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A Passion for Hiking New Hampshire Trails

Christine Randall - February 20, 2012





As Americans live increasingly longer lives, the generation referred to as “baby-boomers” knows that remaining as socially and physically active as possible as they near retirement will help them to enjoy their well-earned leisure years in relatively good health.  Fortunately, those living in or visiting beautiful New Hampshire with its numerous lakes, rivers, and mountains are able to take advantage of any number of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors and get some exercise.

Hiking has always been a popular pastime in beautiful New Hampshire and the surrounding regions and it remains so to this day, whether you opt for a relatively simple day hike or set your sights on longer excursions such as hiking the Appalachian Trail.  The rewards are ample, including beautiful vistas and scenery, a healthy dose of exercise, and a chance to enjoy the outdoors.

For Lakes Region resident Mark Anderson, hiking has long been one of his passions, particularly over the past two decades.  Mark, now in his mid-50’s, did some hiking as a Boy Scout in his younger years, but it was during his college years spent at Plymouth State University, located at the foothills of the White Mountains, that he really got interested in backpacking on a regular basis.  After graduating and moving out-of-state, Mark took a brief hiatus from hiking, but on returning to the Ashland area in the mid-1980’s, he found that he had a renewed interest in exploring the numerous trails and peaks in the region.

“A friend from college who now lives in Conway called me up one day and asked, “Remember when we used to go on all those hikes in college?” Mark recalls.  “We decided that we’d like to start hiking again, and we’ve been hiking as often as we can ever since.”

Even though he has a family and holds as full-time job as the Manager of Plant Maintenance at Plymouth State University, Mark manages to find the time to go backpacking just about every weekend during the summer and fall months.  Mark also enjoys taking short winter hikes on occasion, but he also does a lot of skiing as well.

Mark is not a group hiker, preferring to hike with one or two close friends or family members, and if no one is available, Mark doesn’t have any problems with hiking solo.  In addition to the weekly hikes, Mark and his friend Allen also try to plan a week-long back-packing trip every year during the fall.

Mark explains that there are several things that appeal to him about hiking.  “First of all, you get to enjoy some great views of the surrounding landscape and even beyond,” he says.  “Plus, you get some great exercise, and then there is the element of challenge.  There are also spiritual elements when you are out enjoying the wilderness.”

For people relatively new to hiking, Mark recommends that they do a lot of preliminary research about the peak and current trail conditions, as well as making sure that they have the proper equipment and clothing.  “All hikers need to be prepared for changing conditions, as weather in the mountains can change very quickly,” Mark notes.  “They also need to know what their own physical limitations and abilities are.”

Those looking for information on area hikes can consult any number of publications and guides, but probably one of the best is the AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) White Mountain Guide, a small publication full of detailed information about trails, as well as several detailed topographic maps.  There are also many local hiking groups in the area which offer free or inexpensive guided hikes for those who prefer to hike in groups.

Although Mark has enjoyed many “easier” hikes on a number of smaller peaks around the Lakes Region, including Mt. Morgan and Mt. Percival in the Holderness area, the Squam Range, Mt. Chocorua in the Tamworth/Albany area, and Mt. Major in Alton, a few years ago Mark successfully conquered all 48 of the peaks in the White Mountains of  New Hampshire that measure 4,000 feet high or higher, thus becoming a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s prestigious Four Thousand Footers club (also known as the White Mountain Four Thousand Footers Club).

While Mark has a few favorite hikes that he like to return to, like many other avid hikers Mark is always looking for new trails to try.   “There are over 1400 miles of trails outlined in red on the AMC topo maps, and many people have a goal of trying to hike on as many of the trails as they can, which is known as “red-lining,” Mark explains.  “I’ve probably done between 500 and 600 miles of the trails.”

Other hikers enjoy choosing from hikes selected from specialty lists put together by the AMC and other groups, such as the White Mountain Four Thousand Footers, the New England Four Thousand Footers, and the New England Hundred Highest.  “I’ve hiked a few mountains included on the New England Four Thousand Footers list in Maine and Vermont,” says Mark, “but I’m in no particular hurry to finish those lists just yet.  I prefer to hike on whatever trail that I might find appealing at that particular moment.”

One of Mark’s favorite hikes in the Lakes Region is the Mt. Morgan-Mt. Percival loop in Holderness, which is a relatively short hike (five miles) with great views of Squam Lake and surrounding mountains.  Mark also enjoys hiking on Bondcliff in the Pemigewassett Wilderness area, but he says his all time favorite hike (thus far) was a four day trek down into the Grand Canyon which he took a year ago last fall with his friend Allen.

Mark views hiking as an activity that will help to keep him as fit and healthy as possible as he gets older, and he predicts that he will enjoy hiking well into his golden years.  “Unless I break a limb or something else happens, I plan to hike well into my 90’s if I can!” 

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