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

On the Night Before School Begins, Our Last Batch of “Dear Mary from Birmingham” Letters

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Our Community Wide Summer Reading Theme this Summer: Building a Better World

Tomorrow, this bulletin board will greet my students on our first day of school.  No matter how many years into this teaching gig I get, I’m still an excited school girl the night before.  Change. Transition.  Adolescence.  Friendship.  Work ethic.  Big dreams.  Little dreams.  Balancing what we love with what we must do.  Finding our voices.  Reminding one another to use them.  These girls already have a strong sense of themselves as writers, thinkers, and readers of the world.   Rosie the Riveter knows, “We can do it,” so we will.  Best of luck to my teacher people, students, and parents everywhere!


Dear Mary,

The natural world has already been tampered enough, and we do not need the natural trails through our beautiful mountains destroyed by man-made objects. If you are so concerned about safety hazards, try a flatter trail.

Hiking is all about the reward. On reaching the top, one gets an outstanding view after a difficult hike. If the hike was easy, you don’t seem to earn the reward, you need to work hard to earn what you want, you only get what you deserve. For instance, when I hiked the Sugarloaf Trail with my family, it was difficult in the beginning but the view was totally worth it.

The hike may have been difficult, but do you really want to destroy and interrupt the life of the wilderness? We need to preserve nature and keep it safe. We don’t want the whole world to become a place of only man-made things, with no more nature. If Earth consisted of no nature, then the animals would have no homes and they would all die and we wouldn’t have enough good air to breath. Also, there wouldn’t be space for farmlands with all the cities and factories, so we would run out of fresh food and would be very unhealthy.

If you would like an easier and safer hike there are many other hikes you can try. Maybe this hike just wasn’t right for what you needed. Some hikes recommended are Artist’s Bluff near Franconia, NH. It is a very easy and short hike and if you feel the need to hike more afterwards, there is the Bald Mountain trail that is a little more difficult and longer.

Please consider my recommendations,

Shanna Drapeau, grade 7, Lin-Wood Public School


Dear Mrs. Smith,

I am not going to lie; I am severely disappointed and angry with you. You insulted my home with your words about the White Mountains, and you also insulted our amazing trails that we have to offer. However, despite your rude letter, I will attempt to be civil and simply state why you are mistaken.

First, you started out saying that you were an experienced hiker of 40 years, yet you complain about rocks and streambeds. I doubt that the White Mountains have the only trails in the world with big rocks and streambeds, so that point is void. Then you continue to say that the rocks should be reduced to steps, and that these things threaten safety. The part that you seem to be missing is that the White Mountains are known for their beautiful nature around us, and the big rocks and stream beds are part of that nature. They are left that way to preserve nature the way it should be, and you should enjoy them for that. As an experienced hiker, you should be able to appreciate the beauty of the whole trail on the journey, not just the beauty of the view, and that is another reason that they will stay the way that they are.

The next point I will make is how your story reminds me of the lady who sued McDonald’s because her coffee was hot. If you buy a hot coffee, don’t be surprised when it is hot; if you hike a rough and challenging trail, then don’t be surprised when it gets challenging. Finally, you say that these mountains will hurt the unprepared, but I say that if people come into the woods unprepared, then it is their own fault. If someone forgets to pack food for a long hike, yelling at all of the big rocks in the area won’t make it better, or make any sense at all. If people are going to go into the woods, then they should do more research, and prepare themselves better. So, if these streambeds and rocks were too much for your particular group, then perhaps you should have researched more and chosen an easier hike that would have suited you better.

Overall, I think I have said enough, and I hope that if you ever wander into our beautiful area again, that you will learn to appreciate it.

Sincerely,

Samantha Tower, grade 11 Lin-Wood Public School


Dear MARY ALTZ-SMITH,

Hi there!  I’m a student from Lin-Wood Public School in Lincoln, New Hampshire.  I read the letter you sent to the editor of The Union Leader on June 8th about the Mount Jackson trails being disgraceful. I don’t have a lot of hiking experience, but I would like to, respectfully, disagree on some things you mentioned in your letter. There are multiple trails that you and your family could take and not all of them were just for athletes.  I think you should have chosen a trail that was more fitting for your family to hike. Also, I don’t think that handholds are needed on the trails because there are things that you can grab onto like trees or rocks, so everything is just fine the way it originally was placed.

Sincerely,

Panna Boonsungnearn, grade 7 Lin-Wood Public School


Dear Mary,

I read your letter, and I think you have a misunderstanding. In Alabama, it might be different but here we have other levels of experience like you could be a novice, expert, intermediate, or a whole lot more. The purpose of nature and preserving our mountains is to not form nature into something man-made.  It’s not to make hiking a walk in the park. It’s for the challenge.  That’s why all the roots and all the rocks are staying there. In the White Mountains we take pride in preserving our nature. Maybe you are used to  pavement walks or a walk in the woods without anything challenging. Without challenges, you don’t have accomplishment. Who doesn’t like accomplishment? Listen, you’ve been hiking for 40 years and should be used to a challenge. Think about all the people who have grown up with these woods and that has been challenged. So please reconsider your thoughts because with all your “experience” you should understand hiking isn’t about straight up walking. It’s about the challenge and the joy or the personal meaning behind hiking.  

Thanks for reading!

Seven Fitzgerald, grade 8   Lin-Wood Public School


Dear MARY ALTZ-SMITH,

After reading your letter to the editor, I think you misunderstand what hiking is. Trails are part of nature, and nature is where animals live free. People live free. Roots and rocks are part of nature. Personally, I think if you need a hand hold then you do not know what hiking is in New Hampshire. You should try “hiking” Lincoln Woods which is flat, does not make you cross any stream beds, nor are there many rocks or roots.  

Sincerely,

Anna Harvey, grade 8 Lin-Wood Public School

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