The Boston Globe has a terrific story today on a small group of backpackers who hike “the grid.” There are 48 mountains in New Hampshire with an elevation of 4,000 feet or more. The idea is to hike each of them during each month of the year — 576 summits, in other words. Why? Who knows?
Given that it took me from 1968 to 2007 to do all 48 peaks just once, the grid is not on my horizon. Earlier this year, though, when I went to a recognition dinner for those who had completed the 48 (cold pizza in a high school cafeteria), I was struck by how mundane my achievement seemed.
There were people who’d hiked all 48 peaks in the winter. People who’d hiked all 4,000-foot peaks in New England, or the 100 highest in New England. I, on the other hand, was in by far the largest and least-distinguished group.
Yet I felt liberated. I’m never able to go hiking as often as I’d like, and for years I had planned my trips around the need to check off a particular peak or peaks. Now I can hike wherever I want to. And I’ve found that I enjoy the Appalachian Trail in the Berkshires and Vermont as much as the White Mountains, but for different reasons.
The hiking is less intense (not such a bad thing now that I’m in my 50s). You’re closer to roads and small villages, yet there are fewer hikers. And if it’s summer, you don’t have to worry about freezing to death above treeline, always a concern at the White Mountains’ higher elevations. Sorry, but no grid for me.
The Globe story, written by Tom Haines and photographed by Mark Wilson, appears in “g,” the new, tabloid-size home for features and arts. Strictly from an aesthetic point of view, the story justifies the format change — it takes up the entire centerspread, with a post-to-post graphic across the top featuring all 48 mountains. It never would have looked this good on a standard newspaper page.