White Mountains, Remembered, Part II
A father and daughter perspective
on the gift of the White Mountains, New Hampshire
By Robert Werner and Dawn Marie Fichera
From the Eyes of the (now adult) Daughter
The White Mountains of New Hampshire are somewhat of an enigma, to the
avid hiker; they challenge, invite, and warm the souls of so many across the
Hiking and camping in New England is one of my favorite ways to spend time
with my father and family. In particular, Mount Washington holds fond and
familiar memories for me.
I remember the first time I climbed it; I wrestled with my inner desire to run the
steep footing or to stay back with my father as he patiently explained the
beauty of the forests to me. In the end, a little of both would win out. I ran up
the mountain side as much as possible with a back eye to my father who gently
clutched his hand-made walking stick for support. Slowing down to hike with
him, I realized the essence of hiking. The connection with God, nature, and
It was then that I realized that there was a particular untouchable beauty and
serenity to the silence; that life was not a race, that to enjoy the arduous trek
was half of the lesson.
Which brings me to the other half of the lesson. Preparedness. I have been a
hiker all my life, as indexed by the laundry list of trails my father mentioned
There are crucial elements to hiking that one must take into consideration far
before embarking on the journey. Namely, what to bring. Below is a snapshot of
what I have found to be useful on these amazingly gorgeous ascents.
I learned at a very young age that you bring what you can carry. Seriously. The
first hike I took, I had a canteen, a sweatshirt, a towel, change of socks, and God
knows what else stuffed in my back-pack. Five pounds of stuff strapped to my
back as I attempted to negotiate my body up a geometric nightmare seems so
silly now. As I matured and, as the cries of my defeated legs could attest to, I
quickly realized bringing more junk than absolutely necessary weighs you
down -- emotionally and physically. And my father’s constant reminder of ‘you
bring it, you carry it’ echoes through my brain. So I offer his sage-like wisdom
to you: bring only what you are prepared to bear the weight of. Each ounce
What to bring in your bag of tricks.
I recommend bringing a small bag with a compass, a knife, a pack of matches or
lighter that will not die out in the rain, a light-weight plastic poncho, and a GPS
system. The GPS system can be a watch, a cell-phone, something that will let
people know where you are in the event the weather turns nasty as it is ought
to do in New Hampshire. I recall fondly that on my second hike up Mount
Washington, I subjected myself to a minor case of hypothermia; trust me, the
body does strange things when exposed to the mountain’s elements and having
the ability to get help is invaluable.
One must bring food and water along for a trek but be conservative. The body
needs sugar when tasked with hiking. I suggest oranges, a dark chocolate bar,
even chocolate chips, granola, dried fruit, cranberries and similar
manifestations, and nuts for protein. These are all small, fit in a bag quite nicely
and are light. Trust me, you feel the weight of two pounds of food far quicker
than you think possible. As far as water goes, a sturdy water bottle is necessary.
Grab something that can hold at least 12 ounces. If you have the chance to
purchase a water filtering system, EMS has these, you can tap into any stream
water and filter it for drinking.
The boots you wear are a critical part of your success hiking. You need good
hiking boots, so splurge on them. Boots must come up to the ankle to give you
support when navigating the rocks and granite pathways. More often than not,
you will find yourself twisted into odd positions and your boots will help
cushion these angular jabs of the stone you are stepping on. Not to mention that
they are a great deterrent against some creepy-crawlies. I already mentioned
the poncho earlier. In the same vein, tie a sweatshirt around your waist. The
weather will turn on you in a second and the higher you ascend, the colder it
gets. There is nothing quite like being on top of Mount Washington, the Summit
of which has the highest recorded winds in the Northeast and not having a
sweatshirt with you. It is no fun being cold.
Stop wherever you can.
Mount Washington offers a stop off point just before the Summit called the
Lake of the Clouds hut. Stop there if you are hiking this particular mountain.
These huts are AMC approved and often offer much needed services—
bathrooms, hot coffee or tea, hot food, a place to unload and breathe before the
final ascent. If the weather turns foul on you, it is much better to be inside the
hut than out in the open range. Visibility becomes near impossible when you
are hiking cloud level so it is nice and potentially life-saving to have options.
Hiking Mount Washington is a feat to accomplish; it is demanding, exhausting,
sometimes psychically challenging but definitely worthwhile. If you are
blessed to have the opportunity to hike the mountain with your father as I have
been, you will have memories that last a lifetime. Hike well and live life
This is part II of this article. Click here to read Part I.
About the authors:
Robert (Bob) Werner, who lives in Pennsylvania, is
a member IBEW Local 380; member of the Bryn Mawr
Mainliners Chorus. His first exposure to Mt. Washington
was in 1975 at a rock climbing class in North Conway, NH.
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Robert's daughter, Dawn Marie Fichera, who has been
hiking the White Mountains with her dad since she was five
years old, lives in downtown Philadelphia , and remains an
avid hiker; she also skis and skydives. When not hiking the
White Mountains, Dawn Marie works as a publicist.