Alexandra Herr reached all 48 of New Hampshire’s highest peaks - by 6 years old
CAMPTON, NH – Boundless energy and a love of the outdoors has defined Alexandra Herr since she was little. In order to share her love of the outdoors and hiking with other children, Alex, 17, has completed her 13 Before 13 hiking project, earning the highest honor for a Girl Scout Ambassador, the Girl Scout Gold Award.
Her 13 Before 13 project is a list of hikes that children younger than 13 can enjoy in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The hikes are divided into easy, medium, and hard levels, with a final hike of Little Haystack. Children choose the last hike in each section themselves. As the easy, medium and hard hikes are completed, a child earns a sticker, and once they finish the whole list they earn a patch designed by Alex herself. The concept of the project is to introduce children to hiking and to experience nature with the list of hikes that are fun and suitable for younger children.
“I had a great time completing the Gold Award,” she said. “I have been hiking since I was a little girl, so I care about the environment and appreciate nature. I wanted to motivate other children to care about nature and enjoy hiking, so I created a hiking list designed for young children who are interested in experiencing nature, getting some exercise, and bonding with their family in the process. I created a website (13before13.com) and a Facebook group for parents whose children are doing the list. The website and Facebook group are designed to give the parents more information about the hikes and general hiking safety, and it is a place for them to ask questions and share their experiences with the trails. As I communicate with people about the list, I find that children are very excited to hike the trails on the list and parents and troop leaders are happy to learn more about 13 Before 13. Also, I send out patches and stickers I designed and produced for the list to those who earn them, and I will continue to do so.”
Alex is currently working on her 12th round of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000-footers by climbing each in every month of the year, known as the NH Grid. She hopes to finish before she turns 18. She holds multiple records for being the youngest person to achieve various hiking feats, including the youngest to do a full winter round of the 4,000-footers at age 9. Her sister, Sage, is following closely in her footsteps. Both girls have ascended literally hundreds of mountains in the U.S. and Europe.
“Just being in nature itself, especially when you’re younger, (helps with) focus, mental wellbeing, appreciation of nature, especially now with changing climate,” Alex said. “If people appreciate the environment, they’re more likely to advocate for that in the future. If they enjoy it, it can be a bonding experience with their family. If they don’t enjoy hiking, they can enjoy other things in nature.”
“I think she’s done a great job creating a list and creating motivation for young hikers,” said her project advisor, Steve Smith. Smith is a lifelong hiker who owns the Mountain Wanderer shop in Lincoln and is the author of “The White Mountain Guide,” a must-have for any hiker. “She put a lot of thought into it – it gives a good experience. There are waterfalls and scrambles. It allows young hikers to explore.
“She’s an outstanding young woman, very impressive in every way,” said Smith. “She’s a super all-around kid. She’s going to be a success.”
From the day she was born, her mother, Patricia Herr, vowed to install a love of nature in her children, and by the time Alex was 5, she was hiking adult-level mountain trails. You might think Alex’s family had been avid hikers all along, but Trish Herr said it was Alex’s “over-the-top energy levels” that led to their outdoor adventures. She homeschools her daughters, and has encouraged both to document their hikes in blog form. At first she took care of the blogging for her girls, but as each reached the age of 13, she turned those duties over to them. They also host a YouTube channel, podcasts, and do speaking engagements.
Trish has documented their family adventures in a book titled “Up.” In it, she describes climbing all 48 of New Hampshire’s highest mountains for the first time when Alex was 5. In it, she says that “small doesn’t necessarily mean weak; that girls can be strong; and that big, bold things are possible.”
“There’s a strength that comes from knowing you can do something on your own two feet,” she said, “and enjoy the surroundings around you.”
She notices that solo hiking is becoming less of a strictly male endeavor. “Both girls hike solo a lot now,” she said. “For them to do that requires knowledge, preparation, confidence – knowing you can take care of yourself. It’s very empowering. When you grow up doing that on a regular basis, you not only appreciate nature, you have confidence in yourself.”
And for those up for the challenge, the trio have created the “Terrifying 25” hiking list, for which hikers can earn another of the Herrs’ patches. To earn it, one must hike all 20 trails in the required section and five electives. It is described as a list of White Mountain hiking trails that have slides, rock scrambles, and boulder caves - those that are the more “interesting” trails for the intrepid hiker.
“I am glad I chose this project for my Girl Scout Gold Award,” said Alex, “and I am looking forward to continuing to answer questions, hike with parents and their children, and send out patches and stickers.”
Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains was honored to have Alex and her mother speak about their experiences at its Young Women of Distinction ceremonies Nov. 9 and 10.
Getting girls outdoors is one of the four pillars of the Girl Scout Experience, along with building skills in STEM, life, and entrepreneurship.
Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9–12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Since 1916, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.
Alexandra Herr has answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change, and her Gold Award is a testament to her remarkable dedication to improving her community and the world. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable.
About the Girl Scout Gold Award
- Gold Award Girl Scouts on average spend one to two years on their project.
- A Gold Award project must be sustainable after the girl’s involvement ends.
- The average age of Gold Award Girl Scouts is 17.
- Since 1916, more than 1 million girls have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent.Gold Award Girl Scouts are entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade when they join the military.
- University research indicates that noting you are a Gold Award Girl Scout on a college application is influential in the admissions decision-making process.
- 12 young women have earned their Gold Award in the 2018-19 membership year in New Hampshire and Vermont as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
- The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable!
About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org.