New England Appalachian Trail Sampler

The entire 2,180-some miles of the Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine, is marked with 3-inch x 6-inch white blazes, on trees, rocks, even telephone poles and concrete highway abutments. It’s said hiking the entire length takes more than five million steps!

Along the trail in New Hampshire and Maine hikers experience a daily juxtaposition, a constant variety — with areas of incredible, unforgettable, sweet peace mixed with seemingly never-ending, gut-busting granite ledge ascents and descents. And sprinkled among these, tidy small towns where you’d expect to see perhaps Andy and Aunt Bee.

I loved New England so much I moved to Maine and stayed for seven years. While I lived there, I had the luxury of returning to those places I’d loved the most.

Here they are. One trip easy, one trip difficult — you can choose according to the ability level of your group.

New Hampshire
The Presidentials

Rating
Very difficult, fitness and good gear required for this challenging weekend.

Maps for sections of the Appalachian Trail are great resources for planning.

Description
Begin at Crawford Notch (U.S. Route 302, Harts Location, N.H., 03812) and end at Pinkham Notch on Route 16. The 26 miles of trail is best accomplished in three days and two nights. Above tree line, much of the trail is marked by white blazes on cairns of rocks.

You’ll bag lots of high peaks, beginning with the shortest, Mt. Webster (3,910 feet), and continuing along Jackson (4,052), Pierce (4,312), Eisenhower (4,760), Franklin (5,001), Monroe (5,372), Washington (6,288), Jefferson (5,716), Adams (5,799), and Madison (5,366). Along the way, you’ll cover the Crawford Path, which is the oldest continuously-maintained foot trail in America (since 1819).

Suggested Gear
The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) maintains a series of huts in the White Mountains, and the easiest way to complete the trek is to hike hut-to-hut (for reservations, go to www.outdoors.org or call 603-466-2727). Beginning at Crawford Notch, you’d hike 6 miles via the Webster Cliff Trail/Appalachian trail to Mitzpah Spring Hut the first day, 11 miles to Madison Springs hut the second day (also passing Lake of the Clouds Hut), and end with 7.2 miles mostly downhill to Pinkham Notch. Another options is to stay at shelters or tent sites, unfortunately, these are located an average of a mile from the main trail. And that mile will be steep, down and back up in the morning. An exception is Nauman Tentsite, which is next to Mitzpah Springs Hut.

This is important: whether or not you plan to go hut-to-hut, or trek down to the side-trail shelters, load your pack as if you’ll be unexpectedly caught out overnight on a glacier. If it’s 80 degrees and sunny in Crawford Notch, don’t be surprised if it’s 20 degrees with a 50 mph hour wind above tree line.

Maine
Four Ponds Area

Rating
Relatively easy, long weekend family hike, great fishing.

Description
The Four Ponds Area lies within the Appalachian Trail Section between routes 17 and 4 in northwestern Maine. It’s just 13 miles and best enjoyed slowly as you take the time to wet lines in the many achingly beautiful ponds that grace your woodland path.

The hut sleeping arrangements are bunkhouse style, and you can bet on meeting a wide range of travelers.

Your preconceived mental image of a pond may be forever altered. In my home state, Pennsylvania, we would call these lakes. For example, the largest in this trail section is Long Pond, 254 acres with a maximum depth of 114 feet.

The “Four Ponds” are Long, Round, Moxie, and Sabbath Day ponds. Moxie and Round ponds are stocked, while Long and Sabbath Day ponds contain native brook trout.

Sabbath Day Pond is one of my favorite places on earth. During my Appalachian Trail section hike, it’s where I saw my first moose. It’s where on a subsequent weekend hike once I’d moved to Maine, that for the first time, I caught a native brook trout on a fly (wooly bugger) I’d tied. It’s a serene, peaceful, inspiring place.

Suggested Gear
Regrettably, Maine’s splendor comes with a price — black flies, mosquitoes and midges (no-see-ums). I would have gladly paid someone $500 for a Therma-Cell; carrying a tent with no-see-um netting is a must. I’ve always felt that fingers sprayed with insect repellant and fly line don’t mix, better to wear a Therma-Cell on your hip while fishing.

Along with typical hiking gear, don’t go without a packable fly rod (check regulations with Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for the FFO, Fly Fishing Only locations). Because of challenging conditions, the ponds may not have been stocked until mid-June. Wet flies such as wooly buggers worked well for me, as did terrestrials. No live bait may be used on the ponds.

For More Information
For more information on hiking the Appalachian Trail, contact: Appalachian Mountain Clubs White Mountain Guide, www.outdoors.org; the Maine Appalachian Trail Clubs Appalachian Trail Guide to Maine, www.matc.org; or the Appalachian Trail Conference, www.appalachiantrail.org.

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