Start with Parks: Lessons from the Trail


“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learn­ing noth­ing in this
triv­ial world of men. I must break away and get out into the moun­tains to learn the news.”-
John Muir


Mt. Monadnock’s “Poole Reservoir”, 01.01.15. Photo courtesy of Tom Groleau


For the fourth consecutive year, New Hampshire State Parks hosted “First Day Hike” events on January 1st.

Part of a National effort that takes place in all 50 States, hikes were planned at Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion Historic Site in Portsmouth, and for the first time, Weeks State Park in Lancaster.


Thank you to all of our volunteers, staff, and participants that made First Day Hikes so successful again this year, not only in New Hampshire, but across the country! Here are some of the folks that turned out for the inagural First Day Hike at Weeks State Park. Photo courtesy of Bill Rutherford. 01.01.15


A New Hampshire record of over 350 people turned out at the three events, including 26 dogs at Weeks State Park.

I had the opportunity to attend and joined nearly 70 others on a venture along the Parker Trail on historic Mount Monadnock to a viewpoint known as “Little Mountain”.


photo by John Bigl
Yours truly greets the participants of Monadnock’s First Day Hike. 01.01.15. Photo courtesy of John Bigl.


During the trip I spoke with two gentlemen who shared their story about how last year’s First Day Hike at Monadnock motivated them to kick off monthly hikes together throughout 2014. They succeeded and returned to renew that goal for 2015.


A surprise visit by this mother deer and her child was an unexpected treat for the First Day Hike at Monadnock State Park. 01.01.15. Photo courtesy of David Hoitt


New Hampshire State Parks offer an amazing opportunity to explore, learn, connect, and recharge in nature year-round.


A magnificent view of the harbor at Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion Historic Site in Portsmouth. Photo by Brian Wilson. 01.01.15


While you probably already have your favorite Parks for warmer weather activities, some ideas for getting out this time of year might include Nordic skiing in Milan Hill State Park, a winter climb or hike in Crawford Notch State Park, winter camping at Monadnock State Park, trying out your “Fat Bike” in Bear Brook State Park, photography at Odiorne State Park, or snowshoeing in Pawtuckaway State Park.


A cold day deserves a warm fire. Weeks State Park. Photo courtesy of Bill Rutherford. 01.01.15


One reason I spend as much time as I can in the woods and the mountains all year long is that I consistently learn more about myself while I am there; I can not help but evolve in my values, ideas, and perceptions.

The woods and mountains of New Hampshire can be a hard-won ally, but they are eternal teachers, if nothing else. The trail leaves its footprint within us and the lessons they teach will reward those who are willing to listen.


1. “Failure” is merely opportunity for learning and growth.

If a situation on the trail causes me to turn around early, puts me at risk, or takes away from my experience (weather, improper gear, time restraints) I don’t give up on the hike for good. I come back better prepared. Also, much of the time, the fault is no one’s but my own.

Coming up short in my job or in life no longer causes the same amount of stress or self-burden it once did. “Failure” is truly opportunity for evaluation, fresh perspectives, and sometimes, new chances. Charles Bukowski reminds us that “You have to die a few times before you can really live.”

Mt. Monadnock on the first day of 2015. Photo courtesy of Tom Groleau. 01.01.15

2. New trails, new places.

I have my favorite trails and mountains that I revisit, but I wouldn’t be interested in only experiencing the same path every day. Many of us, even when planning to encounter new trails, work in loops for a varied experience.

While everyday routines are comfortable, they also create complacency and kill the imagination. Second guess any voice in your mind telling you that new places, people, opportunities, and experiences will not benefit your journey. Like the hike, new paths will make your life more interesting and enjoyable.


Heading down the trail at Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion Historic Site. Photo by Brian Wilson. 01.01.15


3. Live in the Present.

As one who primarily hikes alone, my only conversations tend to occur within my head. Typically, it’s very one-sided and my “hiking partner” will sometimes focus on everything but the trail. As I become aware of my mind’s derailment, I remind myself to enjoy where I am and what I’m doing when out in the mountains. Taking some time to shut down those thoughts and take in the trees, the wind, the sky, and the air allows me to get the most out of why I’m out there in the first place.

I have begun a conscious effort to enjoy the present more often every day, improving my level of self-awareness, and increasing my appreciation and gratitude.


New Hampshire State Parks Director Phil Bryce captures a moment for these friends at Monadnock State Park. 01.01.15. Photo by Patrick Hummel.


4. Stop. Look around.

This relates a bit to point 3, but on the trail, I take more time to enjoy views, scan the woods for wildlife and plants, and check out geological features. Instead of spending my time on the trail thinking too heavily about the destination, I like to enjoy the whole journey. Sit on the side of the trail and just listen. Close your eyes. Reflect.

It’s not any different than what we need in our day to day lives. We can  get so narrowly focused and wrapped up on where we’re going that we neglect to enjoy where we are and what is around us. Rushing along the trail of life causes us to ignore the simple beauty surrounding each step.


The view of the northern Presidential Mountain Range from Weeks State Park. 01.01.15. Photo by Eric Feldbaum.


5. The Summit is Half Way.

Your journey does not end at the summit. It is actually only the half way point of your climb. In fact, the descent can be the most challenging and dangerous of all, both mentally and physically.

With any luck, our lives contain many victorious and rewarding peaks. Satisfaction in climbing one mountain, one time is usually not enough. We look for new peaks and new routes.

It is the entirety of our ascents and descents every day that builds our bodies and minds for each new adventure, inspiring us to climb again.


The First Day Hike participants at Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion Historic Site in Portsmouth. Photo by Brian Wilson. 01.01.15


So keep climbing, friends, and never stop exploring.


Monadnock State Park. 01.01.15. Photo courtesy of David Hoitt.



Patrick Hummel, Mount Washington State Park

As the Park Manager of Mount Washington State Park, I oversee and manage the operations of the 60 acres of the summit of Mount Washington; the highest peak in the northeast US at 6,288'. Our Park is staffed 24/7, 365 days a year and is sometimes referred to as the "Home of the World's Worst Weather". Previously, I served as the NH State Parks Volunteer Program Manager and before that, the Park Manager at Monadnock State Park, home to the most climbed mountain in the Western Hemisphere. IG= @topofthenortheast

4 thoughts to “Start with Parks: Lessons from the Trail”

  1. I’m glad to see you have made it back to the blogosphere after leaving Mt. Monadnock to join Concord Headquarters as the volunteer coordinator. Great blog as always. I’m excited to read more in the future *wink wink*!

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