A Caretaker's Summer Reflections
Summer 2008

Written by Elizabeth Disney.

October 20, 2008

Finally, almost two months after my stint in the White Mountains ended, I have time to reflect on the best three months of my life. From June 4th to August 29th, I was the Crag Camp caretaker, meaning that I had the most fun, fulfilling job anyone could ask for and I lived in the most beautiful cabin in the world. I am so proud to have worked with the RMC and created so many memories in the northern Presidentials.

My journey with the RMC began with my love of the mountains. I have lived in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York for my entire life. At age six I summitted my first High Peak, and ever since then I have had such a passion for the outdoors, camping, and backpacking. College took me to Maine, where I quickly learned that New York is not the only state with gorgeous mountains. And this thought brought me to New Hampshire, where I had always heard tales of solo ice climbs, skiers in Tuckerman´s Ravine among the crevasses, and Pressie traverses gone awry in thunderstorms. Apprehensively, but still very enthusiastically, I applied for a summer caretaker position with the Randolph Mountain Club, so I could see for myself exactly what the Whites have to offer.

On my first day, I fell in love. I hiked all over the northern Presidentials, so I could familiarize myself with the trails and answer the gazillion questions the hikers threw at me. I visited the AMC Madison hut crew, sat in the ice caves in King´s Ravine, made snow angels on the side of Jefferson, met the workers at the Washington Observatory, inhaled the infamous Cog smoke, and picked blueberries at Knight´s Castle. When the weather looked too gloomy for me, I read books, attempted crossword puzzles, and ate pancakes. In the evenings I chatted with my guests, and we played cards under the lantern light.

In three months, I met so many amazing people from all different backgrounds. Some were long-time members of the RMC and taught me a lot, while others were first-time hikers and needed help using their stoves. Despite their prior knowledge in backpacking, all my guests were extremely kind, loving people. I thoroughly appreciated all the conversations and laughter I shared with mere strangers that walked into Crag Camp.

Despite meeting such great people and seeing breath-taking beauty in the Whites, the best part of my summer was my ability to share all the memories with my twin sister, Alexandra. Only the RMC, with its incredible humor, would have filled its only two caretaking positions with identical twin sisters. Not only did we freak out and thoroughly confuse almost every hiker, but we spent three amazing months together. We hiked together, cooked together, and sometimes even stirred poop together. For this opportunity, I am indebted to Al and the RMC.

I have so many fond memories from this summer, and I would like to share them all, but I fear the list would never end. So here are some highlights:

Many evenings sitting on the caretaker´s throne or at the Quay and watching the sunset.

Plate-sized M&M pancakes made by a camp counselor, with real maple syrup. Apparently I looked starved, for they left me pounds of food.

My first rescue- the radio dispatcher asked Alexandra and me to bring a litter down to a hiker at the Log Cabin with a broken leg. About two miles downhill from the Log Cabin, we found our patient and carried her a half mile out to the road by lamp-light. Alexandra and I rode to Stearns Lodge in the NH Fish and Game truck, complete with guns and fresh deer blood in the back (apparently the ranger had just disposed of some roadkill). Alexandra and I crashed at Stearns and headed back up the hill when the sun rose before anyone knew we were there, with the lovely red litter strapped to our heads.

A late night star-gaze at Thunderstorm Junction and a lesson from Alexandra on constellations.

The caretaker/trail crew appreciation dinner at Crag Camp. Thank you Curtis for bringing up the entire Chinese restaurant!

A memorable drink from the Perch Stream. I was on all fours lapping up the water, downstream from a group of French Canadians tediously pumping their water through a filter. Not until I finished did I realize they were all staring at me, wondering if I was crazy for drinking the untreated water or if they were crazy for pumping it.

My day and a half spent with the trail crew packboarding wood up to Gray Knob. The work was physically exhausting and Hincks seemed to get steeper and more slippery with each load. But we all grunted, struggled, and laughed together, and somehow made it very enjoyable.

My last night when I slept on Crag Camp porch under the Milky Way and shooting stars.

I had so much fun this summer and learned so much about the mountains, others, and myself. I owe it all to the RMC, my guests, and the northern Presidentials. Thank you to the Trail Crew for being the most tough, welcoming, entertaining people I have ever met. Thanks Bill, Barbara, and Mike for listening to me on the radio. Thanks Curtis and Dan for the hilarious, yet very informative introduction to poop composting. Thank you Doug for the endless pints of Ben&Jerry´s. Thanks to everyone who visited me amidst the rain and flooding and the very optimistic voice from the Mt Washington Observatory each rainy morning. Thanks to the mice who snuggled up to me at night (I hope you are all enjoying heaven!). Thank you Alexandra and Sam for sharing the caretaker rounds and all the time we spent together. You both filled my summer with continuous laughter, comfort, and love. I would not have worked with anyone else!

To the Randolph Mountain Club, you are all such warm, welcoming, inspiring people. I am so proud to have been involved with an organization that cares so much about the wilderness, the trails, the hut system, and the preservation of it all. Thank you. I only hope to someday soon return to my paradise at Crag Camp and roam the northern Presidentials once again.