Forest Journal: Alton man's typical day starts with multiple hikes up Mt. Major
Art Richardson stands at the summit of Mount Major after the first of several ascents on a recent morning. Starting at 4:30 a.m., he can make the summit three to four times before heading home for lunch. Taking different trails that are off the beaten path and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow hikers makes the experience the best part of his day, he says. (BRENDA CHARPENTIER)
Now for motivation, he thinks about hiking to the popular Alton peak enough times to equal the elevation gain of the Mount Washington Auto Road. That means hiking up and down Mount Major four times in one morning.
I began hearing about Richardson soon after the Forest Society and the Lakes Region Conservation Trust started a fundraising effort to protect Mount Major and the surrounding mountains in the Belknap Range (near Lake Winnipesaukee).
After a sweaty, 90-degree, blueberry-gorging day of hiking to the summit with him three times, I think I know the answer, and it has to do with so much more than mere fitness.
"I call this my health insurance policy," he told me while we sat watching the sun rise above Alton Bay.
It seems to be working. The last time Richardson saw a doctor was at his Medicare introductory checkup five years ago, and he has no plans to go back until he's 75 - if even then.
To stay cool in the summer, Richardson starts early, at 4:30 a.m., and hikes with no shirt (it just gets all wet and sweaty, he said) and no bug spray. He gets up at 2 a.m. so he has time to cook himself a big breakfast, usually oatmeal sprinkled with flax seed and washed down with a few cups of coffee. He tries to eat healthily, but he says he could do a lot better. For dinner, he usually makes himself a stew of some sort. He jokes about how long he just keeps adding vegetables, beef or chicken to it without having to wash the pot.
He started hiking multiple times a day about six years ago, just because he was enjoying the best part of his day so much he wanted to keep going.
"All of my friends now are hikers. I've met 90 percent of them on this hill," he said.
"We got down to the bottom, and he said, 'Let's go up again.' I never thought to do it twice - who would?" Collier said with a laugh.
The conversation Richardson initiates on the trail, Charnecki said, is often of the interesting, rather than superficial, variety.
"Religion, politics - all the taboo things you're not supposed to talk about - we talk about them all here, but always in a respectful way," Charnecki said.
Indeed, when Richardson is hiking alone, it's often valued time to think, aided by the steady exertion of multiple trips to the summit.
"Forest Journal" appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Brenda Charpentier is communications manager for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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