The Hippo


Apr 19, 2019








A moderate hike on the A.T.
Here’s a hike with two options in the Baker River Valley in Warren, N.H.

Easy option: A moderate hike via the Wachipauka Pond Trail to Wachipauka Pond. To Wachipauka Pond: 2.6 miles one way.

More challenging option: Wachipauka Pond Trail to Webster Slide Mountain Trail to Webster Slide Mountain and ledges. (2184’) 6.6 miles round trip (1,600-ft. elevation gain)

For those seeking a scenic and easy to moderate hike, simply hike out to the pond and back to the trailhead parking area. The round trip will be about five miles. For those seeking a challenge, a hike out to the blueberry-covered ledges of Webster Slide Mountain offers amazing views over the pond. This hike will be about 6.6 miles round trip including a short visit to the pond on the return. The trail is maintained by the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC), no parking fee.

The Wachipauka Pond Trail (part of the A.T.) leaves from Route 25 in Warren on the west side of the road 4.4 miles west of the junction of Route 25 and Route 118. There is a small parking area just beyond the Appalachian Trail sign, just after Hiker’s Welcome hostel on the right. The trail climbs moderately, then steeply over Wyatt Hill in 1.2 miles, then descends where you begin to see flickers of the pond to your left. At 2.3 miles, a junction to the Webster Slide Spur Trail is on the right, and a shorter path (unmarked) on the left leads to a clearing on the pond reached in 0.2 miles.

The views on Webster Slide ledges are fantastic, but the 0.7-mile steep spur path is a bit rough. The views over the pond are fabulous and the ledges are abundant in low bush wild blueberries.

You may meet some NOBOs on this hike while you are hiking along the white-blazed section of the A.T.

The AMC advises using extreme caution on the ledges of Webster Slide. Always follow all safety guidelines as they appear in the hiker responsibility code:

Know the lingo
Thru hiking trail terms

Gearhead A thru hiker who only wants to talk about gear.

White blazing The entire length of the A.T. is marked with white blazes. A true thru hiker will stick to this trail route when pursuing the A.T.

Yellow blazing Instead of foot walking the white-blazed A.T., a backpacker elects to take a car ride to the next point of his journey, maybe to save time, or to take a zero day.

Pink blazing A backpacker who changes his itinerary to pursue female thru hikers on the trail ahead of him.

Slack packing Spending time on the trail without carrying a pack, allowing more speed and power. Arrangements are made to drive the pack over to where the thru-hiker can later retrieve it.

Springer Fever The urge that eats away at thru hikers to be out on the trail again. Referring to Springer Mountain, the southern trail head to the A.T.

Trail Days Always the weekend after Mother’s Day in May, Trail Days is a weekend-long festival held every year in Damascus, Va., the “friendliest hiker town in America.”

Trail magic Spontaneous acts of kindness shown to thru hikers by mere strangers. This might include a ride to a destination, a free meal, or a cooler full of Pepsi, ham and cheese sandwiches and fresh fruit. Random acts of kindness on the trail are part of the magical experience.

Trail name A thru hiker’s “handle” or nickname, used as a trail identity. Most often assigned by others, but sometimes you may pick a name yourself.

Triple Crown When a thru-hiker has completed all three of America’s scenic long trails, The Continental Divide Trail (CDT), the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Appalachian Trail.

Yogi-ing A thru hiker graciously accepts the food offered by strangers. Think Yogi Bear “hinting” how he would enjoy a jelly sandwich. Asking for food would be begging.

Zero day A day when no miles on the A.T. are happening. Maybe the hiker is taking a break to do laundry, re-supply or rest.

Essential gear
In his hilarious book A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson tells how he and his off-color partner Katz set out in 1996 to hike the A.T. The misadventures and suffering begin early on when they realize Katz has over-packed his backpack by about 50 pounds. The tormented Katz heaves most of his cargo over a cliff in a rage. Cans of cream soda, cheese and some seriously flung spam disappear on Day One.

Packing light and knowing what to bring is essential. Many thru hikers plan far in advance to have mail drops of dehydrated food and supplies delivered to them at postal centers, mailed in advance or by friends at home. A typical thru hiker’s pack will weigh around 20 or 30 pounds. The trend has been toward ultra-light packs and light camping gear and tarps. Find the right stuff for you on any number of websites designed to accommodate thru-hiking and long-distance hiking needs.
• Lightweight pack:,
• Tarp or lightweight tent:,
• Survival bag:,
• Smart wool socks:
• Outdoor clothing and accessories:
• Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics:,
• Camping equipment and stoves, cooking supplies:,
• Footwear:,,

Guide books: The Thru Hiker’s Handbook by Dan Wingfoot Bruce is THE guide and thru-hiker’s bible detailing all aspects of life on the A.T. Other maps, guide books and handbooks are available at and

Other: Water purification system, headlamps and other accessories can be found at any of the above sites or links. We could talk all day about equipment, but I wouldn’t want to be a gearhead. Just don’t forget the shovel.

Ghosts on the A.T.?
I’m always interested in hearing about unexplained or paranormal activity, especially stories from thru hikers!

Snowman had an unusual incident happen to him one night near a shelter outside Damascus. The shelter was full, so he hiked a bit farther to a ledge and set up his tarp-tent. He heard stories of an old homesteader who still walked the woods at night, but Snowman is a firm disbeliever in ghosts. On this night, though, something or someone approached his tent slowly, circled the tent, and then walked back into the woods. Snowman heard the sticks crunching and knew he wasn’t alone. The figure did not have a light, and after five minutes the noises stopped. Twice more that night, the figure returned to Snowman’s camp, circled his tent and left. Each time, Snowman awoke, and each time he became a little more panicked. At 4 a.m., Snowman peeked out the tent door and thought he saw the shadow of a man. He quickly packed and left before the sun came up. He talked about the experience to others and heard similar stories.

Phil from Maine was a hut caretaker in the Bigelow Mountain Range 30 years ago. One frightful night, he encountered the legendary “H-man,” a ghoul who wanders the woods of Maine. The “H-man’s” real identity is not known. Long ago, he was a prisoner, perhaps wrongly convicted, and was caught in a terrible fire that burned down the jail. No one came to help the man during the fire, and he held tight to the jail cell’s bars waiting for rescue. The hot metal bars seared burn marks deep into the man’s chest like the letter “H.” Burned flesh hung from his skeleton; his face distorted from burn and injury, he appeared as a monster as he approached the townspeople. He was chased away to the forest, where he continues to stalk the woods at night near the Bigelow Mountains. He is quite fond of lone hikers, particularly young meaty ones! If you notice a foul burning smell while hiking in this section of Maine, run like hell! Phil reports the hut was destroyed but there are now tent platforms.

Stay smart, stay safe
Considering a hike? Here are some places to get key tips.

The Very Long Walk
Going up a mountain not enough of a challenge? Take the hike on the 2, 178-mile trail


Marianne O’Connor, author of Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire, writes about her adventures in hiking from time to time in the Hippo. This summer her focus has been hiking to lose weight (go to to find her articles in the July 22, June 24 and May 22 issues of the Hippo). Looking to take on an even more serious physical challenge? Here, Marianne looks into the ultimate hike — the hike of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia through Maine. About 160 miles of the trail runs through New Hampshire, most of it in the White Mountains.

So you want to be a thru hiker? Follow this simple set of instructions and you’ll be on your way to thru-hiker paradise in about six months.

Day 1: Load about 30 pounds of random weight into your backpack. A car battery, some textbooks and a heavy bag of rice will do. Wear the back pack all day.

Now look outside. Is it raining? Good. Go stand in the rain wearing your clothes and sneakers.

Come back inside and walk briskly on your treadmill for eight to 10 hours. Make sure the “incline” is set all the way up. Do not bathe, shave or wash your clothes for at least five days. When nature calls, go out back and dig a hole. Hungry yet? Have a Snickers bar or some dried fruit and water. You’ll have to eat this on the treadmill, no cheating. You’ll be ready for bed early. Go back outside and find a patch of grass. You can use a tarp.

Repeat for 100 days. There. Now you’re almost ready for the intense raw exposed beauty of living life as a thru hiker on the Appalachian Trail. Have a good buddy assign you a funny trail name based on your weird personal habits and you’re ready to hit the trail.

What makes a thru hiker?
A thru hiker is technically a backpacker who begins a quest at the beginning of a long trail and continues along that trail in one continuous journey until he/or she completes its entire length.

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, also called the A.T., is one of America’s most popular long trails, and every year about 2,000 hikers start at Springer Mountain in Georgia in a romantic attempt to thru-hike the A.T.’s 2,178 miles to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. One in four will make it. Thru hikers who begin the journey in the South and head north are called NOBOs (northbounders). About 10 percent of the thru hikers who make it the whole way begin at Mt. Katahdin and head south on the A.T.; they are called SOBOSs (southbounders.)

As a NOBO, you will need to begin the trail early in the spring season, by late March or early April. For NOBOs, getting to Maine “on time” means following a critical time line to reach Baxter State Park, location of the journey’s end upon Mt. Katahdin, before it is closed to overnight camping after Oct. 15. Slackers who indulge in too many zero days (days of not hiking) may fall off schedule easily. SOBOs generally begin their A.T. journey in the end of May or early June and are typically graduating college seniors or backpackers who cannot take time off before summer. The SOBOs have fewer time constraints, and they trudge through the most rugged section of the A.T. at the journey’s start, including Maine’s Katahdin (5,267 feet) and New Hampshire’s rough section of white-blazed trail over a dozen 4,000+-foot mountains including Mt. Washington (6288 feet). In July and August, the SOBOs and the NOBOs are in New Hampshire and pass one another on the trail, meet up in shelters, share stories at hostels and find others carrying out the dream from the opposite direction.

To hike the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) as a thru hiker you will need to spend time preparing for an intense trip. You will also need lots of time off — at least six months. You will familiarize yourself with the many guidebooks and trail maps out there. You’ll stock up on gear and send packages of dried food, socks, shoes, money and candy to yourself in advance at specifically designated postal centers. These packages will be treasures after days of wilderness hiking.

Oh, did I mention you will need a trail name? Usually someone else, presumably another thru hiker, will give you your name, and it may not be flattering, but it is a tattoo of your experience on the A.T. and a badge you wear with pride and loyalty. Even if your trail name is Gummy Bear, Toothpick or Doozy. There are those who insist the name must be assigned by others, but some say you can pick your own, especially if you don’t like the one you’ve been given.

“Hike your own hike,” as they say. And follow the golden rule; it’s a credo of thru-hiking.

Are you ready to hike 20 miles a day now for the next six months? What are you waiting for?

Long-distance hiking
Of course there are other options along the A.T. and other long trails. Some choose to section-hike the A.T., which means hiking long sections of the trail separately, but not continuously, and completing the entire trail over a course of time. For folks who can’t afford to lose time from work, section-hiking the A.T. piecemeal over long weekends and vacation periods proves to be a winning ticket.

Vermont’s Long Trail is another popular long-distance trail where you will find distance hikers, thru hikers and families who camp along the trail and enjoy the trail experience with their children.

A shorter hike in New Hampshire is the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, a 49-mile trail linking Grand Monadnock in Jaffrey to Mt. Sunapee. The terrain along the Monadnock highlands is moderate and there are five camp sites on the route. For a hiker looking to power hike through the entire 49 miles, it will take three or four days. Use of the trail is free, and the five shelters are spread out along the length of the trail. You can download a map and find information to plan a long weekend hike at Some rules of note: there are no dogs allowed in Grand Monadnock, but dogs are welcome on the rest of the trail. There are also no campfires permitted on any part of the Greenway.

When pursuing a distance hike, it’s important to know the rules regarding fires, pets, parking and reservations.

Why the A.T.?
The decision to hike the entire length of the A.T. is one of passion, commitment and self-discovery. Most thru hikers say they are at a crossroads in life, like recent college grad Scotty, who is section hiking the A.T. after graduating from Edinburgh in May. He thru-hiked England’s long trail The Pennine Way but found himself yearning for more wilderness and solitude, which he has discovered in the States.

“I’ve got to fly back to Birmingham for a speeding ticket in August,” Scotty said, but he’ll be back on the trail section hiking through the season. He reports completing 30 percent of the trail.

Snowman had a similar tale to tell. As a father of a young son, he’s pushed himself to be a provider but found himself between jobs. Unhappy as a truck driver, he left to pursue a challenge that he knew he would accomplish with determination. When he completes the trail in August, he can see himself in a new light. Enoch, too, is between jobs, having graduated college and entering a difficult field as a wildlife biologist in Daytona Beach. This summer he turns 30. With precision timing, Enoch plans to be on the summit of Mt. Katahdin on his 30th birthday, Aug. 8.

On the trail in July I saw groups of men and male solo hikers. But women are thru hiking too. Sugar Bush, Mother Nature, Hot Lips and Mother Goose are out there now. Early Bird is a Nashua thru hiker who finished the A.T. as a solo hiker in 2005 and has thru-hiked The Long Trail in Vermont (272 miles) eight times. She too reached a milestone in life; on her 30th birthday she read an article on The Long Trail and decided to go for it. She had never camped in her life. She passionately loved it the first time. She decided to hike the A.T. next. Her research included gear supply lists from Backpacker magazine and information clinics at EMS. She began saving her money. She asked for a leave of absence from her job and was granted the time off. She completed the A.T. in 138 days, a remarkably fast-paced journey. Last year her daughter was born and she longs for the trail. “I’ll do it again in 17 years!” Early Bird said.

Many who complete the trail yearn for a return. Two-thousand-milers itching to get back have what is known as “Springer Fever.” For 2,000-milers who have completed the A.T., the American Long Distance Hiking Association (ALDHA) hosts an event called The Gathering every October. This year the event will take place in Concord University in West Virginia Oct. 15-17 (See There are other festivals highlighting thru-hiking journeys as well.

Hiking for a cause
In 2007 Pony Tail Dave of Bethlehem, N.H., lost his big brother, Michael, to pneumonia. Michael was mentally challenged but enjoyed time spent hiking with Dave in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. In Michael’s memory, Dave made the decision raise awareness for those struggling with physical and mental challenges. About a year ago, he and his wife Pam connected with Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country, located in Easton. Dave is chronicling his journey on a blog and has raised more than $5,000 for the organization. His aim is to raise $10,000, which will all go directly to serving handicapped individuals in outdoor sports such as hiking, kayaking and bicycling, Follow Dave’s thru-hiking journey or make a donation: To learn more about the organization go to They are also in need of volunteers.

Other thru hikers sharing their journeys online are at

New Hampshire shelters and hostels
New Hampshire has a variety of options for thru hikers wanting to hunker down for the night. The 160-mile section of trail running through New Hampshire includes more than 10 shelters, from the Velvet Rocks shelter in Hanover to the Gentian Pond shelter five miles before the Maine/New Hampshire border. There are also a number of hiker-friendly hostels in neighboring towns where thru hikers are welcome and can spend a night for $20 or less, take a hot shower, do some laundry and catch a shuttle back to the trail.

Pack Rat is a thru-hiker who runs Hikers Welcome in Glencliff, a small village north of Warren where the A.T. crosses Route 25. He has run the hostel for 10 years and hosts 700 to 800 hikers a year. He sees both thru hikers and section hikers and charges $15 a night, $10 for tenters. He can accommodate up to 20 comfortably. I met Phil from Maine here recently on his 92nd day on the trail. He thru-hiked the A.T. in 1977 and again in 1982. This will be the third and last time, said the 55-year-old grandfather. At Hiker’s Welcome, Phil was rejuvenated with a hot shower, clean laundry and six Pepsis. Completing the A.T. one last time was part of his “Bucket List.”

Another popular hostel is Hiker’s Paradise in Gorham on Route 2. Since 1994, Bruno has been hosting hikers and climbers of all abilities, and his place serves as both a hostel and an inn where there are two private apartments with bunks, laundry, cable and kitchen. There are also private motel rooms. Bruno, of Polish descent, hiked in Poland as a boy and often stayed in hostels in Eastern Europe. He and his wife operate the Colonial Ford Inn — they rented out the back apartments at one time. In 1994 Bruno opened these apartments as the Gorham Hostel, but other guests were leery. “Why are the hikers considered hostile?” they would ask. So Bruno changed the name to Hiker’s Paradise. Sipping a glass of Chardonnay, he tells how his advertising is word of mouth. He has many returning French Canadian guests who tell him that they found the information about Hiker’s Paradise on a gay French Canadian website. He chuckles, “so now I have a gay French Canadian hostel, it’s all good. We accept everybody.”

Thru hikers traversing the White Mountains can access the shelter system or the many tent sites off and on the A.T. The AMC hut system will offer overnight shelter to thru hikers on a work-to-stay basis. Otherwise, the hikers pay full price to stay at AMC huts and will need reservations.

To search for hostels and inns catering to hikers, try

Be part of the experience
The continuous march of thru hikers white-blazing New Hampshire is an adventure worth joining. Day hikers venturing into the White Mountains this month can spot thru hikers on the road to re-supply, or maybe in town for a zero day. They are free spirits, adventurers and storytellers. Collectively, they have walked thousands of miles in pursuit of a single dream — the end of the trail. Take a day hike along any section of New Hampshire’s A.T. and you will likely run into them powering their way through our state. Offer encouragement, play by the golden rule, and maybe offer some trail magic.

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