A few weeks ago, I had the chance to feed a Gray Jay out of my hand on the summit of Mt. Cabot. I had first witnessed other hikers performing the ritual on the summit of Mt. Willey a few years ago, and often read about the experience in facebook groups and message boards dedicated to hiking in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.
After the bird hopped around on my fingers, grabbed the Frito in its tiny beak and flew off, I felt like I had successfully completed one of the many unofficial items on the NH 4,000 footers list. 🏅
Which got me thinking: what are the other experiences that every White Mountains peak bagger should aim for?
On the drive home, I started putting together a list.
I figured the list should have a few items that most hikers would complete by default, simply by exploring all the different areas of the Whites. I also wanted to have items that require hikers to try different styles of hiking and camping.
Any worthwhile scavenger hunt should push you out of your comfort zone – more than hiking 48 peaks already does! In order to complete every item on the list, you should have to risk getting cold, wet, lost and exhausted, going above and beyond the standard experience most peak baggers would have.
But it’s not all about taking risks.
As you explore White Mountain National Forest and the surrounding wildernesses, you should also get to know the communities and special features of the area. As an experienced hiker in the Whites, you should become a good steward in the community, sharing your knowledge with other experienced hikers, and passing along advice to those who are brand new.
That said, let me know if I missed any good items and I’ll be sure to add them!
You can also print off the list from the google doc here. 🖨
- Feed a Grey Jay out of your hand (Cabot or Willey)
- Run-in with a bear or moose (from a safe distance)
Enjoy the Amenities
- Stay at an AMC Hut during full service season
- Stay at an AMC Hut during self service season
- Eat lunch at the Mt. Washington Observatory
- Get a snack at Cafe 4080 (Cannon Mountain)
- Spend a night at one of the drive-in campgrounds
- Drive the Kancamagus Highway (route 112 between Lincoln and Conway)
Join the Community
- Take an AMC Free Hiker Shuttle
- Pick up a hitchhiker (or get picked up yourself)
- Volunteer on a trail crew (AMC, RMC, etc)
- Help an injured, distressed or lost stranger you find on the trail
- Warn an obviously unprepared hiker about the conditions they’re heading into
- Take a friend to the summit of their first 4,000 footer
- Share a leanto with strangers
- Sign a “trail registry” (Pinkham Notch, etc)
- Offer to take a group shot for a family or hiking group at a summit
- Join a facebook group and share your trip report online
Face Challenging Conditions
- Summit a peak at night and catch the sunrise
- Summit a peak in the winter
- Summit a peak in the rain
- Cancel a planned hike due to bad weather (free space! 😉)
- Barely complete a hike that you probably should have cancelled due to weather
- Stealth camp somewhere random in the backcountry (LNT!)
- Go for a swim in an alpine lake (Lonesome Lake, Lake of the Clouds)
- Do a 20-plus mile day
- Hit more than 5 peaks in a single day
- Bushwhack a section off trail
- Hike a “closed” trail that’s no longer maintained
- Find a geocache and leave something in it
- Hike out with some trash or lost items you found along the trail
- Do a solo overnight backpacking hike
Ski the East
If you’re a very competent backcountry skiier, make sure you ski Tuckerman or Huntington Ravine on Mt. Washington. For the rest of us, there are a number of groomed ski slopes that are worth checking out:
- Bretton Woods
- Waterville Valley
There you have it! 33 awesome experiences that will help you get to know the White Mountains from more than just the summits. It will likely take many different trips at different times of year with different groups, paces and objectives in order to complete them all.
Hopefully you’ve completed a few of the items already. For those like me who are motivated by checklists, hopefully it gives you something else to work towards.