Longtime White Mountains hiking enthusiast and historian, Mike Dickerman hasn’t hiked a 4000-footer in about a decade, but they’re still very much in his heart.
The Littleton resident’s pandemic endeavor, “The 4000-Footers of New Hampshire’s White Mountains,” was published on Monday as part of Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series. The photographic history book features just over 200 black and white photos, many never before published.
“It killed me that nobody was seeing these photos,” Dickerman said in an interview last week.
Dickerman, 64, is the author or co-author of 15 books, including the expansive first-ever guide to the area’s 48 highest peaks, first published back in 2001. He said a photo book on the 4000-footers has been in the back of his mind for a while, but he’s always been tied up with projects.
But then, along came COVID.
Operations at Dickerman’s publishing company, Bondcliff Books, slowed almost to a standstill last spring, opening up space to say yes when Arcadia reached out with a contract.
However, getting a hold of photos during a pandemic was not easy.
Many institutions, such as the Appalachian Mountain Club archives and Dartmouth College special collections, were closed to the public. Therefore, a good deal of Dickerman’s research was conducted by email, a process he called “time-consuming and nerve-wracking.”
Dickerman also utilized his huge personal collection and the private collections of many, including Jefferson naturalist and longtime U.S. Forest Service employee, Dave Govatski.
“Every peak has a history to it,” said Dickerman. “You put all these photos together and they tell a different story of the 4000-footers.”
Another challenge he faced was whittling down the number of photos. Dickerman started with around 450, but cut them down to 212 and wove them together intentionally to give order and flow to the book.
Captions were limited to 70 words.
“It was a great writing experience because I had to pick and choose every word so carefully to tell as much of the story as I possibly could,” he said.
The book contains seven chapters that cover the distinct areas where the 48 mountains can be found, structures that have been built upon them over the years, and the peakbaggers and pioneers of the White Mountains. The latter is Dickerman’s favorite section.
All in all, the author said the book writing process was “so much fun” and a “labor of love.”
“As an author, I’m not doing this to make money … I wanted to get out more about the history of the 4000-footers,” he said.
When Dickerman first finished hiking New Hampshire’s 4000-footers in 1987, 250 summer finishers was a large amount. In fact, Dickerman was the 142nd recorded person to finish all the peaks in winter.
Since, the peaks have grown exponentially in popularity, especially in the past decade. In 2019, the Four Thousand Footer Committee recorded 712 finishers of the summer 4000-footers.
The trails saw even more use during the pandemic.
“I don’t know where it goes from here,” Dickerman said, adding that he almost feels guilty having written the guidebook.
Dickerman now prefers to hike in his own backyard (quite literally — PRKR MTN Trails are a favorite) or to the places in the White Mountains that he really enjoys.
Dickerman, a graduate of Lyndon Institute and the former Lyndon State College, said he is contemplating work on another photo book in the future: he has been collecting photos of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work in the White Mountains for years.
Littleton’s Little Village Toy & Book Shop will be holding an unofficial meet and greet event with Dickerman this Saturday, July 10, from 1 to 3 p.m.