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Peak Condition: Girl, 13, Has Hiked New Hampshire’s 4,000-Footers

  • Natalie "Peanut" Sisemore, left, and her father, Michael, stand atop Mount Moosilauke in an undated photograph. Natalie Sisemore completed all 48 of New Hampshire's 4,000-foot summits last month, six days prior to her 13th birthday.

  • Natalie "Peanut" Sisemore, left, and her father, Michael, stand atop Mount Moosilauke in an undated photograph. Natalie Sisemore completed all 48 of New Hampshire's 4,000-foot summits last month, six days prior to her 13th birthday.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/17/2017 11:55:50 PM
Modified: 12/18/2017 10:26:05 AM

Grantham — Natalie Sisemore’s diminutive stature long ago earned her the nickname Peanut from her father, Michael. Over the last few years, she has shown that this peanut is no snowflake.

In a hiking campaign the father-daughter combination called #notasnowflake in reference to a term Michael often hears labeled to Natalie’s generation, the pair completed climbing all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot summits on Nov. 12, six days prior to Natalie’s 13th birthday.

According to Michael Sisemore, the feat allowed Natalie to become just the 13th hiker to join the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Four Thousand Footer Club prior to his or her 13th birthday since the club began sufficiently keeping track of such statistics in 2014 — out of more than 2,600 applicants who have set out to do so since then.

More importantly, it allowed Michael Sisemore to watch his daughter broaden her horizons in every sense during the journey. While climbing to the many stunning vistas atop White Mountain peaks, she also made significant social and personal strides, much like her father did while hiking the Appalachian Trail 18 years ago.

“She definitely showed she was no snowflake,” said Michael Sisemore, whose trail name is “Sy,” in an interview with both father and daughter in a Grantham coffee shop last week. “She was very attuned to the journey and had a great attitude, even when we encountered obstacles.”

That included trail blockages, high waters, foul weather, and just plain getting tired. Even when she cut her arm badly while climbing Franconia Notch’s Flume trail, she kept hiking without complaint.

“She showed a lot of self-confidence and was able to advocate for herself when there were things that she wanted or needed. She was very articulate about things that she saw and heard,” Michael Sisemore said.

“I was very excited to be hiking and proving to myself that I could do this,” added Natalie Sisemore, a Sunapee Middle School seventh-grader. “But I knew it was going to be hard sometimes.”

The elder Sisemore, a Lebanon High social studies teacher, first introduced Natalie to hiking when she was 3 years old with a trek up Mount Sunapee, a seven-minute ride from their home. When she was 9, they ascended her first 4,000-footer, Mount Moosilauke, and later that same year climbed additional summits in the Whites.

Well aware of the Granite State’s 4,000-foot list, Michael Sisemore realized they’d bagged nearly half a dozen in a short amount of time in 2014.

“She did so well, I thought, ‘We could actually do this,’ ” Michael Sisemore recalled. “We had already been camping a bunch by that point, so I knew she did well in natural surroundings, but she really showed me how strong of a hiker she was during that first summer.”

The duo tackled seven more summits in 2015, then 15 last year while beginning to devote every climb to “Baltimore Jack” Tarlin, a personal friend of Michael Sisemore’s who treated Natalie like a niece. Tarlin, who died in May 2016 of heart complications at age 57, completed the AT eight times and, in 1999, helped Sisemore find a place to live following Sisemore’s through hike.

When the Sisemores ascended Mount Moriah to complete the 48 4,000-footers, it came on what would have been Baltimore Jack’s 59th birthday. Perhaps symbolically, they witnessed multiple bald eagles in flight and successfully lured jay birds to eat from their hands during that final climb.

“(Finishing on Tarlin’s birthday) made it very significant for me,” Natalie Sisemore said. “I wanted to do it for Uncle Jack.”

Michael Sisemore was perhaps most impressed with the way her daughter interacted with fellow hikers while on the trails and summits.

She introduced herself to many and shared stories, and the duo both received and provided acts of generosity.

“We were coming down Mount Isolation, and Dad brought us down the wrong trail,” Natalie said with a wry smile. “We were way off track at the bottom, but someone passing by in a car gave us a ride back (to our vehicle).”

Similarly, the Sisemores offered a lift to a fellow hiker who was on foot journeying to reach his ill sister in northern New Hampshire.

“It was probably 45 minutes out of the way for us, but that’s just what hikers do for each other,” Michael Sisemore said. “What impressed me so much about Natalie is that she really understood that. She shared things with other people and got people to share things with her. She was very compassionate and thoughtful toward the other hikers. They were qualities that came naturally to her.”

After doing more than half of the 48 this year alone — 22 new summits, plus four repeat climbs in total from May to November — Natalie Sisemore said she’s going to take a well-earned break from hiking. Yet she’s far from through with finding solace in the wilderness.

“I need a break right now, but I want to do the Appalachian Trail,” she said. “Probably when I finish high school.”

Another thing to make Dad proud.

​​​​​​Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.


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