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White Mountains

National Lands

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Everyone in the rest of America tends to overlook New Hampshire and the Northeast in general. They assume spectacular scenery and great outdoor adventure is found elsewhere. But Northeasterners know the secret. New England in general, and especially New Hampshire, has some of the wildest, most challenging, and breathtakingly beautiful mountains on the continent.

And the truth is, this is where everything began. The idea of National Lands. Hiking. Backpacking. Skiing. Flyfishing. Mountaineering. Rock Climbing. The building and maintenance of trails. Forestry. Fish & Game Departments. Some of these trace their beginnings to Europe, but in America they first appeared in New Hampshire. Of course, both Native Americans and early colonists were doing all these as part of daily life, but that was for survival. The idea of doing any of them for fun, for recreation, was born here.

Don't be misled by the altitude. The Rocky Mountains are much higher, but hikes there begin at 7000 feet. Peaks here may be lower, but you begin at sea level : 0 feet. So you may be climbing just as far.

Mt. Washington towers over New Hampshire and it's as magnificent a mountain as any peak on the continent. All around its base villages have search and rescue squads which are called to retrieve hikers at least once a week. Many of them have to be hospitalized and every year some die. Mt. Washington officially has the worst weather in the world. Worse than Everest, K2, the Tetons, the Alps, Denali, Rainier, Hood, anywhere. It snows, sleets, hails and ice rains here year round even when it's warm and sunny down below. The highest winds in the world (231 mph), highest average winds (73 mph) and highest gusts (128 mph) have all been recorded here. The highway and railroad leading to the top both close from October until April. From the top you can see five states plus Quebec, and you can see the mountain from everywhere in New Hampshire.

New Hampshire is beautiful year round, but is most famous for its Fall Foliage, which is at its peak in late September through mid October. The bugs are gone then and it's ideal hiking weather, but you need reservations six months in advance and should expect crowds. There are lots of tourist attractions based on the brightly colored leaves, and there are tour buses bringing groups in from everywhere.

Expect many aspects here to be quite different from what you're used to. There are no taxes : no sales taxes, income taxes, etc. But with no tax revenue, services are pay as you go, so expect lots of toll roads, state park admission fees, and even fees to hike trails (which they collect as parking fees at trailheads). More than anywhere else, you'll find a population where everyone hikes : little old ladies, single mothers with children, teenagers, grade school kids, 50 year old executives, Dads with infants in back carriers, and they all have state of the art equipment.

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