Black Creek Outfitters Guru Session – Hiking the White Mountains


Jack telling us about The Whites.
Jack telling us about The Whites.

On August 27th Black Creek Outfitters hosted a Guru Session led by Jack Stucki. The subject matter was “Hiking the White Mountains” of New Hampshire. The range consists of 48 peaks which exceed 4,000 feet known as the 4000’ers. It includes Mt. Washington, which at 6,288 feet is the highest mountain in the Northeast.

But it’s more than just numbers and names. “The Whites” are a destination for college students, adventure seekers and families.

Jack’s memories of this section of the AT are varied and happy. The kindness of the people in trail towns, the pristine upkeep of the trail and most of all the amazing views. If this is not on your bucket list it should be. The irony is that my family will be in this area for our Christmas trip. While winter in The Whites can be dangerous Jack assured us that there are still sites aplenty.

While there are many areas to hike The Whites, Jack focused on the section which he traversed while hiking the AT. Therefore the mentions, for example the notches, are not fully inclusive of all The Whites.

The Guru discussions occur every Wednesday evening, with pauses in the series based on availability as well as breaks for planning and actual outdoor adventuring. If you are in the Jacksonville area and would like a session dedicated to a specific topic you can reach out to me or ask for Jack when you visit the store.

If you see anything which you feel is incorrect I always appreciate feedback on how to improve upon, or further elaborate, the information conveyed. I have also tried to include more informative links to items noted in the session.

  • Maine is the most beautiful state, but White Mountains have the most beautiful trails.
  • Professional Appalachian mountain club trail crew maintains from southern 20 miles of Maine (Speck Pond) through VT and New Hampshire and most of Mass.
  • Glen Cliff NH is where you meet the range.
  • Gorham NH is where it ends (check the map)
  • 100.9 miles long
  • Trail is most ridgeline, with 4 steep notches. So three sections.
  • S to N Kinsman , Franconia and Crawford notch. Picture is from Franconia to Crawford. All notches can be found here.

IMAG0882

  • “Smokie Mountains on steroids”.
  • You can resupply at all 4 notches.
  • North Woodstock, one of the notches, is Jack’s favorite AT trail town. Store with 437 varieties of beer.
  • Lowest elevation is 788 ft in Gorham
  • Mt Washington is the highest at 6288 ft. You may be familiar with the observatory.
  • Blazes are marked on stacks of rocks due to limited growth ability of trees.
  • AT all the way through the whites is called a variety of trails. Jack estimates there are close to a hundred.
  • Blaze colors change based on trail. I.E. it is not consistently white.
  • AWOL is once again referenced as your go to book.
  • Military helicopters and a wide variety of birds are common sights.
  • Bears and moose are plenty. Tend to hang around tent sites.
  • Resident moose sits smack dab in the middle of the trail at Madison Spring Hut.
  • Avoid Lincoln, NH. The Gatlinburg of NH.
  • No permits required to camp.
  • They do charge, however, and there are designated areas. $8/night on a tent platform.
  • They will also point you towards stealth hiking sites.
  • Tent site is wooden pad only. Others have shelters.
  • 12 tent/camp sites. 8 have shelters.
  • Shelters are built by the local AT club. They’re like little cabins.
  • AT club has books placed in the shelters showing how they improved upon the tagged shelters as a way of asking the hiker to appreciate the lodging.
  • Lonesome Lake is where you’ll find the southern most hut. Roughly 8 miles from the notch that would take you to the trail.
  • Huts have roving caretakers. The culture of those who manage the huts is impressive. From carrying frozen turkeys or garbage up and down the mountain.
  • You can “work for stay”. That means you can work to pay for your camping for the night.
  • Jack planted 30 plus trees for a night of camping.
  • Very rugged trail. The climbs are steep.
  • Wind can get pretty powerful (enough to blow over a dog per Jack’s example), and at times you lose visibility in a dangerous way.
  • When you leave Madison Spring Hut you enter Tunderstorm Junction. If it gets cloudy at all you should turn back to Madison Spring. http://sectionhiker.com/rock-cairns-in-the-white-mountains/thunderstorm-junction-white-mountains/
  • Jack share a story of a time in which the temperature when from the sweaty 90’s to the chilly 40’s when the clouds roll in.
  • Lightening strikes are common.
  • People have died from hypothermia feet from a shelter due to no visibility.
  • Jack recommends full winter gear whenever you hike this range.
  • Folks carry 2 meals and nothing else. You can eat at the huts.
  • High mountain huts are full of mice. Got to deal with it.
  • Some huts are over $100 to stay the night.
  • If you do not want to work for stay in the hut they will point you to a place outside.
  • Lake of the Clouds has a “dungeon” for $10. You still get leftovers. Dark, dreary, moldy…but cool.
  • You can “slack pack” the White Mountains if you are fast enough.
  • Drinkable water in visitors centers and high mountain huts.
  • Folks who work the shuttles may also allow work for shuttle service.
  • While rugged, Jack never felt uncomfortable.
  • When it rains in the White Mountains the trail becomes a creek due to its stone makeup.
  • Franconia to Crawford is the place Jack would return to. It’s that beautiful.
  • Touching story about a man who went up to Mt. Lafayette to die. 
  • Research Chet’s Hostile.
  • Jack recommends mid-September as the best time. No tourists. Ivy League freshmen are gone (it’s part of their orientation).
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