About 1,800 miles into their thru-hike of the 2,186-mile-long Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.), northbounders encounter a place where weather, terrain, and hiker services differ markedly from what they’ve come to know from miles and miles and months in the woods.
The skies throw in a wild card, what with the trail’s proximity to fabled Mount Washington (as the Mount Washington Observatory puts it, “Home of the World’s Worst Weather”). The hills heave up huge jumbles of rock, making travel slow going. And extended above-treeline stretches offer no tenting terrain, given resource protection restrictions.
Navigating the White Mountains and Mahoosuc Range, through which the A.T. meanders, can be a tricky go for the uninitiated. Recognizing perennial concerns and queries from hikers—especially thru-hikers—AMC has launched a new online guide designed to welcome hikers to the region and provide them with insight on what makes the place unique, and how to find a variety of services available to them, particularly in the Pinkham Notch area.
“The Whites see far more use from day hikers, backpackers, and thru-hikers than just about any stretch of the Appalachian Trail,” explains AMC Backcountry Resource Conservation Manager Sally Manikian. “On top of that, many trails are steep and topsoil is thin, creating constant challenges for trail maintainers. That translates into the need for increased stewardship to help protect trail resources and such vital amenities as drinking water supplies.”
Manikian, who has served many years as a backcountry caretaker throughout the Whites and Mahoosucs and was part of a team of AMC employees who developed the new web pages that comprise the online guide, said the effort is designed to help thru-hikers feel welcome in the Whites, and learn about the challenges of hiking in the region. “Our hope is that they can better find the services they need while in the area—whether it’s a mail drop at Pinkham, or a pizza in town—and help us in providing trail stewardship as they enjoy a life-changing trip on the A.T.”
The new web pages include information on services available to A.T. thru-hikers, such as local accommodations, including low-cost and no-cost overnight options; preparation tips for hiking in the rugged terrain and often unforgiving weather of the Whites and Mahoosucs; and insight into how user fees help to cover trail stewardship needs. Details on AMC’s Work-for-Stay program in the huts and at backcountry campsites are also included, to help thru-hikers take advantage of those opportunities. From mid-July to mid-September alone, when the majority of thru-hikers are passing through the White Mountains, AMC offers more than 2,100 potential free overnight stays for thru-hikers under its Work-for-Stay program.
The Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), which oversees the famed footpath, reports that some 2,000 hikers set out to complete the entire trail in a given year, with about one-quarter making it from end to end.
AMC is a member of ATC. AMC staff and volunteers maintain 300 miles of the A.T. in five states.
AMC is reaching out to the A.T. community through personal connections as well, and 2013 hut crews included seven former A.T. thru-hikers. “Hut guests enjoyed learning about crew members’ experiences thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and our crew members were able to help last year’s wave of thru-hikers navigate the unique conditions found in the White Mountains,” says AMC Huts Manager James Wrigley. “It was a real nice bridge between AMC huts and A.T. thru-hikers, and we expect to have thru-hikers on staff this year as well.”