TO PARAPHRASE Martha and the Vandellas, "Summer's here and the time is right for bagging some new peaks."
Will this be the summer you check a few more White Mountain 4,000 footers off your list? Or, join a guided hike, a naturalist-led interpretive program or an outdoor skills workshop?
If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you can enjoy a self-led hike into the backcountry along with family and friends. New Hampshire's well-maintained trail networks are extensive, and, with the help of one of the many hiking guidebooks available, you can pick the locale and terrain that's best suited to your hiking group.
Be sure to dress for the weather and bring along the essential items needed for a safe and enjoyable hike. Find online recommendations at hikeSafe.com and outdoors.org.
AMC's system of eight backcountry huts is now open for the full-service season, and overnight guests (with advance registration) and day visitors are welcome. Historical note: Carter Notch Hut, the easternmost in the system, marks its 100th anniversary this year.
There's a lot to do in the mountains and forests, and on the trails and waters. Make sure you take advantage of the summer season and get outdoors.
With the warmer weather comes the blooming of several species of alpine flowers that flourish above treeline in the White Mountains. Naturalist-led alpine zone hikes are scheduled that are designed to get hikers into the outdoors along with experienced naturalists who can provide insight into the unique flora and fauna in the land above treeline.
Lofty Mount Washington - at 6288 feet, the highest peak in the Northeast - is the venue for alpine exploration programs with longtime AMC Senior Naturalist Nancy Ritger. Participants will spend the day exploring the alpine zone, which hosts such flora and fauna as diapensia, alpine azalea, American pipits and Bicknell's thrush. Hikers will look for signs of these species while learning about the alpine environment.
Hiking is rated as moderate on steep and rocky terrain, and participants should be in good physical condition and prepared to spend time above treeline. Groups will ascend via the Mount Washington Auto Road in order to spend appreciable time in the field. The sessions begin with an overview and gear check at AMC's Joe Dodge Lodge in Pinkham Notch. These one-day programs are slated for July 8, Aug. 12 and Sept. 9, and include instruction, auto road transport and trail lunch.
Mount Washington also figures into one-day guided programs set for July 26, Aug. 30 and Sept. 13. Participants join an AMC guide on a summit attempt of the Northeast's highest peak. With a 'round trip distance of about nine miles involving significant elevation gain and steep, rocky terrain, the hike is estimated to take from seven to nine hours and is rated challenging. Hikers should be in good physical condition and prepared for changing weather and terrain. Weather conditions may lead to changes in the itinerary and attainment of the summit is not guaranteed.
These programs include leadership and a trail lunch.
Information on logistics and fees is available at 466-2727.
Hikers seeking to map out their own route for a self-guided hike in the Whites can do so via the White Mountain Guide Online, which can be used to create custom itineraries. A 5-day free trial to this 24-7 online service can be accessed at wmgonline.org.
White Mountains visitors also have opportunities to join AMC staff and volunteers for free guided programs at AMC's Highland Center at Crawford Notch and at the Pinkham Notch Visitor Center in Pinkham Notch.
Notch hikes of from one to four hours are offered at the Highland Center beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays this summer. Also on weekends, Notch talks on natural history are set for noon at the Highland Center and at 1 p.m. at the adjacent Macomber Family Information Center at the Crawford Depot. Solar and stellar observations take place daily at the Highland Center as weather conditions permit. Scheduling details are available by calling the Highland Center at 278-4453.
Guided programs are held at the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center most days in summer. Natural history table talks typically take place from 8 a.m. to noon, and nature walks of from a half mile to a mile are often offered at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Those interested in participating may call 466-8116 or 466-2721 to confirm programs on particular dates.
Free evening presentations on natural history, White Mountain explorations, hiking safety and other topics are offered at Pinkham Notch at 8 each night in July and August.
Rob Burbank is Director of Media and Public Affairs for the Appalachian Mountain Club (outdoors.org) in Pinkham Notch. His column, "Outdoors with the AMC," appears monthly in the New Hampshire Sunday News.