The grass is greener in our own backyard. This week, I’m going to promote hiking local mountains. They require less driving, thus putting less carbon in the atmosphere. You can fit them in a busy schedule. They offer exercise, being out in nature, and spiritual renewal.
I talked to three friends who are experienced hikers about their habit of hiking local mountains.
Dave Govatski of Jefferson is an authority on many aspects of the White Mountains, giving programs, teaching workshops and leading groups in the mountains on a regular basis. He has also traveled to many parts of the globe.
But when I asked him about what local mountain in his local area he likes to frequent, he knew without hesitation. In a way, it was a surprising one since the quick pathway of ascent is a 1.5-mile paved road. But its interesting qualities more than redeem that aspect.
Mount Prospect (2,077 feet) off Route 3 in Lancaster, also known as Weeks State Park, was owned by John Wingate Weeks, local native and U.S senator who drafted the Weeks Act of 1912, leading to the establishment of the White Mountain National Forest.
On the summit, he had a home and stone observation tower built. Later, in 1941, his family gave the 446-acre mountain property to the state.
There are five trails on the property, including an Around the Mountain Trail. But the walk up the road to the summit is a local favorite for many. Some go before work.
A few bike it, but there are some steep spots. There is very little car traffic on it. From trail parking at the base and heading up the road, Govatski has enjoyed observing birds, interesting trees, rocks and flowers.
On the summit is a hawk-watching platform facing north. The observation tower is also open to the public. In its 360-degree view you see much of the White Mountains, Canada, Vermont and a peek at Maine mountains. Maintaining fitness is only one of the multiple rewards found in hiking.
Beverly Woods of North Wolfeboro, has hiked locally wherever she has lived in New Hampshire. She once lived in Bethlehem at the foot of Mount Agassiz (2, 378 feet). She frequently bushwhacked up the mountain from her door, often every day.
“I keep driving to a hike at a minimum or ideally, not at all,” she recently told me.
Later, moving to Water Village in Ossipee, the quiet Ossipee Range became the nature playground for her and her daughter.
“My daughter was 7 when we starting hiking there. We would park at the Ossipee/Moultonborough town line on Route 171 and climb up the steep mile to Bald Knob, and often continue from the top of Bald Knob on another trail up to the summit of Turtleback.”
When the Lakes Region Conservation Trust bought the Castle in the Clouds property, it opened up many hiking trails.
Woods has done most of them, solo or with friends, and when her daughter returns for visits, they often hike there.
“My favorite lookout is the Oak Ridge Lookout,” said Woods.
Woods is a professional musician and a writer. She finds walking mountain trails to be a fertile and rewarding place for creative thinking and song writing.
In quiet North Wolfeboro where Woods lives today, you can walk from her home on dirt roads to a 1.5 mile trail up Wolfeboro’s Mount Whiteface (1,339 feet). It has a fabulous view east from the summit ledge. In the far left corner of the view, you can see the higher Mount Whiteface in the Sandwich Range to the north.
The artist Bob Gordon of Conway has been mentioned in this hiking column more than anybody, being and old hiking buddy of mine.
Today, if one of us is hiking alone, he lets the other know where he is going and estimated return time. Gordon is a master of hiking local mountains. Recently I asked him which mountains he favors and why he goes.
“The main reason is for paintings,” he responded. I asked him to elaborate. “For the last two years, I have been doing mostly plein-air painting (a French term for painting outside) rather than from photos. I have a small easel and kit I can carry easily on my back. I am always looking for views.”
He mentioned recently painting on the South Ledges of Hedgehog Mountain, looking towards Mount Chocorua.
Of course, getting out in the mountains with his primary hiking companion today — his Tibetan terrier named Champney — is a prime motivator as well. He named a few regular local hikes: Boulder Loop, Hedgehog Mountain, Middle Sister, South Moat, and Peaked and Middle Mountains.
Some of those have extra meaning. Spread on one of the summit ledges of Boulder Loop are the ashes of a dear friend of his. I have climbed the mountain with him and Champney, and left him on that ledge to contemplate as I continued to a further ledge.
On Middle Sister there is a fantastic view a short way below the summit, with a flat rock to sit trailside. That is Gordon’s seat.
When he was struggling to deal with his wife’s declining health and well being, he would occasionally climb to that ledge, look at the fabulous view north and gain some peace.
When you live in the mountains and you climb them, they become part of your life. Anyway, the grass isn’t greener elsewhere. Hiking locally, you save time and put less carbon in the atmosphere.
Hope you can get up one of your local mountains soon.