Tag Archives: Hiking

Mt. Bierstadt; the First of Many…

Beyond the White Mountains

I’ve dreamed of it for as long as I can remember, although for some people it is a regular weekend activity. Personally, hiking a 14,000 footer had been a long-term goal of mine. Perhaps it’s because I am native to the east coast, where the highest peak is the venerable Mt. Washington at 6,288 feet, or maybe it is because I grew up with a fear of heights, or it could be because hiking, now more than ever, holds great value in my life. Whatever the exact reason was, I was thrilled at the prospect of finally being able to fulfill it.

I arrived in Colorado on a Monday, and planned on attempting Mt. Bierstadt on Saturday. It worked out well that I had about a week of time to acclimate to the altitude before the big day. I used that time to mentally and physically prepare myself; I was most worried about the effect that the altitude could have on me. I had been to Colorado before, a few years back, but the most hiking that I had done was the Flat Irons and other shorter, similar objectives. Ironically enough, fellow east coaster and photographer Jack Roberts was also in Colorado at the same time. Jack and I had been trying to meet up to shoot together back east for some time and now that we were both there, we decided that we had to hike a 14er together. As two photography enthusiasts could be expected to decide, there was no other way to do the hike than for sunrise.

Saturday morning, Jack picked me up at 1:00 a.m., and we began the 2 hour drive to the Bierstadt trailhead. When we arrived, there were already a few cars parked in the lot; our assumption is that they had a similar plan to ours. As we stepped out of the car, into the crisp air, it became apparent that it was going to be a chilly morning. Both of us anxious to start ascending, we quickly organized our gear, shouldered the weight, turning on our headlamps as we approached the first trail sign. The first 2 miles of the 3.5 mile summit trip went by smoothly and quickly. Bierstadt, as I discovered, had been a great choice for my first 14er. I was surprised at how rapidly we were moving. I remained calm and confident in the rest of the push that we had. The full moon was illuminating our way so well that we barely even needed our headlamps. We caught a few glimpses of the dotted glow of other headlamps on the trail, both behind and ahead of us. As the trail steepened and we approached the final mile of the hike, a couple of details caught our attention. First, both Jack and I were beginning to feel the true affects that altitude can have. Jack had done Bierstadt before, as well as another 14er before this and was better off than I in preparation for the change in elevation. The first effect that I felt was that my limbs were beginning to feel heavier than normal, especially my legs. Shortly thereafter, I began to feel lightheaded and headache creeping on. With my 3 liter Camelbak reservoir and plenty of food for fuel, I felt myself ease back into a more comfortable state before moving forward again. The second detail that caught our attention was the sky starting to illuminate just to the left of the summit ahead of us.

With the gaining altitude, we figured it was a good time to reassess the layers we were wearing. The wind had picked up slightly, and with the sun still down, the air was cool on our already sweaty shirts. Pushing forward, we came upon a couple of small snow and ice fields to maneuver through. Neither of us carrying micro spikes or crampons, we took our time; carefully positioning and selecting our steps as to not slip. Once we passed these fields, we could see the rocky summit just ahead. Our strength and energy seemed to magically reappear as we doubled our pace in excitement.

In my time, I’ve seen a lot of sunrises. In fact, back home in the White Mountains, I make a habit of it because of the unbeatable reward of emerging light at a summit. This one was especially powerful. When we made it to the top (14,060 feet), the sun had climbed, but it still had not quite surfaced over the adjacent peak, Mt. Evans. The wind picked up even more and the cold seemed to sink beneath our layers. We added layers, but felt warmth seep back into us from the views alone. Setting down our packs and finding a somewhat flat rock, we sat for the first time to appreciate what we had done. Between bites of our Clif bars, swigs of our water, and talking with excitement to what we were witnessing, we snapped a few shots of each other and the few strangers that we shared the summit with. With the nausea still in effect for me, I found myself moving around less, shooting less, and for once, taking more time to enjoy the views. Part of me was still in a state of disbelief, and the other part of me was trying far too hard to cherish every single little moment from atop Bierstadt. Once the sun peaked just above Evans it revealed all the rock formations surrounding us. Jack and I both looked at each other. The jutted, jagged Sawtooth Ridge, connecting Bierstadt and Evans, was standing tall. Quickly, we both agreed that we would each take a turn standing on the tip of a portion of the ridge so that the other could take a shot with a human scale to what lay before us. Moments like this with the sun rising, the shadows playing in-between the peaks around us, and the clouds gaining more and more color imprint so deeply. We all hike and climb mountains for different reasons, I’m sure, but this alone was one reason to explain it all.

After spending at least an hour, if not more, on the summit, and the sun clearly above us now, we decided to descend. Dozens of hikers passed us as they were just on their way up. The now sunlit trail was edged in yellow, orange, red, and purple wildflowers on either side. It was, certainly, yet another sight to remember from this trip. Despite keeping a good pace down, the 3.5 miles on return to the car seemed a lot longer than on the way up. Personally, I just think it was because I was still feeling the surreal moments that I experienced surge through me. All in all, it wasn’t the difficulty of the climb that left me proud. Overcoming the elevation and altitude alone left me content with the feat. Now, all that’s left to say is that this will definitely not be my last higher-elevation hike. I already feel the itching sensation to conquer more, to see more, and to live more.


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About The Author

Corey McMullen

I’m a 25 year old photographer and avid hiker based out of Massachusetts. I’ve only very recently taken up photography, but having been a hiker all my life, I’ve quickly discovered how much I enjoy documenting the lifestyle that comes with spending time outdoors. Some of my favorite adventures always include the White Mountains of New Hampshire, camping overnight, waking up for a sunrise hike, and of course, a good group of friends to share the experience with. 
Instagram: @coreyoutdoors

In Rain, It Can Still Shine

Look on the Bright Side

On Saturday, May 13th, my friend Tiff and I were both itching to go on some form of an adventure. We had been carefully keeping an eye on the weather all week, but much to our dismay, it was not in our favor. The weekend was scheduled for rain all night and cloudy skies all weekend. In fact, northern portions of the White Mountains were warned to be getting a Nor’easter. Even with this forecast, we both agreed that we couldn’t pass up on a weekend to get outside, do some form of hiking, and tent-camp. 

We arrived at the Old Bridle Path trail-head at about 6:00 p.m., both of us anxious to get up Rattlesnake Mountain in New Hampshire and set up camp before the rain came in. For those that have hiked Rattlesnake Mountain, you know it is a great hike-to-view ratio. We geared up, shouldered our packs, and began the hike, with Tiff’s dog, Skyler, leading the way. We arrived at the summit in no more than 20 minutes, quickly realizing that we may get lucky and not see any rain for a little while yet. After setting down our packs, we decided we would set up camp as fast as we could so we could enjoy the last bits of daylight, take some photography, and bask in the views. Tiff, in addition to a tent, had also brought her hammock, so we sought out two trees at a good distance to hang it and put our feet up. 

All set up

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Faces of the White Mountains: Joe Dodge

Faces of the White Mountains: Joe Dodge

This series will highlight important figures in the White Mountains, both past & present.

It may be argued that no other White Mountain figure in history wore as many hats or involved himself in as many disciplines as the nearly ineffable Joseph B. Dodge. A native of Manchester-by-the-sea, Massachusetts, Joe left his family’s furniture business to join the Navy as a submarine radio operator at age 17. Upon his return at 23 years old, Joe headed north for Pinkham Notch in the White Mountains to become hutmaster at the AMC lodge. His legend grew from there.

Joe in his element
Photo courtesy of NH Magazine


In 1922 Joe’s long career with the Appalachian Mountain Club began with his acceptance of the position of hutmaster at Pinkham Notch, nicknamed Porky Gulch for its impressive population of porcupines. His tenacity for improving his surroundings was immediately evident as he tackled projects that summer ranging from constructing new facilities buildings, building canopies, cutting firewood and killing those nuisance porcupines in great numbers. In Spring of 1926 Joe ‘threw away the key’ upon arriving at Pinkham Notch camp and it has remained a year-round facility for the AMC ever since. Eager and insatiable as Joe’s appetite for projects was, the AMC was able to produce enough challenges to match. In 1929 the committee added a list of improvements and additions to the growing hut system in the White Mountains with Joe as chief coordinator. By 1930 he was cruising the spans of trail between the discontinuous link of AMC huts, scouting locations for new constructions. The Galehead and Zealand Huts proved the culmination of this mission. Several other hut projects followed in the years to come, but Dodge’s own self-proclaimed crowning achievement was a feat of engineering; a miniature dam and plant on the Cutler River that would provide additional power for the ever-growing demands at Pinkham Notch from 1939 to 1960.

Greenleaf, one of the AMC Huts on the shoulder of Mount Lafayette


Many an errant tramper can thank their lucky stars for Joe Dodge; one estimate puts his number of rescues either led or directed above 100. In a 1949 Saturday Evening Post interview, Joe in his distinctive candid way explained his rescue technique thusly, “My theory… is that if some damn goofer is lost, you should figure what any sensible person would do, and then look in the opposite direction.” 
Perhaps as notable as those he had saved is how many accidents he likely also prevented. Joe was a constant at Pinkham Notch during the 1920s and 1930s, touching base with most who passed through, doling out expert advice and instruction in his characteristic loud and colorful language.

Madison Hut, the first of the high huts

Mount Washington Observatory

Spending countless hours outside of four walls, paired with his innate fascination with science culminated in perhaps Joe’s most impressive endeavor; the Mount Washington Observatory.
Joe not only co-founded the observatory in 1932 but continued his service as its managing director and treasurer until his death in 1973.
With a handful of donors and a four-hundred-dollar grant from the N.H. Academy of Science, the combined efforts of Joe, Bob Monahan, Sal Pagliuca, and Alex MacKenzie created the observatory. Its mission was to collect key weather data to increase understanding of the extreme conditions on Mount Washington. Not long after, on April 12, 1934 the observatory solidified its importance by recording the world’s fastest surface speed wind observed by man: 231 mph. Over the years, the institution has grown by leaps, encompassing new technology, providing forecasts for trampers and climbers, and evolving into a national resource for weather observation and research.

The original team of Alex McKenzie, Bob Monahan, Joe Dodge and Sal Pagliuca. Photo courtesy MWOBS

The observatory crowns the 6,288 foot Mount Washington

Honorary Master of Arts Dartmouth College

The depth and breadth of Joe’s influence is perhaps best described during a speech given by the President of Dartmouth College, Dr. Dickey, upon conferring an Honorary Master of the Arts to Joe in 1955:
“Onetime wireless operator at sea, longtime mountaineer, student of Mount Washington’s ways and weather, you have been more than a match for storms, slides, fools, skiers and porcupines.  You have rescued so many of us from both the harshness of the mountain and the soft ways leading down to boredom that you, yourself, are now beyond rescue as a legend of all that is unafraid, friendly, rigorously good and ruggedly expressed in the out-of-doors.  And with it all you gave this College a great skiing son.  As one New Hampshire institution to another, Dartmouth delights to acknowledge you as Master of Arts.”

About The Author

Elizabeth Kane

Elizabeth’s love for the White Mountains is unparalleled. Despite working 40-50 hours/week, she manages to spend every spare minute in the Whites and her knowledge of the trail system is impressive. Her pup, Katahdin has likely logged more hours on the trails and tagged more summits than most do in their lifetime. On any given day, you can find Elizabeth hiking, trail running, fly fishing, climbing, mountain biking, or backpacking. She considers the White Mountains her home.


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