- Jan 15, 2004
- Reaction score
- Thornton, NH
IMO, the original intent of the 48 list and other lists was to get people to spread their impact from a few popular mountains and hikes to more locations. When I was in high school in the seventies all the hikers, I knew all hiked the same routes over and over again. It took a while for the 48 list to get popular and then more lists appeared due to demand. All these lists and new ones are still doing the original intent of spreading out the impact. The 100 highest by the 4K committee was generally represented as a much higher hurdle, and the completion numbers showed early on as the concept of bushwhacking required new skills, although many AMC folks just “followed the leader” on the many AMC group hikes particularly to the “4 pack” (now six pack) along the border in Western Maine. Due to landowner access issues, the AMC encouraged folks to check them off on the Labor Day events. The two times I did the Labor Day events, the group size was in the 30 to 40 range and most were following the leader. I did Dorset and Mendon with an AMC group on a drizzly day and its size was in the 20s, Dorset had a well-defined path and Mendon had the fire road with only about 45 minutes of bushwhacking. When I think back, Elephant, Vose Spur, PATN, Scar Ridge and Middle Abraham (no longer on the list) were the only true significant bushwhacks. Reddington started out as bushwhack but 1/3 of the way in became a herd path when we hit the ATV route built to support the wind testing the prior winter. Some may argue about Fort but with a bit of work there was a distinct herd path most of the way. This was prior to the public internet so to most, the only real info was Gene’s routes to the 100 highest and Gene tended to take delight in hyping the difficulty of bushwhacks in many of his public writings.
I do agree that GPS tech has removed a large amount of the skills required especially when it became easy to locate and load tracks. The advantage was it got rid of the temptation to have to go with a large group to avoid map and compass as anyone with a GPS had an “expert in a box” so maybe it did initially disperse large groups? With increasing popularity maybe GPS use saved a few folks from having to spend a night or two out in the woods when navigation went wrong (Gene D was known to on occasion end up on the wrong side of mountains miles from his car on group hikes) The trade off as we all know is the ability to grab tracks has led to serious hardening of the herd paths. I know of more than a few skilled folks who tried to access Scar Ridge peak from Loon a couple of times in the past that were turned back by near impenetrable woods, this was 30 years ago so maybe the combination of a couple of decades of growth along with GPS is to blame for the new herd path. I do know when I did the Little East Pond approach was it was a bushwhack through gnarly woods from the pond to the top and down again.
I do remember doing the Traveler loop about a year after the route became official. When I talked with the ranger about the hike, he told me that he was the one that had blazed it as he was sick of having to go out at night looking for folks that got lost. From a S&R perspective, my guess is they would rather have a herd path and possibly reduce calls about lost hikers and if there is need for carryout, a herd path is better than nothing unless a helicopter with a penetrator is available.
It comes down to that the lists are still doing what they were intended to do which is disperse ever increasing use. The reality is the outdoors has become popular again and a large number of people are able to access the woods so even with dispersed use, herd paths are going to form. There still are the NH 100 highest bushwhacks to satisfy most bushwhack hedonists (as long as they don’t mind spending a lot of time driving north of RT 2).
Excellent post and agree with all. My SAR team was involved with the PATN nighttime recovery of the person who used to post here and did not know about the herd path. Apparently maneuvering the litter down the steep bushwhack was epic.