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Inspired by our love for hiking the mountains of New Hampshire.

The Trip That Inspired Us...

The Presidential Traverse, White Mountains, New Hampshire

Since I moved back to New Hampshire from Alaska, I've missed it every day. I found a magic there that is hard to recreate, so I've gone back every year since changing my home address and haven't ever been disappointed in the wonder I find in each return trip. Unfairly, in contrast, I've been hiking in New Hampshire since I was a kid. I've completed the NH48, worked my way through most of my 52WAV list, and become familiar with the landscapes and animals I encounter on my home state hikes. This place has been my backyard for most of my life. How can it compete with flashy Alaska?


In Alaska, most trails come with an expansive view featuring at least a few of the following: glaciers, rugged peaks, turquoise lakes, fjord-like coves, and at least a few animals that would not hesitate to maul you if you look at them wrong. New Hampshire trails follow a predictable pattern of walking through pleasant - though often heartbreakingly steep  - forest terrain to reach a single viewpoint. In Alaska, you could reasonably go for days without seeing a single person if you were so inclined - and even when you're not so inclined. In New Hampshire, you're often taking in the view with fellow hikers unless you make a special effort to seek out solitude. In Alaska, you'd best pay attention at all times. If a surprised bear doesn't do you in, hypothermia, glacial crevasses, river crossings, angry moose, or even mud flats are ready and willing to finish the job. In New Hampshire, the weather is absolutely a factor to respect, but most animal encounters and stream crossings are benign, and, on bluebird days, you can safely let down your guard a bit. 


Despite this introduction to my state of mind while in my "hiking rut" a few years ago, this isn't a story about wishing I were somewhere else. Rather, it is a story about how one hike, a successful Presidential Traverse, helped me rediscover my love for this coast's enchanted forest.


Though I'd summitted most of the peaks individually at the point I started thinking about this hike, I'd never strung them together in the classic "Presidential Traverse" itinerary. Knowing it was one of the harder hikes in the area, I thought that if anything could help reignite my interest in East Coast hiking, it would be this trail. Looping in my mom and our friend, Donna, I decided to go for it on what turned out to be a banner-weather stretch of three days and two nights in June.

It turns out my intuition was spot-on. The Presidential Traverse begins below tree line, of course, but the trail up Mt. Madison passes through a particularly stunning patch of lush, emerald-green mossy forest that would captivate even the most jaded of hikers. We encountered showy trillium, vibrant mushrooms, and cascading waterfalls in early summer, popping above tree line all too soon, where we stayed for the next three days. The expansive views and lack of crowds on the ridge made me feel like I was truly in the wilderness, a feeling I'd been chasing since returning from Alaska. The key factors in bottling that feeling? Looking out at certain points and not seeing a single manmade structure, constantly-shifting 365-degree panoramas, and a rugged path that made you earn your views were  just what I needed to fall back in love with New Hampshire's wilds. Plus, we saw a moose.


From that hike on, New Hampshire's quiet beauty re-enchanted me. Although I don't plan on giving up my yearly Alaska trips anytime soon, I'm equally drawn in by New Hampshire's enchanted forests and short - yet sweet - ridgelines. I hike here nearly every week I'm not traveling, and these trails, probably more than any other place I've been, inspire me to try to remember the feeling I get when I'm out there through my pottery.


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