The White Mountain 4000 Footers
The AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) White Mountain Four Thousand Footer Club was formed in 1957. Potential members must climb the 48 highest peaks in New Hampshire's White Mountains from lowly Tecumseh to mighty Mount Washington. I first started hiking in New Hampshire in 2014 when we lived in Providence, RI and the White Mountains were relatively nearby. This August, I finished climbing the final mountain on the list and was recently working on putting together the simple application. Unlike other hiking challenges I have done, this one requires a written piece or "essay" about climbing these mountains. The form and focus is left to the applicant's discretion.
What follows is my submission (embellished with some of my favorite photos from my time in the Whites so far).
Eleven socked in summits– above the clouds and inside the clouds. Lots of lucky sun too, with cumulus shadows draping the mountains in shifting shades of green and gray.
Four nights in the backcountry, two in motels, ten in campgrounds: Dolly Copp, Jigger Johnson, Hancock. Stuffed envelopes and green tubes. Scheming by electric lantern light about trails not yet taken.
The peaked hut roofs emerge suddenly from the trees or edge closer with each alpine step. Carter Notch, Madison Springs, Lake of the Clouds, Mizpah Springs, and Galehead (always a hut visitor, never yet a hut guest). Broad wooden tables for hearty meals and windows for watching the storm blow in.
Monarch butterflies on Whiteface, dragonflies in the Tripyramids, expectant Canada gray jays on Mt. Field, paper wasps on the signal ridge trail. Later in camp: an extravagant pink moth, devious chipmunks, and armies of daddy long-legs.
One road walk and an eleven-mile bike shuttle. Routes 16 and 302, Bear Notch Road and the “Kanc.” Hundreds of miles of driving. Thunderstorms and the glaring late August sun, through the backroads of Vermont, stuck behind tractors and downshifting over mountain passes. Deep in conversation or with windows down and the music blasting. Celebration songs, wake-up songs, and stay-awake songs.
More than one hundred miles of ridge walks. Rock-hopping and gawking in the Presidentials. Squinting into the fogs of Franconia. Sucking in the rarified mossy air and revering the toughest trees on the mountain.
Hiking with a life-long friend and with an intrepid life partner.
Spruce, balsam, and pine. Birch and maple. Turtlehead and wild blueberries.
Tentative steps in the dark, looking for the Giant Stairs by headlamp’s light. Three measured miles in Lincoln Woods (about 1,900 steps each). Well-used maps and weathered mountains, old and older still. Planning trips from two states away, wondering on higher places with mud still drying on my boots.