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Thread: AT alternative through the whites ...

  1. #1
    Member BethW's Avatar
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    AT alternative through the whites ...

    I'm planning a backpack from Katahdin back to my house in New Hampshire along the AT in July and August. The more I read about the AT through the Whites the more I want to avoid it in summer - too many people and potential for not finding a place to stay at night. I stayed at Guyot shelter several years ago and it was a crowded, noisy night.

    I would appreciate any trail suggestions that would take me from Gorham to Moosilauke. It's been a long while since I've backpacked in the Whites. I'd prefer to stay away from very remote, unmaintained trails thought I'd consider them.

    Thanks in advance.

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    The Whites are busy on the weekends, mostly. During the week, it's not so bad. Do you want to stay on the AT?

    You can buy a map and create your own route and ask for opinions on specific trails. The AT seems to be the most direct route. You can hike the Grafton Notch Loop trail, around 25 miles to bypass 8 miles of the AT, if you want. Most route suggestions would be similarly inefficient. We hiked the section from Crawford Notch to Mooselauke last labor day week and it wasn't too bad at Guyot campsite, although the night before, I was told, it was overcrowded.

  3. #3
    Senior Member nartreb's Avatar
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    The AT in the Whites wriggles a lot in order to stay up on the highest ridgelines. It's neither the most direct route nor the easiest, though it is the most scenic. Pick up the AMC maps (https://amcstore.outdoors.org/white-...-trail-map-set ) and you'll see some obvious alternatives. (Those maps have established campsites clearly marked, and they show trails very clearly. Also, this is a very recent edition, so I think they're completely up-to-date with respect to things like bridge removal.)

    Personally, I'd mostly stick with the AT, for the views. It's generally not too hard to find a legal backcountry spot away from the shelters, with a little advance planning.

  4. #4
    Member BethW's Avatar
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    The AT is not necessarily my goal - doesn't matter too much to me. I just want to walk; a long way. My maps are in NH where I am not but will be there tomorrow. I'll check it out and ask for advice here if I have a concern about a particular trail. And I will try to time it for weekdays! Thanks for the suggestions.

  5. #5
    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    The AT would not only take you through the best terrain, it would be faster then avoiding it. You could skip some sections of it where trails connect, but in many cases you would not only be adding miles, but elevation. Feel free to post potential routes your looking at it and many here will gladly chime in. I've done most of the routes on the 4ks and around them, so feel free to ask away.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Mike P.'s Avatar
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    If you don't mind a lot of woods walking and seldom used trails, you can probably work on a few detours. On the AT, the Carters and the section around Ethan Pond during the week would be okay, You could Take the Davis Path or the Dry River trail to avoid the Southern Presidential's and stay deep in the Pemi instead of going over South Twin, Garfield and Franconia Ridge. There won't be much AT traffic other than North-bounders south of South Kinsman. You can avoid some of the Carters also by staying on the trails east of the Ridge also.

    It's doable, it's probably more work, more mileage and less views but we all hike our own hike.
    Have fun & be safe
    Mike P.

  7. #7
    Senior Member skiguy's Avatar
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    Where in New Hampshire is your house? On the northern end (Gorham) you might want to consider following the Cohos Trail down to Crawford Notch. From there you could weave your way through the Pemi down into the Sandwich Range. If your more specific of where you want to land up it would be easier to make more detailed recommendations.
    "I'm getting up and going to work everyday and I am stoked. That does not suck!"__Shane McConkey

  8. #8
    Member BethW's Avatar
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    I've got 6 maps spread all over the dining/living room tonight ... one more day to figure this out though it will likely be a few weeks before I'm in the Whites.

    I'm wary of the Pemi Wilderness though I'd love the peacefulness of it - I thought I'd read years ago that the wilderness areas are no longer maintained. Sorry to be uninformed about this - I live in CA (unfortunately) so I'm a bit out of touch. The last time I backpacked through a WMNF wilderness area I was very alone (and loved it) but it was all swamp where I walked along logs. I don't remember the trail. Without those logs I can't even imagine it would be possible for me.

    Is the Pemi Wilderness trail maintained?

    What I've put together tonight for part of the adventure should any of you have the time:

    AT to Pinkham Notch - Boott Spur - Davis Path - Isolation Tr - Dry River - Dry River Cutoff - [Mitzpah] Cutting out the Madison/Jefferson/Washington etc.

    Mitzpah Cutoff - Crawford Path - [Highland Center for better food than I'll be carrying and maybe a bed]

    Avalon Tr - A/Z Tr - [Zealand Hut]

  9. #9
    Member BethW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nartreb View Post

    Personally, I'd mostly stick with the AT, for the views. It's generally not too hard to find a legal backcountry spot away from the shelters, with a little advance planning.
    Can you tell me how I would go about finding legal backcountry tent spot? What planning resource is available? Thanks!

  10. #10
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    The Dry River area is wilderness area and has a pretty consistent reputation of poorly marked trails. The Dry River Cut off seems to give a lot of folks troubles staying on trail down near the Dry River trail. intersection as the trail seems to disappear on occasion. Davis Path has a reputation of lots of blowdowns. In general the Dry River Area wilderness has far worse reputation for difficult trail conditions than the Pemi. The actual lower Dry River Trail was severely washed out several years ago and it was never repaired. There are bypasses of the worst washouts but it has made it difficult to access which means fewer hours spent keeping trails open.

    The main trails in the Pemi are old railroad grades and very beat down so they are not hard to find or follow. The problem is like the old logging railroads, all trails lead to the Lincoln Wood Parking lot which means a hitch or road walk to Lincoln. There is an option to bushwhack up Lincoln Slide but you are better off just sticking to the AT.

    There are not great options to skip the presidential traverse. You can skip the carters and wildcats by taking the Pine Mountain Trail out of Gorham (the trailhead is difficult to find) which eventually turns unto the Pine Link trail that goes directly up Madison.

    Linked are the official WMNF rules for backcountry camping. https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE...rdb5363715.pdf It was either intentionally or accidentally composed to confuse Leave No Trace recommendations (page2) with WMNF regulations (Page 3). Just because the rules say you can does not mean that the terrain and vegetation will allow you to find a site. Generally if you camp at lower elevations on flatter terrain you have far more likely opportunity to find a spot under hardwoods or mature softwoods than up higher where there is a lot more dense spruce/fir scrub.

    These days various trail aps list legal and not so legal sites along the AT. The only real tough spot is near Mt Washington and Lake of Clouds hut. There is no great alternative to a hut stay or the Dungeon under the hut which lives up to its name. Most folks stay at the RMC camps or the Perch and then head south to Nauman near Mizpah. The caretakers at the shelters will always pack folks in somehow using overflow spots and most huts have places just outside the 1/4 mile RUA for thruhikers. One dangerous illegal site that is nevertheless used by some thruhikers and other backpackers is Sphinx col. If there is bad weather anywhere in the whites, Sphinx Col is going to be right in the middle of it and storms tend to funnel right through it.

    Note there is no easy way out of the Great Gulf, all three options, Six Husbands, Sphinx and Great Gulf are very steep, Sphinx being the least bad of the three.

  11. #11
    Member BethW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Note there is no easy way out of the Great Gulf, all three options, Six Husbands, Sphinx and Great Gulf are very steep, Sphinx being the least bad of the three.
    Thanks for all the great information, peakbagger!

  12. #12
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    I wouldn't say the wilderness areas aren't maintained, they just aren't maintained very well. I've taken to catyying a small folding saw whenever I hike in any of the Wilderness areas to cut up blowdowns I find across trails.

  13. #13
    Senior Member dug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B the Hiker View Post
    Honestly, do the Long Trail. When it is not coterminus with the AT, it's almost empty of people.
    Will be quite difficult to get from Katahdin to NH via the Long Trail.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by dug View Post
    Will be quite difficult to get from Katahdin to NH via the Long Trail.
    You can get close, folks have discussed this loop (that involves a road walk/hitch). Take the AT south to Eustis and then hitch/walk to the Canadian Border along RT 27 and take the Sentiers Frontaliers west to just north of the Long trail then the AT east back to Hanover. That effectively skips the NH and part of western Maine.

    http://www.sentiersfrontaliers.qc.ca/

  15. #15
    Senior Member dug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    You can get close, folks have discussed this loop (that involves a road walk/hitch). Take the AT south to Eustis and then hitch/walk to the Canadian Border along RT 27 and take the Sentiers Frontaliers west to just north of the Long trail then the AT east back to Hanover. That effectively skips the NH and part of western Maine.

    http://www.sentiersfrontaliers.qc.ca/

    Sure, anything is possible. Just seems strange to take a trail in Vermont when you want to go from Maine to NH. But, like they say...hike your own hike.

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