Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to the family and friends of Joe Fortin, who passed away, way too young, on Christmas Day. My goodness, I have known Joe since he was in elementary school, first as a student, athlete, friend and colleague in the Berlin School District. He was a great guy, always friendly to so many and definitely a strong asset to Berlin High School and specifically the Art Department. He most definitely will be missed.
By definition, to hike is to travel by any means possible, rise up, to work upward, a long walk for pleasure or exercise and the slang term, a rude way to tell someone to go away, hit the road. The man I am featuring today, Keith Enman, in my SSS column, has done lots of various types of hiking in the course of his lifetime.
Like most people I have featured in my stories, Keith is a humble guy and I had to convince him to permit me to do this story on his extensive hiking career. My appreciation goes out to him for furnishing me with some very detailed information that I will attempt to condense while being precise, accurate and sensitive to it. His knowledge, memory and interest in this hiking craze are quite remarkable! I know generally about his hiking adventures but this certainly was an eye-opener for me as to the extent of it.
Brother Keith grew up on the Enman family farm, the youngest of five children of the late Don and Erma (Hawkins) Enman. He first took an interest in hiking when our Dad would somehow manage to take some time off from work on the dairy farm to do some day-hikes. We didn’t just do local leisurely hikes around the farm in the summer and then snowshoe hikes in the winter and on Dad’s woodlots, but we took a few hikes into Tuckerman Ravine among other hikes on the other mountains of the Presidential Range. Seeing huge boulders and snow in July on those hikes was pretty impressive and there came an additional appreciation of the fields, streams, forest, mountains and sky.
Bike rides from Chickwolnepy Road to the Milan Hill Tower, climbing the Nansen Ski Jump and Table Rock in Dixville Notch were also enjoyable and thrilling at the time. Keith was a member of Milan Boy Scout Troop 223 and they had a big hike up Mount Madison and hiked up the Daniel Webster Scout Trail, built by the Boy Scouts of N.H. in 1933. That is when “false summits” became a reality in hiking as one may think they have reached the top of the mountain when, lo and behold, you are not there yet.
During Keith’s Berlin High School years, hiking took a back seat to work on the family farm and competing in football, basketball and baseball, all three of which Keith was quite talented in (my opinion) and contributed to making those teams competitive in Class L. College at Plymouth State was busy, too, but Keith did manage to do a few hikes, including Stinson and Tenney Mountains along with Waterville Valley with its many hiking trails.
In 1999, hiking became a bit more serious for Keith starting with some teenagers who didn’t want to hang out with their parents on smaller mountains locally. Mountains such as Pine, Willard, Crag and Sanguinary, Square Ledge, Lost Pond, Imp Face and Artist’s Bluff to name just a few are mountains in the Shelburne, Gorham, Pinkham, Crawford, Franconia and Dixville Notches areas.
A bit later, in 2001, Keith started a “guide” service when he took some family members up Mount Hale, named for the famous author, Rev. Edward Hale, and a nice 4,000-foot hike in the Zealand Notch area. Not all high mountains necessarily have a view, this one included, and his family members let him know they were looking for a view and that he needed to “bone up on his guiding information.”
There is a very rich history with plenty of interesting facts surrounding the White Mountains of N.H., much of it is detailed in “The White Mountain Guidebook” as well as “The Four Thousand Footers of N.H.” As Keith says, “If anyone has plans to hike any mountains anywhere it is essential to research and study the various guidebooks and maps available.” From my experience in listening to Keith talk about mountains in the northeast, he could have written most of those guidebooks.
As with Spartan races, triathlon and others that present unique challenges to the fanatical followers, hikers have their things, too. For example, there is a “4,000-foot list” of 48 mountains in N.H. (the N.H. 48) that Keith decided to hike, and in 2006, with lots of hiking friends and family to accompany him, he finally completed that list. Add to that the unique objective of completing all of the N.H. 48’s in the wintertime!
All hiking expeditions take careful planning but winter hiking requires some extraordinary plans and precautions particularly involving special equipment, clothing and knowing weather and hiking trail conditions as Keith was quick to point out. Winter views are considered more spectacular, mainly because of no leaves’ cover on the trees and the contrast between white snow and blue sky! Also there are no bugs, cooler temperatures, snow-packed trails rather than rocky ones and believe it or not more often the hiking times are generally faster depending on conditions.
Disadvantages include having heavier backpacks due to the extra clothing, food and equipment needed. One should plan on having snowshoes for softer conditions and when the trails are more hard-packed or icy, micro-spikes and/or crampons are advantageous. There are always people out there who love an unusual “beyond your comfort zone” experience so Keith, “has had lots of folks come alongside me to complete the wintertime N.H. 48 list.”
When I asked Keith if he ever had any “close calls” on any hike, winter or otherwise, he said, “only a couple of times, when whiteouts occurred above tree-line and I could not locate the trail corridor. Fortunately, a compass helped me reestablish the trail. Always plan your hikes in good weather but remember that mountain weather can change rather quickly.”
There is also a “52 With a View” list of mountains in N.H. that are not necessarily 4,000-footers, but they all have views, some totally awesome, and some more difficult than a number of the higher mountains. A small sample of those would include Mount Chocorua, which is part of the Sandwich Range, Mount Webster,
The hiking enthusiasts or extremists, in many cases, establish various challenges to test the endurance, determination and perseverance of the serious hiker include one called, “Redlining.” One must hike every trail listed in the White Mountain Guidebook, which amounts to over 1,250 miles. It did take some time, but finally, in 2013, Keith completed it, becoming the 20th person to ever do so, even though it was thought up a few years before. The last one on that list was the Madison Gulf Trail. Not only did he cover each hiking trail listed but did many of those same trails numerous times and at last estimate, the local (loco) hiker estimates he has done about 4,000 miles of trails over his career.
Another interesting, difficult task/list to complete is the New England 67, which includes 14 mountains in Maine and five in Vermont that exceeds 4,000 feet in elevation. As Keith said, “I was lucky enough to again snare some good friends and family to help me get those 19 extra peaks to complete the NE67.” Mountains familiar to some would include the Bigelow Mountain near Flagstaff Lake and Mount Katahdin, the highest summit in Maine.
Not to be forgotten, New York has 46 mountains over 4,000 feet, beginning in 2011, Keith made the trip to that state a few times a year, taking the ferry across beautiful Lake Champlain. Up to this point he had completed 38, with eight to go on what is called the Adirondack 46. Big Slide, Gothic, Algonquin and Haystack provided Keith with some great views along with others too numerous to mention.
When Keith and I retired a couple of years apart, back 8 or 9 years ago, him first, we had hoped to spend more time hiking together, as we had done when we were young and before retirement. Even retired I was busy and to my regret only got in a few very enjoyable hikes with my baby brother. His idea of a nice, leisurely hike is a 15-miler up a 4,000-footer, in the winter on snowshoes. Even though I have always loved snowshoe hikes, mine was a leisurely mile hike up to the pasture hill, cook a hot dog over an open fire and return to the confines of my living room in front of the fireplace.
Luckily for Keith, there are a couple of nephews who wanted to do the N.H. 48 and explore other mountains as well as a few good friends who decided to take up hiking. And what better a guy to go with than Keith. He began to get requests to plan hikes up mountains they needed, enjoy the summit views, as well as the “trail-gating” post-hike with snacks and plenty of good conversation, along with the satisfaction of finishing strong or at least finishing.
Not to forget local hiker Ron Marquis who has done all of the NE 115 and over time has given me valuable advice especially on hiking the Adirondack High Peaks.
The 4,000 foot committee establishes various challenges — here's another:
"hike one 4,000 footer every day of the year", and another one has to do with "going on a hike every day of the year", including February 29th.
Keith went through his hiking archives and found he has 50 days left on that one, which is a goal he is working on. As I understand it you don't have to meet those challenges in a calendar, like starting on January 1st and hiking every day through December of 2021, although there may be a challenge out there for that. Instead it is a culmination of hikes over time.
And finally, Keith stated, "There are many, many other hikers out there who have done so much more hiking and meeting so many other extreme objectives out there than me. Two that come to mind, are locals Ron Marquis and Rodney Levesque that I have already alluded to in this story."
Ron wrote a book, entitled "Trailing Teddy," detailing his hiking and climbing
mountains throughout the Northeast with his beloved dog Teddy, which I have an autographed copy off by the way. He is a member of the N.H. and New England 4,000 footers' club, New England 100 Highest Club, the Adirondack 46ers, and the 111ers of Northeastern United States. So he has been around the block a time or two for sure.
Within the past few years, Keith believes social media has played an influential role in the increased popularity of hiking. It can be very evident on a nice day on Route 2 in Randolph, for example, lots of vehicles are lined up near the trailheads. He said, “Many hikers are quite accomplished and have hiked each mountain numerous times or many summits in fastest times. The views and enjoying what nature has to offer can add to the popularity that exists.” And there are lots of amazing photos and the successful conquering of the various lists posted on social media. I keep up with Keith’s remarkable hiking feats and beautiful, dramatic and eye-catching views on his Facebook page.
In conclusion, Keith was quick to point this out: “Hiking and enjoying the mountains of the Northeast, which includes 115 (105 that he has conquered to date), 4,000-footers alone, in Vermont, Maine, N.H. and N.Y., not counting so many below that level, has been a very rewarding task for me. I have had the honor of hiking with so many friends and family, too numerous to mention. You know who you are and it has been a fun ride thus far. The next summit is only 20 minutes away!”
Happy hiking and thanks Keith for sharing a view of hiking from the top of the mountain!
Just recently I watched a documentary on Richard Marvin "Dick" Butkus, a great linebacker who played for the Chicago Bears from 1965-73. I was reminded how vicious he was on a football field and, as Deacon Jones described him, "was a well-conditioned animal, and every time he hit you, he tried to put you in the cemetery, not the hospital.”
But, believe it or not, it seemed on every hit that he placed on opposing offensive players, he almost always led with his head up, using the "hit and wrap" technique that we were taught in high school back in the 1960s. And once he hit you with this method, you were down or soon going down. Regardless of his technique, in 2009, the NFL Network named Butkus "the most feared tackler of all time.”