How I Hiked Like It Was 1915 in the White Mountains: The Full Story, Part I

August 14, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Rebecca M. Fullerton, 1915 Hiker, at the Appalachian Mountain Club Greenleaf Hut, White Mountains, New Hampshire. July 2015.Rebecca M. Fullerton, 1915 Hiker, at the Appalachian Mountain Club Greenleaf Hut, White Mountains, New Hampshire. July 2015.Day 1 of my seven-day hike dressed like it's 1915! Photo by Stu Woodham. I’ve been back for a while from my seven days in the White Mountains of New Hampshire dressed as a 1915 hiker, wool knickerbockers and all. After all the preparation, research, and nerves, it came and went in the blink of an eye! Now I'm sitting in the airport surrounded by the modern world and the miracle of flight, on my way to another adventure. But a few quiet moments today allow me to reflect on the trip, the mountains, and all the truly wonderful people I met.

The hike began inauspiciously on a Sunday in the parking lot of the Old Bridal Path trailhead in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. I had intended to start from the base of Mount Liberty where the Appalachian Trail heads up onto the Franconia Ridge, but all reports threatened thunderstorms early in the day. I did not want to be on this exposed mountain ridge in that kind of weather, so I took the 'OBP'. My husband Stu graciously hiked to the hut with me and even carried my pack! (Such a gentleman!) I was free to try out my costume, made up of grey wool knickerbockers and coat, a button-down blouse, neckerchief, and boiled wool hat. I got several funny looks along this busy trail.

We encountered no thunderstorms, though it did begin to rain on and off as we approached Greenleaf Hut. The hut was full of hikers hiding out from these brief showers. Stu headed down the mountain to camp out for the night. The next day he would hike to the Ethan Pond Shelter (a place for folks to camp in tents or in a lean-to) where he would act as a fill-in caretaker for the night. I spent the afternoon wandering around, taking pictures, and christening my new Moleskine sketchbook with first impressions and a drawing. The evening brought an excellent meal prepared by the young men and women (traditionally called 'croo') taking care of all of the guests at the hut. Dinner conversation helped me get to know a few of my fellow guests. In addition to folks just there for the night were families, couples, and groups of friends hiking to Galehead Hut and beyond the next morning. I would see some of them again.

My 'Celebrity Moment' with fellow-hiker Linda, who kindly sent the photo along to me. Thanks!My 'Celebrity Moment' with fellow-hiker Linda, who kindly sent the photo along to me. Thanks!On the Franconia Ridge, NH: 1915 meets 2015. After a brilliant show of pink cloud-to-cloud lightning during the night we woke to clear skies. After my first of six mornings of bacon at breakfast (!!) I filled my water bottles, cinched everything down into my pack, donned my wool hat and set out on my first full day of hiking. I stopped atop Mount Lafayette, now in the clouds, to see the foundation of a short-lived summit hotel that operated there in the 1850s. Other hikers emerged and disappeared into the fog as I started down the trail toward Galehead Hut, about seven miles away. I passed guests from the night before, and was passed by others who noted my interesting garb. A lady in one group that I met asked to have her photo taken with me - my first celebrity moment! I hiked with them some and we chatted about our lives, the trail, and other trips we’d taken. Later in the day I was passed by a Northbound Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who, upon seeing me said, "Hey, you're that lady dressed up in clothes from a hundred years ago, right?" Word gets around fast on the trails. Panorama from the summit of South Twin, New Hampshire.Panorama from the summit of South Twin, New Hampshire.Panorama from the summit of South Twin, New Hampshire. Photo by Rebecca M. Fullerton.

The trail between Greenleaf and Galehead Huts is very rugged and all who made the trip in the heat and humidity of this day agreed. It was a major topic of conversation over dinner at Galehead Hut. How about that spot where the trail climbed down a waterfall?! Why on earth did the path have to go up and down that much? I’m not going to lie; I suffered some in my hot wool pants. The heat felt dense and close in the woods and surely slowed me down. Did hikers in 1915 wear a lighter-weight wool? Was this just their lot in life? Reaching open high points with a breeze helped, but I was glad to take a ‘costume break’ when I got to the hut to cool down. I put my full historical outfit back on in the evening to give a short talk on the history of the hut and explained that the Garfield Ridge Trail had defeated its original builders in several ways, too. In fact, it would not even have been there in 1915! It felt like the whole hut turned out to hear me and everyone had such interesting and fun questions!

Atop tree-covered Zealand Mountain, New Hampshire.Atop tree-covered Zealand Mountain, New Hampshire.One of the best trail signs in the White Mountains! Zealand! Another hot, sunny day awaited us on Tuesday. Those moving on to Zealand Falls Hut had to tackle a very steep climb up South Twin Mountain first thing in the morning. With a belly full of pancakes and a pack feeling heavier than the day before I slogged up the trail thinking only of the cool breeze that awaited me at the summit. The rest of the day included an easy ramble over the Twinway, then a few short ascents and descents around Zealand Mountain. I made my second pilgrimage to Zeacliff Pond, a lovely bit of water surrounded by marshy shores and tall, spindly pines. I sat and watched huge clouds drift by, sketched, and closed my eyes for just a bit.

I climbed back up to the trail from the pond and made my way over Zeacliff with its amazing, expansive view of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. I tried to imagine this as a vast wasteland of lumber camps, logging rail yards, and cut-over hillsides as it would have appeared in the early 20th century, but now it is a sea of dark green that covers almost every trace of its former life. I could easily have gazed out over this endless view of mountains for the rest of the day, but I wanted to get to the hut to stick my tired feet in the ice cold river before dinner. My timing was fortunate as it began to rain not long after I arrived. Other parties came later, soaked by the sudden showers, though most seemed in good spirits. Dinner was a fine event. A trio of Quebecois shared their boxed wine around the table and our merry party dug all the way to the bottom of a large pan of lasagna. Tomorrow would be an exceptionally long day on the trail. I could use all the pasta fuel I could get.

To be continued...

Read The Full Story, Part II

Read the previous entry.

My hikes in the White Mountains have led to many paintings in the last few years. You can see the results of that side of my trips in the Hinterlands gallery of my website. Some of the original paintings are available through my online shop. You can follow along on my next adventures via Facebook and Instagram. Happy Trails!
A rainbow at day's end seen from Zealand Falls Hut, Zealand Valley, New Hampshire.A rainbow at day's end seen from Zealand Falls Hut, Zealand Valley, New Hampshire.The splendid view of Mount Carrigain from Zealand Falls Hut.


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