Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Whites!

The first time I was aware of Mount Washington was after I had become an avid backpacker at the age of 15. I’d meet up with folk who were thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail as I section-hiked the AT in my native state of Georgia, and they would tell of the glorious peaks to be found in North Carolina, Tennessee and in New Hampshire. At home, I searched through the vast stacks of National Geographic magazines in my dad’s bookstore until I dug out all of the issues with photos and stories of the Great Smoky Mountains and the White Mountains.

While I early on got to hike the Smokies, the Whites of New England remained out of reach for me as I was generally always too poor to afford to head up there. And on the rare occasions I was able to get to that part of the country, it was either on business or to meet up with family, both of which precluded me from hiking the Presidential Range.

Back in 2000, I realized I’d better get busy hiking the peaks I’d always wanted to see before I got too old to do so. In that year I flew up to Maine and headed to Baxter State Park to climb Katahdin. But it wasn’t until this year that I was able to arrange a hike of Mount Washington, which had become something of a grail for me.

I have to say, straight up, that although I love my native South dearly, and adore our high country, we have nothing like the mountains of New England. While the Whites are not quite as high as our Smokies, or Blacks, they are, without doubt, the most spectacular mountain range I have experienced on the east coast of the USA. Nothing here in the South compares with them, on a purely visual basis, because of the 4,000-foot tree line in New Hampshire, and because of the amazing gulfs, ravines, and cirques gouged into the geography of the Appalachians by glacial activity. It was something, indeed, for this Georgia-boy to behold.

Having now experienced the grandeur and the hospitality of the New Hampshire high country, it’s our intention to return there at the earliest opportunity. I waited 34 years to finally bag Mount Washington. I promise the time between now and my return to that fantastic peak will be brief.

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