In recent years, I have made a point of trying to escape to our Great North Woods in late September or the first half of October. The bugs are gone, the leaves are dazzling, and the snow is yet to come. Mostly, I have headed to New Hampshire’s White Mountains (last year, an attempt to revisit northern Maine’s Baxter State Park was thwarted by a bad knee). The Whites are hundreds of thousands of acres of national forest, state parks, and federal wilderness.
For the hiker, the Whites have pretty much everything, from well-trodden paths you couldn’t lose if you tried, to wilderness trails that you rely on at your peril. Over the years, I have scratched the surface of this variety. Here are a few highlights: dwarf pines atop Mount Jackson all caked in rime frost; possibly the best views in New England from Franconia Ridge, taken in on a mild, sunny afternoon with plenty of fellow hikers for company; watching the sun sink, then rise again a nighttime later, all by myself at the edge of the Wild River Wilderness. Memories like these sustain you through the winter.