I’ve mentioned before that I’m concerned about the Trail in New Hampshire and Maine. I have to admit, I am intimidated by these two states. As difficult as Lehigh Gap was, no one ever talks about Lehigh Gap. Everyone talks about New Hampshire and Maine. They are hands-down the most difficult parts of the AT.
I’ve looked at the elevation profiles of the AT in these states and they certainly have The Old Guy’s attention. Remember Hudson, who I mentioned in my Connecticut post? I asked him to compare New Hampshire and Maine to Lehigh Gap. Hudson, who is intimately familiar with the AT and does not exaggerate, looked at a me for a moment and said, “Old Guy, when you did Lehigh Gap, it took you about a quarter of your day and the remaining three quarters were reasonable. When you are in New Hampshire and Maine, there will be several days when it is just the opposite: three quarters of your day will be like Lehigh Gap and only one quarter will be reasonable.”
There are several 3000-4000 foot ascents and descents within just a few miles, and many of these are very rocky. My first challenge will be the Presidential Range in New Hampshire. The flagship for this section is Mount Washington, which has an elevation of 6,289 feet. This mountain is notorious for immediate and unpredictable weather changes, and snow even in the dead of summer. It has recorded temperatures as low as -47 degrees and wind speeds of 231 miles per hour. It is not the highest peak on the AT, but it is the most notorious and unpredictable.
By comparison, the highest point on the AT is Clingmans Dome in Tennessee with an elevation of 6,644 feet, and the highest elevation east of the Mississippi River is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina at 6,683 feet. But who ever talks about those two peaks?
Maine has equivalent ascents and descents, but also includes the 100 Mile Wilderness. This is a 100-mile stretch where there are no areas to receive help or get provisions. One must carry all the supplies needed. Thankfully, water sources are plentiful.
For all these reasons and many more, I am more than concerned, and this certainly is on my mind as I approach New Hampshire. Many hikers before me have expressed similar worries. On the other hand are hikers that welcome the challenge with a Pat Benatar attitude: “Hit with me with your best shot; fire away!”
One positive is that New Hampshire and Maine have arguably the most beautiful and spectacular vistas on the AT, and that certainly warrants mention.
If I can complete New Hampshire and Maine, there is no doubt in my mind I can complete a thru-hike. But these are two very tough tests to face.
In the meantime, I will concentrate on Vermont and the challenges this state is presenting.