“So rarely in life does completing a “Bucket List” item live up to its expectations. You have waited, dreamed and longed for doing this event or going somewhere for so long that you have built up unrealistic expectations of what is waiting for you. This trip not only met my expectations but exceeded even my wildest dreams!”
This poetic comment from one of my co-hikers was the culmination of 7 months of researching, assembling presentations, communicating with others, and organizing a 4 day / 3 night group backpack trip to New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.
I currently live in Virginia but spent my late teens in New England. There I fell in love with backpacking New Hampshire’s White Mountains. One of my more memorable trips was to the awe inspiring Presidential Range, a challenging 23 mile adventure with upwards of 9,000 feet of elevation gain along the way. In reality we ended up only doing half of the hike, and in hindsight, I was not adequately prepared for the trip. Decades would go by before I eagerly planned a return trip but the idea always smoldered in the back of mind never quite extinguishing.
Planning began in earnest in December of 2016. I spent days searching online for details about the terrain, the experience from others, places to stay, things to be aware of, etc.
Create an engaging, fact filled presentation for our hiking group
to gauge others’ interest in joining me on a trip.
I scheduled our first meeting at a local library and geared it toward anyone that wanted to learn more. My desire was to paint a realistic expectation of what the terrain was like, review the estimated costs involved, and to allow others to ask questions so they could ultimately decide whether they wanted to take the next step. I was pleasantly surprised to see over 30 people attend the meeting. As a reminder, I’m in Virginia. Visiting New Hampshire’s White Mountains isn’t just around the corner. In addition to that, most of the Presidential Range is above treeline where camping outdoors is not allowed. Those staying overnight need to book an overnight stay at one of the Appalachian Mountain Clubs (AMC) full service huts. The cost of a nightly stay? $135 for each person. Yes, breakfast and dinner are included, and the huts are amazing including a full time hut crew, but for a good amount of people that’s some serious cash.
View the original presentation here.
Quick highlights from the presentation:
- The Presidential Range includes 11 peaks, 7 of which are named after Presidents
- ~23 miles
- 9,000 feet of elevation gain
- End to end hike so you’ll need to coordinate transportation
- Highly recommended to hike from north to south
- No camping above treeline but there are 3 AMC huts where you can book a stay
- You’re not alone on Mount Washington. You can hike, drive, or take a train to the top so expect tourists.
- July and August are the only months that average 0 inches of snow
Attendees asked great questions. Some clearly made the decision that this wasn’t the right trip for them but were appreciative of the opportunity to learn more about it. Others were still interested so I scheduled a follow up meeting to talk specifics. I sent a short survey ahead of the meeting.
- How likely are you to attend this trip?
- What dates this summer can you NOT do?
- How do you expect to get to New Hampshire?
- How many nights did you want to break the hike in to?
Armed with the results we made quick work of making decisions and narrowed down a date range in late July. The next step was to contact AMC and request space for our group. Thankfully we were able to secure 30 slots but payment needed to be made 2 months prior to the trip to prevent losing unpaid spaces. Details for making payment directly to AMC were sent to those that continued to express interest. We also scheduled overnight stays at local campgrounds in Lincoln for the night before and after our scheduled hike.
At its peak (no pun intended), the event had 26 signed up but I expected a decent amount would drop off as the event grew closer. And don’t worry, the plan was never to hike as one big group. In early July we began discussing travel arrangements. Who wanted to carpool? Who was driving up on their own? Anyone flying in? We had a little bit of each. I would be carpooling with five others in my van. Now we just waited with excitement and watched the days slowly tick by as the event grew closer. Next stop Appalachia Trailhead. To be continued…