Is that what I looked like?!

True confession: I just watched the four-part Gilmore Girls update on Netflix. What can I say? I got hooked when my daughter watched the originals all those years ago. A few scenes in the new show cracked me up in a way my daughter might not get.

In the program, the co-leading actress, supposedly in her late 40s, decides she needs to take a hike in the manner of Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail. The character doesn’t know the first thing about hiking, or even about the outdoors for that matter. Hilarity ensues. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t get past the trailhead.

I saw her trying to cram all her stuff into her backpack, and it sent me right back to my 2009 Cohos Trail trek, my one and only backpacking trip so far. I wanted to mark my 50th birthday with a solo hike. I picked a good one. It was a formidable undertaking, though, and despite many months of preparation and training, I was a total amateur.

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How amateur? In all the months of training for longer and longer walks, I never carried any weight on my back. Never. Imagine how I felt when I slung my overladen backpack onto my shoulders the first day of my hike and struggled to walk up a not-very-steep hill. I thought I had eliminated all unnecessary pack weight. I hadn’t. To compound the mistake, I had misthreaded my pack straps. I figured that much out after the first mile.

The trip got much better in spite of all that.

I laughed – nay, I howled – at our Netflix heroine’s bulging, ill-balanced, enormous pack. I realized at that moment just how comical I must have looked to all the amazing, generous people in Pittsburg, New Hampshire who offered me hospitality along my way in 2009. They were very kind by not laughing in my face. I sure had it coming.

Once I was within walking distance of the Pittsburg post office, I mailed home equipment that I didn’t need. As a result, I practically sailed through 19 miles my last day on the Trail.

If you’ve never taken a long hike but you want to give it a try, go ahead – I heartily endorse the notion. Train with weight, though, and be really picky about what constitutes “necessary” equipment. Don’t look like something out of Netflix.

Coos’s “Continental Silence”

I’m a southern New Hampshire hiker, but I head upstate now and then. Another Cohos Trail trip is on my dream list, if I can somehow carve out a week or ten days from my schedule next year. Until then,  I can turn to the fine guidebook for the trail, because it’s fun to read and it has good information as well. It’s one of my favorite trail guides. The book’s credited author is “The Cohos Trail Association,” but the man who did the writing is the trail’s founder, Kim Nilsen.

Here’s one paragraph that always brings me back to my 2009 hike on the northern third of the trail. Makes me want to head back sooner rather than later.

Continental Silence (by Kim Nilsen, from The Cohos Trail guidebook, 3rd ed.)

Coos County still harbors the sound of blood in your temples, rushing wind in close-packed red spruce needles, the burbling of countless rivulets of water, and the maniacal laugh of the loon. I’ve seen snowmobilers turn off their engines on a bald wintry summit and sit and listen to the grand silence. It is the sound of the great continent before the year 1600. The all-silence has been killed off like the eastern mountain lion, and now it reigns in only a tiny fraction of its former range.

The Cohos Trail runs through the very heart of Coos County, right along its central spine. Nowhere on the trail do folks set foot in a town of more than a few hundred people, even though the trail is over 160 miles long.Because of this, the trail ought to attract to Coos County the sort of people who will give a damn about just how special a place this great northern forested county really is.

If you know how to get by in remote country when it’s too dark to walk outside, and there isn’t a McDonald’s for 60 miles, then welcome. If you carry your trash out with you and know how to dig a pit toilet, then welcome. If you can eat well without a fire, then welcome. If you can stay dry an warm in a raging sleet storm at 4,000 feet, then welcome. If you don’t have the urge to vandalize logging equipment or smash a window of a car at a trailhead, then welcome.

You’ve come to the right place. Leave your business suit in the dooryard (northern New Hampshire talk for “front yard”), and come along to experience some of the finest wilderness you’ll ever want to see in the Eastern United States!

Many New Hampshire booksellers carry the guidebook or can order it for you, or you can order it from the Cohos Trail Association web site.

You can read here about my 50th-birthday hike on the trail.

featured photo: Deer Mountain state park, northernmost camping area on the Cohos Trail. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

 

 

Join me: team up to support the Cohos Trail

Let me step away from my southern New Hampshire trails for a minute and draw your attention to my very favorite upstate place, the Cohos Trail. I’ve held forth at length about my long hike through the Connecticut Lakes portion of the CT up to the Canadian border, and slightly closer to home is the segment through the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge that greets me like a friend whenever I visit.

The Cohos Trail Association – an all-volunteer group, I might add – has launched a crowdfunding effort to raise $7500 build more shelters along the 170-mile long path. The trail’s founder and leading light, Kim Nilsen, makes his pitch here to all who love the Granite State’s wild places.

Every little bit helps, and the Cohos Trail’s volunteers know how to stretch a dollar. You can learn more at the web site for the trail and at the Friends of the Cohos Trail Facebook page. 

And be sure to share the crowdfunding page! Thanks!

New Cohos Trail web site goes live

The Cohos Trail is about 160 miles long, winding through New Hampshire’s North Country from Crawford Notch to the Canadian border. The northernmost section is a favorite of mine, and I’ve recounted my longest hike there at my blog Cohos to Canada.

The official web site for the trail has just gone live after a complete re-design. Check it out, and I hope you’ll share it with your friends. If you’re a New Hampshire hiker and you’ve never been north of the Whites, the site will inspire you. If you’re from more distant parts, the Cohos Trail just might tempt you to this little corner of New England.

Enjoy!

www.cohostrail.org
Pliny Range, north of Cherry Pond along the Cohos Trail

Pliny Range, north of Cherry Pond along the Cohos Trail

Landscape: summer memory

Today’s Photo 101 assignment finds me reaching back into my archives. I found nothing around me yesterday or in my archives to meet the “swarm” prompt. Today’s “landscape” prompt is another story.

This is upstate New Hampshire – close to home and well-loved. I’ve been to Yosemite and many other beautiful places where I took landscape images. This one, though, speaks of home. Great luck, too, to have a clear summer day for this photo. Twenty-four hours later, the area sweltered under heavy humid haze.

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First Connecticut Lake and Mt. Magalloway, seen from Prospect Mountain

All to myself

Once upon a time, my first stop on a multi-day hike was at the shore of Clarksville Pond. I had a “reservation” for a spot to pitch my tent, meaning I had phoned the landowner and asked permission to stay on her property. She insisted that I take one of her cabins instead – “the weather can be nasty.” When I saw the shoreline spot she had set aside for me, it was like I’d won the lottery. I never got to thank her in person; all our dealings were by phone. Solitude at its finest: just me and a loon and the sound of a little boat bumping gently against the dock as the wind picked up. No lullaby needed.

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