Table of Contents
This past winter was a relatively snowless one for Randolph and the RMC paths. While not great news for winter enthusiasts, the conditions did help the RMC with its base camp efforts. Surveying and clearing the lot proved much easier without four feet of snow on the ground. The permitting process is now completed, and construction will begin in late summer or early fall.
Importantly, we now also have a name for our building! It will be the Anna B. Stearns Lodge. This will recognize the contributions that Anna made to the RMC over many decades and it also honors the generous challenge grant from her Foundation a grant which provided needed support at a critical juncture.
In March, the Board of Directors had a meeting during which we made several important decisions about the Stearns Lodge. In what I think is a first, we had several board members participate using conference calling-- including Mike Pelchat who called in all the way from the summit of Mt. Washington where he works as State Park Manager. The board decided to use a conventional contractor, as the additional cost of using the N.H. Timber Framers Guild was substantial. We selected Bowman Builders, who had the most attractive and thorough bid, and whose excellent reputation is well known in Randolph. Dave Fontaine and Ray Cotnoir constructed the Goetze workshop for the RMC and have built fine structures in the area for many years. Ray has also served on the RMC Board. They will now be working closely with the building committee to finalize plans and build the Stearns Lodge. I think it is great to be using a small, local outfit; they will better understand the needs of the RMC and make sure we get the best building for the best price.
The process of designing and starting to build the Stearns Lodge has been very interesting. Such projects are never without stresses and differences of opinions, but it has shown how members have brought their individual talents and ideas to the meetings and then somehow merged them all into one building. Now that we are moving into the construction phase, the building committee's work becomes a task of keeping the project on track and attending to dozens of small but important details.
A big thank you is in order to the citizens of Randolph, who voted at Town Meeting this past spring to abate the current use tax on the land which the Tucker Family is donating for the Stearns Lodge.
All these people working together serve to remind me why we are erecting the Stearns Lodge. One of the things I remember from my summers as a kid in Randolph is the weekly club hikes. It was there that I met people like Anna Stearns, Klaus Goetze and many others. Normally, as a kid, I would have not had any contact with many of the adults -- besides a quick, forced introduction and a hasty retreat to the safety of my family. However, on one of the club hikes, I suddenly found myself hiking with some unknown adults. As the hike progressed, it was fascinating to listen to these adults. I saw them as real people, not just distant authority figures. I learned about foreign countries, botany and other subjects from experts in their respective fields. By the end of the hike, I realized I shared a bond with this group. Together we had conquered some peak and also shared experiences. That, to me, is the RMC. By coming together as a club to build the Stearns Lodge, and, through this project, expressing our stewardship of this magnificent region, we have shared another such bridge-building experience. Further, the Lodge will play a role in helping the RMC work on its well-maintained paths and cabins, perhaps allowing that the next impressionable kid on an RMC hike to see adults as people, share in their knowledge, and learn something about himself.
Building Stearns Lodge has already brought club members together and allowed people to get to know others that they would not normally meet. Such projects are a great way to create bonds. We will have other opportunities, as the project gets underway, to enlist the support of volunteers. Even if you do not end up volunteering on a lodge project, I hope you'll consider going on a RMC hike or a work trip. The RMC is a diverse group, filled with many interesting members who have much to share.
See you on the paths or at the camps,
Spring 2006 Trails Report
If ever there was an unfriendly off-season for our RMC paths, it was this past season. Though not as devastating as the fabled ice storm of 1998, this past fall and winter featured early snows and several dramatic windstorms.
First, the work of our fall crew cleaning drainages on our trails came to a screeching halt in late October, just a few days after they started work in earnest, because of an early and substantial fall snowstorm. Eventually, some warmer temperatures arrived, and the crew was able to conclude work on some of the lower-elevation trails, though much remained unfinished in the higher reaches of the peaks.
A series of intense fall and winter wind storms were next in line, causing a large number of blowdowns on the trail system. Volunteers, combined with some salaried crew members, were able to clear many of the trails in time for winter.
In sum, by the time the 2006 trail crew rolls into town, theyll have plenty of patrolling for blowdowns and cleaning of drainages awaiting them! The good news, however, is that we have as experienced a crew as ever. Were pleased to have four returning crew members -- Mike Street, Rachel Hestrin, Will Manty and Tyler Self. New to the crew this year are a number of extremely strong candidates, including Jesse Veverka, a recent AT-thru hiker and student at Johnson State College and Mike Ambrosi, who comes to RMC after two years leading volunteer trail crews at AMCs Camp Dodge. Two other crew members are coming via the Student Conservation Association.
The supervision of the crew and our projects will be in the capable hands of Field Supervisor Chris Fithian. In a little more than a year, Chris has proven himself to be a reliable and conscientious worker with a friendly outlook and a tremendous work ethic.
RMCs Trails Co-Chair, Dave Salisbury, will be playing a key role in training our crews this year during orientation. This is always a treat for trail crews. After all, how often is it that your skills are taught to you by the co-author of the book on the topic? (The Complete Guide to Trail Building and Maintenance, published in 1998.)
This summer, one of our two crews will continue work on the Randolph Path, working between Sylvan Way and Air Line. Later in the season, theyll move to the start of the Amphibrach. Fifty percent of the project cost is paid for by the US Forest Service. A second crew will start the first year of a two-year effort focusing on erosion control work on our paths in and around town, including Bee Line and Diagonal. Eighty percent of the cost of this project is being borne by a grant from the State of New Hampshires Recreation Trails Program.
Board member and Trails Assistant Matt Schomburg has organized an excellent series of work trips, ranging from relatively gentle excursions to more ambitious forays onto the peaks. For a full rundown, see the listing elsewhere in this newsletter. Work trips now start at 9 am, so theres no need to rush to join us. We hope you can lend a hand -- as always, RMC work parties are a great way to connect with other members and contribute in a meaningful, tangible fashion.
On a final note, this will be
RMCs last season of use of Dan and Edith Tuckers
Jones Cottage, affectionately nicknamed the JC by
the crew. Its not an overstatement to say that the generosity
shown by the Tucker family since 2001 has been one of the more
important factors in the revitalization of RMCs trails
efforts. The crew has a newfound camaraderie, and experienced
members are now more likely to return to RMC. Further, having
the crew members centrally located has integrated them nicely
into the Randolph summer scene, building a bridge with Randolph
residents. This experience has shown RMC the many benefits of
such an arrangement, and led, quite directly, to the construction
of the base camp that will take place later this summer next
to the Goetze Workshop. For showing us the way, and for their
patience in directing errant parents, enduring the occasional
too-loud guitar or overzealous Frisbee game, we thank Dan and
The RMC camps had a wonderful winter despite the lack of snow and unseasonably warm weather! Our two caretakers rotated one-week on/one week off with each other and provided very thorough coverage for our guests. Chris Fithian, last years spring caretaker, returned hoping to enjoy some wintry conditions and fine skiing above treeline, but found himself limited mostly to skiing in the woods. He has maintained an on-line journal that you can check out here.
Chris had a terrific time up at the Knob this winter and, after taking a few months off, will return to supervise our trail crew and caretakers this summer.
Ryan Harvey, our other winter caretaker, enjoyed his time up at the cabins and got to witness first hand some interesting weather that he could probably relate to his thesis regarding climate change in the Alpine Zone.
Our new spring caretaker, Matthew "Milo" Moore, got an early start by stepping in when Ryan had to take leave at the beginning of March. Milo is as excited a caretaker as I have ever met, and his enthusiasm is contagious. He will be up at the camps through Memorial Day weekend.
This summer will see the return
of our hardworking caretaker from last summer, Justin "Composter"
Ross, and also a convert from last summers trail crew,
Rachel Biggs. We are excited to have them returning.
At the time of this writing, The Randolph Mountain Club is three months into the new year. This is a slow time of year for the club financially, and there isnt really anything new to report. I would like, however, to acknowledge those who assist me in keeping up with the clubs financial affairs during this particularly busy time of year for me as a practicing CPA. Without the help of Laura Brockett, who makes deposits of the camps income, and Regina Ferreira, who makes deposits for memberships, I would never be able to stay ahead of the tide. In addition, Regina maintains the membership database and participates in all the mailings, one of which, the Presidents Annual Letter, you recently received.
I hope the financial information you received in that letter, which summarizes the year 2005, was helpful to you in understanding the clubs finances and our financial health. It is a point of pride to us on the Board that we are fiduciaries for the club, and we make every effort to properly control cash and segregate any special funds.
As I have expressed in the past, I welcome any comments from the membership on the financial operations of the club. If you have questions or if you do not understand any statements that I have made available to you, please e-mail me.
Again, late this spring we plan to have the financial records audited by a committee of interested members, and that report will be made available to you at the Annual Meeting in August. Last year was the first year we had an audit done and the observations and suggestions made by that committee were very valuable in board decision-making. One result of the audit has been an increase in the valuations of our camps for insurance purposes.
I would like to extend a special
thanks to that committee which is comprised of Ken Lee, Dan Tucker
and Jim Hunt.
Web Site News
The RMCs web site has been online for over seven years now and it continues to grow. We set a new record for most visits in a month this past January: 1425!
Our Online Store will be improving with faster shipping and handling using UPS. Every customer will receive a tracking number so they will know exactly where their RMC merchandise is. Since November, 2003, over $3,600 worth of RMC memberships and merchandise have been purchased online. Were committed to providing an easy and hassle-free experience for each and every customer. If you do happen to encounter any problems during the ordering process, please report them to me so we can fix the problem as soon as possible (email@example.com).
Be sure to check out the RMC Basecamp Project area of the web site for current photos and videos! Well be providing updates from the moment we break ground all the way to the moment when the building is turned over to the RMC by the contractors.
Were also hoping to start another Trail Sign Auction in June. Its been over a year and a half since the last one, so well have some excellent signs to choose from. All the proceeds go to the RMC trails system, and help us pay for the materials for new signs.
If you have any suggestions
or ideas for the web site, please feel free to e-mail me at the
e-mail address above. Dont forget to keep sending in pictures
from your RMC hikes maybe yours will be picked for the
Do you need a new copy of Randolph Paths for your next hike in Randolph? Want to stay dry with a high-tech, moisture wicking, RMC cool max T-shirt? Or maybe youd like to show your RMC colors with the classic RMC cotton T-shirt. If so, drop by Moriah Sports on Main Street in Gorham, where youll find the full line of RMC merchandise in a room newly dedicated to the Club. Thanks to Mike Micucci at Moriah Sports for his support of the RMC! Also, Lowes, on Route 2 in Randolph, will continue to carry maps, trail guides and a selection of T-shirts. You may also find RMC merchandise on line at: www.randolphmountainclub.org.
Many thanks to Edie Tucker who has been the backbone behind the RMC merchandise program for quite some time. The Tuckers have offered their airlock as a storage place and shop, maintained inventory, transported T-shirts to RMC events, and even mailed packages. However, with the recent addition of cool max T Shirts to the line of RMC merchandise, the Tuckers airlock had become too crowded; hence the shift of operations to Moriah Sports.
As a reminder, the RMC merchandise program exists to further the mission of the RMC by offering a select number of products for sale to:
- Promote the appreciation of Randolph through products that educate the user on the RMC, the Randolph community, or the surrounding mountains;
- Enhance the camaraderie among RMC members and build interest among non-members by offering RMC branded apparel which can be used in outdoor activities in the area;
- Provide funds which will be used to support RMC programs.
Please visit the RMC room at
Moriah Sports, drop in on the Lowes, or check out www.randolphmountainclub.org
to support the RMC through its merchandise program.
Summer 2006 RMC Events
All members of the RMC and their friends and guests are welcome to the following events -- traditional times for members to get together:
Fourth of July Tea
Annual Picnic, Charades and
Any Club member who does not live in Randolph is welcome to join the Hill group in its charade. Planning and rehearsals generally begin one week prior to the event and are announced in the Randolph Weekly.
That evening there will be an RMC benefit square dance in the Beringer barn with live fiddling by Jacquelin and Dudly Laufman Please call Marie Beringer for more information.
Details of each week's walk
will appear in the free Randolph Weekly which comes out the on
the previous Friday and can be found in several locations around
2006 RMC Work Trips
Its time to check your calendar and plan to make a RMC work trip. If you have not gone on a work trip for some time, nows your chance to see old friends and to meet new ones. You can have fun and give something back to the trails and the community.
All work trips will start at 9:00 AM, at the RMC Goetze workshop except the Brushing in Alpine Zone work trip. That work trip starts at noon and meets at Gray Knob.
Tools will be provided. A work trip leader and a member from the RMC trail crew will also come on each work trip. Please bring a lunch, plenty of water, work gloves and warm clothes. If you need more information, please call Matthew Schomburg at e-mail me.
The RMC hopes to see you this summer for a work trip!
Saturday, June 3rd National Trails Day
Saturday, July 8th
Sunday, July 9th
Sunday, July 16th
Saturday, Aug. 12th
Saturday, Aug. 19th
Saturday, Aug. 26th
In today's world, a challenge - whether the marathon, triathlon, or another extreme adventure - has become an important part of the amateur athlete's repertoire. Club members are hardly immune to this frenzy. Indeed, for well over a century, Randolphians have been at the forefront in creating mountain adventures that emphasize physical endurance or speed.
You might ask, what motivates these activities? Youngsters are mostly into speed or quantity; the middle-aged (and those of us somewhere beyond that distinction) are more likely to try challenging their bodies in tests of endurance. At age 51, after completing the AMC hut traverse (twice) in 1936, Bert Malcolm wrote:
The Presidential Range Run. The first "marathon" in Randolph's records was a relatively relaxed walk, undertaken in September 1882; its participants were Eugene B. Cook and George Sargent. 3 The pair left the Ravine House at 5:03 a.m., traversing Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay and Washington, where they spent an hour and a quarter, "during which time we luxuriated in refreshing rest, feasted with the greatest relish and desire, and ended by enjoying the fascination of the inexhaustible view." They continued over the Southern Peaks, descending to the Crawford House, and then returned to the Ravine House via the Cherry Mountain Road, arriving at 1:24 a.m., where "our worthy host appeared and welcomed us in, [and] we found an inviting table awaiting the prodigal walkers." Total distance, 42 miles, 1,212 yards; total actual walking-time, 17 hours, 33 minutes, with an additional 2 hours, 45 minutes devoted to rests as well as meals at the summit of Washington and at the White Mountain House (at the junction of the Cherry Mt. Road, northwest of Fabyans). At the time, Cook was 52 years old, and Sargent was still a young medical student (who had first come to Randolph in order to improve his frail health). Their goal had been to accomplish the trek in a single day, and they were not walking for speed (they averaged 2.1 miles per hour for the total time elapsed).
Cook's and Sargent's "audacious tour de force" (so termed by Appalachia's editor) was not replicated for many years. The next documented range run occurred on July 12, 1904, when Appies Herschel Parker and Warren Symonds began the trek from the Crawford House at 6 a.m., first ascending Webster by trail and then having to bushwhack to Jackson and on over to Clinton. Parker wrote: "The exertion required to reach the summit of Mt. Clinton via Mts. Webster and Jackson appears to the writer to be fully equal to that required to traverse the remainder of the Crawford Path and all the Northern Peaks to the Ravine House." 4 The two reached the Ravine House at 8:15 p.m., "where supper was taken and a lantern kindly furnished us by Mr. Watson...we set out for our long walk back to Crawford's in inky blackness with the rain descending." After sheltering from a thunderstorm in an empty freight car, they made their way over the Jefferson Notch Road 5, down the other side, and reached the Crawford House at 4:15 a.m.. Total mileage, about 43 miles; total time, 22 1/4 hours, an average of about 1.93 miles per hour total elapsed time, though with less than 18 hours actual walking time. For both parties, the range walk was a gentlemanly pursuit, more a test of endurance than a quest for speed.
Many years later, the Presidential Range run has become a personal contest for many hikers, whether on a summer's day or with the tang of autumn in the air, facing winter's cruel blasts or by moonlight. For our own extended family, a day trip over all the peaks, beginning up the Pine Link and descending via Webster Cliff has become a rite of passage. Members of our next generation completed the traverse this past summer on July 30th, as reported by 11-year-old Jenna Maddock about her 10-year-old cousin:
The AMC Hut Traverse. By the 1930s, when the AMC hut system was well established, a contest for speed was added to the challenge -- traversing all eight AMC huts in under 24 hours. The first record, 23 1/4 hours for 52 miles, was set in August 1932 by Ralph Batchelder and Ev Loomis; an average of 2.24 miles per hour total elapsed time, with actual walking time 18 hours.
Bert Malcolm, who was spending the summer of 1936 in Randolph, was intrigued by the hut traverse, and in early July set out to challenge the 1932 record. He wrote:
Anyone who ever tried to keep pace with Bert or his son Sandy knows, however, that the Malcolms are among the fastest hikers who have walked Randolph's paths. Their feet hardly seemed to touch the ground; they leapt from boulder to boulder. On July 7, 1936, Bert accomplished the hut traverse, following the established course, and finished the 52 miles in 22 hours and 3 minutes, an average of 2.36 miles per hour, a bit faster overall than his considerably younger competitors even though his actual walking time of 19 hours, 6 minutes, was longer. Malcolm's first trip "had been taken in stride without any soreness or weariness the next day," and he decided to do it again, this time passing over Wildcat and the Kittens, and all the peaks on the Presidentials. The new course was longer, totaling 55 miles, and included more than 3,000 feet of elevation added to the 16,000 feet of the original. Bert finished in 21 hours, 43 minutes, averaged 2.53, and bettered his earlier time by 20 minutes. These records endured for more than 20 years.
In 1958, Chris Goetze challenged Malcolm's record. 7 A teenager, Chris had just completed his freshman year at Harvard and a summer's employment on the RMC trail crew. He had bested his peers in various speed trials en route to Crag Camp, and he had discussed strategy with Bert Malcolm the summer before. He began with some training runs, described by his father Klaus in some detail, which involved climbing Mt Adams from Randolph four times in a day, and twice completing Swans Traverse -- a trip which compresses into a little less than 13 miles of travel a rise of 8456 feet. It was devised as a joke: the most horribly difficult way from the Ravine House to Pinkham Notch." Chris' time on the second run, 4:32, beat the existing record by 50 minutes. With a support crew of his parents and friend Bob Underhill, Chris began the hut traverse at 4:12 am on August 14, 1958, starting at the opposite end from earlier challengers -- Lonesome Lake above Franconia Notch -- and hiking north to Carter Notch. He rested minimally, stopping first for 30 minutes when he was fed steak, milk and grapes in Crawford Notch, and then again for a steak cooked in situ by Bob Underhill in Edmands Col. A few raisins were consumed at the head of Madison Gulf, and during the final refueling Chris ate pork chops and drank pineapple juice as he strode along Route 16 between Pinkham Notch and the Glen House. He finished the walk around 9 pm at Carter Notch Hut, having hiked 51.76 miles in 16 hours, 41 minutes, an overall average of 3.1 miles per hour. No record lasts too long, and Chris' mark fell in 1977. 8 I have no idea what the current hut traverse record is!
The Mahoosuc Range Run. The same summer, Goetze went on to capture another record, running 28.75 miles on the Mahoosucs from Grafton Notch to Gorham. The existing record, held by Bob Monahan of Dartmouth in 1927, was 10 hours and 27 minutes. After a preliminary attempt when he got lost in a lumbering area, on August 28th, Chris finished the range in 8 hours, 6 1/2 minutes, an overall average of 3 1/2 miles per hour.
Years later the Mahoosuc Range run lured my brother, Steve Maddock, who had done it twice before, but as a backpacker over the course of three days. In August 1974, with his 14-year-old son Jamie and two fellow AMC staffers, he began in Grafton Notch at 7 am. One of the men bailed out after Mahoosuc Notch, walking out from Mt. Success on the Success Pond Road into Berlin. The others continued their trek, having to hunker down in a box ravine during a severe thunderstorm. They reached Gentian Pond around 6 pm, and, after consuming about a gallon of orange juice offered by the caretaker, hustled onwards. By 10 or 10:30 they had reached the ledges on Hayes, as described in our logbook by Jamie:
The Crag Camp "Record". RMC caretakers, who constantly travel up and down to the camps, have many opportunities to set personal records. Crag Camp 9 is roughly 3 miles from the valley, if one starts at Route 2 and climbs via the Amphibrach and Spur Path. Given trail relocations and varying starting points along this route, it is hard to establish the all-time speed record in which the distance has been covered over the years. Two extremes for time taken on the ascent appear almost side by side in the 1949 logbook. An out-of shape hiker recounts on the first of August, that he took "11 hrs 41 mins 8 seconds from Cold Brook Falls, carrying 45 lbs with 29 records for phonograph, all second hand. I weigh 233 lbs and 51 yrs 11 mo old." Two days later, an astonished guest writes that caretaker Bill Farrell made the hike in 55 minutes, with a 25-pound pack.
This past summer (2005) the climb to Crag was clocked in 43:30 by trail crew member Curtis Moore, 10 a time that John Eusden reports that his son Alan and Jeff Bean had both equaled when they were caretaking in 1973. (The two were perhaps delinquent in getting back to their jobs following a Mossbacks softball game). John said that their record for the descent - in 15 minutes by Jeff and in 16 by Alan - used "airplane jumps on the first third, coming down over the big boulder sections." The boys kept challenging Alan's father to attempt the climb. John says that he "kept putting it off until I did 55 minutes at age 55, and never tried it again and never will!" So much for the speed demons...
Structured Challenges. Completing New Hampshire's 4,000ers has been a goal attempted by many hikers, in increasingly large numbers since the AMC organized its 4,000 Footer Club in 1957. Some parents, eager to inculcate their children with the joys of hiking, have shamelessly used the 4,000ers as the proverbial carrot to get the kids out on the trail. Surprisingly, many of us found that it worked, and by the time all 48 peaks had been conquered, our progeny were experienced walkers, eager for more. Not all youngsters were sucked in. Midge Cross, a teenager in the mid-1950s, had a wonderful riposte when someone asked her if she was "doing the 4000ers." "I'm not, but my grandmother is" [NooNoo, at the time, was about 62].
Soon merely climbing all the mountains was insufficient. Robert and Miriam Underhill, who had blazed the way to some inaccessible peaks among the 4000ers, were the first to complete winter ascents of all the summits, in December, 1960 when both were in their seventies. 11 Hank Folsom, during the summer of 1970, started at the northernmost peak (Cabot) and walked "all the way to the other end in the fewest possible miles while passing over each of the 46 summits." 12 His ground rules included walking the route between each trail and allowed no bushwhacking to shorten the distance. His odyssey covered a bit over 244 miles, and he walked on 19 different days. Not trying for speed, he moved at an average speed of just under 2 miles an hour. Doug Mayer, Al Sochard, and Bill Parlett have twice done all 48 peaks in 8 days, and have recently been contemplating trying it as a continuous hike like Hank Folsom's. Doug specializes in long distance schemes -- in a tongue-in-cheek Appalachia article some years ago, he termed a day hike of more than 20 (but generally closer to 30) miles a "powerhike." 13
In addition to the pleasures of "working hard, surrounded by such magnificent scenery," are the delights of going home:
There must be as many similar challenges on the 4000ers as there are hikers to devise them. Perhaps the most ambitious goal achieved was Guy Waterman's. In March 1987, he finished winter bushwhacks up all 48 peaks, having approached each from all four points of the compass. In his biography of Guy, Chip Brown wrote:
Will Strayhorn who, together with his younger brother Thomas, finished his 4000er trek during the summer of 2005, recently wrote:
What many of us need is just this - a challenging goal to pursue.
Endurance Contests. For many RMC hikers, a long walk provides both physical challenge and the opportunity to investigate isolated spots. During the 1970s and 1980s, Club trips often included two or three really long treks that appealed to a self-selected clientele. In 1980 Sandy Malcolm led a 17-1/2 mile romp from Evans Notch over Carter Dome to Route 16. Six of us - Al and I, our daughter Kate and niece Kathy Maddock, Sandy, and Chips Muehl - rendezvoused at 7:30 a.m., and drove to Evans Notch. My memories of the day include soaking our feet in Ketchum Pond, wandering along the bogs on the Wild River Trail, and lunch on the knee of Carter Dome where we shared delicacies and enjoyed obscure views into the Wild River Valley and the back side of Carter Notch. We met nobody between Eagle Crag and the summit of Carter Dome. The girls and Sandy galloped down the 19-Mile Brook Trail to swim, while their elders cruised down to finish in under 8 hours.
For a long walk, the Davis Path in a day (whether approached via Glen Boulder or Ammonoosuc Ravine) is a fine experience. I have two favorite stories about the Davis Path. Around 1980, Chips Muehl tackled this hike as a solo venture, exchanging her hiking boots for sneakers (and abandoning her heavy boots) somewhere between Isolation and Resolution:
A second solo traverse of the Davis Path (and beyond) was accomplished in remarkably casual fashion one day by Chips' cousin, Sandy Malcolm. In July 1980, Sandy and his two sons joined us on an RMC hike we led up Mt. Crawford. After lunch, Sandy asked us if we would take Skye and Robbie back to Randolph, because he'd like to "walk home." He must have discussed the possibility with his mother, because he said he promised Patti he'd be home in time for her dinner party. Six and a half hours later, he was a little late for cocktails.
Thanks to Chips Muehl, Laura Waterman, and Doug Mayer for their contributions. I am interested in any additional amazing records, 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 This account draws upon printed records and personal recollections. It attempts to be neither comprehensive nor systematic.
2 Malcolm, "Breaking One's Own Record," Appalachia:21;194 (Dec 1936).
3 Eugene B. Cook, "The Record of a Day's Walk," Appalachia:4;54-57 (Dec 1884). In a footnote, the editor says this note may "seem like a betrayal of its modest author. It is taken from a letter of Mr. Cook, written in response to a note of inquiry."
4 Parker, "A Day's Trip over the Presidential Range," Appalachia:11;14 (June 1905).
5 The Jefferson Notch Road was probably not complete in 1904. Construction had begun from both ends in 1901, and Louis Cutter's 1906 revision of his 1898 map finally shows the completed road, while his 1908 map includes a note, "not for cars."
6 "Breaking One's Own Record," p.189.
7 Klaus Goetze gives a detailed account of Christopher's accomplishments in "Far and Fast," Appalachia:32;203-211 (Dec. 1958).
8 Laura and Guy Waterman, Forest and Crag, Boston: AMC, 1989, p. 643.
9 I used Crag's records solely because I have more data at hand. The trek to Gray Knob surely has its own set of records. My principal sources here have been John Eusden and Doug Mayer. I'm willing to entertain better times from anyone who thinks s/he has done so.
10 As reported by Doug Mayer in the RMC Newsletter for Winter 2005-06, p. 19.
11 Miriam Underhill, "Climbing the Four-Thousand-Footers in Winter," Appalachia:36;581-589 (Dec 1967).
12 Henry T. Folsom, "The Four Thousand Footers, 'Diretissima'," Appalachia:38;65-69 (June 1970).
13 Mayer, "Powerhiking in the Whites," Appalachia:48;30-33 (June 1990). Last summer Doug developed a scheme to walk all of the RMC's trails in 3 consecutive, albeit grueling, days. Mileage on this trek is well above the c105 mile sum of individual trails, because many sections need to be covered several times.
14 Chip Brown, Good Morning Midnight, New York: Riverhead Books, 2003, p. 234. In Forest and Crag, p. 642, Waterman relates, without identifying himself, "a devotee [who] also did them all from all four points of the compass."
15 Will Strayhorn, "On Finishing the Four Thousand Footers," RMC Newsletter for Winter 2005-2006. p. 9.
This past winter, the RMC signed
a new, ten year Special Use Permit with the US Forest Service
for Gray Knob, Crag Camp, the Log Cabin and the Perch. There
were twenty-eight favorable comments from the public, regarding
RMC's efforts. (Just one writer objected, believing that all
facilities on public land should be operated by the Forest Service).
Below are a few highlights noted by the Forest Service in their
full decision memo which can be found here.
Reasons for support are:
- RMC contributes to the maintenance of trails in the White Mountain National Forest. Consider the good work of the RMC.
- RMC provides shelter to Appalachian Trail hikers.
- RMC and AT mission and goals are consistent with WMNF goals.
- The RMC facilities attract visitors and build support for the Forest. They are premier destinations.
- RMC facilities are historic and should be preserved.
- RMC staff members are excellent stewards of the land, friendly, prepared, and knowledgeable.
- RMC facilities create less environmental impact than AMC huts.
- Appreciative of the investments RMC has made for the public appreciation of the White Mountains.
- The RMC facilities provide a safe haven, making winter travel easier and safer for all (consider that fewer search and rescue missions are needed).
- RMC facilities are a convenient, low-cost alternative to the more distant, higher-use cabins and campsites.
- The RMC facilities are an important, constant, historic thread in the fabric of Randolph.
- Support because the analysis is considering rare plants and historic resources, and because hikers are required to be responsible and clean up after themselves.
- Appreciate RMCs do-it-yourself philosophy.
- Continue with the permit the RMC facilities provide all-season use at a nominal cost.
- Consolidation into one permit makes sense.
- The RMC facilities fit with the multiple-use management objectives of the Forest Service.
- RMC facilities have been a WMNF asset for many years, serving the public interests, and providing great service at a great price. Hope they will remain unchanged.
- Many people have fond memories of the RMC camps, and they should be available for future generations to enjoy.
- RMC benefits the forest and visitors.
- RMC facilities provide a quality, unique recreation opportunity.
- RMC provides great service, keeps the facilities in good repair, and operates them to appropriate standards.
The 5,500 acre Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge is located in Jefferson and Whitefield. It was created on December 22nd, 2000 when 670 acres of wetlands and lowland spruce fir forest were acquired from the Hancock Timber Resource Group by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This tract of land was added to an existing 310 acre Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge owned jointly by New Hampshire Audubon and NH Fish and Game.
Subsequent additions included a 3,040 acre tract acquired from Hancock in 2003, followed by three medium sized additions of 650 acres, 400 acres and 500 acres in 2004 and 2005. The refuge is nearing completion with plans to acquire several additional wetland tracts in the coming years. The money for acquiring these lands came from the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Migratory Bird Conservation Act, commonly known as Duck Stamps. Management is a partnership between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, NH Audubon and NH Fish and Game. The Friends of Pondicherry is a volunteer organization that works on trails and other projects in the refuge.
The Friends of Pondicherry, Randolph Mountain Club and other organizations have also supported recent acquisitions by the White Mountain National Forest of land near Pondicherry. These included a 1,700 acre acquisition of Hardwood Ridge in Jefferson in 2005, and a 450 acre acquisition in 2006 on Cherry Mountain.
The exact early origin of the name Pondicherry for this region is not known. The name appeared on several early maps including the Map of New Hampshire by Jeremy Belknap in 1797. There is a former French colony in India called Pondicherry that was ceded to the British in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris. This region of New Hampshire was on a political fault line between the warring British and the French forces, starting in 1753, and it may have been named during that time. Cherry Mountain was formerly called Pondicherry Mountain and was later shortened to just Cherry Mountain. Tudor Richards, of New Hampshire Audubon, named the refuge Pondicherry in 1963 based on the previous history of the region.
Pondicherry is a popular spot for birders in the spring, summer and fall. The refuge was the first designated Important Bird Area in New Hampshire and is also on the Connecticut River Birding Trail. The refuge bird checklist includes 131 species that breed in the refuge and 236 species that have been seen since the start of record keeping in 1890. Pondicherry was designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service in 1972 because of the diversity of bird life and variety of wetland communities.
Pondicherry is also well-known for its other forms of wildlife, especially biting insects! This is one of the reasons why so many birds migrate from the tropics to breed and feast on protein-rich insects. The refuge Odonata checklist contains 50 species of dragonflies and damselflies. Over 60 butterflies, 40 mammals, 8 fish and 21 reptiles and amphibians have also been recorded.
The 8th edition of Randolph Paths has a detailed list of Pondicherry Trails. The Pondicherry Rail Trail and the Little Cherry Pond Trails are the two most popular trails in the refuge and are used year round.
The Pondicherry Rail Trail starts at a trailhead and kiosk on Airport Road near the Biomass Power Plant. The Maine Central railroad used this route from Quebec Junction to Waumbek Junction at Cherry Pond. From 1892 until 1932 there was a railroad station, freight house, station masters house and red ball signal at Waumbek Junction. This is where the Boston and Maine met the Maine Central and passengers could switch. The rail trail today is flat and usually dry for the one and a half miles to Waumbek Junction. Future plans call for modifying this rail trail to become wheel chair accessible.
The Little Cherry Pond Trail starts about 800 feet north of Waumbek Junction and heads west through beautiful softwood forests to 20 acre Little Cherry Pond. The trail includes over 700 feet of bog bridges and turnpike to a bench and viewing platform on the shore of beautiful Little Cherry Pond. This trail has been nominated to become a National Recreation Trail.
The Little Cherry Pond Trail starts about 800 feet north of Waumbek Junction and heads west through beautiful softwood forests to 20 acre Little Cherry Pond. The trail includes over 700 feet of bog bridges and turnpike to a bench and viewing platform on the shore of beautiful Little Cherry Pond. This trail has been nominated to become a National Recreation Trail.
Other trails at Pondicherry include the Rampart Path that follows an ice push rampart for a quarter of a mile along the scenic north edge of Cherry Pond. The Cohos Trail enters the refuge on Route 115, across from the Owlshead Trail. This section of the Cohos Trail is called the Slide Brook Trail and will be relocated due to beaver activity in 2006. The Slide Brook Trail meets the Presidential Rail Trail near a trestle over Slide Brook. The Cohos Trail then follows this rail trail west to Waumbek Junction and then north to the Rampart path and finally northeast through young forest to Whipple Road in Jefferson. This last section of trail is rough and will be improved by trail crews this summer.
Mud Pond Trail
The US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Friends of Pondicherry are developing a new trail from Route 116 to Mud Pond Bog and then south to Little Cherry Pond. This 1.8 mile trail will be for foot or ski travel only. A new trailhead on Route 116 has already been built and the trail location is being finalized this spring. The trail will not be completed until 2007.
A Bright Future for Pondicherry
Pondicherry will play an increasingly important role for migratory and resident birds and wildlife. The eventual size of Pondicherry will be close to 6,000 acres. This substantial area of low elevation boreal forest habitat will connect to the 800,000 acre WMNF and contribute to a protected north-south travel corridor for wide ranging wildlife. Habitat at Pondicherry is excellent for such mammals as beaver, muskrat, otter, fisher, marten, black bear, moose, and, hopefully someday, Canada lynx.
Visitors to Pondicherry in the next ten years will benefit from an improved trail system that will allow recreational usage while protecting wildlife, cultural and scenic resources. A Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) will be developed in the next two years and will seek input from the public on resource issues. Employment and volunteer opportunities will increase for people to work on the refuge. Research opportunities will also increase in the future for scientists and students. Research is currently underway on methyl mercury in fish, habitat needs of the Canada warbler, and a demonstration project will begin this summer to eradicate invasive Japanese knotweed from roadsides and purple loosestrife from nearby wetlands.
The Friends of Pondicherry sponsor a variety of walks and trips at the refuge. Several birding trips will occur in May to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day. Work trips are conducted several times a year to maintain trails or monitor wildlife. Plans are under way to conduct winter trips to learn wildlife tracking skills.
David Govatski is the President of the Friends of Pondicherry and lives in Jefferson. He retired from the US Forest Service where he worked as a Fire and Aviation Management Officer and Silviculturist.
Last summer, when I was offered the position of winter caretaker, I took the job with a mixture of apprehension and excitement. How would I fare in the cold? Who would come visit me? What would I do for fun? How can I not accept the chance to live in such a beautiful place? Most people I know thought I was a little crazy to want to pass the winter in a cabin with no running water, no electricity, and very little heat. I told myself I wanted to be there for the skiing and to be able to say I had done the coldest job in the Northeast.
Many guests this winter were curious to know what life was like at Gray Knob. The most common queries included, "How can you possibly stay warm?" and "Don't you get lonely?" First of all, it wasn't really cold this winter. Winter didn't really arrive until President's Day. All through November, December, and January we had cold weather and snow followed by warm weather and rain. Not great for the snow pack and maddening for your ski-obsessed caretaker.
Surviving the cold is all about the difference between 32 degrees and 0 degrees. With the right winter clothing, staying comfortable when the inside temperature of the cabin was 32 or above was easy. The colder it got inside, the harder it was to stay warm. I rarely let the temp drop below 25 degrees inside. As soon as my water pots started to freeze solid, it was time to light the fire.
Your body adapts to the cold remarkably well given a little time. There were many Saturday nights where I was totally comfortable inside at 35 degrees with no hat and no gloves on and all my guests were bundled right up. Although I usually had a fire on Saturday nights when people were there, when by myself I would go without. I thought we fared pretty well this winter with the wood supply. There will be enough wood this year for the spring caretaker to light a few fires on those cold spring nights.
To fuel the fire inside, one has to eat a lot of calories, and sometimes that can get kind of old. I tried to keep things interesting. Some of my caloric highlights of the winter were; Derrick "Storm" Schott's Thanksgiving leftovers, hand delivered to Gray Knob by former RMC Trail Crew members Laura Conchelos and Matt Cittadini; Kim chi, Spicy Anchovy Paste, and Pickled Garlic compliments of the Irish restaurant-owning Koreans from Fort Lee, NJ; Cheese, Steak, and Chocolate Fondue from countless Canadians; Red Curry and Baked Goods, from Big Sky Bakery in Portland, ME, thanks to Trail Crew member Aaron Parcak; and Moose Shepherd's Pie, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Moose Chili compliments of myself.
Not only do you have to eat to stay warm, you have to eat a lot when you are required to hike a minimum 3-4 miles a day. I went over to the Perch often this winter, mostly as a reason to go for a walk to get warm. I found that not many people choose to stay at the Perch in the winter. The logbook has exactly 2 whole pages of entries since the beginning of November. I would go over there to just sit, listen, and watch the winter stillness. One of my favorite spots in RMC country is the intersection of Perch Path and Gray Knob Trail. This was a favorite spot last spring for me and continued to be one I stopped at often this winter. At this junction there is a nice flat rock for sitting that pivots just slightly back and forth. One has a wonderful view of the Castellated Ridge, Cascade Ravine, the Dartmouth Range, Bretton Woods, the Franconia Range, and on good days one can see the whole northern spine of the Green Mts. of Vermont. I watched many a sunset this winter from that rock with the trees around me afire with the alpenglow.
To ward off the loneliness, I did as much hiking or skiing as my schedule and the weather allowed. I found a good hike or a nice quiet ski through the winter woods reminded me what a special opportunity it is to live at Gray Knob. I often thought about how few people get to experience winter as intensely as I did this year. My time at Gray Knob was quite short, even though it didn't feel that way on some January weekdays that seemed to drag on and on. Often when I came up on Mondays for my weekly stint, I would be mentally prepared not to see another person until Friday afternoon. That way, if I had any midweek guests, their arrival would be a pleasant surprise.
Although we had a less than desirable winter, I still managed to get my fair share of powder turns around the 'Knob. I was doing the camp rounds on skis as soon as the rocks disappeared from the trails. I also was able to get some great days on the Jefferson, Spur, and Gulfside snowfields. Although Spur Brook didn't freeze over until the beginning of March, I got a few good descents down the Hincks Trail and down into Spur Brook to the Randolph Path. This line is a special treat for the backcountry skier and this mild winter was no exception. I count those descents of the brook as some of the best powder runs this season. Other notable first descents this winter included Randolph Path from treeline to Lowe's Path and Israel Ridge Path from treeline to Emerald Bluff. Just about the only thing I didn't get to ski during the winter was the "7, but a trip to Great Gully was accomplished later in the spring.
I will close with a sentiment that I heard time and time again at Gray Knob. Many guests this winter made a point to me that the RMC does a phenomenal job with its camps and trails. I was told time and time again, "We've been coming here for X number of years because your trails are always in great shape and Gray Knob and Crag Camp are just the best places to stay in the Whites." I don't think people make those kinds of statements because they're trying to butter up the caretaker to start a fire. They make them sincerely. To hear these types of statements weekend after weekend was a powerful acknowledgment of the excellent work RMC does in these mountains. As the caretaker, I believe ultimate credit is due to the support of the membership, the vision of the officers, and the dedication of the employees. I have been honored this winter to be the public face of such an organization. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.
Chris Fithian was RMC's winter caretaker, working week-on, week-off, opposite Ryan Harvey and Matthew "Milo" Moore. This summer, he serves as RMC's Field Supervisor in charge of both caretakers and trail crews.
This past winter, RMC members and friends were treated to a remarkable evening featuring two of the world's most accomplished climbers. Together, Dean Potter and Stephanie Davis have an array of mountaineering firsts to their credit. Dean is the only person to free climb Yosemite's Half Dome and El Capitan in a single day, and has a series of daring first solo ascents in Patagonia to his credit. His partner, Steph Davis, has made numerous first ascents of major peaks around the world, is the first woman to summit Fitzroy in Patagonia, and holds the record for the most free-climbing ascents of El Capitan. Dean has long family roots in Randolph and Gorham, and both his father Tony and Uncle Bob are Randolph residents.
This story is from Yvon Chouinards autobiography, Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, and is reprinted with permission of Dean and Yvon.Editor.
Cold air from the valley drifts upward. It's predawn, and I've been moving on the Nose of El Cap through the night, focused on the rock in front of me in the faint light of my headlamp. Suddenly, I think of how tired and exposed I am, alone, rope-less, far past any point of retreat. A surge of panic courses through me. I try to think of the summit, but that thought is too dangerous.
An image floats into my mind. I'm following my father in the early morning through a pasture in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. He strides towards Moose River, his favorite fishing spot. I'm not even half his height, and the frosty grass brushes all the way up to my waist.
We reach the river. My dad skips from rock to rock, downstream to the first hole, and looks back for me. The water is freezing, and the rocks are covered in slime. I'm afraid to follow. I burrow painfully through the thickets of pricker bushes, swamp, and black flies as my father calls for me. The bugs chase me back to the river's edge, and I timidly wade in and try to catch up. Tense and anxious, I lose my footing and fall into the river. I gasp for breath in the icy water but manage to scramble onto a rock, where I bawl until my father comes back. "I don't like fishing. I want to go home."
My father shakes his head at me, and his eyes sparkle. "Dean, put everything aside. There's nothing to be afraid of, except a little cold water. Just focus on the next step you are taking. I feel so happy running down the river, sun reflecting off the water, my body naturally going where it's supposed to. I almost don't think at all. I just respond to what's in front of me."
He stops talking and heads downstream again. We slowly pick our way across the rocks, catching rainbows and brook trout. The day passes quickly, and my confidence rises. Soon I'm playing and racing down the rapids with eyes wide and senses alert, not knowing I've just received my first lesson in Zen.
The air drifts over my body. I grasp the immediate. I reach for the next hold.