"Hiking has been a touchstone"

“Our kids have been hiking since before they were born,” says Mike Gildesgame, Southern New England policy manager at AMC. A family photo from a trip to Acadia National Park shows Mike with one child on his shoulders and one in a backpack, standing next to his wife, Catharyn, who was pregnant with their youngest child.

A family hike a couple of years ago with all three children and some family friends took them from Greenleaf to Galehead huts. “It’s a hard hike,” Mike says, “one of the hardest we’ve done in the Whites. It was one of those days that start in gorgeous sunshine up on Franconia Ridge. . . It was raining by the time we started down Garfield. At one point, we saw Galehead hut in the distance. My wife looked at me and said, ‘We have all that way to go!?' But we all made it and were glad of the usual warm reception and good food.”

The three Gildesgame kids were fine, naturally. “They’ve adopted the viewpoint that this is a challenge,” Mike says. They’ve grown up with the attitude that doing “this” — the hiking, the distance, even the weather — “is something they can be proud of.”

The family didn’t start out on such tough hikes. “When they were little,” Mike says, “we did little hikes up in Evans Notch.” The three children have developed different hiking personalities. Sophie, 16, who “hiked” that Acadia trail before she was born, is not a fan of day hikes. She doesn’t like to start and end in the same place. Jesse, 18, likes to go off the beaten path, into the backcountry. Emma, 20, has made hiking a social activity, and does much of her hiking with friends.

But hiking has become a touchstone for all of them. Emma was a trail crew leader in the White Mountains. Jesse took the month-long AMC leadership training course. Mike says, “It’s a family activity.”

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