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On an alpine summit, there’s a rustle in the bushes. The hiker next to them tugs gently on a leash that vanishes into the leaves, quietly coaxing their hiking partner out: But this isn’t your typical lab or husky. Instead, a tiny tabby head pokes outward, and a kitten picks her way daintily over the rocks, sniffing at every step. Her name is Floki, and unlike your housecat, she just loves climbing mountains.
Over the past 9 months, Floki and her owner, Mel Elam, have hiked every peak in New Hampshire with a summit over 4,000 feet, from 4,003-foot Mt. Tecumseh to 6,288-foot Mt. Washington. Along the way they’ve gained a group of dedicated fans: The Adventures with Floki Cat Instagram page has over 2,500 followers. It’s the on-trail likes, though, that surprised Elam the most.
“I was really nervous and apprehensive because I had never seen anyone else do it,” she says, “but so many people were super-excited and thought it was the coolest thing.”
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Elam got the idea for their quest on her own first trip up Mt. Washington, when she saw another hiker with a cat.
“I’d never seen something like that before,” she says, “and I thought it looked amazing.” Her own animal hiking companion, a chocolate lab, had retired from the trail some time before, and passed away not long before she adopted Floki. Elam went to the shelter with the intention of looking at a different litter of kittens, but Floki reached out from the kennel below and insisted on coming home with her. Soon after, she picked up a harness and leash for the 4-month-old kitten and headed for the hills.
Unlike some cats, Floki proved to be an enthusiastic hiker. She enjoys creek crossings on the way up the trail; she loves to sniff at new rocks and bushes; and when faced with the only trail surface she doesn’t like, wet leaves, she rides happily in Elam’s backpack, pulling herself up to look at the scenery ahead and rub affectionately against Elam’s forehead. Patience, according to Elam, is the key to a happy hiking cat.
“She’ll be going pretty fast, but then something will get her attention and she’ll have to stop, investigate, do the whole cat thing.”
Floki has no intentions of resting on her laurels, though. She and Elam are headed back up Mt. Washington on July 16 for Seek the Peak, an adventure sports event that raises money for the nonprofit Mt. Washington Observatory. And after that? Well, New Hampshire still has a lot of mountains, including the 52 With a View (52 summits with standout scenic vistas). Floki is ready to explore them all.