Table of Contents
By this time of the year, we are all eager for warmer weather and summer activities. With faith in this future, Randolph Mountain Club volunteers are preparing the traditional schedule of events, which are listed elsewhere in this Newsletter, and a great variety of hikes and outings, to be announced in The Randolph Weekly this summer.
Dont forget to bring money or checks to the Fourth of July Tea so you can purchase the new Randolph Paths and an updated RMC map of the Randolph Valley and Northern Presidentials. Some of these maps will be available rolled for display on a wall. We also will be selling copies of our 2004 Directory for a reduced price. We also hope to have a new tee shirt of Crag Camp and a reprint of an old Randolph poster drawn by Leroy Woodard in 1938.
The Board of the RMC is continuing to work on a permanent solution for housing its trail crews and caretakers. The Base Camp Building Committee, chaired by Paul Cormier and Doug Mayer (and including local builders John Tremblay and David Salisbury, along with structural engineer and former RMC President Jeff Tirey and 7 others) has been following up on the many thoughtful suggestions made during one-on-one interviews and at the Annual Meeting last summer. They succeeded in significantly revising and simplifying the original plan, getting it down to the essentials. The design was then brought to modular, log and conventional builders, and the Timber Framer's Guild for estimates. On April 3, they presented four preliminary estimates to the board. All were significantly lower than previous estimates. Needless to say, the RMC Board is delighted with this result and very grateful to the Base Camp Building Committee for its many, many hours of dedicated and thoughtful effort. At the April meeting, the board gave the Committee's work a unanimous vote of confidence. By the time of the Annual Meeting of the membership on Saturday, August 13, we will have more news to share with you.
The speaker at the Annual Meeting will be Dave Govatski, naturalist and recently retired Forest Service employee. This year we will experiment with handling the business part of the Annual Meeting in a more streamlined fashion, while still conveying the information members need. The minutes of last years meeting will be available at the Fourth of July Tea and, after that, at the Randolph Library. Please pick up a copy and read them before August 13 so we will only need to vote on whether to accept them. Reports on Trails, Camps, Events, and Trips are now published twice a year in the Newsletter so we plan to have the chair of each committee say only a few words and be available for questions. The financials for the first half of the year will still be presented at the meeting and a vote taken to accept them or not. And, of course, the Nominating Committee will present its slate, take any nominations from the floor, and ask for a vote on new board members and the president for the next year.
Thank you, our members, for all your support, in both money and volunteer hours. We are also deeply appreciative of the many supportive comments and suggestions we've gathered during the process of planning for reliable, permanent housing for our hardworking trail crews and caretakers. This support is very meaningful to all of us who volunteer for the RMC and encourages us to redouble our efforts to secure the future of the club.
See you this summer,
The membership at the 1935 Annual Meeting of the Randolph Mountain Club, then celebrating its 25th anniversary, was entertained by Arthur Stanley Pease, who read Durand Hall, an extended piece of doggerel (often a favorite RMC medium), from which these lines are drawn. Pease paid tribute to Randolph's early pathmakers, listing most of the hallowed names we find carved on the granite monument at Memorial Bridge.
These pioneers, together with a few others (whose names perhaps didn't suit Pease's meter or rhyme scheme), developed an intricate network of paths on Randolph's slopes. A virtual explosion of exploration and trail cutting began in 1875 and lasted into the early 20th century.
The first explorations of the Northern Peaks had started earlier, around 1850, when hardy walkers engaged mountain guides to take them up Madison, Adams, and Jefferson. James Gordon of Gorham was the most sought-after guide, and it was he who led the 26-year-old Reverend Thomas Starr King's party in 1857 on the first ascent of the headwall of the ravine we now know as Kings. Starr King published an extensive account of this adventure, describing the scenery in rapturous prose.
The party arrived at the top of the headwall, having climbed for nine hours. King rhapsodized further on the surroundings:
Gordon led many other parties on the Northern Peaks; he is credited with having made a path to the summit of Madison around 1860. This early route was probably a string of blazes (that perhaps he alone could interpret) rather than an actual cleared path as we know today. 3
Randolph's famed guide, Charles E. Lowe, according to his son Vyron's recollections, had guided parties over Mt. Adams for many years without a trail. 4 By 1873, a few rugged explorers, including several founders of the Appalachian Mountain Club, had found summer lodgings with Randolph farm families like the Kelseys and the Howkers. Among these men was the AMCs first Councilor of Improvements, the minister, physician and teacher, William Gray Nowell. In 1875 Nowell and Lowe blazed and cleared the first path to the summit of Mt. Adams from Lowes house. The two also built a bark shelter (called Lowes or, later, AMC camp) at an altitude of 3,250 feet, some 3 kilometers up the path. Together with his children Gracie and Fred and high school boys he tutored, Nowell spent many summers living at the camp (and from 1889, at the more substantial shelter, the Log Cabin, that he built on the same site). The youngsters helped with trail work and carefully measured the paths length in kilometers, posting the metric distances on signboards at regular intervals.
In 1876, Abel Watson and his son Laban, responding to the increasing demand for lodgings, remodeled their farm at the foot of the Northern Presidentials to establish the Ravine House. 5 The hotel was soon an important base for the AMC, and became a summer home for the group of men and a few hardy women who engaged in a veritable frenzy of mountain exploration, trail cutting, and mapmaking in the 1880s and 1890s.
The Ravine House soon attracted a coterie of regular summer guests, among whom was the businessman William H. Peek. An English book publisher who made his fortune from his furniture factory in Chicago, Peek chanced in 1878 to meet Laban Watson at Gorham's train station. Peek commented to his son:
Peek arrived the following summer and kept coming back for the next twenty-five summers. He soon found a kindred spirit in hiking enthusiast and inveterate punner Eugene B. Cook from Hoboken, NJ.
Cook had begun his White Mountain vacations in 1872 at Philbrook Farm in Shelburne, stayed briefly at Sugar Hill, and finally came to the Ravine House in 1882, accompanied by his sisters -- the spinster Edith and Lucia, who was married to a Polish aristocrat, Count Pychowski, and their daughter Marian. Cook was immensely energetic, "a slender wiry man, with long, curly black hair, heavy 'Burnsides' and large merry blue eyes laughing under shaggy brows." 7 A chess player, violinist, and exceptionally strong hiker, Cook was one of the first hikers known to have "run the range." In September 1882 he and George Sargent climbed from the Ravine House, over Madison and the other Northern Peaks, to Washington (where he and his companion dined), down the Crawford Path (over Franklin and Clinton), and back to Randolph by the light of a full moon via the Cherry Mountain Road and Jefferson. Including a supper stop at the White Mountain House at Fabyans, the journey took 20 hours and 21 minutes. 8
George Sargent, Cook's companion on this memorable journey, was a young Boston medical student. These men, Cook's sisters and niece, as well as innkeeper Laban Watson, Charles Lowe and another Randolph farmer and guide, Hubbard Hunt, all became actively involved in exploring the mountains, scouting and blazing trails. Evenings at the inn were spent recounting the days accomplishments, planning new adventures, playing parlor games, making music and dancing. Laban Watson who kept a stable and hired out conveyances to his guests arranged carriage outings to more distant valleys.
The pathmakers were a hardy lot. Marian Pychowska described one September days ramblings with her uncle Eugene:
Establishing a trail also demanded measuring its distance, naming points of interest, and posting informative signs. Marian wrote that she and her mother employed three afternoons on the Mt. Madison path in measuring it. Mr. Watson supplied us with a surveyors chain, which we have duly carried over the route to a point midway between the upper Salmacis Fall and the treeline. 10 She also recounted their difficulties in finding a suitable Indian name meaning Winters Home for what later became Peboamauk Fall in the Ice Gulch. Cook and Peek sometimes drew upon the puns that both men constantly exchanged. In 1899 Cook dubbed a short path between Air Line and Valley Way "Intermezzo Rusticano" after the rusty tin can hung on a tree to mark its beginning.
Two other establishments in Randolph provided lodgings for the burgeoning tourist trade: the expanded Kelsey Cottage (after 1899, the Mt. View House), and a commodious hotel, the Mt. Crescent House, was opened on Randolph Hill in 1883. As the stream of tourists to the mountains increased, all three hotels flourished and a new network of trails was developed from each hotel to scenic points.
The pathmakers' youngest member was Louis Fayerweather Cutter, who, as we have learned from Dr. Pease's verses, first came to the Ravine House in 1885. In his final year at MIT, the young man spent his first Randolph summer exploring the mountains, surveying for a map of Mts. Madison and Adams that he submitted as his thesis. Cutter's early love for the high peaks led him to spend the next sixty summers in the White Mountains. His accurately surveyed maps became the standard for AMC publications; he served as an AMC Councillor (Topography, Improvements, and At Large) and Vice-President; he wrote extensively for Appalachia. Still existing sketches and a formal portrait of Cutter include his iconic bicycle wheel, the device with which he measured trail mileages. At a later time Cutter helped found the RMC, in which he remained active until his death in 1945.
In the late summer of 1890 J. Rayner Edmands came to stay at the Watsons hostelry. A meteorologist at the Harvard Observatory, Edmands had long been a summer tramper. As a founding member of the AMC, he had served as Councillor of Explorations as well as participating in scientific activities and map making. Edmands was a colorful character. In the woods, he was known to wear gray knickers, flannel shirt with bright red-topped socks, a red sash and often a red kerchief around his neck. Louis F. Cutter described him as:
Randolph's George A. Flagg captured the man's essence in his sketch of Edmands, at age 74, striding up Mt. Adams far ahead of the rest of his party. The "old man" is saying, "I feel all right when I get up here." 12
Edmands established mandatory standards for behavior at his bark shelters, Cascade Camp and the Perch. He had a singular method of blanket folding:
He had equally strong rules about food:
In 1888 and 1890, Edmands had gone to the Colorado Rockies where he had been greatly impressed by the gradual nature of stock trails. Similar paths on the Northern Peaks, he felt, would open the mountains splendor for more walkers (especially women with their clumsy garments). His first project was to create a series of paths to provide easy access to the numerous waterfalls in Cascade Ravine. Financing his own endeavor, he hired local axemen to clear trees and create a smooth treadway.
Edmands' labor-intensive approach was antithetically opposed to the methods of Cook and Peek, who blazed and minimally cleared trails that gained the summits by the shortest feasible route, steepness be damned.
A certain amount of conflict arose between the two schools of pathmaking, with both Cook and Edmands refusing to walk each others paths. Cook and his friends were incensed when Edmands' renamed the ridge separating Cascade and Castle ravines it had always been called the Emerald Tongue, and not Israel Ridge. Yet the two men remained civil to one another in musical evenings at the Ravine House, with Cook on the violin and Edmands at the piano.
A final group of pathmakers chose Kelsey Cottage (the Mountain View House) as their summer haven. Joseph Torrey and his three sons, Charles Cutler, Joseph, and Elliot B., first vacationed in the Gorham area in 1881 and climbed Mt. Washington via Tuckerman's Ravine, perhaps trying to retrace the steps of their great-great grandfather Manasseh Cutler, who had scaled the peak on an early scientific expedition of 1784. When the Torrey family came to Randolph in the summer of 1895, they began to create paths connecting their hotel with the post office, church, the Ice Gulch, and other points of interest; they gradually expanded their trail network to include Pine Mt. and Howker Ridge. Charles' colleague and good friend George Foot Moore joined the Torreys at Kelsey Cottage, and, in 1900, the two men commissioned the building of a mountain camp -- Spur Cabin. From here they scouted and cut the Spur Trail up Nowell Ridge, officially opening it in June 1902. C. C. Torrey's labors at trail cutting are documented in his many entries in Spur Cabin's logbooks 17 from 1900-1915.
By the beginning of the 20th century the pathmakers had created an extensive network of trails leading into the ravines and up the major ridges. Connecting paths ran between the major thoroughfares, and short branch trails visited a profusion of fancifully named viewpoints, such as Montevideo or the Tip o the Tongue. Trails led to the Crescent Range, the Ice Gulch and the Pond of Safety. Around the three hotels there was a proliferation of pleasure paths, as well as short waterfall or woods trails maintained for less energetic walkers by the individual hotels.
The next chapter in this saga will consider the impact of wide-scale lumbering on the Northern Peaks that began around the turn of the century, destroying not only the lush forests, but many of the trails themselves. This led, in turn, to the founding of the RMC during the summer of 1910.
I am actively seeking any additional comments, corrections, anecdotal materials, or relevant photographs that my readers might have. Please contact me at 111 Amherst Road, Pelham, MA 01002; (413)256-6950; or by E-mail.
Judith Hudson has been coming to Randolph since the age of four or five. Her parents, the Drs. Stephen and Charlotte Maddock, first visited Randolph in 1923 or 1924 at the invitation of the Cutter family. Active members of the RMC, Judy and her husband Al have served in a variety of RMC jobs, including the presidency. Al is currently the Clubs Archivist, and Judy is working on a history of the RMC.
1 Thomas Starr King, The White Hills: Their Legends, Landscape, and Poetry. Boston: Crosby, Nichols, Lee, 1860, p. 352.
2 Starr King, pp. 360-1.
3 By 1883 it was nearly obliterated and had been replaced by other paths. Lucia Pychowska, "Randolph," in Appalachia:3;217 (1883).
4 Reported by Klaus Goetze, Appalachia:27(NS14);248 (1948).
5 For the first year the hostelry was known as the Mt. Madison House.
6 Related by George N. Cross in Randolph Old and New. Boston: Pinkham Press (for the Town of Randolph), 1924, p. 149.
7 Cross' personal recollections written in 1916 , "Randolph Yesterdays," Appalachia:14;55 (1916).
8 Eugene B. Cook, "The Record of a Day's Walk." Appalachia: 4;54-57 (Dec 1884).
9 Mountain Summers, edited by Peter Rowan and June Hammond Rowan, Gorham, NH: Gulfside Press, p. 237.
10 Mountain Summers, p. 100.
11 Louis F. Cutter, "The Edmands Paths and Their Builder," Appalachia:15;136 (August 1921).
12 "From the Sketchbooks of George A. Flagg," Appalachia:32; 357 (June 1959).
13 Hazel de Berard, "Memories of Randolph," Appalachia;31;193 (Dec 1956).
14 Arthur Stanley Pease, Sequestered Vales of Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 1946, p. 69.
15 Cutter, "Edmands Paths," p. 138.
16 Hazel de Berard, "Memories," p. 192.
17 Spur Cabin Registers, 1900-1915. Randolph Mt Club Archive, June 2004.
This July 4, RMC will release a substantially upgraded 8th edition of its guidebook, Randolph Paths. Along with the guide, an updated edition of the RMC Map of Randolph Valley and the Northern Peaks of the Mount Washington Range will be released.
This new edition of Randolph Paths, which was first published in 1917, is much more than just another update. The guide features entirely new trail descriptions gathered by a team of a dozen RMC volunteers who started work almost exactly a year ago. Along with the revamped trail descriptions, the new guide has additional features:
- a substantially updated and expanded introduction, with Leave No Trace guidelines, search and rescue information, winter hiking, backcountry skiing and even some ice climbing information -- the latter three reflecting the increasing interest in winter activities.
- an expanded RMC trails history, written by RMC historian Judy Hudson, that includes a number of newly uncovered historical photographs, as well as interesting discoveries including the story of what is perhaps the oldest Northern Presidential trail sign in existence: the one for Cascade Ravine's Pioneer Spring.
- geology highlights provided by Bates College Professor Dyk Eusden, and a new section devoted to the flora of the mountains, courtesy of Brad Meiklejohn.
- an expanded Points of Interest section, including new points, locations along RMC's new paths, and historical information about many places.
- trail descriptions for recent additions to the RMC trail system in the new Randolph Community Forest, for non-RMC trails on the Northern Peaks, as well as the trails at the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge.
- an expanded section on suggested walks, including route summaries to the Northern peaks and recommended ski and snowshoe trips.
- a new "lie-flat," sewn binding and pages with rounded edges that make for easier stowing in one's pack and ease of use on the trail.
- a significantly expanded index, courtesy of RMC archivist Al Hudson.
The guide is newly designed, courtesy of RMC volunteer Kit Kuntze of Whitefield. It will be "smythsewn" to produce a more durable and flexible binding. It is printed on New Leaf EcoBook paper, a recycled and totally chlorine free sheet. The new design is more functional and easy to read.
The updated map is printed on heavyweight Tyvek and includes the RMC's new trails.
RMC's volunteer cartographer, Jon Hall, has spent hundreds of hours updating GPS data. Single-handedly, he has re-GPSed a number of RMC's trails, checked Randolph Community Forest and White Mountain National Forest boundaries, and updated building locations on the map.
The reverse side of the map features an artistic and useful new addition four, large-scale illustrations of vistas from RMC trails complete with peak identification. Drawn by Randolph artist Tim Sappington, the peaks have been identified by the guidebook's three co-editors.
A limited edition printing of 50, numbered, high quality paper copies of the map will be available for $50 per copy as a fundraiser to help the club assist in covering the cost of the printing of the map. This printing is suitable for framing. If you'd like to reserve a copy, please contact RMC Trail Chair Doug Mayer directly via the RMC web site. Copies will also be for sale at the RMC Tea on July 4.
The new map and guide will sell for $16.95. The map, by itself, will sell for $6.00. Both will be available at the RMC Tea on July 4, at RMC events during the summer, at Lowe's Store, the RMC cabins and on the club's web site. Bondcliff Books of Littleton will continue to distribute the RMC map and guide to area bookstores and outfitters.
The RMC would like to thank the Randolph Foundation, whose generous assistance in the form of a loan to cover printing costs made this project feasible. We hope the new map and guide will inspire its readers to enjoy RMC's trails and camps for many hiking seasons to come.
During the winter of 2004-05 I have completed several new transcriptional projects. The first, An Outline of Trail Development in the White Mountains, 1840-1980, presents a set of 15 color-coded maps and material about general trail development decade by decade, as transcribed from a manuscript prepared by the late Guy Waterman. It should be noted that the material on the White Mountains represents only one part of a much larger work that Waterman left behind providing sections on trail development in the regions of Katahdin, The Long Trail, Adirondacks, Catskills, Harriman Park, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the Appalachian Trail. The second, The Building of Burnbrae: The Randolph, NH Diaries of George N. Cross, 1897-1899, describes turn-of-century Randolph milieu from the standpoint of the Cross family, as they turned Jerome Leavitt's old starch factory into the town's first summer cottage. The diary contains lots of great micro-historical information and an introductory essay by your archivist. The Cross diary will appear under the imprint of the Randolph History Project. I thank Laura Waterman and Hersh Cross for making the original materials available for transcription.
I have prepared RMC Archive: Index of Scanned Photos, which presents an index of all the scanned photos in the RMC archive and includes contact sheets, accession codes, and keyed descriptions. I am also putting together a notebook of selected photos from the RMC archive that should give a sense of the holdings that we now have. Copies of this notebook and the Index should be available for viewing at the Randolph library next summer.
In the summer of 2005 I will,
once again, bring my scanning equipment to Randolph. I invite
anyone who would like to give materials to the RMC or allow them
to be scanned, to get in touch with me to discuss details or
arrange a scanning session. I can be reached by email [firstname.lastname@example.org];
Randolph phone [603-466-5509]; winter phone [413-256-6950]; winter
address [111 Amherst Road/Pelham, MA 01002].
The RMC camps had a peaceful winter season with no significant problems or big weather stories to report this year. Our winter caretaker was the ever-reliable Derek "Storm" Schott and his faithful sidekick, his dog Gecko. One interesting item of note, however, is that Derrick reported a significant redistribution of weight experienced by the caretaking duo, with Storm reporting a loss of nearly 40 pounds while Gecko, thriving in the cold temperatures, net a gain of 5 pounds!
Visitors to the camps were concentrated mostly on the weekends, as is usual for the winter. The caretaker reports that as many as half of the visitors were French speaking, reminding us that the northern Presidentials are as close to Montreal as Boston.
This Spring Chris Fithian of Portland, Maine will be caretaking until June, when he then descends to the valley to join our trail crew. Chris is an avid backcountry skier, and is excited to be in such a great locale for spring skiing! Early season hikers who see telemark ski tracks high on Adams snowfields can bet that there's a pretty good likelihood theyre from Chris!
This summer our Crag Camp caretaker will be Sondra Hope Berner, a student at Hampshire College. She spent the last year trekking in the Himalaya and loves the outdoors. Our other caretaker, Justin Ross, is coming from Maryland where he has been working at an outdoor outfitters. Justin will start Memorial day weekend at Gray Knob. They will make for a terrific team up there. Go visit with them this summer! (We can assure a extremely warm welcome if you happen to bring a few home-baked cookies...)
One main project this summer will be an update to the privy at the Log Cabin. Volunteers, led by former winter caretaker Pete Antos-Ketcham, will be installing a composting toilet. If you are interested in this project or helping out in any way, contact the RMC via the web site.
If its been a while since you have stayed at one of the RMC cabins or shelters then why not plan a trip up this summer and enjoy our high camps in the Northern Presidentials?
See you at the camps!
Our 2005 trails season begins the very first weekend of June with National Trails Day on June 4. This year, we'll be putting the finishing touches on a new route for the Vyron D. Lowe Trail, which had to be relocated to reduce erosion. The new path starts at the Randolph spring on Durand Road and climbs gently, with switchbacks, to the Crescent Ridge Trail near Lookout Ledge. Along the way, it passes several scenic spots while avoiding the dreaded, muddy logging road at the top. We hope to have the trail open by mid-June. Watch for signs at the new location! If you'd like to join other volunteers and friends, see the work trip information elsewhere in this issue of the newsletter.
That same weekend, our trail crews and caretakers will be wrapping up their three days of orientation. In past years, RMC has improved its trail crew orientation to include wilderness first aid training, Leave No Trace information, a visit with the US Forest Service, training on the use and maintenance of hand tools, a USFS-certified chainsaw training program -- even an overnight hike to an RMC camp. Recently, we've managed to schedule the orientation so our summer caretakers can join in as well.
This past winter, we received a boost to our trails efforts with the addition of Dave Salisbury as Assistant Trails Chair. Dave worked for many years as the White Mountain Trails Supervisor for AMC, and is co-author of the book, The Complete Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance. Many Randolph residents know Dave, who has lived in town for nearly a decade. He is one of the single most experienced trail experts in the White Mountains, and the entire RMC board is delighted to have him lending a hand!
On the trails this year, our hardworking, diligent Field Supervisor Dan Rubchinuk will be back on the job for his second year in this role and his fifth season with RMC. Our crews will start with the usual two weeks of patrolling in early June, hiking the trails with chainsaws and axes to clear blowdowns, and hoes to clean the drainages of debris from the spring runoff.
Following patrolling, the crews will spend the remainder of the summer finishing a two year project on the lower reaches of the Randolph Path. The US Forest Service will pay fifty percent of the cost of this project. The work will include installing waterbars, ditching, rock steps, and stairs to reduce erosion. The crew will be working primarily between Randolph Path's junctions with Sylvan Way and Air Line. Our second crew will wrap up a two year effort in the Crescent Range, performing erosion control on the Crescent Ridge Trail. Last summer, the crew substantially rebuilt the Mount Crescent Trail. Eighty percent of the funding for that project is covered by a State of New Hampshire, Recreation Trails Program grant.
Trails Assistant Matt Schomburg will coordinate a series of work trips for the summer. RMC work trips are a fun way to get outdoors and lend a hand. We hope you can join us for a trip-- even if just for a few hours. You'll find the full rundown on a variety of work trips elsewhere in the newsletter.
We do hope you can mark the date of Friday night, July 8 on your calendar. At 6 pm on that day at the Jones Cottage off of Cold Brook Road, we'll have our annual RMC trail crew potluck. This is always a fun evening, and a chance to visit with our hard working trail crews, thank them for their work and chat with other RMC friends. Bring a dish to share. For more information, contact Trails Chair Doug Mayer via the RMC web site.
Finally, this season marks the 10th anniversary of RMC's decision to upgrade its trails efforts and annually field two trail crews. Back in 1994, the club realized it was going to have to add a second crew in order to meet its commitment to both control erosion and still accomplish the basic trail work of cleaning blowdowns, cleaning drainages, brushing, blazing and building cairns.
This season also marks our 10th year working with the Student Conservation Association. Our association with SCA has served the club admirably. SCA undertakes the recruiting, workers compensation insurance and much of the administration for three of our trail crew positions, relieving some of the burden from club volunteers. Working with SCA, RMC is still able to hire locally, whenever possible. Recent crews have included residents from Randolph, Jefferson, and Whitefield. As always, we actively seek anyone interested in joining the crew for future seasons. Anyone who is curious can join us as a volunteer for a day or two on the trails this summer.
We hope everyone has a great
hiking season and we'll see you on the paths in Randolph or on
the high peaks!
The RMC's web site is still going strong. This summer we'll be posting RMC's weekly hike schedule, in a special RMC area for members only. You'll also be able to check the site for updates on the summer work trip schedule.
This summer, we'll also be featuring a new RMC trail sign auction. The sign auction is one of the most interesting and popular aspects of the web site. We'll feature a dozen or so retired trail signs, from high on Mount Adams to short paths around town. Anyone can email us a bid. The auction uses a "silent bid" system, so be sure to put in your best bid possible! All the proceeds go to the RMC trails systemand help us pay for the materials for new signs.
Our web site has grown significantly over the years. For those who haven't dropped by recently, some of the features include:
- A message board to share information about RMC trails.
- Articles from previous newsletters.
- The recent interpretive guide to the Four Soldiers Path.
- A version of the alpine display at Crag Camp.
- A store with all RMC items, includes shirts, caps andas soon as it's in stock in Julythe new RMC map and guide.
- Complete information on RMC's camps and trails.
- E mail contacts for various RMC departments.
We hope you'll come visit the
RMC online! If you haven't been, the address is easy to remember
The Club is in an expected position financially as we approach the busy summer season. We had a quiet winter; camps use is about average although the caretakers tell us the number of visits were down. We are posting a small profit as of March 31, and since that date, our annual appeal letter has gone out with the resulting influx of dues and contributions. Compared to last years budget, this appeal letter went out earlier and hence you can see the much greater income in both categories.
A balance sheet is not included, but we have about $1,600 in the bank, an additional $18,750 in Club reserves, $28,000 in memorial reserves, and $17,000 in savings. We have been busy trying to build up savings and reserves in the event of unanticipated expenses.
Randolph Mountain Club Jeopardy
1. Early trail makers bestowed the name Chicago Avenue upon the route now followed by:
A. The Link,
2. A serious fire occurred in October 1940 at:
A. Crag Camp,
3. The Tip o the Tongue Loop," ruined by slides and hurricane, at one time provided access to nice viewpoints on:
A. Israel Ridge,
4. The Randolph Community Forest:
A. is the largest town-owned
Forest in New Hampshire,
5. Which R.M.C. trail intersects the greatest number of other trails along its length?
A. The Link,
6. The trail bridge known as the Nepalese Bridge is near:
A. Mossy Glen,
7. The Randolph Mountain Club was founded in 1910 primarily to:
A. maintain formerly private
camps, such as Crag Camp and Gray Knob, which the Forest Service
no longer permitted to be owned by individuals,
8. The oldest trail in continuous use on the Northern Peaks is:
A. Air Line,
9. The name Appalachia applied to the former flag stop on the B&M RR and the present major trailhead on US 2 originates from:
A. its proximity to important
peaks of the Appalachian Mountain system,
10. You desire to climb Mt. Adams from the Randolph Valley by a route that entails a minimum of steep rough climbing. You select:
A. Valley Way Scar Trail
We are all familiar with the typical
history of a trail that has been long established: the first
stage, the virgin area unaffected by man either for worse or
for better; the second, a raw and ugly state, the direct effect
of mans practical work on construction in the clearing
and building of the way; the third, in which the floor of the
trail itself has improved underfoot by human use both in comfort
and in appearance and nature has healed the wounds and restored
the beauty of the walls; and, finally, the fourth, where the
trail has either suffered in appearance from excessive use or
wrong use, or has, despite the use that has been made of it,
either by grace of favoring natural circumstances or by human
care and maintenance, gone on improving in appearance, ripening
and mellowing with the years till it realizes a perfect blending
of the man-made trail with its natural setting.
The Life of a Path
Reading these words this past winter, and despite language painfully stilted to my contemporary ear, I felt an immediate connection. Here, buried in an eighty-plus-year-old address to a now-defunct trails organization, was a remarkably cogent summary of both the life of a trail, and the fundamental tenets of good trail work.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, our RMC paths have lives of their own. Most of the time, we dont recognize it because their spans are longer than our time spent in their company. Judy Hudsons trails history in this newsletter, however, reminds us how fluid and ever-changing are those permanent-looking lines on the map.
We can each think of a favorite path in one of Prays stages of the life of a trail, whether the newly-cut Four Soldiers or Underhill Paths, the long-healed and little-eroded Cliffway, or the Randolph Path, where ages old, brilliant trail work has realized Prays perfect blending. Elsewhere, in between those solid lines on todays RMC map, are paths that have long since passed from the scene.
Reaching, then maintaining, that last stage of perfect blending of the man-made trail with its natural setting is the work of our trail workers, both volunteer and paid. Behind them, as they carry out their tasks, is the backing of RMCs members and friends.
The requisite first step in trail maintenance is the protection of the terrain: building rock steps, waterbars, bog bridges and ditching to keep our paths from literally washing away into the Moose or Israel rivers.
But, Pray points out the key distinction between serviceable trail work and masterful trail work, which blends with the natural setting. None of us heads to the Kelton Trail, Amphibrach or Bee Line to see a great, stone staircase or recently-axed blowdown. Great trail work, like any noble employee, does its job in an understated way. It allows the beauty of the woods to, as Pray says, endure under conditions of right use by an increasing number of men, women and children (could Pray have had any inkling how unerringly true those words would ring eight decades later?). The New England mountain classic Forest and Crag quotes a young admirer of Prays named Benton MacKaye as saying he, was a pioneer in keeping improvements out of wilderness (italics in original). MacKayes name might be a familiar one to readers -- he later went on to become the father of the Appalachian Trail.
Pray and RMC shared another understanding. He observed that the trail is peculiarly a type of traffic-way for which getting you there is often, or should often be, not the primary but only a secondary purpose. Its primary object should often be to give us pleasure, refreshment, hearts joy and inspiration.
In other words, its the trip that matters more than the destination. And, perhaps nowhere else in the White Mountains are there such an abundance of paths where its the journey, and not the destination, that matters. The 1917 AMC White Mountain Guide description of Cascade Ravine still holds for many of Randolphs paths today: "...the pleasure paths... still exist in the virgin forest...These paths disclose beautiful cascades and fine outlooks, but a particular description is needless, as the visitor will prefer to explore them himself. The forest, except for the making of the paths, is untouched by the axe."
Randolph and James Sturgis Pray shared a connection more concrete than just the ethics of trail work. He became an energetic assistant of Louis Cutter, who was AMC Councilor of Improvements from 1902-1904 -- a time when Cutter was busily advocating and implementing the connection of various White Mountain trail networks.
Pray knew what he was talking about. As Chairman of the Harvard School of Landscape Architecture and one of the pioneers of Landscape Architecture, he was a keen observer of trail aesthetics. His own trip ended February 22, 1929, but his observations along the way are as relevant today as they were more than 70 years ago.
Thanks to RMC member David Govatski of Jefferson, for inspiring this article.
King's Ravine was my grandfather's favorite place in the mountains; I think it is also mine. He mapped it as his thesis at MIT in 1885, and at the first opportunity bought the farm below it, where we still come.
We started from our houses on what was then the Amphibrach, (now just a family path). After crossing the Moose and going through what had been a hayfield beginning to grow up and some young firs, we crossed the railroad (four passenger trains daily and numerous freights) and entered the main forest.
My grandfather was dressed in wool knickers and stockings, with a short sleeve cotton shirt. He carried his lunch and extra clothing in a blue cloth pack he had made, with plenty of room for tools. On his belt he carried a Philippine bolo to cut branches that might be growing into the trail. "Always leave the trail a little better than you found it." I wore a smaller version of his pack, made from gray and white striped cloth, which contained a cup, lunch, sweater, and windbreak.
Once across the railroad, the woods changed to hardwoods, much bigger and shadier, and joined the present Amphibrach near Coldbrook Fall and the Den (still standing and reasonably hospitable if you didn't mind mice). After walking through woods with hemlocks near the brook and hardwoods elsewhere, we came to a clearing in the trail - Monahan's Camp, where the Monaway goes off right and the path down to Coldspur Ledges goes left. There was still a little iron from an old sledge left from the lumber camp there then (I brought it down as part of the World War II scrap iron drive).
After crossing Spur Brook, where we drank some water (we considered most of the brooks pure in those days), the path got steeper and crossed the Cliffway (still pretty new then). The trees got a little smaller and newer just before we reached Pentadoi (Five Corners) and we both sprawled out. After a rest we started left on the King Ravine Trail, almost level for a while then dropping slightly into the Coldbrook Valley, crossed the branches of the stream, and met the Short Line a little below Mossy Fall. Mossy Fall was icy cold and beautiful -- we could look up into the Ravine at Knight's Castle. Grandpa said it was even more beautiful before the 1927 flood that drastically changed so much of Randolph. Just in back of the fall, he showed me the place where the icy water from King Ravine comes out from under the rocks.
We continued up into the ravine through a grove of old and bent birch trees. Coming out after considerable effort, we could see our houses in the valley. Passing the Pointed Rock, steep but climbable for both of us (he started rock climbing well into his 70's, much to his family's disapproval). We then climbed up the floor of the ravine.
We had lunch at the junction of the Elevated, Subway, and Chemin des Dames, just reopened after a long closing by the Forest Service; they had thought it dangerous. This path was named after a battle in World War I, but with an obvious reference to the fact it is the easiest way up out of the ravine. My lunch was a hardboiled egg, followed by a vegetable and meat sandwich, a jam sandwich, a piece of fruit, maybe a cookie, and some squares of Baker's chocolate. His featured a can of sardines, the chocolate, and perhaps some other things. After lunch we tucked the remains in a bag inconspicuously under a rock.
We had decided to do the Chemin des Dames, foregoing the Subway, a great favorite of mine, and exploring the ice caves which we both delighted in. The Chemin des Dames goes up the East side of the ravine to the Knife Edge on the Air Line and climbs through a lot of the territory burned by the fire in the 1890's after the lumbering. When we reached the Air Line, we came down, turning off on the newly built Scar Trail that he had designed and had done much of the cutting. I had been with him earlier, when we had scouted parts of it, marking sections of the proposed trail with a line of white packthread. This path was a revival of an earlier path to Durand Scar (wonderful views back at the top of Mt. Adams) and was easy on the feet after the rocky descent on the Air Line. After going over the Scar and the False Scar, which he had found in his early scouting, and which is now one of the best viewpoints, we then went down a steep but soft section to the Valley Way. The Valley Way was relatively smooth, and we could move quite fast and easily. Near the upper crossing of Snyder Brook (now eliminated by a relocation of the Valley Way and presently on the Brookside) he showed me the site of the cabin that the Forest Service burned in 1921, despite his warning that it was a very dry season in late summer. The fire got into the peaty soil, burned underground and became the Gordon Ridge Fire that burned over Dome Rock. It proved very difficult to fight. Up on the Inlook Trail there were many trees killed in the fire still standing. After crossing the bridge at the bottom of the Inlook Trail, we headed for home on the Beechwood Way, not pausing to look at any of his favorite waterfalls on Snyder Brook that are a little further down the Valley Way. Instead we crossed the Short Line (Mr. Edmands' path), the Air Line (Mr. Cook's path), and the Donkey Path, used to help get supplies up to Madison Hut without messing up other paths. He would give me renditions of long sections of the "Lady of the Lake" or sing a song about a royal bag pudding ending with "what they could not eat that night the queen next morning fried" (when we were younger he used to give us "The Owl and the Pussycat" and the"Quangle Wangle Quee"). We continued on the Beechwood Way over the Memorial Bridge, which he and Mr. Blood designed and supervised building in 1924, then hard right at the end of the bridge to the Amphibrach, across the railroad, and home.
Answers to RMC Jeopardy:
1. B. Forest and Crag, p. 226
2. C. Personal Recollection.
3. A. (pre-1928 Guide Books)
4. A. Mountain View et al.
5. D. Randolph Paths (Count 'em!)
6. A. Randolph Paths
7. C. Randolph Paths p. 18
8. C. Randolph Paths p. 80
9. B. Forest and Crag p. 225
10. A. Personal experience.