In October of 2012 I did a quick 2-day trip to The White Mountains from my then home base of Portland, Maine. It’s only a couple of hours ride to the White Mountains from Portland, which was one of the reasons I moved there.
The Whites are great because it’s just about the only place you can get truly alpine on the east coast. Perhaps Mt. Katahdin as well, but I have not been up there yet. When I went to school in Connecticut, I took several camping/painting trips to the Whites, and was floored by their beauty. For an Illinois flatlander like me being able to hike up past tree line in half a day was mind-boggling.
Mt Washington, at 6288 ft. is quite small as mountains go, but due to it’s positioning and geography, it experiences some of the worst weather in North America.
As you hike up past tree lines your confronted by warning signs cautioning you to turn around if the weather worsens. One time I was hiking up there with my old friend Steve Gerhartz, when it began to snow. Quite quickly we were in almost white out conditions, and kind of groped our way back down to the protection of the forest, where it was basically warm and spring like. You can understand why people occasionally die up here while hiking; the storm came in so suddenly.
This trip I experienced only beautiful weather, although I did not hike up very high, instead trying to get some sketches done. The first day I ended up in the hills above Jackson,N.H., just driving upwards until I found a good spot to paint. It was towards the end of the color season, but still quite beautiful and I did a 9×12 (at top) and a quickie 6×9 in. sketch at the end of the day, pictured below.
I then proceeded back to Conway, NH. , a short ride away where I had booked a room at the White Mountain Youth Hostel. It was $25 a night and there were so few people there at this time of year that I was assigned a bunk-room all to myself. They had a nice kitchen and community room as well as Wifi. I met a young German girl, who was taking a driving tour through the northeast, and we shared dinner, talk and music at a local café just around the corner. When I’m traveling alone, I prefer hostels as I can usually meet someone to hang out with.
The next day I took a couple of mile hike up Mt. Willard, which rewards you with a spectacular view of Crawford Notch. I did a sketch up there, but it didn’t turn out.
One Nice thing about the White Mountains are that there are a series of huts maintained by the Appalachian Mountain Club. You get breakfast and dinner at the huts, and they supply a bunk. They are spaced an easy days walk apart, so you only have to carry food for lunch and the minimal things you need. I always thought that it would make a great painting trip, doing one sketch near each hut and then going on to the next one.
It was a wonderful getaway and I’ll miss being nearby.