Table of Contents
The RMC is coming up on its one hundred year anniversary in 2010. I would hope that if Messrs. Peaks or Cook came to visit they would still recognize our club and our trails, and approve of what we are doing. Maybe they would pitch in and help us out on the next work trip!
One thing that has really changed, however, is the way we communicate with one another. Back in their day, if someone wanted to lead a hike or post something for the membership, all they had to do was to put something up on the boards at the three hotels in Randolph. With that and word of mouth, it was easy to spread information to the membership. Feedback came the same way; chances were that you would see a board member in the next couple of days and be able to voice any concerns. The club's activities shut down during the winter and did not restart until the summer guests showed up at the hotels the next year.
In the past decade the RMC has done a great job of adapting to the information age. Our membership is now spread out all over the country and in general spends much less time in Randolph than earlier generations did. We also have a much larger year round contingent that enables us to run the club all year. Keeping all these people connected and informed is a real challenge. To do this we have developed several methods.
The club now has a newsletter that is mailed out twice a year. It would be nice to just post it at Lowe's and be done with it, but I think it would take most of the year before everyone had seen it. Instead, one evening after the newsletters are received from the printer, whoever is available gathers around and addresses them. To achieve the cheapest rate for mailing, volunteers then sort the letters by an arcane system based on zip code, distance from Randolph and several other factors, which only the Post Office truly understands. Eventually, the newsletters are taken to Gorham and sent on their way to our members.
The newsletter keeps us in touch with many of our far-flung members, and in the past couple of years we have also made an effort to reach members who prefer to get their information online. If you have not checked out the club website at www.randolphmountainclub.org, please give it a look. Jeff Smith has done a fantastic job of putting up information about the club in an easily accessible format. You can check out the latest journal entries from our caretakers, or even see what the current weather is at Grey Knob. There are many pictures from all over the Northern Presidentials, information on every RMC trail, and many of the previous newsletters are also posted there. The latest schedules for work trips and weekly hikes are there too. Be prepared to spend some time browsing!
We have also added the ability to use Pay Pal to renew your membership or purchase RMC merchandise. This has assisted the club's finances; the money we receive from web sales has helped us to keep a balanced budget. Last winter we added an email news bulletin. Because the printed newsletter has a long lead-time, it is not possible to get timely information out. With email we can send out short notices and also save some trees. Hopefully emails can become our "bulletin board" and members can use email to talk to the board. One last way that any member can reach out is through the message board on the RMC website. The board is checked regularly and replies are posted. We can once again become a well-connected club, even though we are quite spread out.
In another effort to keep everyone well connected, we are updating the RMC Directory once again. We realize that many folks use this book to keep in touch with people associated with Randolph. With this in mind we want to include everyone who would like to be in the Directory. However in this day and age of information and identity theft, we do not want to publish any private information. So in addition to not putting this information online, the RMC will only include members who have indicated that they want to be in the Directory. Unless you are already in the current Directory, or have checked the box on your membership renewal form, your information will not be in the next Directory.
With all that in mind the board is going to be using most of these ways of communicating with you this summer to keep the membership up to date on the new Mt. Crescent Trailhead Project. As this opportunity evolves, look for further news in the various Randolph publications, as well as the RMC web site and our new club email bulletin. Please take a few minutes to read Doug Mayer's article elsewhere in this newsletter about this great opportunity to preserve access to our many trails in the Crescent Range. Securing a permanent trailhead for the Crescent Range, and protecting access for future generations is an uncommon opportunity. I hope you'll join other RMC members and friends in this exciting endeavor.
I hope to "communicate" with you this summer using the preferred method -- face to face. See you on the trails,
Arthur Stanley Pease, who delivered these remarks at the fiftieth Annual Meeting in 1960, was a founding member and second president of the RMC. A uniquely qualified guest speaker, he talked about the Club's summer calendar from his own personal experiences over fifty years. In his description, the traditional events were the annual meeting, the picnic, the rendezvous, and the Fourth of July tea. More recently the gourmet hike, the winter square dance, a dinner at Libby's Bistro and other social gatherings have been added.
The Annual Meeting. From its founding in 1910 the Randolph Mountain Club board has organized "the Annual Meeting [which] shall be held on the second Saturday in August." ii The agenda includes a business meeting with reports from the president, treasurer and committee chairs, and concludes with the nomination and election of board members and the president for the following year.
Occasionally the treasurer's report, for years a nickel and dime affair, has been hotly debated. More often, under the catch-all of "New Business," members have discussed local issues, like the $2 per person admission fee newly imposed in 1984 by the Cog Railway at the Base Station or, more recently, the perceived need for expanded parking at Appalachia.
The business meeting has been followed by an address, "prepared by some member at the president's request," that was intended to educate the membership about relevant topics. One of these was a talk by Louis F. Cutter in 1920, who reviewed J. Rayner Edmands' trail building career. iii In later years hot local topics have included Bruce Macleod, talking about the new Bretton Woods venture (1974 - this particular company went bankrupt the next year); Niels F. Nielsen, Jr. on preserving the Old Man (1984); or "Should we rebuild Gray Knob?" (1987). More recently, the presentation has featured a slideshow or multimedia event on a topic relevant to the area or mountaineering: Brad Washburn on his mountain photography (2002); Jeff Tirey on winter at Gray Knob (1982); Jack Stewart, "Weather and Your Enjoyment of White Mountain Tramping" (1978); Mike Pelchat on the Moose's Tooth (2001). The meeting also gives the audience a chance to socialize, before, after and sometimes during the event.
The Fourth of July Tea. Pease does not give us much information about the origins of the tea. Private celebrations began in Randolph long before the Club was founded. Eldena Leighton Hunt wrote in her diary for July 4, 1904:
The Flaggs continued their July 4th celebration for some years, as sketched by George A. Flagg in 1907, showing the detonation of rockets against the familiar backdrop of Madison and Adams.
No one living knows the date of the first RMC tea, but it may have been following the Boothman's purchase of the Mt. Crescent House in 1923. The first written record I have found is from 1933, when treasurer Miss E. E. Jones listed among her expenditures: "John Boothman, supplies for 4th July tea, $9.07." This line item then recurs in the treasurer's records most years up through the end of the notebook in 1948, when the price of supplies had soared to $31.27. The Boothmans obviously donated their own efforts to the RMC for the event.
Those of us who remember the post-World War II era recall that the tea, from 3 to 5 pm on the Fourth of July, was catered by the Boothmans on the Mt. Crescent House lawn. Did it ever rain? The official arrival of the summer season was celebrated by well-dressed members and their children (who behaved in a more-or-less decorous manner). Ladies ceremoniously poured the tea and ladled the punch. On the front porch elderly hotel guests rocked, and lemon sherbet was dispensed with great showmanship by Jack Boothman.
Once the hotel had closed and was razed in the fall of 1971, the tea was held on the lawn of the Mt. Crescent Shop, adjacent to the old hotel site, or in the Playhouse (when the weather was inclement). In 1984, when the Shop's lawn was torn up because of renovations to the house, the tea was moved to its current location on the Hill road, the barn and lawn at Sky Meadow owned by Bob and Libby Kenyon, where it was organized for many years by neighbors Lydia Ogilby and John Mudge. Rampant black flies, if not the weather, generally drove the crowd into the barn. Becky Boothman Parker, famous for her lemon squares, mostly continued to cater the event and serve the traditional lemon sherbet. As many as 200 people have attended, including children who engaged in active play in the adjacent field.
The event was satirized by the Midlands in their 1976 charade. In a reenactment of the tea, the entire dialogue consisted of "When dja get here?" and "How long ya up fer?" The word was "commonplace."
The Rendezvous. As Dr. Pease describes, the original concept of the rendezvous was to satisfy the needs of the Club's "more active" clientele; it was held in the second half of July. Hikers arrived by noon to eat their lunches at an announced meeting place. The goal was to reach the rendezvous by the most innovative route possible, with a prize traditionally awarded for the most unusual approach. One year Miggy Arnold (Woodard) won when she arrived barefoot at Coldspur Ledges, having waded up through the brook. In an account of the opening of the Inlook Trail in a 1933 issue of Appalachia, Louis F. Cutter suggests that the rendezvous will probably be at Dome Rock on July 25th. v Only in the 1940s do line items specific to the rendezvous begin to appear in the treasurer's books, never recording expenses higher than $1.78.
In the 1950s the members of the recently established trail crew were assigned tasks, helping the rendezvous leader carry firewood, a grate for the fire, large coffee pots, and punch makings to the site. Over time the event's location moved closer to trail heads, to be well within the abilities of all ages. The 1977 rendezvous, held at Hitchcock Falls, provided "a cool spot on a hot day [that] brought a 100+ turnout." vi In later years Upper Salroc Falls became the principal site, popular because of its easy accessibility on Snyder Brook and its slippery rocks that destroyed many pairs of pants as the young slid down over the wet mossy ledges into the pool at the base of the falls.
The rising awareness in the 1990s of potential environmental harm from hikers became a topic that "all of the mountain clubs were struggling with -- this question of how much to enjoy the mountains without marring them...Research, as well as common sense, was showing that large groups tended to congregate in the most fragile areas, like alpine summits and the banks of streams." vii The RMC board first considered limiting group sizes in the backcountry in 1993, viii a discussion that continued without resolution and with considerable disagreement. The rendezvous, however, was doomed by these environmental concerns, which led to the abandonment of Salroc Falls as a site. For several years the gathering was held at the Ravine House pool, but in 2002, stripped of any pretense of adventure, the rendezvous was discontinued due to lack of patronage.
The Gourmet Hike. RMC members have always been interested in good food, and there had long been events that that offered gourmet food as an incentive to participation. Who can forget Erika Goetze's plum cake mit schlag, Al Hudson's "Royal Dutch Cocoa Cream Cake" consumed on the shores of the Pond of Safety, and, at the highest level of RMC culinary workmen's compensation, a complete lobster dinner served by Peg Grant and her con-soeurs at Gray Knob to help pay for its 1964 renovation? (The dress at the latter event was "formal," and guests included Hank and Peeko Folsom who arrived in tux and gown - they had hiked up and changed near the Quay.)
The "gourmet hike" began informally in the early 1970's, first suggested by some "proto-gourmet" trips in which more-or-less by chance hikers had brought food to share that far exceeded the normal trail-lunch fare (Sandy Malcolm in 1972 brought ripe mangoes fresh from the Caribbean to Baldpate.)
But the first RMC trip advertised as "gourmet", and encouraging participants to bring exotic cuisine to share, was led by Chips Muehl on July 28, 1976 around the Baldface circuit. The gourmet hike, although occurring on a regular Tuesday or Thursday climb, was not an official RMC function. Each year over the next decade a "gourmet" hike, advertised as such by its leader, took place. Chips led most, while Bill Knight and Kate Hudson took the odd turn. In 1978 Chips led a group of 35 to Mt. Eastman and Baldface Knob, to which the Risings brought lemon sherbet packed in a container insulated with popcorn. In the spirit of the early rendezvous, the hikes visited various locales, including Blueberry Mountain, West Royce and the Basin Rim, the ski trails on Wildcat D (with some folks coming up on the gondola, some over the Kittens, or via the Nineteen-Mile Brook Trail and Wildcat), Webster Cliffs (in the rain, but with a pretty good turnout), and Mt. Willard. In 1985 Bill Knight led the first of many gourmet hikes on Mt. Success Ledges.
The informal gourmet hikes were so popular that around 1988 the RMC board declared it an official RMC activity to be encouraged. It was suggested that the gourmet trips should be made a bit less strenuous, so that more individuals would be able to participate (by now a familiar refrain for social events). And so the gourmet hike was brought under the organizational purview of the Trips Chair, who for almost a decade recruited leaders to run the events. Although the hike had always been held on Tuesday or Thursday, it was later moved to a Saturday so that working stiffs or weekenders could attend. Between 1988 and 1997 trips went to a variety of low-stress destinations: Middle Sugarloaf, North Sugarloaf, Mt. Willard, and, of course, Mt. Success Ledges. The popularity of the hike gathered momentum. Lemon sherbet became a staple, and crowds of eager gourmands and chefs converged on the chosen summit. Some dishes were even cooked or assembled on site. An all-time high of about 80 people assembled in 1994 on the ledgy summit of Black Cap Mountain near North Conway.
In 1995 the gourmet hike was dropped from the list of RMC-sponsored hikes, killed by environmental concerns engendered by its popularity; the board agreed that the club was setting a poor example by running a trip that attracted such a large group of climbers.
Between 1997 and 1999 the gourmet hike reverted to unofficial status, with Bill Knight and Chips Muehl alternating in advertising private "gourmet" trips on Fridays to the mostly unfrequented ledges on Mounts Success and Surprise. In 2000 the RMC board again took over sponsorship, but with the proviso that the hikes occur outside the White Mountain National Forest. Responsibility for the hike was passed to the Events Chair. To reduce crowds that had assembled on Saturdays, the first Thursday in August was selected. Diehards Bill Knight and Al and Judy Hudson were recruited to lead the officially designated "Gourmet Hike" at the dawning of the new century. As the number of participants declined, so did the enthusiasm of the gourmands. Sound ecological practices will probably lead, like the rendezvous, to the disappearance of the gourmet hike, and it will become a bittersweet memory of lemon sherbet consumed on a scenic mountaintop.
The Annual Picnic. Soon after the Club's founding in August 1910, the first picnic was held. In 1924 Louis Cutter noted five easily accessible locations where it had taken place: Pine Mountain, Triple Falls, Rollo Fall, Bumpus Basin, and Cascade Camp. Two picnics at Cascade Camp, in 1912 and 1913, are described in detail in letters that Cutter wrote, probably to his mother. ix In 1912 Cascade Camp had been given to the RMC by J. Rayner Edmands' niece, Mrs. Southard. The camp had just been refurbished, and the goal of the picnic on September 5th was a work party to clear logging damage on the trails that led to the camp. There were 38 attendees. George Flagg sketched a few individuals: Dr. Judson, spilling his hot coffee out of a tin cup; his wife, primly sitting, clad in ankle-length skirt and blouse with big bows around her neck, at the back of her head, and at the end of her long braid; and Edward Young Hincks, "the birth day child." The following year, on August 19, 83 hikers made the trek to help to clear the "pleasure paths" in Cascade Ravine. x Cutter wrote:
A few years thereafter, charades xi were introduced into the picnic, and in the early 1920s the picnic was moved to a site on Cold Brook near Cold Brook Lodge. The order of the picnic was set and has been perpetuated to the present day: an outdoor picnic on the brook at noon for all comers, followed by entertainment in a natural amphitheater nearby with charades presented by the Hill, the Midlands and the Valley (and sometimes the Mountains), and lastly, the singing of rounds and "Auld lang syne."
Because the relocation of Route 2 in 1965 obliterated the Cold Brook site, the picnic was moved, first to the field next to the former Hincks-Nelson Smith house in the Midlands. The following year the Horton family graciously invited the Club to use the natural amphitheater in Mossy Glen on Carlton Brook. In 1977, so that working people could attend, the day of the picnic was moved from the Tuesday after the annual meeting to the third Saturday in August.
Guy Shorey led the singing of rounds during many of the Cold Brook years. His successor was Klaus Goetze, who over time succeeded with consummate grace and good humor in teaching most members a variety of rounds, obscure (The Ghost of Tam, Little Jack Horner) and familiar (Row, Row, Row Your Boat; Scotland's Burning). At the 1991 picnic Klaus was celebrated with a dove-shaped cake (representing Dona Nobis Pacem), and the baton was passed to Heywood Alexander. Heywood stepped down in 2003, and since then various people, including Barbara Wysessions, Betsy Rising Segura and Al Hudson have conducted the audience in song.
Traditionally, coffee and punch were both served (participants brought their own lunch and a cup), but beginning in 1994 only punch was offered, eliminating a great deal of work and the peril of carrying scalding liquid about on Mossy Glen's steep hillside. Over the years the RMC had been lucky with the weather for the picnic, and only occasionally was it postponed to "the next good day." However, postponement of the picnic has recently metamorphosed into assigning a rain site on the same day: in 2003-2005, the Beringers' barn on the hill, and in 2007, the new Randolph municipal building. Four out of five rainy years in a row? Maybe our luck with the weather has been sabotaged by global warming!
Other Events. RMC crews and caretakers have held a number of regular RMC-driven informal get-togethers "that were a bit under the radar," and not advertised to the general public as all other RMC events are.
With the turn of the new century, the year-'rounders have added a few new events, mostly in fall and winter. These now annual socializers have included: beginning in 2003, "Flatbreads Day" (a percentage of profits at the North Conway restaurant contributed to the RMC); in 2004, the annual "Cabin Fever Reliever" Square Dance occurring at the Town Hall in the dead of the winter; and in the fall a benefit banquet at Libby's Bistro in Gorham, catered by its owner Liz Jackson. The members of the RMC continue to seize any opportunity to enjoy socializing with their compatriots.
Thanks to Doug Mayer for his contributions to my draft, and to Carol Sandin Woodruff and Eric Sandin for the illustrations I have drawn from George A. Flagg's sketchbooks. I am interested in any additional comments, corrections, anecdotal materials, or relevant photographs that my readers might have. Please contact me at 111 Amherst Road, Pelham, MA 01002, 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 Club's Archivist, and Judy is working on a history of the RMC.
ii. As described in the Club's Bylaws, Article 4.
iii. Louis F. Cutter, "The Edmands paths and their builder," Appalachia: 15; 134-140 (Aug 1921). Other than Cutter's address, I have not found any information on either early speakers or their topics.
iv. Eldena Leighton Hunt's diaries from January1896 to the end of May 1910 have been transcribed and published by Al Hudson for the Randolph History Project. A copy of these will be placed in the Randolph Public Library in June 2008.
v. "Gordon Ridge," Appalachia: 19(3), 485 (June 1933).
vi. Al Hudson in our family logbook for 21 July 1977.
vii. Doug Mayer, personal communication, April 2008.
viii. Minutes of the August 28, 1993 board meeting.
ix. See Cutter's article, "The Randolph Mountain Club," in Randolph Old and New, by George N. Cross, Randolph, NH: Town of Randolph, 1924, pp. 188-191.
x. See a photo of the crowd and the camp, probably taken by Guy Shorey, from the 1913 event in my earlier article, "Managing the RMC," RMC Newsletter, Summer 2007, p. 7.
xi. For the history of charades in Randolph, see my article in the Winter 2004-2005 RMC Newsletter.
xii. Doug Mayer, personal communication, April 2008.
News from RMC Camps
All went well this past winter and spring up at the RMC Camps. We had about the normal number of guests -- some new, and many returnees. The camps remain beloved to those who love to trek our Randolph trails and enjoy the shelter and comraderie of our camps. Winter caretakers Sally Manikian and Mike Street traded off weeks up at Gray Knob, and during their off weeks enjoyed living at the new Stearns Lodge. Electricity and a shower -- not to mention heat -- are a luxury after a week up high!
In March our spring caretaker Julianne Hudson took over for Mike and has enjoyed a beautiful spring. Since Sally finished up in April, Curtis Moore, our summer 2008 Trails/Camps Supervisor, has taken the alternate weeks till June when our summer caretakers start.
So, plan to visit this summer. A set of twin sisters from the Adirondacks, Alexandra and Elizabeth Disney, will be caretaking. Don't be surprised -- you will indeed be seeing double!
As the summer field season begins on RMC's paths, the club finds its management of trails continuing to evolve. Most notably, we are settling into a comfortable routine with Stearns Lodge. RMC's home in the valley is already showing its value, in ways both anticipated and not. Our work trips now often include a post-trip barbeque at the Lodge-a nice after-work addition that will allow time for socializing with volunteers and trail crew members. Meanwhile, on the hiring front, several applicants remarked on the impressive lodge they saw on the RMC web site-one small piece that enables RMC to hire the best applicants we can find. Already, Stearns stands as an enduring tribute to RMC members' caring for our paths.
Another change to our management of RMC's trails is the reinvigoration of the Trails Committee, which now consists of volunteers Cristin Bailey, Chris Fithian, Regina Ferreira, Tami Hartley, Doug Mayer, Mike Micucci, Bill Parlett, and Dave Salisbury. Our goal is to continue to spread out the web of work involved in managing the trails network year-'round, so no one volunteer shoulders more work than he or she wants.
This summer, please mark the mid-summer RMC trails potluck dinner on your calendar. The potluck, which in past years has reached thirty to forty RMC friends, is always a fun evening. This year, it will be Friday night, July 11 at 6 pm, at Stearns Lodge. Jot the date down, meet the crew and others, and join us if you can!
If you're interested in following the progress of the trail crew this season, we're adding something new to the RMC web site this year: a photo web log, or blog, that will be updated weekly. Featuring photos of trail work, along with descriptions of the work and occasional essays, the blog will be managed by new crew member Benzo Harris, son of RMC 1952 trail crew member Chris Harris.
For trails projects, this summer will find our eight-member trail crew out and about on a variety of endeavors. Leading the crew this year will be RMC Field Supervisor Curtis Moore. Fresh off a stint working as a carpenter's helper at the South Pole, Curtis has had variety of backcountry experiences, including three years on RMC's trail crew, seasons spent under the leadership of former RMC President Mike Pelchat as a Ranger on Mount Washington, and time spent leading crews for the Student Conservation Association.
The trail crew season will begin the first week of June with three days of orientation. What's involved in a trail crew orientation? Topics include work standards, safety policies, wilderness first aid training, risk management, tool repair and maintenance, Leave No Trace guidelines, Forest Service rules and regulations-even a primer on forest fires from RMC's Bill Arnold. Five members will complete an additional three-day, Forest Service chainsaw class. This thorough program is now required for RMC trail crew members who operate a chainsaw on the White Mountain National Forest, and turns RMC crew members into knowledgeable, safe sawyers.
On the work front, the crew will start the season by spending two weeks clearing blowdowns and cleaning drainages on our paths. Following that, one crew of four will begin work on repairs to the Ledge Trail. The popular trail has no waterbars, rock steps or step stones. A variety of such work will be accomplished along the length of the trail, including a relocation of the bottom 200 yards of the trail, to eliminate the current steep, eroded start. Eighty percent of the cost of this project is being paid for by the State of New Hampshire's Recreation Trails Program. RMC received a grant for the trail work last year.
Meanwhile, another crew of four will be working on Israel Ridge Path, performing similar work along the lower stretches of the trail. A bit more in the backcountry, this crew will be camped in the woods from Monday through Friday, each week. Later in the summer, they'll move to a project on Lowe's Path, installing rock steps to reduce the current widening of the trail on a steep section of ledge just below the Log Cabin. The US Forest Service is paying fifty percent of the cost of this project.
While the work of the crew is substantial, the absolutely reality is that RMC continues to rely heavily on volunteers-not just for organizing the trails program, but for on-the-ground work, too. We hope you can join us this summer! Our Work Trips organizer, Mike Micucci, has put together a variety of projects for the season. Please see the schedule elsewhere in this newsletter. If you have questions about participating, feel free to drop Mike a note anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we're on the topic of volunteers, RMC members owe a special thanks to Randolph's Larry Jenkins, who continues to maintain and build our much-needed wooden pack frames. These frames, little changed in more than 50 years, are perfectly designed for carrying awkward, large loads like boxes, tools and supplies. This year, Larry built RMC two new pack frames at a heavily discounted price. The work is complex and there are few folks who have the skills to complete the job in style. Thanks Larry!
This fall RMC will again have a part-time crew. This year the four-person crew will work during September and October, continuing on the Recreation Trails Program grant, and moving off of Ledge Trail and onto Pasture Path. The crew will improve the trail proper, adding drainages, step stones, and replacing a number of aging bog bridges between Four Soldiers Path and Grassy Lane. At the close of the season, the fall crew will assist volunteers in cleaning our drainages of leaves and debris, before winter's snows once again cover our forests.
We look forward to seeing you all out on the trails this summer!
In the past year a number of new additions have been made to the RMC's archive, mostly in the form of scans of photos. In July 2007, Judy and I visited the library of the Mt. Washington Observatory in North Conway, and with Peter Crane's help pored through the indices of Guy Shorey's photo collection. While many of the negatives are on glass plates that present temporary obstacles to our scanning, we were able to select and scan about 40 images from the photo albums Shorey kept in his studio for customers to use in ordering prints. The Shorey collection is a goldmine, and we hope to return to work on it again. In July courtesy of Deb Stewart, we scanned some 30 photos from Jack Stewart's albums, mostly from RMC events of the 40s and 50s.
This past fall Alan Lowe loaned us a box of materials that had been saved by his grandfather Vyron. These contained newspaper clippings (including an obituary of Alan's great-grandfather, Charles E.), three photo albums and some loose photos as well as various odds and ends. We have added nearly 60 photos to our already extensive archive of Lowe photos. The archive was also given a photo album that had been presented to Don and Barbara Wilson in 1993. This winter we acquired an ancient (1910s or 20s) Randolph Path sign, the gift of John Sperry, which is to be hung on the wall of the Stearns Lodge this summer.
Most of the past winter has been devoted to finishing the transcription of Eldena Leighton Hunt's diaries, a publication of the Randolph History Project which you can find this June in Randolph's new town library.
We are always eager to see other materials that our members may have in their attics. Please let us know what you have! To contact us: email or USPS (Al Hudson/111 Amherst Road/Pelham, MA 01002).
In early May, Doug was honored with the President's Call to Service Award for his "long-term commitment to maintain trails and facilities in the White Mountain National Forest". Only volunteers who have contributed more than 4000 hours of service are even eligible. (That's an average of at least 7 weeks a year every year for the last 15 years!) Sometimes it's too easy to take friends and neighbors for granted, and I thought this was a good opportunity to inform and remind ourselves of the time, energy and caring that Doug gives to the RMC.
1. When did you start volunteering with the RMC?
I started volunteering in the early 1990's, when I was living in Sandwich. Within a year or two, I had moved to Randolph, and it was hard not to get sucked into the RMC vortex. I was happily stenciling signs, then I was on the board, then someone tossed trails my way after, I guess, I accidentally started helping out too much!
2. When did you take over the Trails?
In 1993, I started supervising the trail crew. Laurie Archambault, working with others, had just started the very early efforts to bring a new level of skills and training to the RMC crew. I started by asking, "Where are the tools?" She said, "Oh, on my porch, stored in a garbage can. There's a chainsaw nearby." It was pretty disheartening.
3. How has the work of our trail crew changed over these 15 years?
When I started on the RMC board, Jeff Tirey was President. I remember him saying at an RMC annual meeting, "There's no reason for us to be biggest trail club, but there's also no reason why we can't be the best." I took that to heart. I thought that was exactly right. RMC has a trails history that's unrivaled, perhaps in the country. And a community that, as we've seen, will support it one-hundred percent. What was missing, I think, was someone to put the pieces together. That's all I did.
To get up to speed on the trails
front took a decade. Over that time, we built up our cache of
tools, we constructed a top-notch workshop, and we brought our
crew size up to a number that allows us to do everything we need
to do. That meant an investment in time and energy to hire, train
and hold onto people.
4. What else have you done for the RMC? I think of starting and editing the Newsletter, the feasibility study and fundraising for Stearns Lodge, and I'm sure there are many other things.
Hmmm. Let's see. Co-author of the current edition of Randolph Paths (really a total rewrite!), got the prior edition of the RMC map together (the first digital edition), and other things I'm sure I'm forgetting...
5. Aren't you also involved in other volunteer efforts in the White Mountains?
I write regularly for the Appalachia Journal, which I enjoy. For ten years, my friend Rebecca Oreskes and I have been doing a series of oral histories, called Mountain Voices. That's been a very interesting and enjoyable project.
My main other volunteer effort is the Waterman Fund. Guy was, as you know, a really dear friend. He was a constant source of ideas, enthusiasm and encouragement. After his death, I joined others and helped start the Waterman Fund, which supports alpine stewardship efforts around New England. I'm pleased that RMC got the very first Waterman Fund grant, for an alpine display at Crag Camp. And we got funded last year for alpine trail work and an interpretive project on Lowe's Path. (There's an online slide show, on the RMC web site.) I was on the Waterman Fund board for seven years.
6. What about influence? It seems to me that one of the most important things you do is influence the young people with whom you work -- partly about good trails and how to build them, but also about work ethics, ways of solving personal and physical problems, and thinking about the directions their lives might take. You are working as a teacher and a master (to your apprentices in trail work -- an experience few young people get to have nowadays). Any thoughts about this?
When I first started as Trails Chair, I was very concerned about productivity. I measured every season in numbers of steps, scree stabilized and feet of drainages built. I'm less concerned about quantity now, and more concerned about process. What excites me now is the ability to instill a sense of stewardship among the trail crew. The bottom line is, the work will always get done, and we'll make certain it gets done to a very high level of quality. Some years we get more work done than other years. We always get the basic maintenance done and we make a dent in the erosion control work.
But to be able to instill a sense of ethics about the backcountry among the trail crew -- that's invaluable. Those folks will go on to share those ideas with hundreds if not thousands of others in their lives, and they'll tie it to other aspects of their world. That's a hugely interesting topic to me. A rock staircase is great and important, but understanding why we're doing this work, why it matters, and how it connects to everything around us, that's worth a lot more. That's what Guy and Laura Waterman taught me.
It's a relationship, and like any relationship, it's a two-way street. I've learned so much from the trail crew members over the years. They challenge my long-held assumptions, and bring new perspectives to the process. I'm constantly impressed by them. I would never have lasted this long in this position, if it weren't for the comraderie and great attitudes of all these folks. They literally give me energy. The association is definitely mutually beneficial.
7. What do you get out of this?
The friendships with members of the trail crew and the Field Supervisors will last my lifetime. We have so many great, funny stories! We've shared some crazy, productive, amazing times together. And what could be better than great times in the mountains, being productive as stewards of a landscape you care about?
I'm also probably one of the biggest users of RMC's trails, so this isn't all disinterested benevolence on my part. I use the trails almost every day-- hiking, trail running, backcountry skiing. I have a quote above my desk from E.B. White that probably sums it all up: "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."
Our ten year old daughter Julia usually asks this question about two thirds of the way up, well before the point where you get that excited feeling that you're almost there. In our experience, it's the last resort among the hiking questions, when your child is feeling most tired, sweaty, and buggy, and convinced that this must be the longest hike of all time.
It follows a refrain of other typical kid questions: "How many more minutes?" "How long is this hike?" and my favorite, "Whose idea was this?" Some are not questions at all, but the child's observation of what must clearly be obvious to everyone else. "This is so boring." "This is the worst climb ever."
After we're down, basking in the glow of our hiking experience, I'll say to Julia "Wasn't that beautiful-didn't you love it?" She'll give me some faint recognition, showing that she might indeed have a morsel of appreciation for the high peaks. 22 down, 26 to go.
For us, getting kids up the mountains-whether it's Pine Mountain or Mount Washington-requires creativity, patience, sugar, props, and the promise of a swim.
Julia always hikes with her Stacey the Tiger backpack, which doesn't hold much more than her lunch, her kitty blankey, and a big bag of Skittles, but surprisingly can tell a long drawn out story and make up songs about anything. And then, once the lunch is eaten, an American Girl Bitty Baby, secretly hidden in a parent's backpack, can fit quite comfortably within Stacey's pouch and provide fresh enthusiasm for the remainder of the hike.
Our son Nick always hikes with his blanket around his shoulders and candy in every pocket. Over the years, he's brought along dozens of Beanie Babies, Pokemon, and Webkinz who have regaled the group with complex tales of their adventures. When he hikes, he loves to leap from rock to rock and soak his head in pools. 34 down, 14 to go.
It seems that families cajole their offspring up the path by relying on a variety of methods from family hiking traditions handed down through the generations, to more modern amenities such as Starburst and Nerds. I asked some other Randolphians how they motivated their kids to keep going.
Lydia Goetze reports that in her family, Halloween candy was saved specifically for hikes, and that foraging for wild food and berries brought a whole new dimension to eating. Hiking (and especially overnights) with other families made the mountain experience even more fun. They even enjoyed clearing old trails together.
The Strayhorns relied on gorp and the post-hike ice cream to get their boys up the peaks. They also played a trail version of hide and seek, searched for toads and snakes, dunked their heads in streams (thereby renewing their membership in Wet Head Club), told stories, and sang songs. When energy was running low, Dell and Blake would place M&Ms or Skittles every ten feet on rocks knowing that the boys would eagerly continue on.
In the Hudson/Maddock family, kids over three were expected to walk and not be carried. The Hudsons knew that a three year old could hike one mile per hour so they planned accordingly. Along the way, they rode on "alligator trees" (fallen tree trunks), told long stories, collected mushrooms, rocks, and sticks, stamped in mud puddles, "galumphed" (a combination of running and hopping) down the trail, and pretended to be horses and trains moving up or down the path. They also gave special names to unique rocks like the big one on Valley Way, which was the "Gas Station", and a rock on the Inlook Trail, which was the "Toadigator." In Jamie Maddock's family, points were awarded for the worst wounds inflicted on the trail; the more blood, the more points.
When my siblings and I were young, my parents, John and Josie Eusden, would get us up and down the mountain with songs, stories, brownies, and games. Whenever we came across a very wet area on the trail, we would yell for "Chief Wet Foot" to carry us across the soggy spot. My father would dutifully scoop us up and deliver us to dry ground. The best hikes were those that ended in overnights at Crag Camp and Gray Knob, where we would play endless rounds of cards. There were always good stories afterwards about people talking in their sleep, and of course, the inevitable snoring that kept us up all night (or at least it felt like it was all night).
Dave and Charlotte (Woodruff) Winchell started their son Dylan on very short walks when he was little, always turning back before he got tired. They slowly worked their way up to longer walks, until last summer when Dylan had just turned four and they decided to try Dome Rock. He was promised M&Ms once he reached the top, and had helped to pack the bag himself, so he was keen to make it all the way. On the hike up, he was the designated leader, always looking for the next trail blaze. He did make it to the top and relished in his summit loot and his first bagged peak.
As Judy Hudson points out "The major problem for kids is boredom because let's face it, just walking up a slope isn't the most thrilling occupation."
That's why we adults come up with all these ideas to keep our kids happy and moving, hoping that one summer they will have developed enough self-motivation to propel themselves up the peaks. Until then, if all else fails I guess "it's just around the corner" will have to suffice.
If you have stories to share about how you got, or are getting, your children up the peaks, please send them to me for a sequel on motivating kids!
This spring the RMC was presented with a rare and important opportunity: to secure permanent, deeded access from Randolph Hill Road to our trails on Mount Crescent.
No doubt many of us who make use of the Crescent Range trails have not stopped to ponder the underlying access issues related to these paths. Because they have always been accessible to us, it is easy to assume that the right to reach these trails will be there indefinitely. However, as it stands today, hikers, walkers, snowshoers and skiers could easily lose their ability to use the Carlton Notch Trail, Mount Crescent Trail, Cook Path, Castleview Loop, and Boothman Spring Cutoff, should the land through which they pass be sold to owners who for whatever reason need to cut off that access.
As part of a larger subdivision, Becky Boothman and Wayne Parker have agreed to sell ten acres of land to the Town of Randolph's Community Forest at fair market value. Together, the Community Forest Commission, the Randolph Mountain Club and the Randolph Foundation have begun exploring how best to reach this exciting goal.
If secured, the land could provide a safe, permanent trailhead at the very end of Randolph Hill Road. Access to the Mount Crescent Trail, Carlton Notch Trail and Cook Path would start at a small new parking area just north of the end of the road.
An additional benefit of a new trailhead would be to supplement currently inadequate parking. Today, hikers must park at the pull-off opposite Bill and Barbara Arnold's house. In good conditions, this location has room for just a few cars, and is quickly filled by one group of hikers. During mid-winter months, when snow is piled high, plowing challenges result and parking can be iffy at best-culminating in the all-too-familiar stuck vehicle.
The Mount Crescent Trailhead Project is an opportunity that the RMC Board of Directors has eagerly embraced. At its spring meeting, the Board unanimously passed a resolution that enthusiastically endorsed the proposed project. The Board then agreed to several additional steps, including covering $1,500 of out-of-pocket administrative costs incurred by the Community Forest Commission and offering to assist with fundraising. The board then offered to make the first donation, with an amount to be determined later. The out of pocket expenses were paid for from RMC's Andrew Stuart Tucker Fund for Trails Stewardship.
Also this spring, at the Randolph Town Meeting residents authorized the Selectmen to purchase the land with donated funds and designated the land, once acquired, as part of the Community Forest. Residents also established a contributory trust fund entitled the Mount Crescent Conservation Land Trust Fund for the purpose of accepting donations towards the purchase price.
Though it may appear otherwise from a distance, such opportunities do not always arise easily. Behind the scenes, a lot of hard work has already been accomplished to bring the project to this point. Early discussions over the course of many months included Wayne Parker and Becky Boothman, the Randolph Community Forest, the RMC and others. We all owe a heartfelt debt of gratitude for the tireless efforts of John Scarinza and David Willcox, and the generous consideration of Becky Boothman and Wayne Parker. Thank you!
Later this summer, we hope that the project will move into its next phase: namely, fundraising. The land has been appraised at $105,000. The Randolph Community Forest, in conjunction with the RMC and the Randolph Foundation, will be working to secure grants. However, private gifts will be a necessary and important component of the project. There will be three ways to make or pledge donations: through the RMC, through the Randolph Foundation or to the Town, with a notation that the funds are to be deposited in the Mount Crescent Conservation Land Trust Fund. All are tax deductible. If for any reason the project should not be completed, all donations will be returned in full and pledges excused.
Today we have a chance to take action for which generations of hikers, skiers and snowshoers will no doubt be thankful. Who among us would not want to hike up Mount Crescent, taking comfort in the knowledge that we have done our part to secure this classic mountain experience for the future? We hope all RMC members and friends will lend a hand in helping the Mount Crescent Trailhead become a happy reality.
Said Becky Boothman, "Our family properties have always been a point of access for RMC trails. My whole reason for spearheading this is to make sure that the trails continue to be accessible for everyone. I'm really happy to be able to do this. It's a privilege for me to be able to continue our family tradition."
Folks in Randolph love torturing new winter caretakers. After word got out that I was signed up to be the next winter caretaker (trading weeks with Mike Street), the wolves ran to the fresh meat. Almost every day throughout the summer and fall, at least one person would say 'you know, it's pretty cold up there' or 'you think you'll make it?' or 'are you sure you want to do this' or 'you will struggle with depression.' It also didn't help when in October two RMC board members were taking bets for when I would quit (they were joking of course, but there's many a true word spoken in jest).
I was pretty confident when I accepted the job. I had a decent amount of time spent in the really cold already under my belt, I was a caretaker with five seasons of experience, and, moreover, I had already spent a spring at Gray Knob. I felt more than capable. Why didn't anyone seem to believe me?
After the constant barrage of comments, I became a little apprehensive. But as a seasoned caretaker, once I went into the woods I felt comfortable again and those doubts didn't matter. I hiked in on November 5th, and the next day it snowed nine inches. Then the mercury fell. My water pots began to freeze. Winds picked up above timberline. And you know what? I was OK.
It was a particularly snowy winter this winter, as was the pattern in New England overall. At Gray Knob, we didn't receive as much snow as some places, but our snowpack was nothing to be sniffed at. Cycles of thaw and freeze compacted the snow so by late December I no longer was wearing protective kneepads for my clumsy stumbles over hidden rocks. Since the snow arrived early, I didn't have any harrowing icy trips up and down Lowe's Path, at least not until April when things started thawing.
There weren't many big storms, rather it was a constant accumulation; our snow stake crept up from 6" to 22" to 36" and then eventually to 44" where it held, give or take a few inches, for the rest of the winter. It was exciting to break out the yardstick in late March when the stake topped out at 63".
It was also a particularly busy winter, at least in my opinion. November and December granted me the quiet mid week, with no one arriving until Friday. I did have one Saturday with an empty cabin, and that was not a pleasant occurrence. Although I do like my time alone, it's nice to have a bit of company on the weekends. From January until the end of March, there was at least someone in one of the camps every night, a constant flow of pairs and singles. In fact, in March there were only two nights that I had Gray Knob to myself.
In my daily life in managing the cabins, the rule is 'everything freezes.' Failure to keep on top of the little things can come back to haunt you, in the forms of frozen gray water buckets, incomprehensibly large cones in the outhouse, and blocks of ice in the jugs used to carry water from the spring. Mike's and my constant vigilance paid off because water flowed out of the spring pipe all winter (additional protection came from the deep snowpack, the insulation layer over the stream, and the occasional period of thaw), and we didn't have to resort to the drastic measures regarding the outhouse (did you hear the one about the guy who used a flamethrower?). Once you let these things slide, it's impossible to catch up.
So how did I stay warm? Without thinking, every morning I would put on layers of insulation that puffed me out to the size and shape of the Michelin Man. I protested wearing gloves inside, so my hands became cracked and wrinkled. I also kept the cabin cold, which helped because I didn't subject my body to that temperature differential going from a warm building to a cold outside. I kept moving, going for walks, and roving among the camps doing chores. On a slightly random note, I acquired a callus on my left thumb from my frozen mitten rubbing against my hiking pole. In April when things warmed up, the caretaker room became cluttered and messy; eventually I figured out that the mess was just my abandoned layers.
It also wasn't a terrifically cold winter. We did get our share of subzero weather, but it would only last for a few days before rising into the single digits again. The coldest internal temperature was 9F, but the winter average for me was 15-25F. You do acclimate, evident in one January morning when I thought to myself 'huh, it's a bit chilly out.' When I checked the mercury, it was -20F.
My woodstove practices were relatively strict and I never lit the stove when I was alone and never when it was above freezing. Since the woodstove is there primarily to remove moisture from the building, I tended to light it when midweek guests showed up rather than a full house that releases more moisture into the air than it would remove. Anyway that cabin heats up to 40F most weekends with a full house.
What makes all this life in the cold worthwhile is the opportunity to experience winter wilderness intimately -- limited visibility and mitten-snatching winds, watching the ebb and flow of the snow pack and iced trails. My breath froze my facemask into a stiff edge, my sweat a layer of frost inside my jacket I brushed off when I got back inside. I reveled in the gloriously clear days, the sky the kind of blue you only get in the wintertime. These things get into you and become part of you. When I hiked down for the last time on April 25th, I started to cry before I even made it to the Quay.
Remember the board members who were taking bets on when I would quit? This spring while discussing caretaking with one of them, he said 'oh it's easy to be a Gray Knob winter caretaker. All you have to do is not mind being cold and alone.'
Now, was that so hard to admit?
Sally also kept an online journal for the RMC, which can be found on the RMC website, right here.
A caretaker for the AMC huts and backcountry tent sites, Sally was the Gray Knob spring caretaker in 2007, and will be serving as the AMC's 'Mahoosuc Rover' this summer before hitting the streets of Berlin and Gorham as a reporter for The Berlin Reporter. At the time of this writing she misses Gray Knob already.