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by Jesse L. Szymanski, student writer

The Appalachian Mountains on the coast of North America run from Maine to Georgia and the Appalachian Trail, serene and challenging, attracts thousands of hikers each year. Within a region of the Appalachian Trail are the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

The White Mountains are considered to be the roughest part of the Appalachian Trail, they make up nearly a quarter of the state of New Hampshire. Each year at least two people have died as a result of exposure to the elements, and even in late May some areas are still covered with snow and thrill-seeking skiers.

Last spring, college students from New Jersey spent four days traversing the fantastic Presidential Mountain Range, a group of peaks on the northeast within the White Mountains.

We were sitting around in the middle of the winter and began looking over maps and reading books,” said Walter P. Wilson, a former Boy Scout. He and his friends checked with the U.S. Forest Service, heard conditions could be rough and packed accordingly, following safety tips from the park rangers. The possibility of something going horribly wrong was on their minds, but the group was ready for anything.

Even in late May the weather in the White Mountains can be unpredictable and temperatures overnight can get drop into the 20s. Dressing in layers is very important in such conditions and jeans don’t cut it. “If you wear jeans,” said Jake Daniels, the field medic of the expedition, “they act as a temperature flare, meaning cold air gets in and heat escapes. It is important to wear comfortable, warm clothes,” said Daniels. This meant packing cold-weather camping gear, insulated hiking boots, and other necessary equipment.

The White Mountains are a six-hour drive from New York City. Pristine and beckoning adventure, they climb more then 5,000 feet into the air, cutting through the clouds and dominating New Hampshire’s evergreen-lined highways.

The rangers had recommended a hike along Franconia Notch, located in the Pemigewassett Wilderness around Lincoln, NH. The trail began just off the Kancamangus Highway at a rickety wooden suspension bridge. With rain coming in, the crew set up camp along the Franconia River.
At daylight they headed up the trail to Bondcliff Peak, a stunning view at 4,265 feet. From the top they could see the full range of the Presidential Mountains. They pressed on, across a valley and up another 433 feet to the freezing summit of Mount Bond at 4,698 feet.

“ We had gotten so tired, but then we saw an old man with a dog who made us feel like wimps,”saidMatt Kippleman, who also recalled seeing bear prints in the snow.

They descended from the summit to a log cabin halfway down the snowy trail. “I couldn’t believe it was May 17th, and we were walking on snow,” said Moiz Kapadia.

It began snowing and the crew had to hang a tarp over the cabin doorway to block out the icy winds. Their preparation for bad weather helped them through the night and in the morning they traveled across a snow-coated alpine zone to the highest summit on the trek, South Twin Mountain more than 5,000 feet above sea level.

“ The thin air was gray and cold and hugged the mountain peaks,” said Wilson. “It made us feel insignificant,” he added.

With storms in the distance, the crew made a quick climb down the other side and an eight-mile hike to another campsite deep in bear and waterfall country, called 13 Falls.
“It is an amazing place to camp,” said Daniels.

Waterfalls roar through the night and are a spectacular sight when the sun hits them in the early morning. Overnight, they had to hang all their food on tree branches so that bears could not reach them.

Traversing mountains, valleys, and rivers, the group of friends hiked 28 miles in four days, enjoying some wonderful sights.

“ Anyone can do this. All it takes is a little planning and a lot of excitement,” Mike Christoff said on the drive home.


Photos courtesy Jesse Szymanski

Hiking into the wild, cooking pots in tow.

Walter P. Wilson, navigating a good route.

Jake Daniels suspended over the Franconia River.

Taking a water break along Franconia Notch.

With some standing close to the edge, the vrew withstands the windy summit of Mount Bond.



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