When unable to actually hike, either due to injury or inclement weather, I comfort myself by reading about hiking. Some of my recent favorites have also helped prepare me for future hikes by increasing my knowledge of local trails or potential hazards. What follows are some of my favorite books about hiking New England.
Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range
by Nicholas Howe
A fascinating history of some of the worst accidents in the Whites, and some of the most interesting characters. Meet Dr. Ball, who survived three days on Washington, in a blizzard, with only an umbrella for shelter. And Jessie Whitehead, a pioneering female climber, who fell 800 feet down Huntington Ravine — and lived. Sadly, you’ll also meet quite a few less lucky people. But anyone who has hiked 4,000-footers using Goretex boots, gaitors, tech-wick shirts, fleece, zip-off pants, and CamelBaks will wonder how Victorians did it in bowler hats and corsets.
Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure
by Patricia Ellis Herr
A quick, thought-provoking read from a Somerville grad-student-turned-homeschooling-mom who bags all 48 New Hampshire 4,000-footers with her five-year-old daughter. Along the way, they encounter amazing views, sudden hailstorms, and not a few people who think the trail is no place for a girl. The book is both an entertaining hiking travelogue and a meditation on what it means to raise daughters in this post-feminist, but not post-asshole, age.
A Walk in the Woods
by Bill Bryson
I suppose this is actually about the whole Appalachian Trail, not just New England — and Bryson and his hilarious sidekick spend quite a bit of time toiling away in Georgia before realizing they’ll never actually thru-hike the AT. (They eventually start day-hiking different bits.) But it’s every bit as delightful as you’ve heard it is and well-worth a read (or a re-read).
The AMC’s White Mountain Guide
by Steven D. Smith and Mike Dickerman
Yes, sometimes I while away the winter hours by just reading the trail descriptions, peering at the map, and planning for spring. You could do worse!
Among the Clouds: Work, Wit & Wild Weather at the Mount Washington Observatory
by Eric Pinder
An account of living in the world’s worst weather (Mt. Washington’s Observatory recorded the strongest gust of wind anywhere on the Earth’s surface: 231 mph in 1934). Every New Englander loves to complain about the weather, but that would really give us something to bitch about.