"No Child Left Inside" · Conversations with Kids · Education · Growing Up New Hampshire · Nature-Based Learning · Through the Power of Sport

“Dear Mary from Birmingham” Letters: Batch 2

Writing our letters to Mary from Birmingham

A continued conversation of our response letters from Girls of Summer:

Dear Mrs. Mary Altz-Smith,

The letter that the you wrote to The Union Leader was very disappointing. You obviously have never been in the in the real outdoors of New Hampshire. Have you ever been on an actual hike before coming to our challenging White Mountains? You consider yourself  “a veteran backpacker”?   You might be able to “backpack” down the street.  Most people probably think of a hike as a walk up a mountain or a walk in the woods that is not disturb by man, or at least not that much. Have you ever heard of the term nature? Nature is not man made and is untouched by man and when you said, “the boulders should be reduced to proper steps” and “the last section should have hand holds for safety” that is being touched by man and would take the challenging part out of a hike.

First of all, the boulders aren’t that big, considering I fell of a big one the other day and  was totally fine, no scrapes or anything. Second of all, there is no need for hand holds; God gave you hands for a reason and you might as well use them to their fullest potential before you die.  If you think that trail maintenance needs to be a state priority, then you should come and move up here and take care of the trails because you say the you are a “veteran backpacker”, so I assume that you have spent a lot of time in the woods or “nature”. Overall, I think what you said was very upsetting, and you might think twice about the real definition of a hike or nature.


Sienna Mack, Grade 8

Dear Mary,                                                                                  

I have recently read your letter to the Union Leader and it made quite a lot of controversy in my small town of Lincoln, New Hampshire. In your letter you called your group “veteran backpackers with 40 years of hiking experience” which very quickly I found unlikely. Mostly because the tallest mountain you have in Alabama is 2,000 feet,  but you tried.  As a member of the Girls of Summer program we take a lot of pride in our mountains. We love our gigantic boulders and our nature filled hikes.  I am only 16 and wouldn’t call myself experienced, but guess who doesn’t need “proper steps” and “handholds”. I assure you the residents of New Hampshire love our beautiful mountains, but they are challenging no doubt.  


Madison Chase, grade 11 Lin-Wood Public School

Dear Mrs. Altz-Smith,

I am a part of a girls hiking group that hikes the New Hampshire trails. Where you find disgrace, I find beauty, but everyone sees things differently. I don’t understand why someone who “loves” hiking wouldn’t love the challenge of our mountains. I too am a hiker; I don’t just hike with my school program, I hike with my mom too. Yes, there are hikes that I don’t enjoy but only because I’m tired and my legs are giving out. Yet when I’m done I don’t go ranting on about my exhaustion and blame the trail for it.

Not to be rude but have you hiked the same trail for 40 years or what trails are you hiking? I wouldn’t call myself a veteran of hiking if I never experienced a stream crossing. The whole point of nature and the wilderness is to disturb it as little as possible. What’s the fun in clearing the trees and blowing up rocks to make the trail “easier”. Even my miniature dachshund can handle our trails, he happily runs up rocks and trots through streams and he’s only two inches from the ground! If hiking here is too difficult maybe you should try Mount Washington, and not the trail but the drive up, it’s not as rigorous, unless even your car can’t handle the incline.

If distance was a problem why didn’t you choose a shorter hike? Yet, a veteran, I would think, would accept a challenge, maybe you aren’t as much as a veteran as you think, but who am I to define what a “veteran of hiking” is. Also, the people in New Hampshire love these mountains, not many complain because if they know they can’t handle a hike, they don’t do it. I can see how you struggle with our mountains since Alabama doesn’t have any 4,000 footers.

I think next time you should be more respectful. As you can see you have clearly upset several people, especially the NH natives. I could go to Alabama and complain that your trails are a disgrace to the nature part of hiking because your trails don’t have roots or stream crossings. Anyways, we welcome you back anytime to try again.  Have a nice day!


Xena Bartlett, Grade 10 Lin-Wood Public School


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