There are 651 trails in the AMC’s White Mountain Guide which add up to about 1460 miles of trails and anywhere from 2200 to 2800 miles of actual hiking. People known as “redliners” aim to hike them all, a process that can take years and require thousands of miles of driving to obscure trailheads in New Hampshire and Maine because many of the trails are not contiguous. It’s a really fun but challenging trail list to complete and takes you far from the crowds that mob the White Mountain 4000 footers on summer weekends. Most redliners take years to finish the list but there is no small measure of joy and camaraderie in the struggle.
When you get started on the Redlining trail list, it’s easy to rack up miles and trails. But as you get farther along, it gets increasingly difficult to make rapid headway for a variety of reasons. Many trails are inaccessible in winter and spring because they’re covered in snow. Work and family obligations get in the way. Travel times to and from distant trailheads can become onerous. Cars break down. Bridges and roads are washed out. Injuries can put you out of action for months. Old age slows you down. If this sounds a lot like section hiking a triple crown trail, that’s no accident.
But the hardest part of the Redlining list is the final 10% of trails and trail miles: there’s no set order of hikes, so this trail list is different for everyone. But invariably, this final set of trails takes the most effort to drive to, the most effort to climb in terms of elevation, or distance to hike. Bill Robichaud, another Redline finisher, hit the nail on the head when he said: “Beware the last 10%”.
I’m living those final 10% of trails myself at the moment. As I write this, I have 46 trails left in my second redlining round. Over two-thirds of them are in the Northern Presidentials, on the sub-peaks of Mt Washington, and in the Mahoosuc Range which are some of the toughest trails on the list. I’m four years into this round and I have my hopes set on finishing it this year, but it’s going to be close. Three months of injuries slowed me down this year as well as the Pandemic, which shut down the trails for a month. Although it’s still August, frost, icing, and high winds have started to occur on the high peaks which limits the days when the trails and peaks are safe to climb. If I’m lucky there will be enough weather windows before the end of October to get in the hikes I need, but after that, all bets are off.
I’m going to plug away and see how far I can get, but I’m starting to doubt whether I’ll be able to finish this year. That’s a hard pill to swallow because the thought of hiking those trails kept me going all those months I was on the bench. It’s also humbling, but the mountains will be there another day.
More about White Mountains Redlining:
- The White Mountains Redlining Spreadsheet
- Redlining the White Mountain Guide: Challenges, Strategies, Tips, and Tricks
- White Mountains Redlining: Beyond the 4000 Footers