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Climb Every White Mountain Trail

Climb Every White Mountain Trail
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Tony Federer has never been one to sit still–or stay indoors. In 1995 the Kearsarge, New Hampshire, resident kicked off his retirement from the U.S. Forest Service, where he’d worked for 40 years as a research scientist, by hiking the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail.

His outdoor resume also includes several finishes of the grueling footrace up Mount Washington’s auto road, and multiple national orienteering championships–hard-core trail and bushwhacking runs that demand expert map and compass skills.

Still, last July, on a sun-soaked afternoon atop New Hampshire’s 3,196-foot North Moat Mountain, even Federer stopped for a second to marvel at what he’d accomplished. With two friends, a bottle of champagne, and an uninterrupted view of the Mount Washington Valley below him, the 69-year-old celebrated what few ever have: the hiking of all 549 trails in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide (details at No one keeps official records on who’s traversed all 1,421 miles, but unofficially only Dave Govatski of Jefferson, New Hampshire, and Larry Garland of Jackson, New Hampshire, had done so previously.

Federer’s entree into the Whites began early, as a kid in the 1940s with his parents. By age 8 he’d hiked Mount Washington, and by the 1950s he was redlining his AMC guide (the traditional form of marking off trails). It’s a six-decade odyssey that has ranged from a 13-night circuit through the Whites to a simple daytrip up Mount Willey.

Obsessive? Not really. His finish is born more from a passion for discovery. “I don’t have any favorite spots,” says Federer, who moved from the seacoast to the Whites in 2005. “I just like new places.” That included his final hike, a 10-mile scamper up North Moat and back, a mountain he can see from his bedroom and one he’d poetically saved for last. “It was nice to get up there,” he says with a laugh. “I’d been looking at it for three years.”

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