RMC Newsletter - Celebration of Trail Crews and Caretakers
Winter 2007-2008

Table of Contents

Editor's Opening Note and Closing Comments
By Lydia Goetze

On July 15, 2007, about 200 members, present and former trail crew workers and caretakers, and friends of the RMC celebrated the dedication of the new Stearns Lodge. In honor of this occasion, we asked many former caretakers and trail crew workers to write about their memories for the Newsletter.

Reminiscences of Anna Bemis Stearns
By Judy Hudson

"Anna came to the Ravine House in Randolph with her parents in the summer of 1920, two years after her graduation from Vassar College. My parents first visited Randolph in 1923, and soon became Anna's climbing companions, developing a friendship that endured for the rest of their lives."


Crag Camp - Summer 1951
By David Rice

"August 5 was my eighteenth birthday. A cheerful family from Dedham arrived and the nurturing mother baked me a birthday cake. After our first bite, she laughed ruefully. "Oh, I am so sorry! I mistook the salt for sugar." We all laughed and have continued fast friends for fifty-six years."

The Third Organ
By Ted Dettmar

"The organ broke down into 2 loads, the case and the innards. Both loads were around 80 lbs. but the case was much more bulky. Doug Mayer and I took turns packing the case. I picked the first half of the trip to make sure I'd secured it properly..."


Trail Crew Reflections on the Summer of 2007

"How do I even begin? This past summer was my second summer in Randolph. Randolph is a pretty special place and my connection with it only deepens over time. I think the reason the RMC is special to me is because I have discovered so much about myself there."

Bill Arnold: A Life in the Mountains
By Lydia Goetze

"Bill Arnold, former "summer kid" and year-round resident of Randolph for 40 years, has been involved with the RMC in various capacities - caretaker, Camps chair and co-chair for many years (which included a nightly radio check on how things were at the camps), a Board member, and a frequent volunteer participant in rescues in the Northern Peaks."


Trails as "Entrance Species"
By Doug Mayer

"We were not always unobserved, however. I remember one long evening when Crag's Coleman lantern was extinguished late. The next morning on radio call, Bill Arnold commented on seeing that solitary light far into the night. The fact that keen eyes in the valley might be paying attention never again escaped my mind!"

Memories of Ned Green
By Curtis Moore

"This productive handiwork I really learned from Ned. In 2000 in Randolph, he took me under his wing and showed me a work ethic by example: what size rocks to use by way of overtime exhaustion, and quality of work by maniacally testing the rocks with his own body weight."


Articles from Zach Gayne, Will Manty, and Maya Velasco

"Packing up firewood to Gray Knob was one of my most memorable experiences of the summer. My first day of patrolling I cleaned drainages on Lowe's Path. The hike up to Gray Knob was definitely a challenge. I kept wondering why there weren't any switchbacks and why did the trail appear to be going straight up?"

Klaus Goetze and the Brown Bag Map
By Tad Pfeffer

"He got up from his seat on the porch and went into the small living room, where he searched for a minute or two, but then came out, saying 'I don't seem to have a map handy, but no matter,' and went across the porch into the kitchen, returning with a brown paper grocery bag and the stub of a pencil. Then, cutting the bag open and spreading it out on the table before us, he quickly sketched the entire RMC trail system from memory, with no hesitation, no mistakes -- all the trails in proportion and neatly labeled."


Memories of Gray Knob 2001 and 2003
By Cammee (Campbell) Shannon

"One of my fondest memories is of an early July visit with my dad, Christopher Campbell, a caretaker at Crag Camp in the 1960s. My dad came with many provisions: cans of tuna, fresh fruit, and fig newtons (a family favorite) numbered among the treasures. The one thing he lacked was warm clothing."

Winter Memories
By Tim Tierney

"Looking back on the RMC itself, I loved the philosophy and the culture that the club created, and that I was sent to protect and educate others about. To share the experience with so many people and help them through the opportunity provided by RMC to challenge, enjoy and ultimately humble themselves was very fulfilling."


More Winter Memories
By Pete Antos-Ketcham

"Probably the most exciting part was the weather. I looked forward to the forecast each day. I eagerly awaited each storm to see how much snow it would bring. The winter of 2000-2001 was amazing because we had so much snow..."

Too Skinny?
By Woody Canaday

"There was an inauspicious start: in the summer of 1967, my brother and I expressed an interest in trail crew for the following summer to Klaus Goetze. He took a quick glance at both of us in the back seat of the car, and pronounced that we looked too skinny."


The Generation Gap
By Ginger Beringer

"Another fond memory that I have is of Jack Stewart. On numerous occasions he would simply appear on the trail out of nowhere. He had the strange tendency to materialize at any moment from behind a bush or a bend in the trail or from behind a rock."

Recollections of Trail Crew (1962 and 1963) and Crag Camp (1964 and 1965)
By Chris Campbell

"Our mentor was Klaus Goetze, whom we would visit regularly in the evenings to report progress and get assignments. These visits were usually accompanied by a delicious dessert, courtesy of Erika Goetze."


From Crag Camp, Summer 2000
By Mario Partenope

"I was making good time, but was starting to get tired since I had completed nearly three quarters of my hike, when all of a sudden my foot slipped of a rock and CRACK, I fell face first into a rock..."



Editor's Opening Note

On July 15, 2007, about 200 members, present and former trail crew workers and caretakers, and friends of the RMC celebrated the dedication of the new Stearns Lodge. In honor of this occasion, we asked many former caretakers and trail crew workers to write about their memories for the Newsletter. We asked two questions and encouraged respondents to write whatever seemed important to them. The questions were:

1. What stands out in your memories of working on the RMC trail crew or as a caretaker? Is there a particular incident that was fun, hard, scary, exciting, etc.?

2. Has the experience of working with the RMC affected your later life or decisions? If so, how?

What follows are some of the responses. We would be delighted to hear from other former trail crew members and caretakers!

Lydia Goetze, Editor


Former Caretakers at Stearns Lodge Dedication.
Top: Chris Fithian. Next row: Mike Pelchat, Doug Mayer; Next: Jeff
Smith, Gretchen Grebe (GK summer 07), Chris Carlson (CC summer 07),
David Rice; On ground: Jamie Maddock, Tracy Blanchard, Sally
Manikian (spring 07), Bill Arnold, Rachel Biggs (GK 06), Gecko, Storm Schott.
Photo by Gail Scott.


Former Trail Crew members at Stearns Lodge Dedication.
On steps: Maya Velasco, Chris Fithian, Jamie Phinney, Leslie Ham, Laura
Conchelos; On ground: Tyler Self, Ben Lieberson, Chris Harris, Rachel Biggs, Curtis Moore.
Photo by Gail Scott.


Descendants of RMC founders at Stearns Lodge Dedication.
Back: Wendy Watson, Sally Boothman Glines, Anne Shepherd Dudley Bullis,
Marcia Watson Gulesian. 2nd row, on steps: Margaret Tucker, Susan McMillan
Tucker, Stephen Harris, Leslie Moye. On ground: Chris Harris, Vyron Lowe with
his granddaughter, Joan Hunt Hall, Edith McMillan Tucker, Lauren Endicott Moye
(Tucker granddaughter), Leith Taylor, Robin Harris, ?, Gordon Alan Lowe, ?,
Benjamin Maynard Harris.
Photo by Gail Scott.

Closing Comments

In reading these accounts, I am struck not only by the tremendously hard work that so many people have done in the name of the RMC, but also of their great joys. Perhaps their parents or their RMC supervisors hoped they would take away larger lessons learned, and many did. Perhaps for a few, the bad memories crowd out the good ones, and we didn't hear from them. The changes of the past half-century are significant. Increased usage makes new demands on trail construction and maintenance, as well as in how the Camps operate. Young women join young men in the demanding physical challenges of this work, and as caretakers at Crag Camp and Gray Knob. Changes in family life and work patterns mean that we seek far beyond Randolph for our Trail Crew and Caretakers. More people enjoy the mountains all year long, and our Caretakers and volunteers provide valuable education and often help with rescues when needed. An abiding, shared love of "our" mountains with their moments of beauty and accomplishment shines through each and every account. It is our hope and belief that, in addition to making the work go more smoothly, the new Stearns Lodge will foster the comraderie and friendships that have always been important to the club and will encourage a lifelong love of the mountains.

Lydia Goetze, Editor

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Reminiscences of Anna Bemis Stearns, by Judy Hudson
For dedication of the RMC Stearns Lodge, July 15, 2007

Many of us remember Anna Bemis Stearns as a colorful character in our RMC community: an indefatigable hiker well into her 80s and an opinionated patrician who used her wealth to support causes in which she believed, especially for North Country conservation and education needs. Over the years Randolph and the RMC have benefited greatly from her philanthropy.

Stearns Lodge donor plaque revealed by Ben Phinney and Jamie Maddock. Photo by Gail Scott.Anna came to the Ravine House in Randolph with her parents in the summer of 1920, two years after her graduation from Vassar College. My parents first visited Randolph in 1923, and soon became Anna's climbing companions, developing a friendship that endured for the rest of their lives. We have some great snapshots of the three of them, dressed in climbing knickers, heavy wool knee socks, and, for Anna, dramatic headscarves. The land where John Boothman built a substantial "cottage" for Anna's father in 1930 was part of about 40 acres my father had purchased the year before.

As a child, I didn't find Anna at all unusual - I accepted her drawling Boston Brahmin accent, interlaced with "My dear" and "Don't dja know". I do remember rebelling when she cast me as a tree in the Valley charade, but I was grateful that she never smothered me with kisses like the perfumed old ladies on the Ravine House porch. Anna was not the "kissy" type.

When we became next door neighbors in 1946, we saw more of each other, even though our establishment - tents, a kitchen trailer and an outdoor fireplace - was meager when compared with her elegant dwelling.

Although she spent the winter months in Boston, Anna's life was anchored in Randolph, and climbing was at the center of her activities (which included bridge parties, a series of disasters with her hired help, and her daredevil exploits in the two cars - a VW and a Mercedes - that she maintained). She was active in the RMC, and served on the board for 17 years, 6 years as secretary and 2 as president. During World War II she and Tom Barrow's father were charged with keeping the Beechwood Way properly mowed and cleared of blowdowns. A frequent participant in the weekly hikes, she would leave the summit soon after lunch, complaining that she was "too slow going down," but getting out long before anyone else.

Judy Hudson speaking at the Stearns Lodge dedication. Gail Scott photo.In her later years, she was a stalwart of the "over 60 club", an informal association of older women who hiked together, including my mother Charlotte Maddock, Kay Billings, Miggy Arnold Woodard, Louise Baldwin and the youngster of the lot, Barbara Wilson. They braved bad weather, black flies, the occasional loss of a marked trail, and clambering through lumbering debris or rockslides that had obliterated the trails. As Anna wrote in Appalachia, this group found "the incentive for walking in the interest and beauty of the route, rather than in reaching an arbitrary height...No speed records for us! We loiter shamelessly along the way, stopping to take pictures and look at flowers, birds and views. We may linger longer picking blueberries or mountain cranberries, and have even been known to extend the lunch period into a nap period. Our reward is healthy exercise and a very pleasant time."

These ladies covered remarkable distances:

- Up Lion's Head and down the whole length of the Boott Spur Trail, with Anna complaining "because so much down was too rough."

- Through Mahoosuc Notch and up Mahoosuc Arm, with the last mile on the Speck Pond Trail "unpleasant because of logging," and they "encountered difficulty finding the trail's emergence onto Success Pond Road."

- A climb on North and Middle Moat, already a 10-mile loop, stretched to 15 when they missed the turn to Diana's Baths where their car was parked.

They seemed always to carry sherry with them, and my mother writes of celebrations on summits or finishing the bottle at the end of a long walk.

Often their climbs took them to view alpine flowers, observe migrating warblers or soaring hawks, and always in the early fall, jaunts to pick mountain cranberries. One day on the Knife Edge they found "cranberries abundant and big, so much so that Anna could [only] with difficulty be dragged away."

Today it is fitting that we recall Anna and her unflagging spirit and love of the mountains as we dedicate Stearns Lodge to her memory.

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Crag Camp - Summer 1951
By David Rice

David Rice, Crag Camp, 1951.One balmy spring evening in early May, 1951, Bob Bates, Exeter Mountaineering Club Advisor, spoke to me as we walked back across the campus to the dormitory. "Klaus Goetze, a senior member of the Randolph Mountain Club, is seeking a caretaker for Crag Camp on Mt. Adams. Your responsibilities would include the care of four cabins and interconnecting trails. You would be there from mid June until Yale starts in the fall. Are you interested? He would like to talk with you tomorrow morning." I thought, what a wonderful challenge!

So I talked with the revered piano teacher, Klaus Goetze, and in mid June George Furness met my parents and me at the Ravine House at noon, and after lunch we hiked up the Spur Trail with my pack, my axe, and food for a week. When we arrived, we were thrilled at King Ravine, the woodstove, the fireplace, the pump organ, and the Aladdin lamp with two wicks. George told me that many hikers came through Crag and spent the night, but I was not to cook for them as required of the Appalachian Club Mountain crews. I would meet George again in a week; he would drive me into Gorham for groceries. My salary was the munificent sum of $15 a week with $25 credit at the grocery store for food.

George hiked down that afternoon, my parents the following morning. I stood on the porch overlooking King Ravine and watched the white-tailed juncos winging through the short evergreens and listened to the "Sweet Canada birds", the white throated sparrows. Finally I sat on the edge of the porch, swung my feet over the edge, enjoyed my sweetened tea, and crunched two Oreo cookies. What next?

Laundry day at Crag Camp, 1951. David Rice photo.Next, of course, was the woodpile! George had told me that one of my responsibilities was to fill the woodshed which opened into the kitchen wing of Crag Camp, just to the right of the stove. Winter wood use had reduced the woodshed to a storage closet for the broom! I had until mid September to fill the woodshed, but I wanted to make a start. That wood cruise with a bow saw in my hand and my axe lashed to my pack board led me first to the stream where I initially got water, and then west to Grey Knob with its cheerful birch exterior. To the north of the trail, plunging down into the valley, lay the ruins from the fall and winter storms that had ravaged the woods on the slopes down into Randolph. No problem with firewood, for it had all been torn up for me. All I had to do was take it patiently home. I did so all summer, creating square log cabin stacks on the porch. The stacks welcomed the sun and wind and served as great places to dry clothes. Slowly the woodshed filled.

I had birds and water and wood, but as yet no people. As a matter of fact, I began the summer with ten days of clouds, north-east winds, and torrents of rain. I understood why Noah got anxious. Finally, when I had no more dry clothes and had eaten most of my food, I skidded down into the valley to meet George. That afternoon I sloshed back up, happily resupplied with eggs, bread, peanut butter, and Oreo cookies. I think that I had also added a couple of lamb chops and bacon.

Celebrating Dominion Day 1951 at Crag Camp. David Rice photo.That evening the storm blew out, the sunset was gorgeous, and boots clumped on the porch. Ten pairs! Such energy! The McGill Outing Club had arrived to celebrate Dominion Day! The frying pans sizzled on the woodstove, the songs floated out to challenge the bird songs, and Lotar Martin, a student from Switzerland, climbed the chimney just for fun. I held my breath, hoping that the mortar would hold. The next morning in bright sun they swarmed off for a day trip to Mt. Washington and in the following days they scrambled all over Madison and Adams. I discovered the Perch, the alpine flowers, and the welcoming Gulfside Spring at Edmonds Col. The summer had begun.

Sue Maddock and Dave Rice at the Stearns Lodge dedication. Gail Scott photo.What a summer! I discovered the Cutter, McMillan, and Harris families in the valley. With them I shared meals, wonderful friendships, and occasionally their porch when I slept there rather than return to Crag. On July 4, mischievous celebrators thought it would be fun to break every window in Grey Knob. Later I struggled up the mountain with 100 pounds of glass panes lashed to my pack board, only to be attacked by a mother partridge who saw no reason why I should pass until her brood crossed the trail. I discovered exactly what it means to have one's tail feathers ruffled. Confronted with her rage, I retreated 50 yards back down the trail to wait. Burdened with my pack board, my balance was terrible. It was a wonder that I didn't break every pane!

August 5 was my eighteenth birthday. A cheerful family from Dedham arrived and the nurturing mother baked me a birthday cake. After our first bite, she laughed ruefully. "Oh, I am so sorry! I mistook the salt for sugar." We all laughed and have continued fast friends for fifty-six years. Then a family from West Hartford arrived with a young woman artist my age. We later made many happy trips between Yale and Vassar together. Two college girls from Washington, DC, taught me how to make omelets; in return I served them curried chicken and rice with fresh biscuits. Meals around the Crag table were usually shared and sources of laughter and friendship.

And so the summer passed. We added sweaters and long trousers. With the woodshed filled, I continued to gather wood so the stove could be warm every evening, and we could enjoy the fireplace. Music, songs, stories, fellowship! Just the best! The blueberries passed, and the colleges opened. Excited as I was about Yale, I felt heartache to leave Crag, the Randolph Valley, and my friends.

But, of course, I never really left! As I discovered at the dedication of the Stearns Lodge in July of 2007, I found again the friends I had made in 1951 and felt the tears of nostalgia and joy that have been a part of my life for years. As T.S. Eliot wrote in The Journey of the Magi: "I would do it again."

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Recollections of trail crew (1962 and 1963) and Crag Camp (1964 and 1965)
By Chris Campbell

For four summers when I was 16-19, I worked with Jonathan Frueh for the RMC. Those summers were ones of hard work, friendship, few cares, and halcyon days. Those summers did not give me important skills or strongly affect the direction my life has taken, but I do feel very fortunate to have had the experiences.

Former caretakers at Crag dedication 1994: back: Brad Meiklejohn, Bill Arnold, Doug Mayer, Brett Longworth, John Stevens, Rolf Goetze, John Tremblay; front: Mike Pelchat, Paul LaChapelle, Steve Weber, Brown Dog Pelchat.We started work on trails in early June and finished by mid- to late July. We used no power tools -- only sickles, a bow-saw with a 30-inch blade, and infrequently clippers or, for large trees like downed old-growth red spruce on the Israel Ridge Trail, a two-person saw. We did not undertake major projects such as bridges, extensive water-bar construction, or rerouting trails. Instead, we moved rather quickly over the 100 miles or so of RMC trails. My two family dogs, Jena and Roger, were great companions, and they relished summers in the mountains after dull suburban Boston during the rest of the year.

At times we were beset by black flies, against which we would use Old Woodsman's bug repellant and, when they got really serious, mosquito netting. While eating lunch at Peboamauk Falls one day, the black flies were so thick that we donned mosquito netting, put our sandwiches inside our netting, and kept our gloves on. The backs of our gloved hands were almost completely covered by flies. The dogs were plagued too; their stomachs, where their fur was thin, were covered with black-fly bites. And for this, I think our pay was $42 per week.

Our mentor was Klaus Goetze, whom we would visit regularly in the evenings to report progress and get assignments. These visits were usually accompanied by a delicious dessert, courtesy of Erika Goetze.

Ted Brinton and Barbara Phinney at the Stearns Lodge dedication. Gail Scott photo.In 1964, Crag Camp was upgraded - new roof, floors, exterior shingles, and other improvements - and Gray Knob was even more extensively upgraded in 1965. We helped pack building materials to the camps, along with many RMC volunteers, and we were carpenter's helpers for Freeman Holden and Ernest Sampson, local carpenters in their early 50's. We worked hard and had large appetites. For example, breakfast, prepared by Jon Frueh and me and served at 6 AM, was the same every morning during the four weeks of reconstruction of Gray Knob. The two carpenters and two caretakers consumed in total a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon, and a loaf of bread (toasted). One day for lunch I had a loaf of bread made into peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

One of my favorite memories is from 1964 when one afternoon Freeman asked Jon and me to go to the valley for roofing. We were planning to pack up roofing, but we weren't going all the way to the valley, and we wanted Freeman to think we were. So we walked over to Gray Knob and played gin rummy to pass some time. We descended to Pentadoi where we had previously cached two rolls of roofing. We packed up the roofing and climbed the Spur trail to a point about one quarter mile below Crag, where we each tied on another roll of previously cached roofing. Each roll weighed about 90 pounds and our pack boards were 8-10 pounds. We struggled up to Crag with about 190 pounds on our backs. Freeman was amazed and made sure that every hiker coming to Crag knew what Jon and I had done, saying to tired campers complaining about the weight of their pack something like: "See that young fella over there? He came up with 190 pounds on his back a few days ago." We never actually said to Freeman that we had packed all 190 pounds from the valley in one trip, but he took such pleasure in our feat that we couldn't bear to correct his misconception.

Another memorable event was inviting our mothers to Crag for a roast beef dinner with apple pie for desert that Jon and I cooked in the wood stove. I have many other memories of those years. The recollection that comes back most often is of mild summer evenings, with few people around, the dizzying view into King Ravine, and white-throated sparrows singing. It was then that I understood why some called Crag the "house of the gods."

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Memories of Gray Knob 2001 and 2003
By Cammee (Campbell) Shannon

In summer 2001, my first summer out of college, I had the opportunity and the pleasure to care-take at Gray Knob while Roz Stever was at Crag Camp. It was a great summer for many reasons: beautiful sunsets on the Quay, quick jaunts over to the Perch or up Adams, dinners shared with Roz and RMC guests, and much time with family.

One of my fondest memories is of an early July visit with my dad, Christopher Campbell, a caretaker at Crag Camp in the 1960s. My dad came with many provisions: cans of tuna, fresh fruit, and fig newtons (a family favorite) numbered among the treasures. The one thing he lacked was warm clothing. Fortunately since that it was early July, neither of us was worried -- that is until we woke on July 2nd. It was freezing: only 32 degrees at Gray Knob and a mere 18 degrees on the summit of Washington.

With temperatures like these, we didn't dare to leave Gray Knob. In fact, we didn't dare to leave the caretaker's bedroom. We stayed in our respective sleeping bags, talking, reading, and waiting for the day to warm up. By afternoon, the temperature had crept up and we decided to climb Adams. We had a beautiful hike and both fondly remember the day.

Almost two years later, in February, 2003, my dad and I returned to Gray Knob as fill-in caretakers. As expected, the weather was quite cold, though we were amply prepared. We took hikes each day and enjoyed time relaxing at the Knob. Midway through our stint, we were joined by my now-husband Tim Shannon who also came bearing gifts: firewood for all, the makings of black 'n' tans for my dad, and a birthday cake for me. Tim arrived singing happy birthday and the three of us enjoyed the beauty of the mountains, the warmth of the cabin, and one another's company.

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Bill Arnold: A Life in the Mountains - Crag 1963 and 1968, Gray Knob 1969
By Lydia Goetze

Bill Arnold. Lydia Goetze photo.Bill Arnold, former "summer kid" and year-round resident of Randolph for 40 years, has been involved with the RMC in various capacities - caretaker, Camps chair and co-chair for many years (which included a nightly radio check on how things were at the camps), a Board member, and a frequent volunteer participant in rescues in the Northern Peaks. Last August he reminisced with me about some of the highlights of those times.

LBG: What got you started in the mountains?

"Every summer my father and I would go for a hike around the mountains. I remember being at Crag Camp when Chris Goetze came in with a big roll of plastic pipe he had carried up [see photo]. I helped unroll the plastic pipe and set up the water system for the summer."

"In the summer of 1962 Peter Bowers and I were age 15 and best friends. We were allowed to hike at will, and we were up at Crag a lot, hanging out, helping out, filling in on the caretaker's days off. In those days, caretakers didn't earn a salary, but a sign on a jar said, 'please feed the kitty'. The following spring, Klaus Goetze wrote me at school, offering Peter and me the job of caretakers at Crag. I was on top of the world! Of course I'd do it."

[In 1963] "most people stayed at Crag, though we checked Gray Knob every day and tried to keep it clean. We were young, and things probably didn't go as well as they could have because of your youth. Peter had a guitar. He could completely control the mood of the crowd at the camp by the music he chose to play. This was a real surprise to me. We had a lot of camp groups, especially girls' camps. We had a cat up there, Dusty, the Bowers family cat. He left and we only glimpsed him occasionally in the summer, but he showed up at the cabin in the fall to go home again."

During the summers of 1963 and 1964, Gray Knob was being remodeled. "They were paying by the pound [for materials carried up to the work site], so I packed a lot up there. My goal was to pack more than my weight in a single trip that summer, and I did it."

Bill left college in 1967 and his father told him, "Get a job." So he went to the AMC looking for one, and his RMC experience gave him an edge. "The fall was incredible. I'd never been through a winter here before, skiing and snowshoeing. After that first winter (1967-68) I wanted to keep staying in the mountains. 1968-69 was the Big Winter. We'll never see that again. Jack Boothman had a whole crew shoveling all winter long."

Chris Goetze packing water pipe to Crag Camp, 1957. Michael Field photo.Bill worked as the Crag caretaker during the summer of 1968 and at Gray Knob in 1969. At that time, they had to cut wood for the cookstoves that were used through the winter. The rest of the year and for several years afterwards, Bill worked for the AMC or the US Forest Service. Eventually he started his own pump and caretaking business in Randolph.

LBG: How did working for the RMC influence your later choices and decisions?

"It reaffirmed my desire to stay in the area and spend my time in the mountains. For years I was out every single day. Working up there, you're in charge. You get a rowdy bunch and when things go wrong, you have to take care of it. Nobody else will. I learned how to handle different situations. During the 1970s I was working for the USFS, and the mountains were getting heavier use, including the RMC camps. There was lots of bad stuff going on. People were trying to start fires and leaving trash around." The RMC decided a winter caretaker would be a good idea, and hired Mike Johnson. Bill borrowed some radios from the AMC and did a daily radio check before starting night watch duty at the AMC Pinkham Notch Camp. He's been the evening radio check person ever since.

Bill is also a trained EMT. "I retired from [mountain] rescues last year when I turned 60, but I still do call out. In the 1960s when I got involved with the AMC, they assumed if you worked for them, you'd go out for a rescue. I got experience. They assumed you'd use good judgment and turn around if things got out of hand." He recalled the Cog Railway accident of 1967 and five plane crashes. The RMC has never been officially involved in rescues, although RMC members are often involved as volunteers. RMC member, former President and winter caretaker Mike Pelchat started the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue unit, which works with the NH Fish and Game Department and US Forest Service personnel who are legally in charge of backcountry rescues. Bill and his wife Barbara are among the key volunteers who man our local Life Squad.

After Bill reminisced about the Great Labor Day Raid of 1979 (a drunken crowd of partying youths, a midnight raid including state troopers, Fish and Game officials, and RMC folks, and a night march of all down the mountain, carrying piles of bottles), I asked whether it was different being a caretaker these days. "Not that different," he said. "You have a good summer up there and you'll always remember it. You're part of a select group."

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Too Skinny?
By Woody Canaday
Gray Knob 1970, Crag Camp 1971

There was an inauspicious start: in the summer of 1967, my brother and I expressed an interest in trail crew for the following summer to Klaus Goetze. He took a quick glance at both of us in the back seat of the car, and pronounced that we looked too skinny.

The trail crew had just two members at that time and was expanded to three in 1968: Tad Pfeffer, Henry "Thumper" Folsom, and me. Thanks to the generosity of the Pfeffers, I had a home base during the month before my parents arrived for their vacation. To facilitate our getting around, Thumper acquired a massive, old Chrysler Imperial replete with pushbutton automatic transmission from Lowe's Garage for $400. We could stow all our gear in the trunk, including packs and chainsaws, while luxuriously "cruising" to Appalachia or other destinations to start our day.

We began each season at the Goetze Cottage with an overview of strategy, where we'd also hear marvelous tales of Klaus' boyhood that included practicing piano in a cold, drafty castle where he'd have to thaw his hands in a bucket of warm water.

The work was messy, fun, and sometimes tedious. Having three helped to drive away boredom. The trails were always buggy. While we practically bathed in Woodsman's Fly Dope, this did not keep the deer flies at bay. On one excursion, the swarm was so heavy that we made a contest out of the "kill rate" - won by Thumper with a claimed "seven in one blow."

Considering the equipment, there were plenty of opportunities for hazard. We were very lucky, overall, with the worst incident being a minor hatchet wound that required us to abandon our work near the summit of Crescent Mountain.

Jim Grant and Betsy Rising, caretakers 1977. C. Breunig photo.While nominally supervised, we did not always perform "to spec." We occasionally allowed a sense of artistry or craftsmanship to override orders, and built extra water bars, or steps that would consume too much time. Sometimes, we cleared a trail too widely or not widely enough to please Klaus. On the whole, we seemed to get the job done, and enjoyed the process greatly.

Tad and I were accepted as caretakers for Gray Knob and Crag Camp the next two summers. We switched from the comparative loneliness of trail crew to what was often a major social center. It was also an introduction to the occasional follies of the Great American (and I suppose Canadian) Public - such as groups of 40 teenage campers arriving at Crag Camp just before dusk, wearing sneakers and street shoes, and with packs full of hair dryers and boxes of bulky cereals. We only had to do one or two minor rescues. I was on my day off when (it was later reported) a hiker struck by lightning had managed to find his way to Crag Camp where he slowly recovered his faculties during the subsequent hours.

Unlike our peers at the AMC Huts, we did not pack in food for guests. But the packing in (or out) of other supplies was memorable - such as the propane "bombs" for the gas stove and the removal of trash from an in-ground dump that had accumulated over the years. Tad Pfeffer had remarkable carrying capacity, and my recollection is when the barrel containing the final load was weighed, it came to 180 pounds.

In the summer of 1971, Tad brought two kittens named Amaryllis and Borealis to Crag Camp. These cuties rapidly matured into real killers during the summer - no more problems with mice or red squirrels. Getting them home at the end of the season was an altogether different challenge: we literally had the problem of "don't let the cat out of the bag" as we took turns carrying them down in pillow cases.

Did my summers on trail crew and in the cabins affect my later development? Yes, and no. In the summer of 1973, I applied for an internship in a Senator's office. Guy Stever, Sr, was kind enough to write a letter of recommendation in which he made the experience as caretaker sound as though it was the perfect background for being a budding Legislative or Administrative Aide. When I got the position, the net experience I derived from the summer in Washington helped me to realize how much (by far) I prefer life in the private sector.

When my parents had a unique opportunity to acquire a family property in South Woodstock, VT, in 1976, they pulled up stakes in Randolph. I'm fortunate that I married into a New Hampshire-oriented family, albeit one focused on Lake Sunapee. Owing to those four summers, I still feel "anchored" in the North Country.

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Klaus Goetze and the Brown Bag Map
By Tad Pfeffer

I worked on the RMC trail crew in the summers of 1968 and 1969. Crews hired by the RMC followed a fairly consistent progression in those days: two years on trails, followed by two years at the huts. The crew members were drawn from a plentiful supply of young Randolph summer people. I was part of what I think was the Club's first three-man crew (in those days it was always men) consisting of Woody Canaday, Henry Folsom, and myself. We were active hikers and regular visitors at the huts, and had each been part of Club activities informally for some time, packing loads to Crag Camp for its renovation a few years before, for instance. During the summer of 1967, we sent our letters of application the Club and waited anxiously for the Club's reply. The responses arrived that fall containing the happy news that we would all be hired for the following summer. I don't know exactly why the club settled on three trail crew members in 1968, but it might have been for the simple reason that three of us applied.

Because we resided in the town and had already worked with the Club, we weren't entirely unknown quantities, but Klaus Goetze, who managed all trail activities and supervised the trail crew, liked to obtain some additional personal knowledge for himself. When I had made inquiries in 1967 about working for the Club in 1968, Klaus set me a little task to give me an opportunity to see what the work would be like; more to the point, it would also give Klaus an opportunity to see what I would be like. He suggested that I try to clean out a blowdown that had blocked the EZ-Way some distance south of the Pasture Path. One August morning I filled a pack basket with tools scavenged from home and went alone down to the place Klaus had described. The pile of branches and trunks was enormous, and I went to work on the pile at what I saw as the thinnest spot, perhaps six feet to one side of the path. I had hacked a narrow tunnel most of the way through when Klaus appeared, bright-eyed and sweating under a red bandana headband, on the other side of the pile, ready to inspect my progress. (His habit of suddenly appearing on the trail would become familiar to us over the next few years.) He was pleased for the most part, but gently advised me that it wouldn't do to veer off from the original footpath.

The environmental issues, which in the coming years would dominate so many actions in the White Mountains, were first starting to emerge at this time, and while trail design and formal training of crews were still a few years in the future, Klaus knew the problems associated with allowing trails to wander by casual relocation and had already abandoned the 'path of least resistance' style of trail maintenance of the preceding decades. By way of inspiration, Klaus also told me the story of the competing 19th century trailbuilders Eugene Cook and J. Rayner Edmands. Cook's paths were spontaneous, jogging around larger trees or even jumping over boulders; Edmands' paths ran sedately and deliberately on a steady grade, any obstacle either anticipated far in advance or removed. Klaus suggested that while Edmands' philosophy of trail building might unbending, a little bit too formal, I needed to be careful not to embrace Cook's approach too wholeheartedly and risk degenerating into sloppiness 1. In any case, I needed to move my tunnel six feet, back to the path. My work evidently satisfied Klaus, and I had my sample of what the next summer would be like and was ready for more of it.

We started the 1968 season toward the end of June, when the youngest of us - Woody I think - turned 16 and made us legal in the eyes of the insurance company. Our first official meeting as a trail crew was held one evening on the porch at Klaus's house, where Erika served us all coffee and cookies, and Klaus told us his plan for the sequence of trail work. For this he needed a map. He got up from his seat on the porch and went into the small living room, where he searched for a minute or two, but then came out, saying 'I don't seem to have a map handy, but no matter,' and went across the porch into the kitchen, returning with a brown paper grocery bag and the stub of a pencil. Then, cutting the bag open and spreading it out on the table before us, he quickly sketched the entire RMC trail system from memory, with no hesitation, no mistakes -- all the trails in proportion and neatly labeled. Woody, Henry, and I watched silently, transfixed, peering over our coffee cups as Klaus's map appeared on the table. With the map drawn, Klaus then went over the trails where he knew that year's problems to be and the order in which we might open them, with certain paths to be done first on account of their popularity and other near-by or simple jobs being held in reserve for rainy-day activities. As the summer proceeded we met regularly with Klaus and annotated the grocery bag map with notes of our progress.

My memories of the work that first year seem to include a lot of rain, although that may be only because work in the rain made a greater impression. We made our way through the list of trails, gradually adapting ourselves to the new routine of getting up each morning with a job to do, regardless of weather or our moods. We brushed out paths that ran through fast-growing ferns, raspberry bushes and maple saplings, cut the occasional large blowdown with a magnificent and antique two-man saw and built water bars at points along the wetter trails. We also served in the trail crew's traditional role at the RMC Annual Picnic, preparing coffee boiled in large blue-enameled coffee pots the Club kept for the purpose over a fire built next to Carlton Brook. In our first year at least, we worked at an additional task for the picnic, rearranging stones in the brook in a completely futile attempt to somehow reduce the noise of the water. (The annual Picnic and Charades were originally held in the valley at a quieter location near Coldbrook Lodge and the Billings Cottage, but the site was obliterated when Route 2 was relocated in the early 1960s. The Charade's now-standard style of shouting declamation probably dates only from the move to the Carlton Brook site.)

The Club's decision to hire a three-man crew in 1968 turned out to have been a good one, for the following year brought the great winter of 1969, when Little Joe Baillageron started shoveling roofs on Randolph Hill in December and shoveled every day from then until March, wearing out three shovels. The trails were a mess the following spring, and there was plenty of work to keep three of us occupied. We also became the first crew to use a chain saw; following some coaching from Jack Boothman, we added a small Homelite saw (the lightest we could find) and gas and oil cans to our inventory of tools. Needless to say, we quickly retired the long two-man saw we had carried the year before.

Klaus's interest in the RMC trail crew went far beyond the clearing of trails. He was a teacher both by profession and by avocation, and saw the responsibilities that young people, like Woody, Henry and myself, would shoulder on the trail crew as a preparation for a life that would presumably include more than further manual labor. Klaus didn't speak of this, but his belief in its importance and his desire to guide us at this early stage in our lives - to draw us a map, even casually - became evident in retrospect, and also, some years later, in a letter of recommendation he wrote for me in which he described the scene at the blowdown on the EZ-Way from his perspective on the other side of the pile.

As I think back to that June evening in 1968, sitting with Klaus on his porch, our first official meeting as the RMC trail crew, it is hard for me to imagine that he really had no trail map in the house available for the purpose of instructing his crew on the summer's plans. No one who saw Klaus at the RMC annual Picnic and Charades over the years will question his eye for the theatrical moment, and I think that his drawing of the map on a grocery bag might have been a nice bit of theater presented especially for a young and impressionable new crew. St any rate, it certainly worked in that regard. We talked about it for weeks afterwards and admired the map for its precision, proportion, and not least for the ease with which it had slid out from under Klaus's pencil stub.

The map is gone now; in August, at the end of our first season's work for the RMC, it disappeared as our identities slipped from woodsmen back to Randolph teenagers in summer. Of all the lost bits and pieces from those days, the tangible parts of memory, it is this map I most wish I still had in my hands. It was much more than Klaus's plan for trail work during one summer; it was his plan for a small part of our lives. I like to think that as he drew the trails, smoothly and in their proper order and proportion, he imagined us moving not only along those trails then and in the future, but also on to other more distant trails, making paths for ourselves that would ultimately lead off of his map, and on to maps of our own.

1. Klaus also told me that the Memorial Bridge, below Coldbrook Fall, was posterity's (and the RMC's) great joke on the two men, whose contrasting beliefs in trailbuilding had led to a certain personal friction between them. The Link, one of Edmands' masterpieces, and the Amphibrach, the creation of Cook and William Peek, run together across the bridge, forcing the two great men to walk arm-in-arm, figuratively at least, but forever, along the thirty feet of shared trail across the bridge.

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The Generation Gap
By Ginger Beringer
Trail Crew 1979, 1980, and 1981

One memory that I have includes Klaus Goetze. At that time he was in charge of the trail crew. I was the leader of trail crew that summer because I had the most years under my belt. To say the least, he was none too thrilled about having a woman leading the crew and, try as he might to hide it, his position on the subject was crystal clear. I remember one morning at the beginning of the summer meeting with him to go over what work needed to be done on the trails for that week. There was a very large blowdown on the Pasture Path -- the diameter must have been somewhere around five feet or so.

What ensued was a tense but cordial discussion about the manner in which this thing was to be removed. I, of course, assumed that we would be provided with a chain saw and make quick work of the beast. He, on the other hand, coming from an older school regarding women and trees, insisted on a two person saw. I explained that this would take us a year and a day and that a chain saw was the way to go. He countered me by saying something to the effect that women just do not use chain saws. It was too dangerous.

I then told him that my father had taught me many years ago how to use a chain saw safely and that, in fact, my older sister and I had had a small (oh so small) business selling cords of wood. This did not seem to impress him at all. I remember him just starring at me across the vast generation gap that was opening up between us and I stared at him. At last, remaining quite fixed and unmoved from his position, he said with great civility that he would under no circumstance allow me to use a chain saw! End of discussion!!

This was the beginning of an interesting summer and a rather unusual relationship with him. That blow down did take us the greater part of a day, but in retrospect I think his was the right decision in the end. After all, what was a little more work. He more than made up for it with frequent bowls of ice cream on his porch throughout the rest of the summer.

Another fond memory that I have is of Jack Stewart. On numerous occasions he would simply appear on the trail out of nowhere. He had the strange tendency to materialize at any moment from behind a bush or a bend in the trail or from behind a rock. One time he brought us birch beer and homemade gingerbread, and we had the distinct impression that he had hiked all the way simply to bring us these delicacies. I remember thinking, " They don't get this kind of treatment on the AMC trail crew, I'll bet!"

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Trails as "Entrance Species"
By Doug Mayer
Crag Camp 1987

2007 RMC Trail Crew: Doug Mayer, Maya Velasco, Rachel Biggs, Leslie Ham, Jamie Phinney, Chris Fithian, Curtis Moore, Henry Bodkin, Ben Lieberson, Tyler Self. Trish Anderton photo.Two themes rise to the surface as I think back to my season of caretaking for the RMC. First, I remember the experiences of being in the midst of the wild, natural world. That was still quite new for me at the time. Chilly summer evenings spent hiking above treeline under a full moon, late summer rime ice coating the alpine zone, gusty winds knocking you to the ground; these encounters with the natural world were both novel and exhilarating. I knew in an intellectual way that such experiences existed, but living them firsthand was a true adventure. I was addicted! In a very direct way, that set the course for much of the rest of my life.

The second theme is the social component to caretaking. That was a surprise. I never thought that I could be a caretaker in a remote mountain cabin and meet such a wide variety of interesting people! Every afternoon brought a new round of guests, each with their unique perspectives, stories to tell, and questions to ask. The benefit of such encounters on the side of Mount Adams is that each person wants to be there. He or she is in a good mood, having looked forward to this trip for weeks, if not months. More often than not, they were upbeat, friendly and sociable. I'll always recall long evenings around the old table at Crag Camp, spent talking as the sun set, the moon rose and night moved across the mountains.

We were not always unobserved, however. I remember one long evening when Crag's Coleman lantern was extinguished late. The next morning on radio call, Bill Arnold commented on seeing that solitary light far into the night. The fact that keen eyes in the valley might be paying attention never again escaped my mind!

Working for the RMC influenced my later decisions in that I knew I wanted to live somewhere where I could be close to the natural world, both for the opportunity for adventure it provided, and for the sense of being grounded. Working for the RMC provided me with a sense of place. I feel very much at home in the mountains.

As I write this, I'm sandwiched between two other travelers on a plane, headed west. But I can see the ridges of Madison and Adams as if they're right in front of me. That sense of connectedness has kept me steady through a life ever-present with the tumult of work and personal challenges. Randolph's peaks, storms, clear fall days, quiet woods, the Cliffway, the 7 in King Ravine, the alpine tundra, Howker Ridge trail, and plenty of good friends: these are the things that provide a sense of stability in an ever-changing world.

[Editor: I also asked Doug how somebody who was a caretaker for only a single season came to be so involved with RMC trails as a volunteer.]

I first became interested in trail work after having worked for the Mount Washington Observatory as an intern and, later, for the RMC as a caretaker. I had just graduated from college and was living in Sandwich, New Hampshire. I was hiking a lot, and the trails on the range nearest to me were managed by the little but effective Wonalancet Out Door Club. WODC was in a lull then, and the trails were short on waterbars and high on brush. The paths were unraveling. I got involved for an entirely unenlightened reason-- I wanted to hike the Rollins Trail and still be able to see my feet.

Environmental activists talk about "entrance species"-- those animals that draw us into underlying ecological issues. One can't love the wild call of the loon, be the least bit contemplative, and not start considering why they are threatened. Read up on that, and pretty quickly you're learning about eggshell thickness, then water quality, lead fishing sinkers, mercury from incinerators, shoreline development, and habitat fragmentation.

Trails are their own entrance species, of a sort. At least, they were for me. If you like to hike, really like to hike and maybe also climb, trail run and backcountry ski, you can't use trails and not start to see the big picture. The paths need to be cleared and marked.

But they need more than that. Trails are dynamic. Water moves down the treadway, hikers make choices about where to place their feet, plants grow, and storms rumble through. The result on the ground is a fluid, ever-changing situation. Good management can influence the health of the trail throughout its dynamic life.

Take care of a trail, and you open the door to countless other great experiences: insights into aesthetics, ecology, mountain history, and heartfelt comraderie among trail workers. You learn about the pleasure and value of a hard day's physical labor in a world where computers and monitors increasingly rule.

I'd like to say that I've lent a hand on RMC's trails for all kinds of profound, selfless reasons, but that's just not so. First and foremost, I'm a user. I've taken so much from Randolph's paths: relaxation, exercise, challenge, contemplation, understanding, memorable social times. I'd like to think I'm returning the favor to an old friend, and in doing so, helping the trail to live a long, happy and healthy existence, because that's certainly what these trails are doing for me.

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The Third Organ
By Ted Dettmar
Trail Crew 1994, 1995, and 1998

Ted Dettmar.I led the Trail Crew during the summers of '94 and '95, and the Ice Storm Clean-Up Crew in the spring of '98. This was an era of transition from brushing, drainage construction and light reconstruction to one of heavy reconstruction. One clear memory is my first day of work when Doug Mayer showed me the TC tool collection in his dimly lit garage. It was nothing more than a garbage can mostly filled with fire rakes and swizzle sticks. Coming from the AMC Trail Crew and Camp Dodge, where tools were varied and plentiful, this new situation was sobering. Doug and I bought the RMC's first griphoist winch, an absolutely necessary tool for moving large rocks in steep terrain. I introduced the concept of "full tools," whereby each TC member goes into the woods with a 20 pound 5 foot rock bar, a pick mattock, a long handled shovel, a good axe, a root axe and a pair of clippers. We added new chainsaws to the crew's one and only saw I built tool racks in Doug's garage to store all the new toys. In a move of potentially questionable wisdom, we adopted wooden packboards to carry tools, group gear, and personal gear into the woods.

The first pack trip of the '94 season, up the Spur Trail to Crag Camp, was particularly memorable. With each of us carrying a full complement of tools and food and gear for a week, the pack board weights were prodigious. Andy Woods, a first year TC who was much younger, smaller and lighter but much fitter than I, stayed close to me the whole way. It was a brutal trip and I crumped on every rock I could, moving on only when Andy caught up and needed the same rock.

There were ample rewards. The most beautiful sunset I ever saw was from the back porch at Crag. There were layers of clouds that were alternately lit from the top and bottom. The stunning colors changed constantly and the whole process seemed to take hours. I remember thinking, as I stood there, that this would be a sunset I would remember forever. I didn't even bother to photograph it because no snapshot would ever do it justice. That one sunset made all the pack trips worthwhile.

Except maybe one. A guy from Boston donated an organ for the new Crag Camp. The TC was given the job of packing the organ to Crag. The organ broke down into 2 loads, the case and the innards. Both loads were around 80 lbs. but the case was much more bulky. Doug Mayer and I took turns packing the case. I picked the first half of the trip to make sure I'd secured it properly. Doug carried it for the second half to get the applause of the crowds gathered at Crag. (Sorry, Doug!) The donor hiked with us carrying a daypack with the tools to assemble the organ. At times we had to go off trail because the trees were too close together to permit passage.

Ted Dettmar, Doug Mayer, and others carry the new organ to Crag Camp in 1994.My most vivid memory of that trip was scaling and traversing a section of ledge on the Spur Trail. In a particularly dicey spot, one of the leather pack straps slipped off my sweaty right shoulder. Visions of me tumbling down the ledge, suffering greatly while creating 80 pounds of kindling, filled my head. Balancing the load on one shoulder and watching my feet carefully, I sidestepped some six feet onto safe ground and breathed a massive sigh of relief. Shortly afterward I surrendered the load to Doug. In the end, the organ was safely delivered and assembled.

There are many great memories of building wooden ladders and rock staircases, of crew comraderie after a hard but satisfying day, of fun plunges into any number of swimming holes, but they all tend to run together.

In the scary memory department, nothing tops the experiences of the Ice Storm Clean Up Crew. After the storm, the trails were blocked not so much by individual trees but by entire complexes of trees, with everything under tension and very unstable. It was hard to figure where to cut first, or to cut something without accidentally cutting something else. At the end of every day for the first week, the crew would convene for a "this is how I almost died today" meeting. My own closest call came when I had just finished cutting through a 14" or so diameter trunk when I heard a huge crash right behind me. Another 14" trunk, which had been above my head, now lay on the ground. Somehow, the tree I had just cut was holding up the other one behind me. Another 6" back and I would've been lucky to escape with a serious injury. We were very lucky that no one was injured that week. We quickly gained enough experience to tackle the blow-downs safely.

My experience with the RMC has definitely affected my life and my decisions. It cemented my desire to live in the White Mountains region. I'm not there yet but I will be some day. It taught me the intrinsic value of hard physical work and the satisfaction of building something that will exist for generations. Finally, I gained lifelong friends (like Gary Winslow) whose lives and work are still an inspiration to me. It's great to see that the RMC's commitment to its trails continues to grow and I am proud that I played a small part in that process.

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Winter Memories
By Tim Tierney

I was the winter caretaker in 1995-96 and 96-97; I shared this position with Dave Hardy. We'd each do seven days on and switch off. Both Dave and I were field supervisors for the Green Mountain Club the remaining eight months of the year. I loved caretaking; it satisfied my need to be outside and suited my social predilections as I lived and communicated with all the mountain travelers.

Looking back, there are so many fond memories: laughter, sincerity, crazy conditions, and tranquil or breathtaking moments, but most of all I think of my caretaking partner, Katie, a one hundred twenty pound golden- Labrador retriever mix who not only worked with me on the Long Trail, but also kept me company at Gray Knob. She passed away several years ago, but I will always remember her in her prime on Mt. Adams. We both could eat whatever we wanted since we would lose all the weight just hiking around or living in the 40 degree cabin -- mmmmm… an entire stick of butter on a whole box of pasta! She always knew where the trail was and stayed close to keep on eye on me. In steady winds when I stopped to fix something she would just bury her head in the snow, make a drift to keep to keep the wind out her eyes, and lie there like it was nothing until I was ready to move on. She became an expert beggar of bagels and threw off so much body heat that every morning the window in the caretaker room was covered in an inch of ice. She carried twenty pounds of dog food up Lowe's Path every week (because I wasn't going to). One time coming over Jefferson in bad visibility, she led me below tree line because I followed the orange shoelace I had tied to her upright white tail.

Trail Crew 2000: Anne Tommaso, Jessica Storrer, Pete Sullivan, Matt Moran, Hillary Seeland, Aaron Parcak, and Ned Green. Doug Mayer photo.My favorite Katie Moment: at the end of the first season, we had received a good amount of snow the previous week and all the paths had been snowshoe packed by hikers. I was ready to carry everything that I brought up there over the course of the winter back down the mountain. The day before was extremely sunny and not a soul had visited -- a take-your-shirt-off day. I discovered I had more stuff than I could fit anywhere, so I passed some over to Katie's pack. She looked like a pack mule heading down the Grand Canyon! Upon reaching the steep section after the Quay, I realized the trail had become a luge run from the warm day before and the freeze that night. So, loaded down, I sat down and slid for as long as I could, but I was going faster than I had anticipated. I put my boots down to slow my ascent and got sprayed with ice chips. I didn't see a bend in the trail, so I slid straight through it into deep powder. Struggling to get up, I looked up to see how Katie was faring. She had large claws and never had an issue negotiating packed areas, but the trail was covered in thick ice and when Katie stepped onto it she just started right down. With the extra weight she couldn't jump, so she just sat on her haunches and went with it. All I could see was a very large dog, free-sliding, ears flying back, an apprehensive look on her face, coming straight for me. This was going to be ugly. As she came to the bend I had gone straight through, she leaned or something, but she stayed on the trail, navigated the next bend to the right, and flew down another 30 yards to where she could gain her footing once again. She stayed off to the side of the trail on the rest of the steep sections that morning. Those memories of "Nepalese Yeti Hound" (as I called her when asked what breed she was) are what I cherish most.

Looking back on the RMC itself, I loved the philosophy and the culture that the club created, and that I was sent to protect and educate others about. To share the experience with so many people and help them through the opportunity provided by RMC to challenge, enjoy and ultimately humble themselves was very fulfilling. Sure, the physical aspect was hard at times, but my soul felt at ease. I loved the simplicity and the challenge as well as the uniqueness. I spent one Christmas there with just Katie. I did tire of talking about mountaineering equipment with guests, but overall I loved the job. Just to go check on the Perch could be a challenge. I loved the extreme conditions, like the ones I had only heard of in Robert Service poems, ("they range the field, rove the flood and climb the mountain's crest"). I hated carrying the propane tank up the hill, but never minded any other task. My time at Gray Knob will always be a very fond memory; it's a wonderful place and a great organization.

I obviously had worked, and still do, in the natural resource and recreation management field, but I learned a lot about the users, their relationship with the environment, their willingness to learn in order to protect it, and I developed many techniques to convey this message.

As far as my experience affecting future decisions is concerned: My girlfriend at the time lived in Stowe, Vermont, and she and I enjoyed hiking. Her family was a little suspect of the guy who worked only two weeks out of the month on top of a frigid mountain in the White Mountains. She had never hiked or camped in the winter before but understood I loved it. On my birthday in November, she hiked up in a snowstorm (unbeknownst to me) with a birthday cake and just loved the whole experience. It was up there looking down at the Great Gulf on a sunny day with a big smile on her face (even though I knew her fingers were colder than she was used to) that I said to myself, "This is the girl I am going to marry." Well a couple of years later I did, and we now live in Newark, Vermont, with our two little girls in an old farmhouse. A picture of their parents holding hands on the side of Adams 4 hangs on the stairwell wall.

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More Winter Memories
By Pete Antos-Ketcham

I have been working off and on since 1997 as a winter caretaker at Gray Knob, including one full winter stint from 1998 to 1999 and then a partial winter stint in 2001. The rest of the time I have done spot fill-ins here and there. Gray Knob and the northern Presidentials are far and away one of the most special places to me.

1. What stands out in your memories of working on the RMC trail crew or as a Caretaker? Is there a particular incident that was fun, hard, scary, exciting, etc.?

Most days were fun. For me there was always an element of fun meeting new guests, sharing knowledge, learning from them, and participating in their mountain experience. I enjoyed the simple existence and the raw elements of nature in winter. I enjoyed myself whether I was cruising along above treeline on a bluebird February day, or replacing the doorknob on Crag for the third time because people were impatient when it was frozen. I enjoyed hearing the wind blow snow against the window and drinking endless cups of tea while waiting for a storm to end or sweeping the camp for the twelfth time. It didn't seem to matter what it was - life was more fun at 4400' in winter.

Probably the hardest thing for me was enduring the dark months of November and December. I would wake up in the morning to total darkness, light the Coleman lantern and keep it going until around 9AM. It would then go back on around 3:30 in the afternoon. If I wanted to see the sun, provided it was clear, I could go out to the Quay or over to Crag - but Gray Knob was dark. It was fun for the first month or so, but after that I was ready for some sun. Speaking of "hard," I suppose I should mention packing firewood - carrying logs on a packboard while wearing snowshoes or crampons, and then climbing the Hincks Trail was a physical challenge to be sure.

I was fortunate not to have too many scary experiences. White gas cooking stoves probably take the cake in the scary department. During my tenure at Gray Knob I had to use the fire extinguisher three times to put out runaway stove fires. After these experiences I am always a little nervous and a little suspicious anytime a new guest gets out their stove and gets ready to light it. I only had one almost Search and Rescue. A new Russian immigrant from Boston was caught above treeline in awful conditions at night. Just as I was preparing to go hike the trail to Crag and possibly head up Spur to treeline, he stumbled in to Gray Knob. I thawed him out and he spent the night as he was exhausted and woefully ill-prepared to be out in those conditions.

Probably the most exciting part was the weather. I looked forward to the forecast each day. I eagerly awaited each storm to see how much snow it would bring. The winter of 2000-2001 was amazing because we had so much snow. Highlights from that winter included having to shovel out around the downstairs windows, tunneling in to the outhouses and the Perch (which simply looked like a snowcave), and having to add a second snowstake on to the first when it became buried. Back in Vermont the heavy snows caused one Long Trail shelter to collapse and another to fall off its foundation.

2. Has the experience of working with the RMC affected your later life or decisions? If so, how?

Working for RMC allowed me to work in my field of choice year round. I pieced together summers with the Green Mountain Club and then winters with RMC. I think this opportunity further solidified in my mind my desire to make working for a mountain club managing trails and shelters my full time career, and I have been fortunate enough to do so. I am currently the Green Mountain Club's Education Coordinator and Facilities Manager. Prior to this position I spent nine seasons working in the field as a Caretaker and then Field Supervisor. I spent two seasons with AMC as their backcountry education assistant.

While I don't get out in the field as much as I used to, I am still getting to play a crucial role in helping the mountains of New England play a greater role in people's lives and this brings me tremendous satisfaction. And, despite my hectic schedule here in VT, I still make time to get over and help out the RMC whether it is helping build a new composting toilet or filling in as caretaker at Gray Knob. This has been a wonderful way to stay connected. As I wrote above, the northern Presidentials and the RMC Camps are truly special and unique places and a major part of who I am.

Closer to home, my wife Katie and I live in a small log cabin on the side of small mountain (at 2000 feet); after living in the RMC Camps I could never live in a traditional house again.

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From Crag Camp, Summer 2000
By Mario Partenope

I have a scary incident and two fun ones. I once hiked up nearly 80 pounds of pressure treated 2x4s on a packboard on a rainy day. The wood was to be used for a drying rack for the compositing toilet. I was coming up after days off and was by myself on the old Spur Trail headed towards Gray Knob. I was making good time, but was starting to get tired since I had completed nearly three quarters of my hike, when all of a sudden my foot slipped of a rock and CRACK, I fell face first into a rock. I was very lucky not to do more than give myself a decent cut. I finished my way up the trail and Matt Labonville, the Gray Knob caretaker, found me a couple of hours later as I had passed out, bloody and exhausted, in his bed.

One fun memory is eating dinner most every night on the Quay with Matt. Sometimes we would share a big pot of mac and cheese with hot dogs our friends Gabe Graff and Nate Burcalow (Nate took over for me after I left that summer).

My other fun memory from that year was Cragstock (we named it Craggle Rock instead). It was a great night. I vividly remember the late Nate Green humping up a small grill to cook the food and screaming an obscenity at the top of his lungs upon his arrival to camp while the whole Turnbull family from Randolph was on the deck.

My summer at Crag made me more interested and knowledgeable about hiking in general, as well as the White Mountains themselves, and for that I am ever so grateful. I still regard it as the best job I have ever had and wish I could feasibly do it again.

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Memories of Ned Green
By Curtis Moore
Trail Crew 2000, 2005, and 2007

Letter from Curtis Moore to Clare Green (Ned Green's mother). Ned, who led the 2000 RMC Trail Crew, was killed in a climbing accident in Huntington Ravine the following winter.

June 25, 2006

"Hi Clare!

Thank you so much for the book Cutting A Bond With The Long Trail!

As I'm sure it did for many, it brought back some memories. First off, I'm on a bus right now, just back from leading a Vermont YCC crew. We were doing heavy rock-work on Sunset Ridge on Mt. Mansfield. I was showing the kids what size rocks to use, how to work a rock bar to move things, and how to install them as structures. By the end of the week a new waterbar was done, two new three-step staircases with scree were started, and they had prepared for a long waterbar and staircase.

This productive handiwork I really learned from Ned. In 2000 in Randolph, he took me under his wing and showed me a work ethic by example: what size rocks to use by way of overtime exhaustion, and quality of work by maniacally testing the rocks with his own body weight.

Ned Green, Trail Crew 2000. Doug Mayer photo.Such an industrious fellow, and yet he was intricately simple in his heart. At the time of our acquaintance, I was fresh out of high school and still relatively 'green' to life, especially to the likes of a Ned Green.

My first sighting was a grin from the barbeque at the Cutter Cabin. I asked him something like, 'When did you graduate from high school?' And he asked me if I was trying to date him. What an odd response, but from there we went on to combining two or three blowdown patrols in a day. Nonstop for up to 14 hours we chain-sawed, axed and scrambled all over the Northern Prezzies. I couldn't believe the immensity of effort, but somehow I kept up. He figured hiking was the break time.

He was affectionately called 'Nedward' by the crew, and I was apprehensive that this would upset him. However, the closer I now grow to his age at that time, the more I feel I understand him, a fun loving guy who could not rest. Mobility and daily achievements were components of his deep character.

Later in the season we were working on Owl's Head and a section had just been relocated. The new stretch went through a very wet marshy, buggy area. The planks for bog bridges had to be carried in with pack boards. Of course, Ned carried an entire bridge of crushing mass and top-heaviness. But what I remember most is Ned bending over for a stringer and hearing a huge rip. His Carharts had ripped right up the crotch. He only said, 'Glad I wore underwear today.'

Our work farther up that trail was at the heart of Ned's adopting me. He wouldn't let anyone else work with us on a massive staircase. It was a sweaty, profanity-laden, tool-tossing week, by far the most hardcore week I've experienced. But through it all, Ned passed on many Nedisms on a personal level. What I didn't know was that he was passing on his compassion for the outdoors and a true love/hate relationship with rocks and the skills to work with them. As I stood petrified watching a dull root axe being hurled through the forest, one comforting observation was that his aggression, verbal or physical, was always aimed at inanimate objects. The last day on that project, after moving a rock with Z griphoists and three rockbars for scree, Ned took me aside. We walked down the steps, across the stream and up the other bank. We walked off the trail and sat on a suspended log. After all that work he brought me there, to point out the aesthetics of the staircase - its appeal and natural curve, step-size and scree function. It really brought everything together and planted something that's been growing ever since.

Ned comes back to me in cycles, but generally has a consistent presence. His intimidating larger than life personality and stature, coupled with his quirks and heart, helped form my character. Wild, true and without shame, Ned was his own person with no regard, but much respect.

After this week of trail work in Vermont, Ned has returned to my veins. I ran the ridge of Mansfield and part of the Long Trail with beautiful views and a light breeze. On the way down, there was a cranky old raven waddle-stomping around on a rock, maybe fifteen feet off the trail. I stopped to look at it and it kept up its raspy scream. Other ravens out of sight were responding. I could only think, "Thanks for everything Ned, but most thanks for being nothing but Ned."

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From Zach Gayne
Field Supervisor in 2003

One of my most important memories is the feeling of being immersed in nature and in the mountains. I seemed to have so much time alone to think about nature, observe it, and feel it. The weather on the walk to the Perch was often exciting, but exhilarating, since I was the only one out there: a very peaceful feeling.

Working with RMC affects my life every day. The club has an amazing sense of simplicity and conservation. Just trying to live a simple life, use less energy, and protect nature are all ways of life that I owe somewhat to my experiences at RMC.

 

Working and Learning
By Will Manty
Trail Crew 2005 and 2006

My memories of trail crew with the RMC are of the most fulfilling and fun times in my life. And they revolve around the most demanding physical labor I have ever performed. So whatever the memory, it is inseparable from the WORK of trail crew. The gratification of trail work for me is in quarrying a beautiful rock, setting a perfect step, clearing a big blow-down, and seeing the dramatic effect hard work can have on a trail. What I remember most about trail work though, is the constant opportunity for learning. Whether it is the direct experience of learning about leverage with a rock bar in hand under a washing machine-sized rock, learning about pain while hauling a packboard full of firewood up to the camps, learning about tool maintenance by dulling an ax and having to repair it in the workshop, learning about erosion through replacing a waterbar, or learning about living in close quarters with a small crew of people who quickly become friends, what I remember is learning. The other most memorable part of working for the RMC is the White Mountains. Ascending above tree line and seeing the many ecological changes on the way up gave me a perspective I had never had. The pace, peace, and beauty of living immersed in the mountains is an unforgettable part of my two summers working for the RMC.

After working for the RMC in the past, I now have to weigh future plans against thoughts of working for the RMC again. So in that way, it indeed affects my decisions. Philosophically, trail crew made indelible impressions on me about the type of work I want in the future, and what constitutes a good life. No matter what work I do with the rest of my life, I know it will have strong connections to being in the natural world.

 

Growing Confidence
By Maya Velasco
Trail Crew 2006 and 2007

Packing up firewood to Gray Knob was one of my most memorable experiences of the summer. My first day of patrolling I cleaned drainages on Lowe's Path. The hike up to Gray Knob was definitely a challenge. I kept wondering why there weren't any switchbacks and why did the trail appear to be going straight up? When I learned we would be packing firewood up Lowe's Path later in the summer I was intimidated by such a formidable task. When the time came to pack up wood, I found my self more capable than I had thought. I was able to pack up a little bit more wood each trip, up the same trail that challenged me both physically and mentally before. It was that day that I realized how much I had grown over the summer; I was in better physical condition and had more confidence.

My RMC experience gave me more confidence. When I face a challenging situation in my day to day life, I think back to the summer. When I doubt myself, I remember how I was uneasy about rock work or using a chainsaw. In the end, I learned I was able to accomplish tasks I didn't think I was capable of before. As a result, I am more open to new challenges.

Maya in Mud City. Chris Fithian photo.

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Trail Crew Reflections on the Summer of 2007

Editor's note: At the end of each summer, Trail Crew members are asked to reflect on their summer and their work. I hope that these excerpts in combination with reflections from past Trail Crews will remind us that, although the personalities and some of the specifics of the work have changed, the underlying themes of personal growth, skill development, and participation in a special mountain-loving community remain.

Chris Fithian, Field Supervisor 2007. Edith Tucker photo.Another great Randolph summer, with plenty going on, from work to all the social events that make Randolph a community to return to every season. This season had more events than usual with the dedication of the Stearns Lodge, potlucks, Jack Stewart's Memorial, and numerous curious visitors. The crew came together slowly but solidly and hopefully planted the sentiments of another round, in another summer. (Curtis Moore)


This summer I got into the best shape of my life (even more so than the last two summers). I continue to grow socially, physically, and mentally every time I come back to the RMC. It was another wonderful summer for me, and, though I am uncertain about my future, I hope it wasn't my last with the RMC. (Tyler Self)


Rock work takes on sort of a life of its own. A rock that seems impossible to move one day can be almost easy to work with the next day. Some days rock work was totally interesting and absorbing, some days especially, when we were quarrying, the only way to stay awake for eight hours was to have my mind somewhere else. One of the biggest things I learned was that rock work is as frustrating as you let it be. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it is always frustrating, but you have to accept that and let the frustration be a part of it, just like cold is a part of winter hiking and skiing. Once I started expecting that rock work would be frustrating and stopped seeing it as a problem, it got well… less frustrating

After this summer, I suspect you can't ever really be "in shape" for trail work. I think it's mostly about your mindset. Especially when we packed tools or firewood, I always had the feeling that I wasn't going to make it all the way to wherever we were going. It's the kind of thing where you just have to keep telling yourself "one more step, one more step." By the end of the summer, I was definitely in much better shape than the beginning, but that feeling of uncertainty never really went away. What did happen is that it became way less daunting, and I was no longer at all surprised when I actually did get wherever I needed to go or do whatever I needed to do. (Ben Lieberson)


Women of the 2007 Trail Crew - Rachel Biggs, Maya Valesco, and Leslie Ham. Doug Mayer photo.Rock work cannot be taught. Just as a champion playa could not tell you how to exactly charm a woman, I cannot tell you all of the intricacies surrounding moving rocks. Rocks are heavy, only go where they want to go, and don't bend over for just any hole. The best way to get better at rock work is to accept that you don't know what to do, to throw some muscle at the rock, and to take note of what strategies work and do not work…. In addition to being extremely experiential, rock work is art work. As you develop your skills, you begin to see just how personal a project can be. Water bars bear the mark of their creator in so many different ways…. As a result, I want to tweak my projects to make them better and have now started to think about what stimulates me. The most satisfying part of trail work is the mere notion that it is difficult work…. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I had to work really hard this summer to get things done. I've had to push myself when I was tired, to keep in good spirits when I was hypothermic, and to tell myself that trail work is worth my time. I like that I've struggled. (Jamie Phinney)


While I began the season with great amounts of frustration for forgetting the simplest ways of using a rock bar or mattock to set a rock, by the end of the summer it was astonishingly easy. The real trick to setting a rock in under a half-hour, I discovered, is digging the perfect hole. If you dig a proper sized hole, not too big mind you, paying close attention to the various proportions and angles of your rock, you can usually roll it right in. And (if you're lucky) it won't take too long for it to be as solid in the ground as it ever was. Remembering, always, that the hole must be coned! Having the opportunity to build a staircase on Amphibrach only furthered my confidence in moving and setting rocks on the trail. And may I say, it was a damn fine staircase that Maya and I put together.

I would like to point out what a wonderful bunch of ladies that were hired this year. Having the company of both Maya and Leslie completely changed my crew experience. With my first crew I felt like the only girl….This summer I found myself wanting to spend most of my time with the other ladies, and given the opportunity to work with both of them at the Pond of Safety was an amazing experience. What I had missed my first summer was getting to see how strong and capable other women are at this job, and instead was comparing myself to men who were, I'll be honest, much stronger and faster than I. One hope I would have for future crews is that there always be at least three women in the group. (Rachel Biggs)


2007 Trail Crew: Rachel Biggs, Maya Velasco, Tyler Self, Ben Lieberson, Chris Fithian, Leslie Ham, and Henry Bodkin. Doug Mayer photo.How do I even begin? This past summer was my second summer in Randolph. Randolph is a pretty special place and my connection with it only deepens over time. I think the reason the RMC is special to me is because I have discovered so much about myself there. I changed so much after my first year, and now I am home, I am already noticing the subtle ways in which this summer has also changed me. I expect that I will continue to notice more changes as the months pass. I can't imagine the type of person I would be if I hadn't gotten involved with the RMC.

One of the best days this summer was when the group hike came by the staircase on Amphibrach, which Rachel and I were building. It was fun explaining what we were doing, but it was even better answering their questions and receiving their thanks. Randolph shows so much support for the RMC and I think the building of the Stearns Lodge is an example of that. Since the whole community supports the RMC so much it is easy to feel comfortable and welcome there (however, it also makes it hard to leave).

Also this summer I learned of my ability to lead. I've never been in any kind of group leadership role before, so when Chris put me in the woods with Leslie, Ben, and Jamie I was more than a little nervous. I wasn't sure how I would handle helping them since at the time I was still struggling with rock work myself. At the end of the second week my apprehension had faded away. Although I wasn't always sure what to do I still was able to encourage them and learn with them. I realized a leader doesn't necessarily have to be loud and come into a situation with a plan and solution. A leader can encourage with ideas and learn just the same as everyone else. (Maya Velasco)


I expect that this will mostly become a thank you letter because that is the message I would like to extend to the club now that the season has ended. Coming from a corporate job I am especially aware of how lucky I was to be working for such a dedicated group of volunteers. I was struck by how caring everyone was. When people asked how I was I think they really heard my answer. This to me is worth note, but on top of that is how much the members love the trails. It is exciting to work for people who I know love the little speck of trail that I am fixing as much as I do. (Leslie Ham)

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