Tips to hiking your first 4,000-footer

The first time I went hiking in New Hampshire, I attempted to tackle Mt. Chocorua while on prescription pain meds. I made it to the top, but the journey is definitely something I don’t remember as one of my finest moments.

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Fast forward to this weekend, when I completed my next New Hampshire-White Mountain-Hiking-centric feat—hiking my first 4,000-footer. My goals for the trip were as follows:

Goal #1: Get to the top
Goal #2: Don’t make a fool of yourself
Goal #3: Keep heart rate up long enough that you don’t feel bad about having pizza and beer

Sidenote 1: I accomplished goals #1 and #3. And possibly half of goal #2.

Sidenote 2: I grew up in Wisconsin, where the state’s highest point is less than 2,000 feet above sea level. So, spending time in the mountains is not something I’m used to. It takes a little work. But, shout out to all my flatlanders/tundra-dwellers. You understand.  

So, we decided to hike the Mount Jackson and Mount Webster loop. Both mountains lie in the Presidential Range, with the Appalachian Trail crossing the summit of Jackson. The summit of Mount Jackson holds “stunning 360-degree views,” while Mount Webster offers a fantastic view of Crawford Notch. In hiking this trail (in conjunction with my smaller hikes), I’ve learned a few things.

Bring good snacks.

This is vital. It’s statistically proven that food eaten at higher altitudes tastes better (probably). My hiking partner, Craig, was in charge of food on our trip, and he didn’t disappoint. We had sandwiches, m&ms, trail mix, and Swedish Fish.

Layer up.

As much as I hate to say it, this is more important than snacks. When we left Manchester in the morning, it was 76 degrees. At the top of Mt. Jackson, it was raining, hailing, windy, and 45 degrees. Our clothing was appropriate but equated to adding at least 7 pounds layers to our bodies—plus winter hats and mittens. We passed a hiker who forgot gloves and had to use a spare pair of socks to wrap around her hands. Don’t be like that hiker. Pack accordingly.

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Craig, showing off his June hiking attire. Happy summer!

Check the weather.

This is self-explanatory.

Know where the trailhead is.

Again, this is self-explanatory. But, it didn’t stop Craig from walking us ½ mile down the road in the opposite direction of the trail. Don’t be like Craig. Research before walking.

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Prepare for the birds to not show up.

I was looking forward to hiking the Mount Jackson and Mount Webster loop so I could see gray jays. You know, those birds that land in your hand? If you don’t know what they are, look them up. If you do know, then you can understand my disappointment when they weren’t around. It probably had something to do with the blistering winds. But it didn’t stop me from calling out to them in a last-ditch effort to make a new bird friend. Maybe next year, gray jay.

I asked Craig if he had anything to add, and all he said was, “No. Bring good snacks!” And maybe some beer for post-hike celebration.

One Response to “Tips to hiking your first 4,000-footer”

  1. Karen BarkerJune 21, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

    Get an AMC guidebook or sign up to access the guide on-line. Then use it! Check the Mount Washington Observatory website for weather reports for higher elevations, esp in the Mount Washington area. Visit http://www.newenglandtrailconditions.com, select New Hampshire and see if anyone has posted a report on a trail you’re thinking about doing. Always be prepared for cold windy weather in the Whites, no matter what time of year it is. Bring plenty of water esp in the summer, at least 2 quarts. Have fun and remember the journey is just as important as the destination – don’t be afraid to turn back if the weather or trail conditions are sketchy! The mountain will be there another day.

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