Written by Gretchen Grebe.
May 25-August 22, 2007
Long hike up- 3hours from Stearns
to Gray Knob via Spur and Links trails. Should've brought fewer
beans but having extra food up here really isn't a worry I guess.
Much to do- people to meet. I am looking forward to meeting the
Trail Crew on Thursday.
The snow is melting so fast;
I worry that Chris (Carlson) won't be up here in time to see
it. It didn't even drop below 50 last night. I just want him
to experience a couple of post-holes and get some snow up his
shorts- so we can look back on it come August.
There is a weird sort of authority involved in caretaking; two sided if you will. When I'm at camp I am expected to know everything about the weather, the Whites, outdoor history and adventures. When's someone gonna ask me to name all the countries in Africa?
Then around 10 AM I am allowed to be plain old me again. I set out for a hike in whichever direction I want- at lowly "hiker" status. Heck, I'm not even a backpacker which is the next step up, so most others think they know the trails better than I. And they probably do. Sometimes I give the wary ones advice on the weather. Most of the time I greet everyone with a "great day" and a "where you going?", but if I am really in search of anonymity then I throw out just a simple "hello".
These mid day hikes remind me of how lucky I am to be here. So many people are coming up on their days off to play around and I am getting paid to do it. My extended stays up here create in me a sense of deeper connection, borderline ownership over these peaks and trails. I have quickly come to know them as home. Every once in a while I see someone who is lacking in LNT skills and I want to cry out, "Wait, don't you know who I am?".
"This is my home, my refuge",
I want to tell them. But then I remind myself that these mountains
offer refuge and home to many others as well. I am just another
until 7pm tonight when once again I'll know everything
and I'll tell them to pick up their trash.
Place is so quiet here tonight-
the sink draining to grey-water bucket made my heart leap. Spent
a good afternoon sun bathing and learning how to stir the toilets.
Rachel took me up to sit in the caretaker's throne and it feels
right. I feel in place here- I sing better and laugh harder.
Just arriving at Castle Ridge/Dink
Junction after a traverse, descent, and climb over from GK. Hard
to shake the creepy feeling in the dark woods earlier this morning.
It's still a little weird to spend this much time in silence-
the little things spook. I really do feel like I am settling
in though. Woke up to the pager this morning after a deep night's
sleep and was able to get a morning routine going before the
weather came on.
Spent the last couple of days getting to know the RMC and Trail Crew a little better. Stearns Lodge seem like it'll be great but everyone is still trying to get settled in and it doesn't quite feel like home yet- hopefully soon though. Spent the night at Crag Camp with the crew, telling stories while Henry jammed on the pipe organ. No doubt it will be a good summer.
Yesterday was pretty exciting because when we were on the porch a momma and baby moose came touring right by us. Closest that I have ever seen one and they didn't even pay us any attention.
Met Bill Upton yesterday while
he was out weed-whacking. He told me a couple stories about The
Ravine House and ditches filled with Magic Water. You can tell
that this town wears its history proudly on its sleeve.
Spent the day getting GK ready
for the summer. Hooked up the hose for the spring, grey water
drain, stacked all the seasoned wood and stirred the privies.
I feel pretty productive. The clouds have moved in for the afternoon
and the thunder sounds like they are having a bowling tournament
over at Madison Hut as the crash echoes across the ravine. Tomorrow
I am planning on hiking over there for lunch.
Hiked over to Madison Hut and had a great time meeting the croo over there. Dave and I went down Chemin des Dames and huffed our way back out of King's Ravine. It was fun to play around down in the subway but not much time for sightseeing- had to show the boys I could keep up.
Wandered through the clouds
back over to Lowe's and GK. About half way down the cover broke
and sunlight warmed through. The smaller chunky clouds were rising
from the valley, leaving little peep-holes through which to see
Randolph and crescent ridge. Perhaps they were frames to the
picturesque beauty of these mountains. Perhaps they were scattered
spirits of old mountain souls and stories rising out of the valley;
singing of past adventures. Or perhaps they were pieces of a
puzzle, many there and some still missing- temporarily filled
by the whites.
The four day rains broke as
I headed down this morning.
Sun sets over New Hampshire,
Today was a long day because
it was my first Valley Run. Hiked down a lot of trash and hiked
up yarn for knitting and veggies for soup making. Staying at
Crag tonight because the fumes from oiling the floor at GK are
still pretty bad.
I allow myself to believe that
if I am able to whittle away my thoughts,
It was good to be down for a
couple of days. Got down early on Tuesday and saw a beautiful
fox on Durand Road. Hiked up to Lookout Ledge, funny to look
at Adams and Madison from the other side.
Two snowshoe hares have recently
appeared at GK. Every time I go outside one of them is munching
on the grass. Chris and I hiked down to Cliffway making a big
loop past the Perch- caught an amazing sunset. The low hanging
clouds made a ceiling which gleamed a fluorescent orange and
silhouetted the ranges towards the west.
Got up to 75 degrees this afternoon
and I actually got sun burnt. Filled up the solar shower and
had my first bush shower of the season. The black flies are getting
really bad but I left the window open for the first time last
night- too hot to sleep in my bag. Finally feels like summer.
Had a great foggy morning hike
down to Stearns- stopping to see the trail crew working on more
rock water bars for the Amphibrach. They do such hard work! It's
so easy to take a well made and maintained trail for granted
because it allows you to pass through the area without much attention
to your next step. Much love to the burly RMC Trail Crew. Picked
up the base radio and some food from the lodge and started the
sweaty climb up. I arrived at paradise when I stopped at Chandler
Falls and devoured a half-melted pint of Ben n' Jerry's
is the caretaking life.
From the Tao Te Ching, Chapter
The clouds have been hovering
the last couple days; lots of rain. My bones feel oh so damp.
Looking forward to a couple sunny days on the side of a river
during my days off
I had a surprise visit last
night from a couple people I love. I had been soundly asleep
for hours when some noise in GK woke me up. I opened my door
to see Nicole, Ben, and Sam arriving at 12 am! They hiked up
Hinks in the dark with a cantaloupe, good bread and a lot of
enthusiasm (minus a headlamp which made for an even greater adventure).
It was pretty hard to fall back asleep knowing that friends where
there. Headed over to Crag in the morning and Chris cooked us
pancakes. Somehow, with real maple syrup and good laughs, the
clouds hanging over King's looked more cozy than menacing.
The clouds above us join and
I slept over at Crag last night
to host a couple of camp groups who were on their first multi-day
outing trips with one another. One great group of girls was from
Crag Mountain Farm. It was wonderful to see the 12- 14 year olds
so excited about being up in the mountains. Many of them were
enthusiastic about working in the mountains as caretakers or
good news for the RMC!
The morning cleared up pretty
well, even with all the rain of last night. I hiked down to the
Log Cabin to load up the pack board with a bag of wood chips
to bring over to the Perch. The heavy load made for a long trip
but I am happy to see that we need more over there because it
means that come stirrin' time, everything will be much easier...
Excerpt from Zazen on Ching-
Today was the Stearns Lodge dedication ceremony. Chris and I hiked down with trash and dirty laundry to find the lodge beautifully shinning and prepared for its celebration! By noon the cars were lined down the Tucker's driveway and there were tons of people on the porch and under the party tents. I am so glad the weather cleared for a nice afternoon. I finally had the pleasure of meeting the man and woman behind the voices on the radio- Bill and Barbara Arnold. Just as smiley as I had imagined. Learning more about Anna B. Stearns and why the lodge was dedicated to her was a real treat and trip back in history. I was reminded of what an honor it is to be part of the Randolph community and the RMC family. When it comes down to it, the RMC probably won't remember my summer as a caretaker. There have been so many stewards to live at Gray Knob, many much better than I, and many more lined up like our own TC Leslie who will be taking over this fall.
I will remember my experience
up here and it will/is changing who I am. From the great gathering
of good folk who showed up today I can tell that they have also
been changed by the RMC and the northern Presidentials- that's
why they're still around. (With an added bonus of free barbeque.)
I enjoy the idea of being included in the group picture that
will one day hang on the wall. I also enjoy knowing that in a
year I will be just another summer caretaker; so that others
will have the opportunity to befriend Adams, Madison and Jefferson
as I have.
Calm sunset on the Quay- highlighting
the heavy storm clouds loitering above Jefferson and Adams. The
sun's last rays paint the clouds a delicious pink while gracing
the western peaks with a warm evening glow. Another day passing.
What a beautiful day. Chris
swears that it's the best one of the summer. Woke up early to
read and write a couple of letters before heading over to catch
Prairie Home Companion at Crag. Took a hike through King Ravine
and out Great Gully Trail. We spend so much time looking at it
from the porch but it sure is different when you're down there
in the boulders. Just another evening spent at Gray Knob playing
scrabble and eating curry. Yum!
"Wilderness reminds us
of what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather
than what we're separate from". - Terry Tempest Williams
Trail crew has been up at Gray
Knob the last couple of days carrying firewood and brushing a
couple trails. Wow- so much gets done when 11 of us are working!
Quiet, oh so quiet afternoon.
The flies dart about Gray Knob and a warm breeze shoots through
the doorway to remind me of the world outside. Today I cannot
tear myself away from reading- refueling- desperately needed.
Thunder over the ridgeline
I am learning the value of rest and reflection. We must rest in order to re-create the strength needed for great achievements. Perhaps one of the biggest problems with our society is that we have forgotten this.
I am learning how to conserve, preserve and minimize my impact on the immediate environment that I inhabit. I carry everything I need for 11 days on my back up about 3000 vertical feet. I carry out all my waste.
I am learning how to be alone and be content with the company that I alone keep.
I am learning that femininity lies not in the way we dress or our long hair but rather in the way in which we embrace the world.
I am learning the value of the journey. I hike many of the same trails everyday but I am each day seeing something that I hadn't noticed before.
I am learning how sublime our simple existence on this planet is. So many little miracles surround us daily; what amazing synchronicity had to occur for us to be here.
I am learning that I can be happy and healthy with everything I need in my backpack. When we have less material possessions to love perhaps we have more love to share with those around us.
I am learning that days pass
by beyond my control. It is inevitable that I will get older,
corruption will continue, trends will come and go. The world
will turn with or without me. The only thing of which I have
control of is how I chose to spend this passing time.
Early night at Gray Knob. I heard something fall outside and I went to investigate. The owls had knocked down our plastic rain collector. There were three of them perched on the tree right outside the door and flying around. They weren't scared of my headlamp and they let me watch them play for quite awhile. Walked out to the Quay to see Route 2 and the stars. So untouchable. I haven't been writing as much lately. Ran out of notebook space and there isn't much scrap paper lying around. Without writing anything down the days have become quite blurry, passing without any significant events. And so it goes.
Chris taught me how to split
wood and I've been working on perfecting my swing. It's a bit
difficult with some of the soft rotten wood we have but what
a sense of accomplishment when a log splits cleanly!
There really isn't anything
that special about places. True- some are more beautiful, exotic,
and remote whereas others might lead themselves less to admiration.
Places are special because of what takes place there, the people
who gather there, and the memories made there. Crag Camp, the
Quay, RMC trails are elevated by those who dedicate themselves
to the recognition and appreciation of the spot. Take away the
smiling faces, climbing stories, and the sound of tired-heavy-
feet and Gray Knob is a dark, slightly damp, wooden cave on the
side of Mt. Adams. Thanks to the RMC and all those who have visited
this summer, Gray Knob has become much more than that to me.