Gay hiking

Hike in the Woods: Tips for Hiking in New England This Fall

The first day of fall has arrived, and there’s nothing quite like fall in New England, with the leaves changing and the temperature and humidity finally dropping.

It all makes for a great hike alone or with friends and family, especially when you pack the right snacks.

Radio Boston received calls from listeners on all things hiking with Sarah Holman, creator of the “She Hikes Mountains” blog, and Becky Cushing Gop, director of Mass Audubon West.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Interview Highlights

Cushing Gop explains why she enjoys hiking:

I think what really stuck with me – and I didn’t even realize it until adulthood – was that I loved hiking because of how it made me feel, physically and mentally. I just loved the feeling when I was in the woods of not being plugged in and just breathing fresh air and noticing views and then just that kind of invigorating feeling of hiking up steep terrain . And I think the reward at the end, whether it’s a nice view or just a nice relaxing rest. And I think I recognized the mental health benefits of getting out into nature.

Holman on what she considers “hiking”:

I do a lot of hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and often the trails are this wonderful combination of… walking in the woods and, you know, soaking it all up and you’re not breathing hard. And then slowly the terrain changes and then you walk over rocks and then it’s really, really steep. And so I think hiking can be anything where you’re in the woods and you’re on a trail and you’re pushing yourself. Of course, it’s different for everyone, whether it’s a little or a lot. I call it hiking.

Cushing Gop on safety while hiking:

It partly depends on the time of year. Much depends on knowing the track conditions, weather conditions. For example, knowing when the storm may be coming or if the weather is expected – being prepared if things could get cold or rainy and making sure you have the right layers.
Another thing we start to remind people at this time of year is that the sun sets much earlier. And so to make sure you give yourself plenty of time to really get to where you want to go and back before sunset – unless of course you plan to hike overnight, in which case you must bring another type of equipment. If people are unfamiliar, they might [also] join a group and gain some familiarity that way. [When you] think of fear, much of it is in the unknown. So it’s just a matter of gaining some confidence in a skill set.

Holman on overcoming the fear of hiking alone:

I think so often our brains like to create the worst-case scenario and the kind of [get] attached to it. And so I recently hiked the 100 Mile Wilderness [trail] alone in Maine. And although it’s a very real fear to do this – mostly around bears and bad people – I really try to do this, when people ask me [about how and why I hike alone], say, well, ‘What exactly are you afraid of? Are you afraid that an animal or someone is approaching you? Are you afraid of hurting yourself? Because in most cases there is an answer to this fear. You know, there are safety devices there. There are GPS devices that you can take along if you are going for a long hike. There’s pepper spray, there’s pepper spray. There are many ways to counter this fear. And then I think a lot of things are just in our minds. I found that the more I walked and the more comfortable I became with my own ability to take care of myself in the woods, the less I felt these fears.

Where to hike

Interested in a hike? Here are some recommendations from Cushing Gop and Holman:

  • The Lime Kiln/Quarry/Ovenbird/Taconic Vista Loop at Mass Audubon’s Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield, Mass.
  • Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH
  • The Yokun/Beaver Lodge Trails Loop at Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox, Mass.
  • Parsons Marsh (accessible) also in Lenox, Mass. (Find more accessible trails here.)
  • The Cheshire cobbles in Cheshire, Mass.
  • Gulf Hagas, known as the “Grand Canyon of Maine” near Brownville, Maine.
  • The Mass Audubon Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Northampton and Easthampton, Mass.
  • Bradbury Mountain in Pownal, Maine.
  • The Great Neck Island Trail in Wellfleet, Mass.