Something Wild: The Dangers of Hiking the Whites

The wooden bridge at the trail head is the gateway to 45,000 acres of protected land, in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest. As Steve Smith, editor of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Hiking Guide points out, “Many a long journey has started here, and ended here.” We’re not far along our own journey when Smith and Mike Dickerman of Bond Cliff Books begin swapping war stories from decades of walking these trails. Dickerman remembers breaking through the ice up to his waist; Smith remembers the difficulty of evacuating a member of one of his crew who had broken a leg on the trail.

These sorts of stories are rites of passage for any serious hiker, and no mistake these two are serious hikers, they co-authored The 4000-Footers of the White Mountains, and have watched decades of change, from the hiking gear and tent technology, to hydration, but also within the community – on the peaks and on social media. “Back in the 1980’s, it was strictly a weekend pursuit. Now every trailhead has a car at it every day,” says Dickerman. And on weekends parking can be problematic, even lining 93 through Franconia Notch. “I think the popularity of social media has brought more people out into the woods. People see something posted in online and say ‘Oh, I gotta try that.’”

Larger numbers of people enjoying New Hampshire’s natural resources has its advantages, but it is a two sided coin. Smith weighs them thus, “It’s Great to see all these people enjoying the mountain. Hopefully becoming advocates and stewards of the mountains. But, one of the issues is how do you reach all these new people that are getting out there.”

Dickerman worries about the safety of these novice hikers, he encourages hikers to be prepared for all weathers at any time of year.

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