I love history. I would in no way consider myself a historian, but still love it nonetheless. Seeing how our past has evolved to become our present is truly an amazing thing to me. How did this structure come to be? What was this land used for 100 years ago? Who was here, doing exactly what I am doing, years before I was?
Believe it or not, these questions constantly run through my mind when I am on a trail. I know I’m a huge, uber dork…right? I get it. But humor me for a second. Stop and think of a trail for a moment. Possibly one of your most memorable trails you have hiked. When do you think that trail was blazed? How long do you think it took? Whose blood and sweat went into creating that trail? Who do you think has walked on it since? These are all questions I can’t help but ask myself when I look up a clearly identifiable path, located in the middle of nowhere.
Take this picture for instance. I love this picture. My father, who knows I’m interested in history and hiking, picked up this photo for me in a local antique store. It shows a man, most likely from the 1920’s, posing next to a trail sign on the Six Husbands Trail, which is located on Mt. Jefferson. Back in the 20’s, hiking wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today, and many trails had yet to be blazed. That’s why this picture is so interesting to me. Notice that the guy is hiking with a tie on and has a leather backpack. Also, remember that cameras weren’t that light or compact back then and someone had to lug that thing up this trail to snap the picture. So, who do you think this guy was? Was he a member of the AMC heading up to Madison Hut? Maybe he’s a first time hiker just out giving it a try? Or maybe he’s a trail guide or maintainer just doing what he loves to do? I guess I’ll never know but I’ll always wonder, especially when I finally go to hike the Six Husbands Trail.
So, history buff or not, I urge you to take a step back and think about these things as you’re hiking New Hampshire. I’m sure the trailblazers of yesterday truly had a love for nature and the outdoors, since clearing a trail up a mountain is not an easy job. I’m sure as they cleared the path for us, they had no idea their trails would be heavily used and sought out for years to come. It is because of them we have such a strong hiking community today and are able to enjoy the beauty that New Hampshire’s wilderness has to offer.