Table of Contents
This past summer the RMC had a number of club-lead hiking trips, as it usually does. My family and I were able to go on Keith Dempsters trip up Kearsarge North in July. It was a nice day and we had not hiked that far south for a while, so we all decided to go. The rendezvous was at Randolph East, and the usual eclectic group of RMCers showed up. The age range was from the teens to the seventies; there were some locals, some summer folk and many different hiking speeds present.
The hike splintered into many small groups, and I found it interesting to watch people get to know one another and enjoy each others company. It was especially interesting to see a teenager and an adult, who in normal social circumstances would just greet each other and then move on to their respective circles, get to know each other. There were many conversations going on, with topics ranging from geography to politics to gardening to video games. One could move back and forth and pick a topic. It was like being at a conference.
In a few hours we reached the summit and enjoyed a fine view and a good spot for lunch. After climbing to the top of the fire tower and naming the surrounding mountains, someone, in the normal RMC fashion, remarked that they had never done the trail off the backside of Mt. Kearsarge. A shuttle was arranged, the group was split, and some hikers returned to the cars on the Hurricane Mountain Road. The rest of the party continued down the Weeks Brook trail past Shingle Pond and down to the Evans Notch Road.
The Weeks trail was nicely laid out and had a very nice footpath, with lots of soft needles and very little wear. It obviously was a trail that was not used very often. This became more evident as we descended and had to work our way around more and more blow downs. In some places it was a real tangle and a few grunts and curses were heard from some of the shorter-legged members of the group. By the time we had made our way down, I was quite surprised at the condition of the trail. It had been at least a month or more since the last major wind storm, and although this was a Forest Service trail, no one had cleared it. In fact, it might not have even been cleared in a year. It has been a real challenge, due to budget constraints, for the Forest Service to have a summer trail crew this year. We all made it out, a little scratched, but happy that we had explored the path less taken and seen a lovely little pond and some trail that none of us had done before. We were picked up and taken back to the cars where we meet up with the rest of the hikers.
Hikes like these bring out one aspect of what I enjoy about the RMC. I like the chance to meet some people that I normally would not see, and also to share experiences with them. We are quite flexible; if we want to change what we are doing we can do it quickly, without a lot of fuss, and be on our way. It also showed me how important our clubs work is in maintaining the RMC trail system. By keeping our paths open and in good repair, we are able to share the pleasures of these mountains with other friends, members, and new folks from near and far.
The trail crew did a wonderful job once again this year maintaining and improving the clubs trails, and our caretakers did a superb job up at the camps. They both thoroughly enjoyed the new Stearns Lodge, whether hanging out on the porch, cooking dinner, or doing something as simple as washing clothes. A fall trail crew recently wrapped up some excellent work on the upper reaches of Lowes Path, re-clearing the Eyrie view near Lookout Ledge, patrolling blow downs on our town paths used in winter, and cleaning RMCs drainages. They too appreciated Stearns Lodge and, in their case, they especially appreciated the fact that we were able to insulate it!
This year was also a time for the club to say goodbye to three life members: Bill Bradley, Jack Stewart and Barbara Wilson. Bill served on the board (as did his wife Paula and two of his sons) and will be fondly remembered for his many charade personae. Jack, a board member for many years between the 1940s and 2000, managed trails for 15 years, trips for another 15, and was the driving force (and principal author) of at least four revisions of Randolph Paths. Barbara Wilson died on October 12, 2007. A long-time board member and an inveterate hiker, Barbara served for years as the "winter representative" of the Club and "den mother" for our winter caretakers. The RMC will miss them all.
In the last few years the club has undergone a transition from our most senior generation to our younger members. We have been left quite a legacy: a strong membership, well maintained trails and facilities, and a tradition of volunteering and getting the job done. I hope when a future president looks back at my generation he or she will feel that we have accomplished as much. Members come and go. We are fortunate that new members keep stepping up to keep the RMC a strong and vibrant entity that will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2010.
Mountain climbing "excursions," or "trips" as we RMC members think of them today, have their antecedents in the early 19th-century, starting around 1830 in Crawford Notch, when a surge of tourists began frequenting hotels in the North Country. This movement peaked during the 1850s following the extension of the railroad to Gorham in 1851.i Mountain guides from the hotels led the guests, mostly on horseback, to the more prominent summits, especially to Mt Washington.
By the late 1870s and early 1880s, an increasing number of eager walkers, both male and female, were treading newly cut paths on the Northern Peaks.ii The Ravine House (1876) was the early gathering spot for AMC members; the Mt Crescent House (1883) attracted a somewhat less energetic crowd; Kelsey Cottage (late 1860s, becoming the Mt View House around 1898) was headquarters for a group of adventurous hikers - clerics, academics, their wives and families.iii From the letters of Lucia and Marian Pychowska in the 1880s and subsequently published recollections by Hazel de Berard,iv we get a picture of activities at the Ravine House. Informal excursions involving any interested guests were arranged by other "Raviners" or by innkeeper Laban Watson.
Depicted in Hazel Peek's albums are "Before" and "After" photos from around 1890 showing a group of climbers posed above the Ravine House meadow. It's not clear, however, if this was an actual hike or just a group making fun of climbers. It is likely that it was a spoof, since the Peeks and Cooks were known for their dramatic predilections. Clearly, there are changes in personnel between the two shots. Are the missing children in the "After" picture meant to suggest that the three young girls in "Before" perished en route?
When the Randolph Mountain Club was founded in August 1910, we can infer that the new club began organizing walking trips for its members. The first written reference to official RMC excursions appeared in 1917 in the first edition of Randolph Paths where Louis F. Cutter and Frank H. Chase wrote:
Cutter expanded on this in his 1924 description of the club in Randolph Old and New:
By the 1930s, excursions also included special, mainly social, events like the Rendezvous as well as regular work parties:
Randolph residents who were
children in the late 1920s and 1930s don't remember much about
club trips. Louise Davis spoke about family hikes: climbing Pine
Mountain at age 3 1/2, where she napped on a steamer rug while
her family picked blueberries; and a hike up Tuckerman's to the
summit of Washington and down the carriage road when she was
seven. Children had lots of freedom, and often explored trails
on their own. Louise recalled meeting RMC Secretary-Treasurer
and maiden schoolteacher Lizzie Jones one day who seemed shocked
that a group of children was allowed to walk without adult supervision.
By 1942, club-sponsored hikes had assumed more importance. President Bert Malcolm, in his Annual Letter, promised a great summer of trips, necessarily kept close to home because of gas rationing:
From the 1940s to the present, excursions have generally been held twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The latter have been variously titled "junior walks," "children's climbs," or "short hikes," but were intended for a less athletic clientele than the more strenuous Tuesday hikes. Over the years, hike characteristics have varied in response to demographic changes. During the 1970s, Thursday walks were primarily aimed at families with young children. Great-grandmother Nora Joensson led walks to Blueberry Mountain or Mt Crag; Peggy Grant hosted an annual cookout at ponds or waterfalls where her granddaughters and other kids could wade around after eating their hotdogs. In his 1976 Annual Letter, President Jack Stewart expressed concern that hikes weren't serving those who wanted them, and a new format was devised: both Tuesday and Thursday walks would be moderate, with newly inaugurated Saturday hikes alternating between short and challenging ones.
Trips of special interest have a long history. In 1974, Marian Woodruff led a trip to the Old Man on Cannon's cliffs where we were shown the elaborate structure of chains that kept the face on the mountain for so many years. Dyk Eusden's occasional geology tours have discussed his latest research on the Presidentials. Doug Mayer and I have led "History and Trails walks that combine past memories with current crew practices. Joan Darlington's watercolor or sketching trips have nourished our artistic impulses. Canoeing with the Brintons and Tibbetts has appealed to still another group.
Strenuous hikes have always been part of the mix. In 1962, Klaus Goetze posted a notice entitled "Trip to the Great Gulf Over the Lip." The text read: "go via Caps Ridge to summit of Mt. Jefferson. Then down via Six Husbands to the GREAT GULF SHELTERS (lunch). Then up the Great Gulf to the Sphinx and up that one. Home via Gulfside, Cornice and Caps. It is only 9.17 miles, but there is considerable rise and fall." Trips Chair Nancy Frueh's report to that year's Annual Meeting is enigmatic: participants were listed as "11-9-6." Did the hikers drop along the wayside? Or merely refuse to go the whole nine miles?
Our family participated in a "walk" in 1980 that began in Evans Notch, ascended Eagle Crag north of the Baldfaces, went down into the Wild River valley, up the Rainbow Trail to the top of Carter Dome, over Hight, and down to Route 16. Total of 17.5 miles covered in about 8 hours. Sandy Malcolm, our daughter and niece galloped down the Nineteen-mile Brook Trail, while Chips Muehl, my husband Al and I sauntered behind.
Such walks are not a thing of bygone years. This past August Bill Parlett designed (but ultimately couldn't join) a trip up the Howker Ridge Trail to Mt. Madison and down Osgood Ridge to the Great Gulf trailhead a total of 10.2 miles. Five hikers, led by Irene Garvey and Todd Moore, met the challenge.
As described in the 1931 Randolph Paths, exploration of "a mountain region at a distance" was one aim of excursions -- a goal abandoned due to gas shortages during World War II. However, ranging far a field returned in full force after the war. In 1946, trips went to "some places not visited in many years (Azicoos, Caribou, and Carrigain)."vii For many years Hawley Rising took us to unfamiliar summits, among them Pine Peak, Mt. Tremont and Sandwich Dome. Al and I have led trips for more than 30 years, and we are always pleased to introduce people to the likes of Mts. Garfield, Potash and Crawford.
Camping trips were a regular part of the excursion scene, often led by Bert Malcolm (who brought Randolphians to his beloved Adirondacks on several occasions). The Mahoosucs were another favorite venture. As a 14-year-old, I joined a backpacking trip led by Hank Folsom with Jack Stewart, George Furness, and my brother Steve, all much stronger hikers than I. Carrying an old Army surplus frame pack stuffed with a heavy sleeping bag and canned food, I struggled from Shelburne's North Road to the Carlo Col shelter in what I remember as uncommonly hot, humid weather. These were the days when nobody carried canteens, and all the brooks were dry. We began to worry that there would be no water at Carlo Col, and fantasized about drinking the liquid in our cans of peaches. Eventually we found an unsavory looking puddle some distance down from the shelter. Never had I been so miserable on a hike, and my male companions were oblivious to my despair. The next day, hiking to Full Goose shelter, was incredibly beautiful; we arrived at the shelter to find other RMCers preparing to camp in style. Bert Malcolm had one of his Waumbek employees pack in supplies (he came back the next day to Speck Pond shelter with another load of food). Phil and Sue Scott brought a reflector oven and baked blueberry muffins in front of the campfire. This was more like it! I thought. The next night we all sat around the campfire while people took turns entertaining with songs, poems and stories.viii Someone was at a dramatic climax in a ghost story. Suddenly there was a crash, as a startled deer poked its head into the fireside circle. We all jumped.
A number of trips visited Katahdin, like one in 1951 when the participants posed at the summit of Baxter. Jonathan Frueh and Klaus Goetze led 16 people to Chimney Pond in 1981 where Klaus regaled us all with his recitation of Robert Service's The Ballad of Dangerous Dan McGrew. The second night, after we had scaled the peaks and traversed the Knife Edge in swirling clouds, pouring rain began. The next morning, as Al described in our family logbook:
One function served by RMC hikes - and other walks by groups of Randolphians - is social. Thornton Page reminisced about his father Leigh who hiked with his neighbors, a group of senior physicists (H. M. Dadourian, Percy Bridgman and John Quincy Stewart). He writes:
RMC hikes gave young and old a chance to be together; children were inculcated, by adults more sympathetic than their parents, into the ways of mountain walking. Joan Rising often brought youngsters like Mark Parker along on hikes; my kids held endless, serious discussions with Chips Muehl as they walked. I particularly remember a conversation that developed between our son Geoff, his good friend Tom, and physics Nobelist Ed Purcell. If there were water on Mars, how could we bring it to Earth? the boys asked. Ed treated them to one of their first real scientific discussions.
If RMC excursions were to be described by a single characteristic, it would have to be their leadership style. Leaders assume that most of us are experienced, and they expect us to be somewhat familiar with (or to have read about) the proposed climb. Nonetheless, running an RMC trip is a little like herding cats. Groups have always splintered into those traveling at the same pace, and there is often considerable distance between the fastest and the slowest hiker. The leader often comes last, and may appoint an assistant to travel at the speed of the more rapid walkers. Occasionally someone does get mislaid, as Goetze pointed out in his 1955 Annual Letter:
Al, leading his first RMC hike up Goose Eye in the late 1960s, had diligently scouted the trail, even creating a log barrier to keep people from taking a misleading logging road instead of the actual path. His participants included the over-60 crowd of older women. Led by Miriam Underhill, talking all the while, the group crashed through his barricade, complaining about how poor the work of AMC trail crews was. Al went after them and brought them back to the proper trail. On another climb, we even lost our son when he was seven or eight -- much to our embarrassment. However, he figured it out when he reached the next trail junction, and retraced his steps.
Changing lifestyles over the last 20 years have diminished the number of families who are able to spend several weeks or a month in Randolph, and more hikes today are keyed to leisured retirees. The availability of regular hikes, however, allows single individuals or newcomers to the trails an opportunity to hike in the company of others. Today's Randolph community includes year-round inhabitants who engage in very strenuous mountain activities (range and trail runs, skiing and snowshoeing). Many of these younger people are active in the RMC, but because summer excursions are scheduled during their working hours, they are unable to participate.
In the late 1990s, the RMC board became concerned with the size of club trips, which frequently exceeded the White Mountain National Forest's suggested limit of ten participants. Overly large groups can diminish the experience of other hikers in addition to being a threat to the fragile alpine zone. It seemed ecologically unsound for the RMC to encourage excursions, like the annual gourmet hike, that had often attracted as many as 50 or 60 people. It is a problem that has yet to find satisfactory resolution. Just as RMC trips have evolved throughout the last century, this too will find a resolution.
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; (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.
i See Guy and Laura Waterman, Forest and Crag, Boston; AMC, 1989, pages 79-87.
ii Charles E. Lowe listed the names of 21 men and 11 women whom he guided to the summit of Mt. Jefferson on July 5, 1885, part of an "A.M.C. Excurtion." See The Notebooks of Charles E. Lowe, Randolph, NH: Randolph History Project, 2007, pp. 18-19.
iii George Flagg delighted in lampooning the walking excursions of the Mt View House's guests; in his sketchbooks, there are numerous cartoons, especially of the ladies at the hotel.
iv For the letters, see Mountain Summers, edited by Peter and June Hammond Rowan, Gorham, NH: Gulfside Press, 1995, and Hazel de Berard, "Memories of Randolph," Appalachia:31;29-35 (June 1956).
v Cutter in George N. Cross' Randolph Old and New, Randolph: Town of Randolph, 1924, p. 187.
vi Cutter in Supplement to 1931 Edition of Randolph Paths, Randolph: RMC, 1934, p.3.
vii Annual letter by Klaus Goetze, 1947.
viii This tradition goes back to early RMC picnics, when Professor Edward Y. Hincks told the story of "Rollo in Randolph." See my article on the charades, RMC Newsletter Winter 2004-05.
ix From a typescript, "Leigh Page 1884-1952" in the RMC Archives.
It is covered in wild cranberries, spruce krummholz, and, this past fall anyway, four members of RMCs fall trail crew. You guessed it! It is the special alpine section of Lowes Path that RMCs fall trail crew of Matthew Moore, Jeremy Loeb, Will Manty, and Jessie Veverka has been working to restore. This section of Lowes Path runs from its intersection with the Gray Knob trail to the summit of Mount Adams. In an effort to limit the impact hikers have on the sensitive alpine flora, the crew is employing many tactics to make a more streamlined trail and a better experience for both the hikers and the environment they are passing through. The work is being funded entirely by a grant from the non-profit Waterman Fund with matching funds from the White Mountain National Forest. The Waterman Fund is dedicated to alpine stewardship in the Northeast and funds projects similar to this one on Lowes Path.
The alpine zone provides a specific challenge to those interested in trail maintenance. As Laura and Guy Waterman put it in their book Backwoods Ethics, At stake is a reconciliation of twin objectives: to preserve the threatened and endangered species of alpine vegetation or, more broadly, the fragile alpine ecosystem of which such vegetation is a natural part; and to preserve equally the opportunity for people to be up there on the mountain heights, to honor the great value to the human spirit of experiencing that realm of the mountain gods. This accurately states the conundrum of alpine work: how can we tell people where to go without making them feel constricted? Furthermore, how can we tell them where to go without the benefit of a corridor amongst the forest where the trees delineate the path?
The problem solving for such an interesting issue begins with the pre-planning. The plant species in the area must be considered for alpine trail work. Caution must be taken to find out if any of the species are rare or endangered. For the work on Lowes Path, we were lucky to find that, though there were species of concern nearby, none of the plants in the immediate work area fell into either category, and therefore no out-of-the-ordinary measures for protection were needed.
Before work begins, the trail crew must also be trained about how to choose rocks that are in large quarries, and not ones that protect soil or fragile root systems. Other important trail work tactics are rock-hopping to avoid stepping on plants, and being aware of the importance of using outhouse facilities before heading up into the alpine zone.
Educating the public is another important piece of alpine trail work. While they were at work on the project, the trail crew hiked up two signs to place along the trail, as well as an informational binder that was located at Gray Knob. The signs and binder notified hikers of the crews presence, provided background information, and encouraged interested hikers to ask questions about this wonderful area.
A number of alpine trail maintenance tactics are relatively new. The techniques are surprisingly non-obtrusive and help to maintain the wilderness feeling of this awe-inspiring area. The main techniques that the crew used included building scree walls, rebuilding cairns, and brushing. A scree wall is a sturdy structure made from nearby rocks that is usually one foot or less in height. The walls are used to subtly direct the hiker to stay on a certain section of trail or tread. Theyre built low, so that the hiker rarely notices their presence. With strategic placement of cairns, the hiker will be looking ahead to the direction the trail will be taking, instead of focusing on the walls.
A well-placed cairn is of the utmost importance in the alpine zone. They should be placed so they can be seen with the sky as a contrasting background, close enough to the trail so that hikers dont have to go off the tread way to follow them, but not so close that they bump into them. The crew set to the the work of re-building dilapidated cairns and moving others that sent a confusing message to hikers about where the trail was located. Surprisingly, one of the most tedious forms of trail work, which many readers are probably intimately familiar with from work on their own yards, is clippingknown as brushing to trail workers. Simply clearing the trail of branches that have grown into the path can make a much more inviting choice for the hiker.
Deep down, alpine trail work is largely about the psychology of convincing the hiker to follow a particular path. It seems obvious, but lacking trees to define the edges of a trail presents a unique challenge above treeline. In an effort to make a more inviting walk, the trail crew installed a few rock staircases and removed rock obstacles which hikers were likely to leave the trail to hike around. The emphasis here is on keeping the hiker on a defined path, with the assumption that the hiker doesnt mean to crush sensitive alpine plants, but in the past merely hasnt been able to tell exactly where the trail is because the route wasnt clear. When the route isnt obvious, hikers take multiple routes, resulting in braiding, or places where two trails have developed and intersect occasionally. RMCs fall trail crew has done an artful job of paring the trail down to a central path. Their work is work worth seeing for yourself!
Finally, an important part of RMCs Waterman Fund grant has been a focus on educating the public and furthering discussion about alpine trail work techniques. The RMC gathered together professionals and volunteers who work with alpine zones in the White Mountains, including local trail supervisors from the White Mountain National Forest, to discuss management techniques and ways they can be improved. The project has also included mapping GPS points at which work has occurred, along with the collection of before and after photos, so the relative success of the work can be monitored in the future. The photographs will be used to make three photo albums (one for RMCs Crag Camp, one for Gray Knob and one for the RMCs staff housing, Stearns Lodge) to be used to educate hikers and future RMC staff on the importance of alpine stewardship and trail work.
Keep an eye out for these informational albums soon to be at an RMC location near you. We hope you soon have a chance to enjoy the newly improved alpine section of Lowes Path!
Leslie Ham worked on RMCs summer trail crew this past year, and served as fall caretaker for RMCs Gray Knob. She has also worked in the Adirondacks on a trail crew, as well as in Antarctica.
Report from the Camps
The RMC Camps enjoyed a wonderful summer led by our two terrific caretakers -- both from Bates College in Maine and enjoying their summer break living high on the flanks of Mt. Adams. Gretchen Grebe and Chris Carlson came by to visit the camps in early spring and were smitten. Hiring the pair made sense as the time they had served together on the Bates Outing Club had already created a friendship that continued and grew on the mountain. The caretakers very much enjoyed staying at the new Stearns Lodge on their days off and appreciated the great new facilities. Many of you probably enjoyed Gretchen's journal entries and musings on life at 4200 feet as found on the RMC website -- if you missed them, they are still available there.
As winter fast approaches, our fall caretaking season nears its end. Leslie Ham, who worked this summers trail crew, has enjoyed her time up there during a wonderful fall and the many nights shared with the fall trail crew who have been working high up on Lowe's Path. Our two winter caretakers are accumulating warm gear and preparing for the long cold winter up at the camps. Sally Manikian and Mike Street will start winter caretaking duties and be working one-week on/one week off starting October 26 and lasting until April. Sally was the previous spring caretaker, and Mike returns to Randolph once again, a veteran of three summers on our trail crew.
If you haven't winter trekked
up to Gray Knob in a while, perhaps this is the year? And if
you go, be prepared for whatever weather and other challenges
the mountain gods might toss your way.
RMC Retail Report
The beginning of the fourth quarter, after the busy summer season, is a good time to report on the RMC merchandise program. This program is critical to the club for many reasons. Not only is It an important source of revenue used to support the club's mission, but the program also helps hikers stay informed and safe with guidebooks and maps. RMC shirts and hats also provide great visibility for our club when our members wear their RMC gear out on the trails. Further, RMC items make great holiday gifts!
This is also a good time to assess the retail experiment the Club undertook this past year. By all accounts, moving the RMC merchandise into Moriah Sports has been a good move. As you may recall, for many years the Tuckers generously provided space and access to RMC products in the airlock of their home. This proved to be convenient and accessible to some, but less so for many. In addition, the Tuckers decided that they would like to put the space to another use. Thus was born the concept of moving RMC items to a central retail location with more visibility and access.
Mike Micucci, a Board member and owner of Moriah Sports, volunteered to put together and implement the plan to move the RMC merchandise from the Tuckers to his store in the center of Gorham. Mike generously provided the RMC a dedicated room within Moriah Sports to display and store RMC items. In addition, Moriah Sports inventory control system offered more precise tracking and maintenance of RMC inventory. Each quarter, Mike cut a check to the club for items sold and Jeff Smith, the RMCs highly capable webmaster, provided a detailed list of all items sold.
This system appears to have succeeded in all respects. First, the general hiking public has had access to RMC items for sale. In many instances, people who formerly hand no knowledge of the RMC have left Moriah Sports with an RMC hat or a t-shirt, and Mike always included an RMC membership envelope and newsletter in the Moriah bag for later reference.
Additionally, Mike processed all of the web sales, packing and shipping orders as they were forwarded to him by Jeff Smith.
Further, all of the RMC printed materials are now in one location and Mike Dickerman, our agent in charge of wholesale distribution has found this to be immensely convenient.
Many thanks to Mike and Jeff for their support of the RMC merchandise program! Through their efforts, the Club has experienced increased visibility and revenue and now has better control of costs and inventory. We applaud and appreciate their valuable contribution.
Now, however the club is contemplating further changes as Mike approaches a change in career. Mike is retiring from Moriah Sports in order to spend more time with his family. Mike is in discussion with several potential buyers of the business and part of the package is for the eventual buyer to maintain the outlet of RMC product in the Moriah space. In the event this plan falls through, Mike is willing to continue packing and shipping mail ordered items and Mike and Blake Strayhorn are working on an alternate plan for retail sales. Stay tuned for the details as they develop.
In other news, sales of the
Stearns Lodge limited edition long sleeve cotton shirts are moving
along a little more slowly now that the excitement of the grand
opening has past. Accordingly, the price of the shirts
has been reduced to $18.50 as we hope to move the remaining shirts
out and recover our costs. The Stearns Lodge T-shirt features
a lovely Tim Sappington sketch of the RMC trail crew returning
to the lodge after a day on the mountain. As winter approaches,
remember the all-new RMC fleece hat with its embroidered logo.
At $15 this is a great value and a great way to show your support
of the club. An updated edition of the Spur Cabin register
is now available as well and makes for interesting reading as
the nights grow longer. A full catalog of our products
and instructions on how to place an order are available on the
web at www.randolphmountainclub.org.
At the close of the summer, we ask each trail crew member to take an hour to reflect on the season and write down their thoughts. The results range from poems, to pragmatic suggestions for the following summer, to essays. Some have appeared in these pages. All join the RMC archives maintained by Al Hudson.
For this trails report, I thought Id take excerpts from a few of these reports, to share, from the crews point of view, how the summer went on RMCs paths.
Our trail work this past summer consisted of the usual chopping and chain sawing of blow-downs by RMCs 8-member crew in early June. That was followed by drainage cleaning and brushing on any trails that had brush beginning to encroach on them. The major projects for the season were reconstruction and erosion control work on the Amphibrach, Diagonal, Wood Path, EZ Way, and at the end of the Four Soldiers Trail at Pond of Safety. All projects were ably led by Chris Fithian, returning for his second season as RMCs Field Supervisor. Projects on the White Mountain National Forest were half-funded by the Forest Service; the other projects received 80% of their funding from the federal Recreation Trails Program grants, a popular source of funding for trail clubs.
About this seasons trail work, crewmember and Randolph summer resident Jamie Phinney wrote, I dont know when I will swing an ax again, dig a large hole in the ground, or hump a 300 lb. rock to a trail. These skills, when taken out of context, seem entirely random and useless in the larger scheme of things. However, over the course of the summer they have come to attain a higher value. Each skill represents hours of focus, pain, frustration, and, in the end, satisfaction. I really like this type of work because it makes me more responsible for my own success and helps me realize my own personal gains. It allows me to gain more ownership over my own projects and motivates me to do better. I cannot simply rely on others to figure out my problems for me.
This past summer was our first in the new Stearns Lodge. The move occurred without any great surprises and the new lodge was greeted appreciatively by the crew. Tyler Self wrote that, I think that the new Stearns Lodge functioned well in its inaugural season. New crew and caretakers seemed quite happy with it, and I think the returning members appreciated the plentiful kitchen and bathroom space. The porches and foyer area were quite useful, and everyone had their cubbies and cabinets full through the summer. The washer and dryer were also quite appreciated. The lodge overall fulfilled its role successfully.
This fall, RMC fielded a crew funded by a grant from the Waterman Fund (www.watermanfund.org) and the US Forest Service. The crew performed trail work on the alpine sections of Lowes Path above treeline. For a full description of the work, see Leslie Hams article elsewhere in this newsletter. The crew also received funding to work on Pasture Path, courtesy of a number of memorial gifts in memory of longtime RMC member Eleanor Phinney. Their work included clearing out the beautiful Eyrie view near Lookout Ledge and installing a rustic bench made from native materials. Later in the season, the crew worked alongside volunteers and cleaned drainages on RMCs paths.
In addition, this fall, RMC rebuilt the Bee Lines Baldwin Bridge over Moose Brook on the way to Durand Lake. The work was accomplished by John and Jim Tremblay who did an excellent job. Thanks to RMCs fiscal prudence, we now have a reliable reserve fund for use on capital projects such as this one when the need arises.
A word of thanks to board members Mike Micucci and Matt Schomburg who organized this years work trips. The best attended, with a dozen participants, was Al Sochards brushing adventure to the upper reaches of Howker Ridge. We hope you can join us on a trip next year, meet RMC friends, enjoy our trails, and lend a hand!
Here are a few concluding thoughts from crewmember Maya Velasco:
I find life in Randolph so relaxing. There is nothing better than living in a community where life revolves around the mountains. I feel so lucky that I spend my summers being paid to hike and work in the dirt. What makes me feel even better is the sense of accomplishment and appreciation I feel from the community. One of the best days this summer was when the group hike came by the staircase that Rachel and I were building on the Amphibrach. It was fun explaining what we were doing, but it was even better answering their questions and receiving their thanks. Randolph shows so much support for the RMC. Since the whole community supports the RMC so much it is easy to feel comfortable and welcome -- however it also makes it hard to leave.
Many of us couldnt agree
more, and have decided to make these mountains our home. Whether
youre here year-round, or only in the area for a
long weekend, we hope you have a chance to enjoy our trails,
no matter what the season.
As the new Treasurer of the Randolph Mountain Club I would like to take this opportunity to thank our previous treasurer, Bill Partlett, for his time during the transition in August. Also thank you to former Treasurer Michele Cormier for always making herself available to answer questions or to discuss protocols. The two of them remind me that the Randolph Mountain Club has been and always will be an organization with dedicated volunteers.
In my short time as Treasurer it is clear to me that the Board of Directors are responsible fiduciaries. They make every effort to control spending and their decisions are always in the best interest of the RMC and its mission.
To date I can report that Membership Dues and Sales income are up from 2006. However the number of visitors to camps is down so Camps income is also down. Overall expenses for 2007 are down 8%. Two issues that need to be mentioned when comparing overall year-to-date figures are the completion of Stearns Lodge and a gift from the Eleanor Barschall estate. Excess funds from the building of Stearns Lodge and the gift are being held in Reserve Funding for future use. This money makes our cash on hand position a bit healthier than the same time last year. A complete 2007 Profit and Loss report will be included with the Presidents Annual Letter in February.
In the meantime I welcome members questions and ideas.
Last winter, RMC members Al Sochard and Mike Pelchat, experienced participants in the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue organization founded by Mike, rescued two hikers below Thunderstorm Junction at the top of the Great Gully. When another of our RMC members asked what might help prevent such near-tragedies in the future, we thought it might be useful to discuss the issue briefly here. While it is impossible to prevent all accidents, the RMC believes that the key to preventing many future accidents lies in hikers educating themselves about conditions, risks and responsible behaviors in the mountains.
First, it is important for all hikers to remember that they are responsible for their own safety in the mountains at all times of the year. The RMC, NH Fish and Game, USFS, and the AMC all work together to educate hikers and others about responsible and safe behaviors in the mountains. The website www.hikesafe.com, sponsored by NH Fish and Game, which coordinates rescues, and the USFS, is clear and very informative. Many trailheads also have an information kiosk for hikers and there are many publications and websites devoted to good hiking practices.
Second, hikers should not rely on weather forecasts, cell phones or caretakers to provide reliable weather information. Cell phone reception is notoriously bad in the White Mountains. Forecasts are not always available or reliable. Winter weather in the White Mountains is probably the harshest and most unpredictable in the Lower 48 states. The Mount Washington Observatory has kept weather data for decades (see table), and I recall that when I was receiving the Observatory Bulletin with daily weather data for each month, over half the winter days had peak winds over 75 mph sometime during the day. While Mt. Washington data will be extreme, when the winter weather is bad on Mt. Washington, it will be bad everywhere above treeline.
Third, accidents usually result not from a single bad decision, but from a series of seemingly smaller choices that combine to produce a bad situation. Experience helps prevent some of these, but even experienced climbers can get into trouble, as many of our Board members acknowledged from personal experience. There is no substitute for good judgment. Mentally rehearsing what might go wrong and how to extricate oneself from the most likely problems is part of good preparation for hiking and climbing in challenging situations.
Fourth, many RMC members are active in the local search and rescue organization, Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue (AVSAR). They participate as individuals who care about other climbers and are willing to help them, even in very difficult, sometimes life-threatening conditions. The main responsibility of RMC caretakers is to protect RMC facilities; they also help inform people who stay at the camps about responsible conduct in the mountains. The RMC, like other similar organizations, is not responsible for hiker safety or for providing rescues. Hikers who assume they will be responsible for rescuing themselves in case of an accident are likely to exercise better judgment than those who assume somebody will help them when they need it.
So, enjoy the beauty and exhilaration of the White Mountains in winter, but know the risks and prepare mentally and physically to contend with them.