BETTE FRAZIER works her way through Mahoosic Notch, one of the toughest sections of the Appalachian Trail, during a recent hike. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
August 25, 2014WOLFEBORO — Since her retirement in 2006 after many years as the physical education teacher at Crescent Lake and Carpenter Schools in Wolfeboro, Bette Frazier's life has been full of ups and downs.
Frazier has conquered all sorts of different goals in her pursuit of her love of hiking and recently finished off one more list as she continues to do what she loves to do.
On Aug. 12, Frazier reached the top of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine, meaning she had reached the summit of all 67 4,000-foot mountains in New England.
"To continue with my love of hiking, but it's nice to do it with a goal," Frazier said of her reasons for setting off on her most recent challenge.
In the past 10 years, there have been plenty of peaks and valleys on Frazier's radar, as she has done numerous long hikes throughout the Eastern United States and even around the world, including hiking in Switzerland with her husband, Richard and in Camodia, Thailand and Laos with her son, Kevin Bourque.
Frazier did a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2007, a hike in which she was able to cross off 21 of the 48 New Hampshire 4,000-foot mountains on her way to hiking all 48, which she finished in 2009. She also hit all of Vermont's 4,000-foot summits when she did the 274-mile Long Trail in 2005. The Long Trail runs the entire length of the state of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada. She's completed the Tower Quest Program, which has hikers making it to each of the summit fire towers in the state of New Hampshire and she's also done the Belknap Range.
And to keep herself moving along in her hiking goals, she's currently working on the Castle in the Clouds trails, of which there are 28 miles to hike, spread out over 16 trails and five summits. She's also working on a section hike of the Appalachian Trail and has about 700 miles to go in the more than 2,000 miles of the trail. She recently completed a hike through what is often viewed as the most difficult portion of the AT, Mahoosic Notch, which lies in Maine, across the New Hampshire border from Gorham.
"I hope in the next 10 years, I'll complete that," Frazier said. "There's no rush."
Frazier said that at the time she completed what was viewed as one of the most challenging of New England's 4,000-foot summits, Redington in the Rangeley Lakes area in Maine, she thought that she was finished. While the hike itself was short, finding the trail head and getting to the summit was made difficult by the fact that there was no trail.
"There were no blazes, no signs, just a few cairns," she said of the hike up Redington. "You need to go with someone with a GPS or someone who's been there before.
After bushwacking her way to the top of Redington, Frazier realized that she had one more summit to go, that being Sugarloaf.
"The summit is just .6 miles off the Appalachian Trail," Frazier said. "I walked by it twice."
Additionally, when she reached the summit of Mount Abraham in September of 2013, she notes she also easily could've gotten Sugarloaf at the same time.
However, as it turned out, Sugarloaf ended up being the final one in the quest to reach all 67.
The 4,000 Footer Club of New England traditionally averages just three women per year finishing the quest and in 2009, a total of 131 women had achieved the feat.
She noted that her goal in going on these hikes is much more basic than hitting lots of summits or tackling long distances.
"I think the idea is to inspire others to enjoy our natural resources," she said. "You don't have to go far.
"I just want to encourage people to do what's in their comfort zone to experience the beauty of our region, our state and even our nation," she continued.
Frazier, who admits that she has gained weight since her AT thru hike in 2007 and has also developed COPD as a result of second-hand smoke, said the point is to just go out and do it.
"The point is to do it," Frazier said. "As long as you're enjoying it and you feel good, it's great to stretch your limits a little."
Frazier also points out that in the last year, the goals have also changed a little when it comes to hiking, as she and her husband are now raising their eight-year-old grandson, Sam.
"The focus has kind of changed from my goals to family time and what we can do as a family," she said, noting that Sam recently completed his first 4,000-foot summits in New Hampshire and she is hoping he wants to continue with the quest as he gets older.
However, no matter how long, the draw of hiking and of the Appalachian Trail in particular remains.
"You get away from the day to day stuff we have to deal with," she said. "All you have to worry about is food, water and shelter.
"It's nice to hear the birds, see the mountains and the lakes, watch the weather patterns change and if you're lucky enough to see a bear or moose, even better," she continued.
She relayed a story from a recent drive through Pinkham Notch on the way to Maine. They stopped at the AMC headquarters in Pinkham Notch to see if there were any thru-hikers. They had lunch with a few who had just resupplied and were on their way over Wildcat and on towards Maine. Frazier said they were able to take 15 pounds of food from the hikers and bring it to the hostel in Gorham, where they'd be staying in a couple of days, allowing them to tackle the grueling stretch with lighter bags. These unexpected acts of kindness are know to the hikers as "Trail Magic."
"There is this yearning that pulls you back to the trail," she said of the AT. "The hikers are wonderful people, the views are spectacular.
"And it's a very spiritual journey," she continued. "It's an incredible opportunity to talk to God."
Even with the impressive goal of all of New England's 4,000-foot summits in her back pocket, it's a safe bet anyone hiking out there will probably run into Bette Frazier on the trail over the next few years, working toward yet another impressive goal.
One way that Frazier continues to inspire others is by giving presentations about her thru hike. She's done more than 50 since that time and she will be presenting at the New Hampshire Fish and Game's Becoming an Outdoors Woman program on Sept. 5.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org