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Redlining: A 100 Trail Challenge

July Wordle

I set out to hike 100 “new” trails in the White Mountains, this past July. It was a crazy thing to do, but fun. I had to overcome a variety of travel, health, and work issues, but I did it.

People who know me, know I’m a goal-oriented guy. Goals keep me motivated, they get me up in the morning, and out the door. I feel lost without them, so I often make my own.  I’ve always been like this.

But, when I finished Redlining the White Mountain Guide last year (608 trails / 1440.1 miles) I felt rudderless. My big goal for the previous 2 years had been to finish the Redlining Spreadsheet. Once it was done, I had problems finding anything remotely as challenging or satisfying to tackle.  Redlining is arguably the hardest hiking “list” in the White Mountains Region, because it requires hiking over 600 trails (now 640). The trails are scattered all over central New Hampshire and western Maine, as far north as the US/Canada Border, and all the way to the Vermont-New Hampshire State line.

So late last year, I decided to hike another Redlining round. That decision re-energized me. I can’t think of any thing I’d rather do than hike in the White Mountains. People are always inviting me to hike out west, but I’d rather stay right where I am. There are plenty of mountains, challenging trails, and a huge and vibrant hiking community. Plus you don’t need a permit to backpack or camp, there are no fires, no smoke, no altitude issues, no poisonous snakes, and no grizzly bears to ruin your day.

Why 100 new trails? Honestly, I pulled the number out of the air. But that quantity forced me to concentrate on short trails, equal to or less than 2 miles in length. There over 340 of these on the Redlining list and they make up over 50% of the trails that Redliners need to hike.  The hard part isn’t hiking them; that’s relatively easy. The challenge is finding them, driving to each trailhead, and hiking them in a reasonably time-efficient way. That takes a lot of planning to pull off since you have to factor in winter road closures, weather, driving times, the availability of daylight, spring trail conditions, not to mention your other non-hiking responsibilities and commitments.

Hiking 100 trails also equates to about 16% of a complete Redlining round. Finishing it in a month lets me leap ahead in the overall list. Most Redliners hike less than 16% of the trails on the Redliner’s spreadsheet per year, so doing them all in a month is a big shot in the arm.

Local networks with the highest density of trails

The key to hiking a lot of short trails in a month is to focus on the local trail networks that have the highest density of short trails like the Randolph Community Forest, Evans Notch, Waterville Valley, The Rattlesnakes, Ferncroft, Pinkham Notch, and Crawford Notch, among others. To finish my 100 trails, I’d literally hike 6-10 trails a day, driving from trailhead to trailhead and bagging groups of 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 trails at each stop. When added up, the total mileage hiked was about 160 miles, so there was still a lot of hiking despite the fact that I was targeting short trails. I was tired at the end of each hiking day.

Getting to 100 trails would have been easier if I’d started from a blank Redlining spreadsheet. But I’d already hiked 127 trails on my round two spreadsheet before starting this goal, which limited my options since I wanted to complete 100 new trails end-to-end, not repeat existing trails I’d already hiked.

You don’t have to be a macho Redliner to hike a 100 trails in a month and I’d encourage you to give this challenge a go sometime. It’s perfect for spring when the higher peaks are still snow-covered or in summer when you want to avoid the crowds on the 4K’s. You just need to have a flexible schedule and a singular focus on the goal. But if you’re a Redliner, you’re probably already “cracked” that way.

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13 comments

  1. An admirable challenge. Too, sometimes the shorter, less “marqee” trails feature some exceptionally beautiful scenery or an unusual point of interest – that may be why they’re there, not just a shortcut or link-up. You are a hiking machine, Phil!

    • Found some exceptional fishing spots along the way, too!

      • I’ve had the Tenkara rod out quite a bit – really enjoying it. I’m experimenting with a number of line/leader configurations. Probably gonna attempt to make a furled leader soon.

      • I just use a high vis flourocarbon line (about 10′) with a 3-6′ mono tippet. The flourocarbon provides exceptional feel for strikes by smaller fish and I can see the double-knot linking the two easily, so I can judge the depth of my fly below the surface. Read the Tenkara Bum Blog if you’ve never seen it. Lots of useful advice.

      • The 100 fly Tenkara challenge!

      • More like the 100 (lost-in-trees) fly challenge.

      • Been there!

        Also been at the “get out of the way of the nephews’ wild casts so I don’t have a hook in my face, back…” etc. challenge as well! It’s a natural selection situation–the slow and unwary ones got caught. Grandpa avoided the flying flies.

  2. Curious: at what point is one considered a redliner? At the point one has decided to try redlining? Once you’ve completed all the trails? If you’ve downloaded the spreadsheet? Is there a percentage of trails you have to complete and then you can call yourself one?

    • There aren’t any rules. It’s entirely up to you if you want to call yourself one or not. The biggest symptom however is when people start defining their hikes to follow new trails they’ve never hiked before and to hike them all the way to the end, even though they’re a bit out of the way of the primary objective.

  3. I definitely have symptom 1 and have occasional bouts of symptom 2. I guess I can call myself a redliner even though I’ve only got 21% of trails completed. :-)

  4. “you don’t need a permit to backpack or camp, there are no fires, no smoke, no altitude issues, no poisonous snakes, and no grizzly bears to ruin your day”? Sounds wonderful! You’re talking me into moving back east. Those concerns (thankfully no grizz where I go) constantly shape and alter my plans where to hike and backpack here in Washington/Oregon. We’ve changed tomorrow’s 3-day trek four times due to some of those concerns. I’m calling the ranger station in awhile to make sure our latest choice isn’t on fire.

  5. I also used to think that I didn’t need to hike anywhere else… and then I started hiking out west. The scenery, variety and challenge are absolutely breathtaking. Worth all the hassles that you mention.

    • I get that by hiking in Scotland. It’s much easier for me to get to Glasgow or Edinburgh from the east coast than it is for me to get to the Yosemite Valley or anywhere on the US west coast. Plus, there’s no smoke, no snakes, no bears, etc. I can literally hop on a train at the Glasgow airport, go straight to the hills, and walk off into the mountains.

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