step-grandson, Anthony, and his friend on a hike in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I pulled out two old backpacks and drove us up to the Mount Liberty trailhead. They asked me on the ride up if we would see snakes and bears; I told them to stay alert and be watchful.

Late morning, we started the climb up to the Mount Liberty tent site, which is about three-quarters of the way to the summit. At the site, I showed them how to get water and treat it. I handed them their private tent set-up instructions and told them to figure it out. It was a nice afternoon with plenty of time before sunset; they put their heads together and did fine. 

I wanted to teach them about the wilds and quickly realized they would put up with some instruction, but not lots. So I took it easy on them. The next morning on the summit, they were wide-eyed as they huddled looking at views. The boys felt like they had accomplished something.

On the way back down, I let each of them navigate and quizzed them about what they would do if they got lost. At trail junctions, I asked them to pull out their maps and show me where they were. I had my watch and showed them how long it took to hike a certain segment–another way to confirm what you are doing, I’d said.

These pictures tell the story. We didn’t see any snakes or bears, but I taught them what camping basics I could in the time we had. They’ve turned into fine young men.