Caretaker Journal
Winter '04/'05

Written by Derek Schott (aka Storm)



November 12, 2004

Hello everyone.

I was hoping to start my winter with a regime change in Washington, but I was not rewarded. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I am sorry, I did all I could to see John Kerry to the White House. Lets hope for survival. I do not want this to turn into a political rant, so I will regress: My stint started out pretty slow with no one at any camps until Thursday night. That was good, as it gave me a chance to see the sun set and rise from both Mount Adams and The Quay; as well as get out and start to learn the multitude of trails in the Northern Presidentials. On Friday I felt as if I was in a foreign country, as I was the only English speaking person in the Cabin. I awoke on Saturday morning in a confused state hearing French in the background and deciding that I must be in a hostel in France with no heat. Saturday was very busy with folks at both Crag and at Gray Knob. We packed into Gray Knob and as a result it was a balmy 60 degrees with no fire. I made it nearly through my first stint without a fire, but alas my last night I had cold guests and sub-freezing temperatures in the cabin and I relented and burned a log.

I was blessed with A sunny day (Thursday) and a good amount of snow, 7 inches on the snow stake when I left on Tuesday. My major disappointment of the week was being told I was going to have a visitor on Monday who was going to bring me dinner and then unfortunately canceled the next day. I won’t name any names but I will tell you he is the trails chair.

I hope to have more snow for my pack in and more during the stint, skiing is just around the corner. I was wishing for crampons during my last water run so I do suggest that anyone planning on visiting should probably have crampons at least with them unless (hopefully) we get dumped on soon.

I am sending along a couple of pictures of camp, one off of the back porch, which will be a routine picture, one of me preparing to pack out (for the motherly sympathy) and one of the boss on the top of the stairs.

November 23, 2004

Hello all,

Anyways, it was a quiet week up in the mountains. I saw less that a 1/2 inch of snow in the last 11 days and the mercury did not dip below 18, hence an entire stint without a fire. The ice is still treachourous up near the cabin, especially since the rain over the weekend. On my first Saturday in I had a surprise birthday party and an impromptu engagement party. And that was by far the busiest day of my stint. That Sunday Doug and Mike came up briefly with some cocoa and the Sunday Times. I was struggling through the crossword puzzle with the help of two french Canadians, and was pretty much at a stand still 2 days later when Jeff calls me on the radio, letting me know that the Canadians had emailed him an answer and that helped me fill in an entire corner! which is quite a feat for me. My next weekend was very slow, with only 9 guests on Friday and saturday respectively. Doug did come up Saturday night with dinner and gifts though. One thing he brought up was an Advent calender. I had never seen one of these fancy new-fangled things before and thought that it was simply a countdown calender to the big day. Low and behold I found out that it is much, much more. There are chocolates hidden in that calender. Or so I am told, I will find out for sure on the First of December. Do you eat the chocolates in the morning or the evening I wonder?

Well that is the news as I see it from Gray Knob. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, because we all have a lot to give thanks for.

December 8, 2004

Hello all and greetings form the frozen tundra of Gray Knob. Ok, it is not really that bad. Yet. I did get my first sub-zero day this stint (-7F), but that was tolerable. Well I was in my sleeping bag pretty early that night. It was a super slow stint up there, even my Saturdays were not crowded. I only had sunshine one day this week, not on the actual cabin but in the sky; but that one day was wonderful, I had waist deep snow in Edmands Col, Ice above tree line, rime ice at Thunderstorm Junction, and my crampons and snowshoes back at the knob. oops.

I had my first repeat customers this week. Two sets. The first a group of French-Canadians that remembered my comments on real Smarties, not that sugary American candy, but real Smarties and brought me several packages. The other A group of college kids from Lyndonville Vermont carried up a stick of hardwood a piece and a blueberry pie. It was a great Saturday. I also had a visit from a certain girl from Maine that same day, making my weekend complete.

You again find me apologizing (spelled correctly!) I forgot to bring down my camera so you will have to trust me that it is wonderful up there. I do have for you an updated Gray Knob Events Calender:

December 24th- Christmas Eve
December 25th- Christmas Day - Bible studies every hour
December 31st- New Years Eve - $10 cover includes a cold bed, all the Champagne you can carry, and a 10pm quiet time.
January 1st- New Years Day - complete this year with a 10 am quiet time
January 23rd- Gecko's 9th birthday party, more to come, but a pasta dinner (surprise) will be provided and this is a surprise party, so don't let the dog know!

December 22, 2004

Hello all and greetings from the world of electric heat and other modern technologies! It was a wonderful week up at Gray Knob with a little over a foot of fresh snow falling from the sky. I had a stint low of -10 and a high of 18. My snow stake is currently at 24 inches. Getting up there. I was able to (sorta) ski my rounds on Saturday, I fell a lot, and it is pretty bony out there but it is still fun.

When I arrived at Crag on my first day back in the woods, I found snow 4-5 inches deep throughout the eating area and even blown into the first room! I would share the picture, but more on that later. The next night was proving to be slow and quiet and I was sitting alone in the dark contemplating my first zero on a Saturday when the door opened quietly and I hear a very soft "Storm?" and I had GUESTS! and they were friends bearing gifts of food and evil intentions of beating me in Scrabble (which is not hard, and they did). For those of you who have done little winter camping and are struggling to understand what my daily life is like, I thought I would share this one aspect with you. I must remember to put my toothbrush in my pocket directly after dinner so that it can thaw out so I am able to brush my teeth with out getting an ice cream headache.

So on Thursday I decided to hike out and get a propane bomb that is waiting eagerly in my car to be hiked up. So I head down right after weather, and am planning on going and rousting my "valley" roommates and going out to breakfast, grabbing the bomb and heading back up no later than noon. Right. So I get down to Lowe's and my car won't start. what better place to be right? I go in and Mark and Allen try to jump my car and determine that "it is not gonna go" so we (truck and plow) push my car into the bay where Allen is going to change my oil (currently 20W-40) and replace it with a more intelligent choice. It takes at least 45 minutes for the syrup-like oil to finally exit my oil pan, Allen then makes quick work of replacing my filter and putting in new oil (5W-30). "she still don't wanna go" SO Allen pulls out my spark plugs and dries the gas off of them (I flooded my car an hour ago trying to force oil through my crankcase) with a blow-torch, that's right a blow-torch. I watch in awe as he replaces my plugs and starts my car without a problem. It is now 11:00. So much for hiking by noon. no later than one I say to myself. I get in my car race up the hill, grab Matt, go out eat breakfast, he has conveniently forgotten his money, the second time he has done this to me; race back to the hill, drop off Matt, back down to Lowe's, out of my car and up the trail. It is 2:00. OK, believe it or not, this is where the adventure begins. I have had this great idea to pull the bomb up on a sled. I figure its gotta be better than having that thing on my back. Right? So I strap this thing down, and you got to tie it tight, so it doesn't slide off, but in doing so the sled bends, so I now have a round explosive container attached to me while hiking. Remember when I said great idea? Well it shoulda stayed an idea, I can tell you that. Anyway to make a long story a little shorter, after several hundred times righting my sled, well into darkness I decide to abandon the sled and return in the morning, with a pack to put the propane in. Note to all, carry the bomb.

The next Saturday, the same day I skied my rounds, I am over at Crag Camp at the normal radio call time, and since I have my portable I decide to just hang out and do radio call from there. Well when my page comes through, I go out to the porch to call and go to turn on my radio. Strange, it is already on... and DAMN the battery is dead, I must have accidentally turned it off during one of my unscheduled rests while skiing (a fall). Oh man, So I decide to hump back to Gray knob in a kind of rush, when I get paged a second time, that is abnormal. so I decide to run. I make it back in Record time, grab the radio breathlessly and make the call. I get the normal greeting, and then and asked to stand by for a second for a message. I decide to gather everyone inside by the radio and turn it up, and I am glad I did, because over the radio waves comes a wonderful version of We Wish you a Merry Christmas. That was a great surprise. Note to self, double check portable radio batteries before going out.

On Sunday Doug, Matt, and Joe come up in search of a long lost vista on the Lowe's Path and ask if I would like to join them for a bushwack through the woods. Of course. So we head down the path and at the supposed appropriate spot we head in looking for a rocky out crop with views of the valley. It is tight trees and knee deep snow and after a few hundred yards, we believe that we have found it. I reached for my camera to take a picture of this glorious event when I noticed that my camera was missing. Uh-Oh. We looked over the trail that I walked on, and then I went back twice looking, but it is pretty hopeless my camera is lost to the gods of the Whites. Thankfully Doug has loaned me a camera for the remainder of the winter, so I can continue to document my stay. I am attaching last stint's snow, and another wonderful picture or two. Note to self, close camera case.

Remember the party dates, Christmas New years, and of course January 23 is Gecko's surprise Birthday, come one and all.

January 6, 2005

Hello all and greetings from the ice skating rink that we like to call Gray Knob. It has been a relatively busy week up at the Knob. I had 77 guests this stint, that is 7 times as many as last stint, when I had 11. Well we saw the end of December in which 29 ½” of snow fell and 3 ½” of rain. When I hiked out on last Tuesday there was over 2 feet of snow on the ground and the hike out was fantastic, I did not even think about crampons. When I went to pack back in 3 days later, after a day of rain, all I could think about was crampons. Thankfully I knew right where they were. Gray Knob. Once again thank you Doug. I was able to borrow insteps for my pack in. Not ideal but better than the alternative. I was joined on my pack in (on christmas eve) by my brother. We enjoyed the holidays together. There were several guests on Christmas eve also celebrating.... too much maybe. When Ben and I went to bed I the cabin was around 40-45 and I closed down the woodstove for the night. Upon awaking in the morning, between being informed of vomit outside not being leaned up and taking in the holiday cheer i happened to notice my woodpile was smaller than I recalled. no biggy. whatever. Later in the afternoon when I got around to cleaning out the stove I found all the wood, unburnt, and jammed in the stove. Well at least they were not privy to the technology of the woodstove. As I was cleaning out he wood and putting it away I found my sign, the one asking folks to please not touch the woodstove, half melted in the stove. Hmmm.
Enough on the bummers of the week, thankfully only the one. My brother and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of ham, potatoes, corn and beans, and homemade bread. Actually only I had bread after he left. With the cabin being so busy this stint, having the familiar faces of Mike and Doug bringing up still warm and fresh chinese food (from the new place in Berlin- YUM) was a welcome surprise. Sorry about the plum sauce all over your pack Doug, way to take one for the team. The chinese was the gift that kept on giving, I had leftovers the next day at lunch, and the rest made a great soup.

A couple funny things happened this week. A slightly dangerous/funny thing was early on a couple of guys showed up sharing a pair of crampons. Imagine slide, stick, slide, stick. The other thing that really made me laugh was this: there was this Australian bloke up whose favorite expression was the F word. He used it a lot. He went out the back door for something and put on his boots without tying them. He came back in the door and I hear the door slam then I hear his favorite word and then I hear the sound of a melon being dropped. He had apparently closed all four ends of his laces in the door and tried to walk. The melon dropping was actually his head hitting the wall.

New years eve was of course a grand time. It was the first time in 7 or 8 years that I actually made it to midnight. Dan, Laura, and Curtis all trail crew alumni came to bring in the new year, share chili, drink adult beverages and beat me at scrabble. Laura being the only girl had to kiss us all.

The next day we turned into the Gray Knob Humane Society, providing shelter for the lost dogs of the Presidential Range. A local day hiker lost her dog Callie while hiking in the area. Luckily a couple of my guests found Callie, but it was too late to get the dog down to the valley for the night. Barbara Arnold quickly located the owner and she came up the next day to pick up her dog, bearing cookies and brownies for me and big bone for Gecko. Gecko enjoyed having a friend over for the night even if she did get kicked off of her own dog bed.

Well everyone, let us not forget all those still suffering from the Earthquake and tsunami.

Don't forget, Gecko's birthday party on the 23rd of this month. Everyone is asking what she wants and as far as I can tell she prefers cash. I will provide a Pasta dinner for all that night.

Safe travels to all.

January 21, 2005

Hello all from the very cold sub alpine of Mt. Adams. Visitation picked up a bit this week, and I enjoyed spending the nights talking with guests. I saw a high of 48 degrees this stint, and a low of -22. The sun is edging closer to Gray Knob, and Gecko and I enjoyed a little sun bathing one day.

A friend of mine and old AMC trail crew alumni visited me this week and of course, beat me at scrabble. We passed one afternoon by splitting up wood without crampons on. I know that sounds normal, but not when you are standing on 6 solid inches of ice. So with a lot of slipping around we managed to split some wood from under the cabin. So like I said I had a high of 48 this stint, it actually was above 40 over night. I had to open up windows and doors because it was warmer out than in! It was great though, I got some mopping done and a lot of frozen things thawed. The Summit of Washington recorded a 53 difference in temps in 24 hours.

This stint saw the first meeting of the White Mountain Alpine Skating Club. A couple of Bostonians hiked up strap on skates and skated on star lake for several hours. Pictures should be forthcoming. That night we had a pretty full house and I participated in a Trivial pursuit game; half way through the game I noticed that everyone was paying attention to the game and discussing the answers as we played. I lost that game too. (but not as miserably as I would have if everyone was not discussing answers) I know this is a short journal, but I must run up the mountain. I hope all is well and I may just see you soon.

February 2, 2005

Hello all and greetings from the frozen cabin in the sky. I had a whopping 2" of snow this week! But that fact was covered up by the Knob receiving 14 straight days of sub-zero weather. I thought I would give everyone an idea of what it is like to live with the inconveniences of the sub-arctic like conditions.

I like to do my writing in with pencils. I like my pencils sharp. When it is below 10 you have to thaw the pencils out to sharpen them. I scratch that I need my morning coffee. I enjoy my morning coffee hot. So imagine my surprise when it would freeze to my beard as I drank in. I know we all have been a little jittery in the morning when making coffee at one time or another, and most of us have probably spilt the boiling water. When I did this last week, the BOILING water froze immediately upon hitting the counter with a loud crackle. Did you know that when the temperatures drop below 0 (inside of course) that corks will pop out of wine bottles? and further more, did you know that it sounds like gunfire to a tree-hugging liberal? And my last example of living in the really cold is not for the weak hearted. Mom, you better just skip to the next paragraph. No really mom skip this next sentence. When it is below around -10 or so outside and you sit your slightly moist bum on the toilet seat, it freezes. You have to do a little wiggle to stand up. I told you Mom! you should have listened to your son.

Well I finally broke down and had fires when there were not guests. I am not tough. I sustained my first zero count huddling in my down, drinking tea, and doing sit-ups; but when I awoke in the morning (noon) to find the cabin at a chilly -10 INSIDE, I decided that I could at least relent that policy for a little while.

Anna came to visit this week, and we enjoyed taco salad, fire, and she was kind enough to let me win my first Scrabble game at Gray Knob. I will say for her benefit, she did beat me at Phase 10, but I think she cheated.

I received my second visit from the St. Johnsbury Academy outing club, and as last time, it was a true pleasure. It is nice to see teachers attentive and active in making students lives better, and it is great to see teenagers out enjoying the outdoors AND being fun to be around. You are welcome any time. (they let me win at trivial pursuit.... I did have a teacher on my team)

Well that is all I can think of this day. It is sunny here in the valley. Be well.

February 15, 2005

Hello all and greetings from below the snow pile. I recorded over 40" of new snow this stint! 33" in one storm. It is put into real perspective to know that we received only 47" from November one until the storm started.

The Stint started wonderfully with sunshine and 40 degree weather. I got a visit from my friend Lydia and a couple of her friends. I saw my first snow fleas of the season, got sunburnt and spent 12 hours above treeline. That's right on February 6th I spent 12 hours up on the Adam's hiking about and just sitting. During my romping around I did see a sight that one would not expect during February. A couple of hikers clad only in crampons and boots. At 10 pm on the summit of Adams, it was 48 degrees with light wind. I yearned for my sleeping bag.

Just to keep everyone up to date with counting: 15 days sub-zero temperatures, 5 days above freezing highs, and 11 days without precipitation!

My most unexpected occurrence of the stint was on Friday night after 33" of new snow had fallen, 3 guys, 7 bottles of wine, yet lacking snowshoes broke trail up to the knob to cook pork tenderloin, and have a glass (or 10) of vino. On the same night in question I went out twice to pick up packs for people that could not quite make the whole way up. Folks were spending 6-8 hours hiking in. Tougher than me.

I had an enjoyable two days with the Page family (Pedro, Heather, Darell and the Bobs) learning how to play hearts and who not to play with. Yes, I lost. I also lost at Scrabble.

Well that is all that happened at the Knob this week, I hope you all are well, and enjoy that snow!

March 1, 2005

Hello all, and greetings from the snow covered peaks of New Hampshire. My week was busy! Guests every night. For the sake of caretaker sanity, I should be allowed at least one night alone. But alas, hospitality calls.

I showed up to the cabin a little late this week, around 8pm, and was astounded (though not surprised) to find the cabin a balmy 60 degrees and a fire blazing. I calmly walked to the fire and chucked burning logs outside, to get the climate to a more desirable 40 degrees. Everyone had a decent laugh when they realized I was not really mad, just dealing with the circumstances. I did light my 20th fire of the season this stint, hard to believe that I have spent 4 months with only 20 fires!

But on to the normal, I did play and lose a game of scrabble, a friend wrote and asked if I ever considered playing GO FISH. (She also rubbed in the lack of cold in Micronesia) I did do well in a game of Hearts and won a game of Trivial Pursuit.

A terrible, horrible thing happened last weekend. Three gentleman that are brewers at a local micro-brewery visited and did not bring a drop of beer. Not one measly pint for the grouchy caretaker! - could have done wonders for his disposition. I did receive my first real bribe to light the stove, but it was 35 inside; that's balmy!

I received 24 inches of snow this week, with a high of 28 and a low of -12.

I hope everyone is great, and for those who don't know Gecko is on the RMC homepage check it out.

March 16, 2005

Well hello all and greetings from the snow filled dreams of New Hampshire. I had a fairly slow stint this stint, quite the change from the stint prior. The mercury was almost boiling with a high of 30. My overall low was –23, 47” of snow fell on the knob this stint bringing the overall snow on the ground to 68”.

Remember last stint when I was upset to find the cabin at 60 degrees when I arrived? Was all huffy about it? Well this time when I arrived it was a balmy 6 degrees inside. It is hard to decide which I prefer. As can be guessed I lit my 23rd fire. And while we are making confessions here, I also lit my 24th. For myself. Happy Birthday to me. I lit it at 3pm as well. That is right the firewood miser, the grumpy bearded guy broke down with less than 20 days to go and lit a fire. There I said it.

Well Gecko finally got her point across about the sweaters. She hates them. One afternoon she runs up to me minus her coat. I think you poor thing and set off to find it. For those of you who wonder what your dog does while you're at work… follow his/her tracks through the snow. Anyway I find her coat, right side out by the way, and put it back on her. I went back to shoveling snow (any word on the solar powered snow blower?) and there she is again. No coat. Hmmph. Again I set out to find her coat, again all but folded, lying on top of the snow. Somehow my dog ( I say this completely without claim to ownership, as I would say my mom) has figured out how to get her front legs out of the sleeves, unzip the coat and slide it off.

I saw an almost brown snowshoe hare this stint, hopefully he has no idea what the weather is going to do. Hopefully he DOES know where the fox is at all times.

All of you who said you were going to visit this winter have 11 days left.

March 31, 2005

Well hello to all and welcome to the last installment of Gray Knob chronicles. Spring definitely sprung in the Northern Presidentials. Sunny days spent on the patio, highs in the 30's and even 40's on one occasion, and rain. Only one full day, and it was my last day so it made my separation anxiety go away. I was in a very minor car accident on the day before I walked into the woods -- did you here the one about the $1000 canoe and the car crash?-- and as a result was fairly sore hiking in. The gods of caretaking were looking down upon me and sent me a professional massage therapist for a few days and she gave some much needed attention to my joints. Maybe we could arrange for this to happen stintly? I did only get one game of scrabble in this stint --lost-- but I did find that I am very good at UNO. You could say that I am the UNO king if you like.

As a winter caretaker you are routinely bribed for a fire. This stint I was offered (repeatedly) to be flashed for a fire. I wish that it was a little colder than 50 inside so I could have obliged. This may be my largest regret of the season.

I would like to end the GK Chronicle by thanking the RMC board, especially Bill and Barbara, Al, Matt, Jeff and Doug, for all the help via radio, visits and treats. Until next year...pray for sun.