A new hiking guidebook is hot off the press. It is “New Hampshire’s 52 with a View: A Hiker’s Guide” by Ken MacGray. Self-published by the author, the first printing was gone in a day. It is getting a lot of positive attention.
52 with a View is an attractive list of peaks under 4,000 feet with trails and good views that are located all over the state. The origin of the list is interesting. In the late 1970s, a group of retirees moved to the town of Sandwich. They began an informal hiking group, visiting local waterfalls and peaks.
In 1981, Elizabeth MacGregor Crooker moved to Sandwich. She was the daughter of “Red Mac” Macgregor, an early AMC hutmaster, and grew up hiking the mountains.
She transformed the Sandwich hiking group, organizing it and suggesting the best Tuesday hikes. The group became the Over the Hill Hikers. They proceeded to complete the New Hampshire 4,000 footers, then ranged far and wide bagging the highest peaks all over the northeast and hiking in Montana and even the Alps.
In the early 1990s with the passing of her first husband and then remarrying Frank Bates, their leader became known as Lib Bates. During this period, the hiking group was inevitably slowing down, and she considered developing a list of hikes equal to their abilities. She came up with a great list of peaks and it was named 52 with a View.
The list covered the whole state, from Mount Monadnock in the south to Mount Magalloway in the north. The highest peak on the list was Sandwich Dome (3,993 feet) in her backyard, and the lowest is Hedgehog Mountain (2,532 feet) located off the Kancamagus Highway.
The popularity of the 52 with a View list slowly grew outside of its origins. But it took a while. In 2011, a small paperback was published called “Over the Hill Hikers, and How They Grew and Grew and Grew.” It was written by a veteran political reporter after interviews with Lib Bates. Bates died that same year.
In 2013, writer Dan Szczesny of Manchester wrote a book called “The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie.” It was about a yearlong transformational quest that he took on with a neighbor’s daughter to climb all the 52 with a View. Not a guidebook, it helped awareness of the list grow considerably.
Enter MacGray, 52, author of the new guidebook for this great list of peaks. A graphic designer, he worked in the media industry for 14 years, including a stint at the Worchester Telegram newspaper. He since moved to Concord, where he has been freelancing in design and photography since 2016.
An avid hiker, he met Steve Smith, owner of the Mountain Wanderer Book and Map Store in Lincoln early on. Smith has compiled and edited the latest editions of the “AMC White Mountain Guide.” He also compiled and edited the last edition of the “AMC Southern New Hampshire Guide.”
Smith is a busy man. Doing the last Southern New Hampshire Guide, with all the driving south involved, was challenging. Knowing of MacGray’s skill, plus his knowledge and experience in the mountains, he recommended that MacGray compile the 2020 edition. MacGray has been doing just that. The 2020 “AMC Southern New Hampshire Guide” will come out next spring.
In the meantime, the idea of a complete guidebook of the 52 with a View had been on MacGray’s mind for a while. He decided to act and began compiling information last December. He received the first 100 copies from the publisher a few weeks ago. Again, they were gone in a day.
A recent conversation I had with Steve Smith showed his enthusiasm for the new guidebook. Smith had just taken a day off from his store, and the next day came back to 25 new mail orders for it.
“He did a terrific job,” Smith said. “There is great info on routes, access, descriptions, views, seasons and much more. I enjoyed reading it.”
Mark Tuckerman of Plymouth has been involved with Over the Hill Hikers for many years. He is the official patch handler, sending 52 with a View patches to those who have completed the list. He recently told me that in 2005, only 25 people had done the list.
In 2014, a hiking website called Rocks on Top had a 52 with a View checklist, increasing exposure among hikers. Later, a new Facebook page for the list gained members in the thousands.
“Last year, I handed out 150 patches. Interest will certainly increase with Ken’s book,” Tuckerman said. “He followed a guidebook format. I am a big fan.”
Where can you get the book? There are many options. Locally, White Birch Books in North Conway and Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale have it now. Online it can be ordered from The Mountain Wanderer Book and Map Store in Lincoln, Bondcliff Books in Littleton, on Amazon or on MacGray’s personal website at kenmacgray.org/52/. Also MacGray told me that there is a new Facebook page for the book with current information and availability at facebook.com/52wavbook.