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Hello from Randolph! I feel like I am filling some pretty big shoes as your new President. And I believe I am the first President from Randolph in quite some time. It is a pleasure to live here year 'round, and I'm sure I rub it in whenever I run into so many of you who are summer residents only. I honestly enjoy meeting you no matter what the season, and it is a great pleasure for me when you return each summer.
Joining me on the board are four new members: Sally Manikian, John Scarinza, Sarah Eusden Gallop, and Cristin Bailey. All will bring lots to the table. Sally has had winter caretaking experience at Gray Knob, and John is chair of the Forest Commission and active with various town boards. . Many of you know Sarah and her family's long connection with Randolph. Her organizational skills will be very handy in her role as Social Events chairman. Bailey, with her many years of experience with the Forest Service and "that other mountain club" is a knowledgeable addition to our Trails Committee. We welcome them all!
We had a very productive summer with the Trail Crew working on much needed improvements to the Ledge Path and muscling big boulders up on Israel Ridge and Lowe's Paths. If you were up hiking I hope you had a chance to travel on these paths and see the work done by this great crew. I hope you also had an opportunity to meet them at their new home, the Stearns Lodge. This is their second summer in the new facility and it suits them well. Our field supervisor, Curtis Moore, guided both the trail crew and caretakers through a great season. We are pleased to have him back next summer.
For you hikers, you will be surprised to know that only one of the regular club hikes was cancelled this summer due to rain. Yes, we managed to skirt raindrops and get out on most of our excursions. As usual, many enthusiasts turned out for Dyk Eusden's geology hike. We appreciate his contribution to the club in this way.
We even managed to hold the Charades this summer at Mossy Glen before the sky opened up. Appropriately most of the charades carried a theme of rain, high water and open seas! I think "saprophyte" stumped most everyone.
Now that fall is here and winter approaching, we are concentrating energy on the Club's next big project: the Mt. Crescent Trailhead. This 10-acre parcel, formerly part of the Boothman land at the end of Randolph Hill Road, will abut the Town Forest and will allow the end of the road to become a new trailhead for the Mt. Crescent trails. An option has been signed for the purchase, and we have until December 31, 2009, to close on the deal. This is a very short window for raising the needed funds. But with the help of the Randolph Foundation and the Town Forest Commission, I believe we will be successful. For more details on how you can help, see the article elsewhere in this Newsletter.
2009 brings us one year closer to the 100th Anniversary of the Randolph Mountain Club. Our historian, Judy Hudson, is revising her historical articles to create a volume about the history of the northern peaks and the RMC's role over the past century. She plans to have the volume ready in time for the centennial. And we would love to celebrate with a true birthday party for a club turning 100 in style. Ideas are welcome! More to come on that front
In addition, 2011 is the 100th Anniversary of the Weeks Act, which created the White Mountain Forest. In coordination with other agencies and groups, we hope the RMC will play a part in that celebration. After all, many early members of the RMC helped this Act become law in 1911, and because of their efforts, the northern slopes of Madison and Adams were included in the massive White Mountain Forest.
So I'm excited about the year ahead for a vibrant RMC, and I hope to see you in Randolph or on the trails, whatever the season!
Becky Boothman has continued her family's legacy of involvement with and concern for Randolph's hiking community by making a 10 acre parcel on Randolph Hill available for purchase with the intent that it be added to the Randolph Community Forest and provide a permanent trailhead for access to the Mount Crescent Range trails as well as an access to the Community Forest from the eastern end of town. Becky's association with hikers goes back to her earliest childhood memories at Coldbrook Farm, "Our family hosted the trailhead there, and we took care of things that happened (in the mountains nearby) just because we happened to be the ones that were there. It was also important to have a place where hikers could park off the road [at all times of the year]." In addition, the Boothman farm was the staging place for search and rescue missions on the north side of the mountains. When Becky was born, Elizabeth Jones, at that time the RMC's oldest member, gave Becky's parents a birthday gift of an RMC membership for Becky, making her that year's youngest member. She has felt a special connection to the club ever since.
When the option was announced, Becky spoke gratefully of the time and effort John Scarinza, chair of the Randolph Community Forest Commission and the Planning Board, has spent trying to make her dream a reality. He has spent months talking with various members of the community, trying to iron out all the wrinkles and bring the project to life.
Fundraising to exercise the option has already begun. While we will certainly pursue various possible grant sources, support from individuals demonstrates the community's commitment to potential donor organizations. Donations for this project can be made to the RMC, the Randolph Foundation, or directly to the Town of Randolph whose Town Meeting established a conservation fund (The Mt. Crescent Conservation Land Trust Fund) specifically for this project. RMC and the Foundation are non-profit 501c(3) organizations so donations are tax-deductible. The town can also accept tax-deductible donations. All donations should indicate that they are for the Mt. Crescent Conservation Land Trust Fund. If you want to donate stocks or other securities you should contact the Randolph Foundation.
Becky knows the Randolph area intimately from hunting and trapping with her father, Jack Boothman. She has spent decades of days in the woods, running a muskrat trapline, hunting deer, coming to know the woods and its creatures well. Her knowledge and love of these woods, hills and streams come through in the stories she tells. When asked why she chose to provide this opportunity to the community at this time, Becky said simply, "It's my back yard. Randolph has changed a lot over the years, but I'd like to think we could hang onto some of the old traditions."
I'd like to think so, too. Thank you, Becky, for reminding us.
The isolation and immense nature of the mountains offer us a place to step outside our conventional lives and reconsider ourselves. Since my teenagehood I've struck out for the raw, unbounded nature of the mountains, hoping for it to reveal something equally wild and original inside myself. There is sanctity to these mountains, but it is a fragile wilderness. The Appalachians, in particular, perennially have been logged and sometimes denuded; further south they've been strip-mined, and all over they're trapped in our rising greenhouse gases and acid rains. Cell phones and GPS units are as ubiquitous as the rampant erosion of trails, and it's hard to find a New England peak where you cannot see the nearest highway and hear the rumble of trucks. Last fall, when I signed on for a season of trail work with the Randolph Mountain Club, all these human intrusions first struck me as the greatest obstacles to a sublime experience of the mountains. Yet as I settled into the backcountry, I came to find that wilderness and the sublime are not merely attributes of pristine nature, but are qualities of our own consciousness that we must cultivate. It's not a terribly esoteric practice, really, and it all begins with learning how to pay attention to the mountain. If you can look but not see, touch but not feel, or hear but not listen, so too can you hike but not really hike the mountain. Sharpening my attention, I discovered the mountains I had hiked a hundred times now showed themselves to me as if I had never really seen them.
A classic Buddhist parable tells how a learned scholar fell into a conversation with a Zen master over a cup of tea. The scholar probed the master about various teachings, trying to achieve a deeper understanding of Zen. As the scholar rambled on, the Zen master began to pour tea into the scholar's cup. He poured and poured, and soon the cup brimmed and overflowed across the table. "Stop!" cried the scholar, "Can't you see the cup is already full?" The Zen master replied, "Like this cup, your mind too is full of concepts. You must first empty your mind, and only then can I teach you anything." Curiously, it is no different with hiking. We may arrive in the mountains ready for an adventure, but our heads our too full of thoughts and plans to really learn anything. Rather than paying attention to the sensual details that put us in the here-and-now, we daydream over statistics. Figures like how fast we've hiked, how many miles and vertical feet we've mastered, how many ounces we're carrying, or how long until that summit. The rhythm of our footsteps lulls us into daydreams about our daily lives, hatching plans, or chewing on frustrations. We may snap out of our reverie only to realize that we can't remember the trail we've just hiked. Might have well as gone to the gym.
If there is such a thing as good hiking, it has little to do with the quickness of your pace or your latest piece of gear, and everything to do with the attention you devote to the mountain. And it requires emptying your mental cup of distractions. The easiest way to learn from the mountain, to be completely receptive to its secrets, is to stop what you're doing and sit down. On trail crew, sitting down is a chance you get quite predictably. It may be to survey and scrutinize the potential variations of trail work, to rest your aching limbs, to toss down some crackers, cheese and smoked sausage and a gulp of spring water, to smoke a butt, or to enjoy 15 minutes of lethargy as prescribed by federal work regulations. It also is the time when the mind can begin to grasp a different sense of scale. Sitting down lends the opportunity to take in the intricate, ragged veins of quartz in a small rock. Or how the color of diapensia has shaded subtly from coniferous green to cranberry red, and the Labrador tea has a touch more pumpkin hue to its leaves.
Next time your mind begins to wander while hiking, try plunking yourself down for a spell on an inviting rock, a glade of emerald moss, or a musty bed of leaves. Shrug off any lingering impatience or distracting thoughts and take this spell to smell the air, observe the nuance of the trail, and stretch your ears for the rustle of foliage and distant birdsong. Take a bite of that sandwich you've been craving. Sweep your eyes across the contours and imagine how wind, water and snow sculpt rock, dirt, and vegetation. As your attention shifts from abstraction and self-absorption to the outer environment, it indulges in an endlessly rich display of geological and biological life, as well as how the trail itself interacts with its surroundings. Once you learn to empty yourself of distractions, the mountain is ready to teach you.
As humans, we live fairly concretely in three dimensions, but have more trouble navigating the fourth one - time. Sometimes we are daydreaming in the past or the future, other times we're focused on some abstract thought. A perspective on time's flow, however minute or vast, cyclical or sequential, is one of the mountain's best lessons. Shattered rocks speak of the geologic saga here, where hundreds of millions of years ago the young peaks once were taller than the Himalayas. Each Ice Age, the power of mile-thick glaciers ground against their slopes, turning bedrock into debris.
Quarrying alpine rock, I wonder just how many centuries it has laid in its exact position, and from what heights it once tumbled as the rhythm of the glaciers scraped against its edifice. Even the lichen covering the rocks that we browse through for potential cairn-pieces have arrived, struggled, bloomed or vanished over the liquid slow pace of decades and centuries, changing visibly only in scales of time-lapse photography. The human mind has always sought some touchstone to understand cosmic scales of time and space. Hindu and Buddhist traditions measure cosmological time in kalpas, or the time it takes a bird, grazing the side of the Himalayas and knocking loose a single rock each year, to reduce that mountain to rubble. Perhaps we find an innate spirituality to geological time, as its grandeur cannot help but remind us of our own puny, transient existence. The geology of the Whites is testament to a scale of time that lets you feel the calcium in your bones just waiting to return to rock, and your heartbeat pulses like a hummingbird.
Mountains, like rivers, are never the same place twice. An endless symphony of environmental changes conducts life in the alpine zone. There is the staccato of a birdsong and the adagio as hawks gyre upon updrafts. As we lay trail, we watch the sun and the moon pendulum across the sky, and the constellations spin allegretto around the polestar. We measure time by shadows on the rocks, by the quality of light on the summits, by the level of water in our Nalgenes, and on rare occasions by a wristwatch. Our happiest timepiece, the unit by which we really measure ourselves, is the stretch of trail that we work. Our caravan of clippers and pick mattocks moves upwards, transforming a little more of the trail each day. We rearrange another stretch of the path, move and improve cairns, build scree walls and scrutinize their form and function, or tame another swath of overgrown brush. Constantly the mountain changes, and we change the mountain.
In our own time, too, these mountains are about to witness a profound series of ecological changes. Take climate change, for one. Having read books by Bill McKibben, Al Gore, and E.O. Wilson back-to-back, I've been feeling more than a little alarmed. According to a recent article, New England could completely loose all of its alpine zones in the next fifty years due to global warming (Backpacker, August 2007). Warmer years will encourage milder winters and the encroachment on the part of down-slope krummholz and coniferous forests. With increasingly erratic rainfall, flooding turns trails into rivers, exacerbating the already epic problem of erosion. Augmented periods of drought could parch the mountains, ruining the spectacular foliage and pushing trees like sugar maple farther north. Severe temperature shifts could even bring the mountain ecosystems to a collapse, as ill-suited species die out before new species have a chance to migrate in to fill their niche. A slight shift in climate may doom the alpine meadows of sedge and wildflowers that have made these places so unique, which so many people have committed to conserve. But how can they be protected from forces as insidious as global warming? As I sit in the air of a still autumn morning, I wonder how our rockwork will look in a hundred years, hidden under a riot of new sub-alpine flora. It will be a different mountain, as it always is each moment.
Even as burning fossil fuels changes the climate of these mountains, the fact that our planet is slowly running out of these fuels will be just as drastic for hikers. Our access of remote areas like the White mountains means, for most of us, a full tank of gas. In the last decade, the price of a barrel of oil has surged exponentially from around $10 in 1999 to over $120 in 2008 as this essay goes to print, and global production shows signs of peaking. Although the factors determining oil scarcity and price are complex and contested, this much is certain: as petroleum becomes increasingly scarce, the price at the pump will continue to climb indefinitely. Ignoring the more widespread economic impacts of expensive oil, simply consider how many of us will drive from Boston or Montreal to the Whites, when gas rises to $5, $10, $20 or more per gallon? The first casualties will be probably the largest segment of the New England hiking population, the weekend warriors who drive long and far to enjoy a coveted few days on the trail. Unless we rapidly develop alternative forms of transportation, the mountains may be a great deal wilder in the coming century for lack of visitors. It is a future that may be difficult for us to imagine, but again the history of the mountains instruct. After all, they have surges of trail building and logging, only to quickly reclaim these intrusions with opportunistic saplings and undergrowth. The quick hand of nature is in fact the main reason trail crews are necessary in the Whites - we are the renegade gardeners, pruning back the trail corridor from its urge to vanish. If the hiking community shrinks precipitously, these trails may become the most transient of routes, a brief scurry of activity between the centuries of isolation and the tidal movement of glaciers.
As I began to appreciate these immensities of time, I similarly began to pay more attention to the present moment. If every act of mine was so ephemeral, I could also look through the other end of the telescope and see it as incredibly large. Every upward step, every breath, every rock I moved - I started to devote endless attention to it, taking in details I'd never noticed. In the mountains it's easier to realize that the present moment can be as large and as rich as you want it to be. Every act, even one as simple as finding the perfect rock for your cairn, can take on seemingly infinite importance. Some might call it obsessive behavior, brought about by prolonged isolation and a deficit of serious, real-world tasks to attend to. Others might call it the art of craftsmanship, of using all of yourself to shape the world around you.
Building trail becomes a vehicle for cultivating this kind of submersion in the present moment, a type of emptying oneself that is admittedly a bit different than casual hiking. It's like how, building a house, you become intimate with every twist of wood, every nook and joint of the structure, in a way that the person living in the house might never notice. But you don't need to build trail to appreciate the mountain, any more than you need to build your own house to appreciate a good one, or write your own verse to appreciate poetry. Yet try building a house, or writing a poem, and I guarantee you will know the true meaning of intimacy, struggle, and satisfaction. So too with trailwork, and you may learn a thing or two about hiking from its craft.
A good trail, like a good poem, is captivating without being constraining. It compels the hiker to follow the proper route, while supporting the illusion that they are inside untouched wilderness. It enlists a palette of natural materials - rock, wood, duff - to build durable structures that inhibit trespassing into fragile vegetation, and points the way during snow-filled months. A good trail can radiate creativity and craftsmanship - a particularly gracious curve, a startlingly unique cairn capstone, a beautifully placed rock step, or a merciful staircase in lieu of rocky crags.
A well-made rock structure not only guides hikers and withstands the elements, but possesses a quality of sculptural art in the style of Andy Goldsworthy. It is an aesthetic that seeks to blend in with the background so as not to call attention to the human hand, yet paradoxically catches the hiker's eye so that they are compelled to follow the right path. It must appear hidden yet obvious, natural yet unnatural. A scree wall, made of stacked rock or rubble, is a minimalist structure that still effectively prevents the hiker from leaving the trail. Few hikers enjoy feeling that they are hiking alongside the Great Wall of China (unless of course they are in China), and so our goal in trailwork is to make the hiker notice the trail, not the wall.
Cairns, on the other hand, must necessarily draw attention to themselves if they are to be useful, and so the inverse psychology applies. These pyramids rise and lean inwards towards the center so that the final top rocks become the structural keystones. The cairn should first catch the hiker's eye, then blend into the aesthetic of the mountain as part of its natural order. A well-made cairn can direct even the most radical or oblivious hiker to the meter-wide swath of trail that is sacrificed to hiking boots. Given that the alpine zone appears littered with endless piles of rubble, however, it's difficult to make the average cairn stand out. A triangular shape tends to catch the eye's predilection for ordered forms, and on our trail we set white quartz on the pinnacle to contrast against the backdrop of grey schist. A second type of architecture, which I dub the Stonehenge technique, employs gigantic or sufficiently unique-looking rocks that stand out against the rubble. For both styles, though, symmetry enforces rather than detracts from the seeming naturalness of the cairn. A jagged and lopsided cairn calls attention to its lack of craftsmanship, and the eye catches this disparity between natural chaos and human-built chaos. A well-wrought cairn, on the other hand, seems to redirect its beauty onto the rest of the landscape.
Rockwork weaves magnitudes of time into a single work. We lift each rock from its millennial resting place to a new location and set it into position by calculating on the friction potential that our brains and nervous systems calculate in nanoseconds. Our fingertips and our ears listen to the crystalline microstructure of the granite schist, rotating this way and that way to find its optimal fit. Millimeters of rotation can mean the difference between a rock that quickly destabilizes the entire structure, or lasts centuries before the blast of wind and rain. A series of split-second actions build a cairn that could last over a century, maybe until the next ice age. Working in mountain time, the worker becomes transparent, the rock alone is real. Absorbed in my work, I would often forget myself and be conscious of only the mountain.
One of the strangest effects of the backcountry on its travelers is how it transforms ordinary experience into the extraordinary. That sunset - unparalleled! The syrup on those pancakes - nectar of the gods! That joke, that song, that line of poetry you couldn't get out of your head and had to share - such brilliance! There's a fresh, indescribable quality to these moments that hooks us. Perhaps it is a natural sublimity that we tap into. Or perhaps it's because we've emptied ourselves of our conventions, and are ready to drink up the present moment. On trail crew, that clarity reigns. When the thought of a nap, a beer, or a burrito loaded with avocados and sour cream makes you deliriously happy with anticipation, you apprehend that true happiness is not a faraway goal, but a famished appreciation of the ordinary. Perhaps that, for us hikers, is what seeking the sublime really means. A reorienting of yourself time and space, a focusing of attention, an emptying of distractions, and a discovering that the seemingly mundane world is secretly wild and ready to teach you.
Jeremy Loeb was a member of the Fall 2007 RMC Trail Crew, and his essay won honorable mention in the Waterman Fund contest.
The Randolph Mountain Club produces a variety of items for sale to the general public, including maps, guides, logo T-shirts, and other items. The general goals of the merchandising program, as agreed upon by the Board in 2007, are "to sell good stuff at reasonable cost, to increase RMC recognition, and to generate some income for the Club." Club policy, in the interest of safety, has long been to price maps and guides as inexpensively as possible so that hikers, notoriously low spenders, can afford to purchase them. Other goods are marketed to help subsidize the Club's activities.
Maps and Guides. Randolph was at the center of early trail development in the northern Presidentials. The Ravine House, beginning in the mid-1870s, had been the hostelry frequented by early pathmakers William Gray Nowell, W. H. Pickering, and Samuel Scudder, some of the original founders of the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1876. Other trail pioneers - Cook, Peek, Sargent, and Cutter - soon made their summer headquarters at the Ravine House, eventually followed by J. Rayner Edmands in the 1890s. The AMC had a broad mission that included explorations, cartography, adventures in distant places, creation of, and improvements to, paths and camps, as well as organized excursions by its members.
On behalf of the AMC, its members had begun mapping the mountains as early as 1877 i. The results were reproduced for distribution to the membership, hiking maps (in the 1880s) and later guidebooks (1907) for the region. For many years the principal mapmaker was Louis Fayerweather Cutter, a "Raviner" whose earliest map in 1885 had begun a whole new era for cartography in the White Mountains.
The first detailed map distributed by the AMC of the complex network of trails on the northern peaks was Cutter's blueprint map, entitled "Map of Northern Slopes of Madison Adams and Jefferson," dated January 1898. An interesting feature of this map was its orientation: south was at the top, with the map laid out as if viewing the mountains from a rocking chair on the Ravine House porch. Cutter hung a copy in the hotel, and to it added constant notes about changing trail conditions, particularly when trails were obliterated as logging operations spread across the northern peaks. The first AMC Guide to the Paths and Camps in the White Mountains was published in 1907, accompanied by a new Cutter map, Map of the Northern Peaks of the Great Range and Their Vicinity, White Mountains, N.H. ii Both maps and guidebooks were widely distributed to hikers in the Whites.
The Randolph Mountain Club, founded in 1910 at the urging of Selectman John Boothman, was established to reopen local paths, which had been damaged by logging. The RMC's first efforts were limited to trail clearing and, beginning in 1912, the maintenance of Club shelters open to the public. Because the AMC had published relevant guides and maps, there was no need for the RMC to duplicate the larger club's efforts.
RMC leaders did develop an inexpensive pamphlet that concentrated on the Randolph area. This guide was meant to serve the patrons of the community's three hotels: the Ravine House, the Mountain View House, and the Mt. Crescent House. The goal, as stated in the introduction, was to act as:
First printed in 1917, Randolph Paths was written by Frank H. Chase (librarian of the Boston Public Library) and Louis F. Cutter. The 27-page pamphlet contained brief information about the Randolph area, the RMC and its three camps (Cascade, Perch and Log Cabin). There were listings of view points and waterfalls, distances from each hotel to points of interest by various trails, round trips that could be accomplished in a day, one-night camping trips, and day trips "with use of railroad or motor." By rail, one could range as far afield as Bemis, Whitefield, or Bartlett. The pamphlet cost a nickel and was intended as a supplement to the AMC guidebook; in fact, it was designed to fit into that guide's pocket. iii
The second version of Randolph Paths, compressed into 24 pages, was slightly revised by Cutter and Arthur Stanley Pease (classicist and then president of the RMC) and reprinted in 1927. A new section, "Approximate Altitudes," was added.
The third edition was published by Cutter and Pease in 1931 and sold for 25 cents. Five pages of ads from the three hotels, the Shorey Studio, and Curtis Hardware helped defray printing costs. Although the area covered was now limited to the Crescent Range and the northern peaks, the text had been expanded to 83 pages. There are new sections on potability of water, fires, the Appalachian Trail (then in the planning stages), walking times and a listing of other nearby ranges not described. The bulk of the text, "Randolph Paths and Places," was arranged alphabetically. Entries included a short description, and for trails, listed distances and walking times. Interestingly, there was no mention of the 1927 natural disaster, when record rainfall and concomitant landslides obliterated much of Cascade Ravine with the resultant destruction of the RMC's Cascade Camp. A supplement, printed in 1934, detailed a number of changes, including new trails (Inlook, Kelton and Cliffway) and improvements or new trails created by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the US Forest Service. The supplement sold for 15 cents, or together with the 1931 printing, for a quarter.
In the 1917 pamphlet, its authors stated that "It is the intention of the Club to supplement this list of paths and trails by a large-scale map of the Randolph Valley." However, it was not until 1944 that Louis Cutter, at age eighty, created such a map of Tama and Mossy Glen. Based on his 1917 map, but without contour lines, this large-scale (1:10,000) version covered the intricate trail network south of the Hill road to a point a little south of Tama Fall. Its western boundary was a bit west of Appalachia; the eastern, Randolph Station and the Post Office. Aimed at the hotel clientele who arrived by train during World War II, its limited view may also have been Cutter's way of encouraging his aging peers to keep on walking. The map was reprinted at least three times in subsequent years.
In 1952 Randolph Paths (yellow cover) was revised, chiefly by Jack Stewart. Changes to the general information included sections on Hazards (safety advice), Trail Markings, Starting Places, and a new section, "Suggested Trips from Randolph and Vicinity," was added. Descriptions of paths and places were updated, with a few additions (e.g., "The Bear Pit"). Again subsidized by local businesses (17 pages of ads were printed at the back), this edition kept its text within 83 pages. Stewart again revised the guide in 1977 (green cover) retaining the basic organization of the 1952 edition. An update in 1992 (grey cover) was printed in 1000 copies that sold for $3 wholesale; $4 retail; or $5 mail order.
By the 1950s, Cutter's 1917 Northern Peaks map was no longer for sale by the AMC. This map, with a scale of 1:40,000, had long been the standard hiking companion of Randolphians, for it covered the local area from the north (Pond of Safety and Ice Gulch) southward to Mt. Washington. In the late 1950s Klaus Goetze and the Frueh family were already talking about the need for a new version of the northern peaks map. After exploring various alternatives, Klaus wrote to Nancy Frueh on Christmas Day, 1963:
Goetze next investigated using
the 1908 Cutter map as a model, writing "I still am enamored
of it, notably of its range and size," but by the late 1960s
he had settled on a map largely based, in size and coverage,
on Cutter's 1917 map. Extensively revised by Robert Holloran,
this was published in 1969. The first printing sold for 75 cents,
and by 1970 there were only 500 left, the project already having
made a profit of $60. The Board decided to sell the remaining
copies at $1 each. The map was revised and reprinted as supplies
sold out, until 1995.
In 1996 iv a color map using new technology, Randolph Valley and the Northern Peaks of the Mount Washington Range, was created, largely by Doug Mayer, Professor John DeLeo of Lyndon State College, and DeLeo's students. New data from Bradford Washburn's laser mapping project were used. For trails north of Route 2 new data were collected by Lyndon State College's students using GPS receivers; control trails were also surveyed using GPS receivers. The mapping process was completed by Jason Heinrich of Microdata, Inc. of St. Johnsbury, VT. Three thousand copies, printed on Tyvek stock, were sold for $3 at various outlets. Fifty unfolded and numbered maps on high quality paper were printed for sale at $50 in an attempt to recoup some of the more than $9,000 expended on the new map. More maps were printed in 2002 and 2003 to maintain an adequate supply until the new trails in the Randolph Community Forest were completed. In 2003 cartographer Jon Hall provided a preliminary 8.5"x11" black and white map of the Randolph area north of US Route 2, showing the new Underhill and Four Soldiers paths, to accompany an article about the new trails in the RMC Newsletter.
A greatly expanded (154 pages) and illustrated Randolph Paths was produced in 1998 v. The new volume, still pocket size, maintained the alphabetical organization, but now was divided into three geographical areas (south, and north, of Route 2; and outlying trails). A lengthy introduction covered the activities of the Club and gave a short history of the trails, camps and the Club as well as additional tips about hiking. Jack Stewart again was the principal organizer, but with substantial help from winter users, especially for the additions on winter hiking. Publication was facilitated with a loan from the Randolph Foundation.
A completely new version of Randolph Paths (eighth edition) was published in 2005, edited by Doug Mayer, Steve Smith, and Judy Hudson. The guide features entirely new trail descriptions, gathered by a team of a dozen RMC volunteers. An expanded introduction reflects the increasing interest in winter activities. Trails history (Judy Hudson), geology highlights (Dyk Eusden), and mountain flora (Brad Meiklejohn) are also included. The trail descriptions are organized alphabetically, and a separate alphabetical Points of Interest is included. A loan from the Randolph Foundation helped defray printing costs. 2,000 copies of the volume were printed, and sold (together with a new map) for $17.
A revised map was planned for inclusion with the new guidebook, but as Doug Mayer told it, there was a fly in the ointment:
Cartographer Jon Hall basically recreated the whole map from scratch. He updated the GPS data, including verifying the new Randolph Community Forest and National Forest boundaries. His incredible volunteer labors, consuming untold hours both on the trail and at the computer, should not go unrecorded - and numerous digital copies of the map exist, safely tucked away, in several locations. The reverse side of the map features four, large-scale vistas with peak identifications, drawn by Randolph artist Tim Sappington from photos. Three thousand copies of the map were printed on Tyvek stock. The map sold together with Randolph Paths, or alone at $6. By August 2008 more than two thousand copies had been sold, with 355 copies left on hand vi. The map has become standard equipment for hikers in the Randolph area.
In 2004, as part of the opening of the Underhill and Four Soldiers trails in the Randolph Community Forest, the Club published its Guide to the Cultural and Natural History of the Four Soldiers Path, an interpretive guide by Doug Mayer and Dave Thurlow (with help from Clare Long) that provides interested hikers with a fascinating tour of the cultural, historic and natural history through the lands traversed by the path. Line drawings by Tim Sappington and Ginger Beringer enliven the descriptions.
In 2003 Al Hudson was appointed RMC archivist. Since then he has transcribed, edited and published a series of volumes issued under the RMC Archive imprint and marketed through the club's website. The first, Spur Cabin Registers (2004), contains transcriptions of two log books (1900-1915) from the Torrey and Moore families' cabin on Nowell Ridge. There followed Randolph in Appalachia, 1876-2004 (2004), which provides a comprehensive annotated bibliography of articles pertinent to Randolph that have been printed in the AMC's journal. 2005 marked the appearance of An Outline of Trail Development in the White Mountains, 1840-1980, an edited (with Judith Hudson) version of a Guy Waterman unpublished manuscript containing 15 maps.
Merchandise. The RMC's first experiment in merchandising started in the late 1960s, when an embroidered patch that depicted an idealized Crag Camp was sold at Crag Camp during the summer. The idea originated around 1965 with Peg Arnold, who had embroidered special patches for three Crag caretakers: her son Bill, Peter Bowers (who was Bill's co-caretaker in 1963) and Guy Stever (caretaker in 1966-67). Bill still has his original, sewn on an old windbreaker. A somewhat battered cabin, walls sagging inward, with a recognizable front porch and smoke curling from its chimney, is nestled in a green background. This was clearly the prototype of a probably Swiss-made badge showing a much squarer building and a towering mountain, that our then nine-year-old daughter stitched to her pack around 1974. Bill remembers that his mother, who was on the Board from 1965-1969, had made the arrangements for ordering the patch, probably from a Swiss firm.
Patches remained very popular, and in August 1975 the Board decided both to reissue the Crag patch and to design an RMC patch for members. Joan Rising became the "patch" front person. Her quest consumed many months - first a fruitless exercise to determine where the original Crag patch had been produced (queries to firms in North Carolina and finally Switzerland), then locating a Swiss company that would agree to manufacture an affordable badge. Several versions of the Crag patch were created by Altoco AG in St Gallen: one with a stream running by the north wall (rejected); the cabin without a chimney, featuring a snow-capped alp (rejected); and finally the cabin with curling smoke in a green, mountainous landscape. These patches of Crag were last ordered in 1982. Subsequent demand seems to have been small, and the patches disappeared from our inventory.
The search for an appropriate RMC member patch began in 1975. The original concept was rejected (no trace of it remains), and in August 1976 Joan begged artist Roy Woodard to create a watercolor for the badge. Roy painted a circular design with the summits of Madison and Adams, a spruce tree in the foreground - the quintessential view from Randolph Hill. Thus the germ for the now traditional RMC logo was born. Joan expended tremendous effort (documented in a lengthy correspondence with the polite H. Zuppinger) in getting an acceptable rendering of the watercolor from the Swiss firm. The first version, very garish in bright greens and blues with cotton-candy clouds, led Roy to complain, "Leave out the clouds if you can't make them like the original." The charm of Roy's painting lay in the subtleties of its colors, and translating this into embroidery was a real challenge. Joan said recently that with today's technology, patch making would be a snap, as one can now reproduce an original design perfectly, so long as you load your sewing machine with the right colored threads. Negotiations with Switzerland continued, by air mail, and finally in 1979 the first member patch was made available for $4 (production cost had been $2.75 apiece).
In 1986, the first T-shirts were designed and readied for sales which began in 1987. The Woodard logo was transformed into a line drawing that altered the outline of the original design. Since then, this logo has been marketed in many sizes and colors. A gray shirt decorated with a green line drawing of the old Gray Knob was produced in 1988. A new line of cool-max T-shirts was developed with line drawings on the back and a small RMC logo in front: Jamie Maddock introduced a view of Gray Knob in 2004; a winter view of Crag Camp in 2005. A long-sleeved T followed in 2006 with the vista from Lookout Ledge (from the 2005 map); and a long-sleeved cotton shirt (sketch by Tim Sappington) honored the Stearns Lodge's opening in 2007.
Superannuated trail signs were first sold in 1972, when signs were hawked at the Annual Meeting for $5 apiece. Periodic auctions today on the Club website generate considerably more revenue. In 1984 Mike Pelchat designed a bandana showing the RMC trails network; profits initially went to support AVSAR, the search and rescue team on which RMC personnel often serve. Other sales items have included neckties (1991- 150 at $20), polo shirts with an embroidered RMC emblem, embroidered baseball-style caps (1992 - $9), winter fleece hats, and a poster of King Ravine and Madison reproduced from a Randolph brochure designed by Roy Woodard in 1938. The success of sales items has varied considerably. Sure sellers have been the map, Randolph Paths, hats and T-shirts.
As the success of sales items increased, managing them became a larger chore. In 1984, Barbara Wilson was appointed "Custodian of Supplies" to handle the increasing traffic.
During the summer season sales became a job for the treasurer, who had to tote boxes of goods to the 4th of July Tea, the Annual Meeting and the Picnic. A substantial portion of sales in recent years has been generated at special events, e.g., the 4th of July tea, the Moose River duck race, and the winter square dance. After Edith Tucker became treasurer in 1994, she moved the inventory to the airlock at Cold Brook Lodge, allowing people to help themselves, while leaving appropriate payment in a box. Tucker also fulfilled mail (and early internet) orders, for years subsidizing the shipping costs as a contribution to the Club.
Beginning in summer 2003 with the second issue of the RMC newsletter, an order blank for goods has been included in the newsletter. The website also is used to market merchandise, with the ability to shop on line added after 2005. By 2006, the Tuckers had tired of the continual clutter in their airlock and asked the Board for a new solution. Mike Micucci, then owner of Moriah Sports in Gorham, took on the responsibility, setting up an RMC room where our products could be displayed and sold. This arrangement has continued following Mike's sale of the store to his brother-in-law Steve Jackson. Maps and Randolph Paths are sold by the AMC; these and hats are also available in Randolph at Lowe's Store. Mike Dickerman of Littleton (who runs a wholesale outfit and local publishing house, Bondcliff Books) has also marketed RMC publications.
Thanks to Joan Rising, Doug Mayer, and Bill Arnold for sharing their recollections for this article. 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 at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
i For a detailed description of map making in the Presidentials, see Adam Jared Apt's "Tolerable Accuracy: A History of White Mountains Hiking Maps," in White Mountain Guide: A Centennial Retrospective, compiled by the Staff of AMC Books, edited by Katharine Worth, Boston, MA: Appalachian Mountain Club, 2007, pp. 170-196.
ii This map was the first of Cutter's maps to place north at the top.
iii Hikers could easily supplement the pamphlet by purchasing the AMC guide or Cutter's 1916 or 1917 AMC map, now entitled Map of the Northern Peaks of the Mt. Washington Range, White Mountains, N.H.
iv The RMC used color printing before the AMC first converted its maps to color in 1998. Personal communication from editor Steve Smith.
v Printed as the 'sixth' edition. Unless one discounts either the 1927 or 1931 revisions as mere reprints, this was really the seventh edition.
vi About 450 additional copies were in the pockets of unsold Randolph Paths.
The story is the same. Whether benighted, lost, injured, or ill-prepared (sometimes all of the above), hikers sometimes make a series of bad decisions that lead to the need for help. In the White Mountains, there has been a dedicated group of volunteers who leave the comfort and safety of their own homes to come to the aid of a fellow hiker.
"It is an unwritten rule of mountaineering that if someone becomes injured, you should abandon your plans for the summit to get them down," said experienced mountaineer and volunteer Mike Pelchat. This unwritten rule translates also to volunteers who might not be on the climb but are still part of the community of hikers and climbers.
"It could happen to any one of us, and we would want someone to come for us," Mike said. "It's a way of giving back."
With 30 years and a thousand rescues, and a personal interest in the history of search and rescue in the White Mountains, Mike is a resource of experience, anecdotes, and reflection on the trends in White Mountain rescues. While the history of White Mountain rescues begins with the early inn owners and guides, and now has a variety of groups in play, Mike's own interest in mountain rescue began with the winter he spent at Gray Knob in 1977-8.
Living in the alpine zone in the wintertime, "I became enthralled with the mountains," he remembers. It was his first significant exposure to the backcountry, and he cites the book The Freedom of the Hills ("the mountaineer's bible," he calls it) with providing the link between backcountry travel and mountain rescue, in the opening of the chapter on first aid:
Mike started with a general first aid course, and when he was hired at Mount Washington State Park in 1979, the Commissioner of the NH Dept. of Resources and Economic Development at the time, Gus Gilman, encouraged Mike to take an EMT course.
"I went from basic Red Cross First Aid to an EMT course," said Mike. From there, he joined the Gorham ambulance, and then the ski patrol at Wildcat where he got hands-on experience. "It's one thing to learn those skills, but it's another to use them in practice."
In the early and mid 1980s, backcountry rescues were organized by Fish and Game wardens, and staffed by volunteers from the AMC. Listening to his scanner in Gorham, Mike would hear the first call come down from the AMC, whether from Tuckerman Ravine or elsewhere, and offer his services to the game warden.
By the mid to late 1980s, the pool of AMC volunteers waned due to changes in housing. Now when a call came in, the volunteers were traveling long distances, creating a huge lag in response time. The system had become inefficient.
"Eventually we realized that there was a core group of capable volunteers, the ski patrollers, local ambulance EMTs, and others, who were nearby," said Mike. From pooling those resources, the Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue (AVSAR) team was born in February of 1989. The group swelled to 35 members. AVSAR was proposed as a part of the RMC at first, but concerns for liability made it independent. AVSAR initially worked through a telephone pyramid, as members passed the message along through a phone chain.
Since then, there have been memorable rescues, many changes, but also consistent trends. A winter rescue that received media attention was Derek Tinkham in 1994. "What was remarkable about that one was the wind and cold," said Mike. Derek was left alone atop Mt. Jefferson in a night that bottomed out at -42F, with winds of 70-90 MPH. Many of the rescuers were themselves injured in the rescue attempt. "Goggles freeze up, they're just useless," said Mike. "Many of us experienced some degree of frostbite."
In the winter, having the appropriate gear is key for both hiker and rescuer. "You have to do your homework more in the winter." Over time, Mike has come to swear by one necessary item (among many) in his pack: a four-person tent fly, which can quickly provide shelter from snow and wind. "It's impossible to change someone's clothes when there's snow and ice blowing everywhere," he said.
For Mike, the most memorable rescues are the technical ones. "Whenever ropes are involved, that adds a lot of danger and commitment," he said. Ropes can be put into play when summer hikers fall down Huntington's, but "out of the thousands I've been on, the rescues on Cannon Cliff are the most memorable," he said.
"For several years in a row we would get a call to help stuck rock climbers off Cannon Cliff," he said. One spot that stumped many climbers was the au-cheval beneath the Old Man of the Mountain's chin. The au-cheval is a 15-foot off-width crack that must be straddled with one leg in the crack and the other in air without the security of any protection. When climbers baffled by the move run out of daylight and other climbers are not in the area to drop them a top rope, they may need a rescue. When an overdue party was reported, and they were signed out for the Lakeview climb, "we knew right where they would be stuck," said Mike.
The rescue would involve members of the Mountain Rescue Service (MRS) out of Conway and AVSAR members (and Randolph residents) Paul Cormier or Ian Turnbull. "We had a pretty good system figured out where a volunteer would be lowered from the top of the climb for 80' to the climbers, attach them to ropes, then those at the top with a 3:1 pulley system would haul the climbers up," Mike said, and almost everyone had a chance to be a volunteer lowered over the edge.
"I remember one night in particular during a terrible rain storm when we got the call," Mike said. "At the top of the cliff it was raining and blowing so hard it was like trying to do a technical rescue while being washed down with a high pressure fire hose."
"When we tried to throw the rope down to the climbers the wind blew the rope back up so there was no question someone was going to have be lowered to get the rope down," said Mike. "Boy was I relieved when I heard Joe Lentini, director of the EMS Climbing School, yell out that it was Ian's turn to be the volunteer!"
What has changed over the years are technological advances, increased professionalism, and a diversity of volunteer groups. Response time to rescues is quicker with a one-call phone system, so everyone gets a pre-recorded message. Helicopters are used more often now, especially by the National Guard. At the time of this writing in mid-September, the National Guard had just lifted a hiker out of the Mahoosuc Range in Maine.
The relationship between volunteers and professionals has shifted as well. As AVSAR began to reach "burnout" in the mid-1990s, there was a push for other volunteer groups, said Mike. "We were going on a rescue a week in the summer," he said. Volunteer groups emerged to cover particular geographical areas: the Upper Valley Wilderness Response Team & Rescue (UVWRT), Pemi Valley Search & Rescue team (PVSAR) Rescue, and SOLO now serve as additional resources to the NH Fish & Game and the US Forest Service. Moreover, Fish and Game has now developed its own professional rescue team. "I feel that AVSAR volunteers are called upon only when our experience is really needed," Mike said.
Yet many things remain the same. The best rescue volunteers remain those who are most comfortable in the backcountry, who do not mind being out in the cold and the dark. "It is a unique person who possesses the skills to be a dedicated volunteer rescue member," said Mike. "Being out at night in the winter can be a pretty spooky thing."
Moreover, hikers still need help. The shoulder seasons continue to catch people unawares, especially in the fall when the days are shorter and early snow storms and glaze ice surprise hikers. Camp and school groups often do not plan according to their abilities, and other groups get separated when they do not hike as fast as their slowest member. People are generally less prepared to spend a night out in the summertime, said Mike.
"What leads to a rescue is not one bad decision but a series of bad decisions," said Mike. For every rescue or death there are a hundred close calls. (I can think of a few of my own from my personal experience).
To explain the constants of hiker behavior, Mike turns to the well-known story of Lizzie Bourne, who died on the summit in 1855. Lizzie and her companions started late in the day, were ill-equipped with mostly light clothing, headed up a trail that they were unfamiliar with, refused to turn back when they could have, and as a result were benighted in clouds. They were not prepared, did not listen to warnings from the experienced, and did not recognize their own limitations. In the end, Lizzie died from "exposure" (hypothermia).
The same mistakes are being made today. Mike sees them pass through the State Park on Mt Washington. "There will always be someone repeating Lizzie Bourne," Mike said.
However, reciprocally, there will always be a core group of capable volunteers, members of the brotherhood of hikers who know that one day it could be them and who will respond to the call for a rescue.
Sally Manikian has been a winter caretaker for the RMC, worked with the AMC in the muddy Mahoosucs last summer, and writes for the Berlin Reporter. She is a new RMC Board member.
In the spring of last year, RMC received some remarkable news: it was about to receive one of the largest gifts in the organization's history, over $60,000. It was not from a donor interested in having a building named in his or her honor, or any particular trails project. It was an unrestricted gift, given very simply to further the good works of the club. The gift was from the estate of longtime RMC member and friend, Eleanor Barschall.
A final gesture of thanks, the remarkable generosity shown by Eleanor Barschall and facilitated by her daughter Anne, has already proven its usefulness. Interest from the gift has given the club some financial breathing room, in a budget that is perennially tight.
Such bequests give RMC flexibility in carrying out its mission to maintain paths and camps in Randolph and the Northern Presidentials. The freedom given by such generosity is a gift to club members and friends of today, and to countless others yet to walk the Bee Line or spend an overnight at Crag Camp.
The RMC will face a number of challenges in the years ahead. For example, this year RMC will receive $21,150 in grants and contracts from the US Forest Service and the State of New Hampshire's Recreational Trails Program. The future of such grant and contract income is uncertain, with an ailing economy and growing demands on limited state and federal resources. Interest income from Eleanor Barschall's gift provides the club with one option for covering a portion of the lost revenue from those funding sources, should they disappear.
A second funding concern is the slow erosion in overnight use of our camps, as visitation shifts from overnight backpacking to day use. This change impacts not just RMC. It has been a national trend for more than a decade, as noted by groups such as Leave No Trace, Inc. The changes are demographic in nature and long-term, and are believed to result from an aging population, increasing career demands and a decline in the level of interest in the natural world in general, as the our population spends increasing time indoors-the so-called "Last Child in the Woods" syndrome. What does this mean for RMC? For overnight guests at our camps, it's a benefit, as fewer guests mean quieter, less crowded evenings. From the early 1990's to today, camps use as declined from 3,800 to 2,900 overnight visitors. On the downside, however, it does mean significantly less income from our camps. The club must plan accordingly.
These are but two examples. The reality, of course, is that the club cannot plan for every contingency. Ice storms, other natural calamities, and losses of funding can occur without notice. Bequests are one way to allow the club to carry out its hard work, no matter what the vagaries of the financial world.
When the Barschall gift was announced at an RMC board meeting, the room fell silent as we each contemplated the generosity of a single person, and of what the Randolph Mountain Club must have meant to Eleanor. It was a touching moment in an otherwise routine meeting of hard-working volunteers, and immediately reminded each of us that this little organization has for nearly a century brought people together, cared for a remarkable mountain landscape, and bettered many lives.
In the days that followed, each of us realized the great benefit that would accrue to generations of club members, friends, overnight guests, and hikers on our paths.
As the Barschall family knows, bequests are a meaningful way to thank an organization that has been near and dear to one's heart, over the course of a lifetime. In the years to come, such thoughtfulness will serve the club well, as it confronts challenges known and unknown. Long gone are the days when RMC was a seasonal organization that closed up shop, come fall. For three decades, the club has had caretakers year-'round. We now have a fall trail crew most years, and year-'round employee housing in Stearns Lodge. These changes require steadier, more reliable funding. Bequests are one way to provide that stability.
The Barschall gift has reminded us that there are many members who might like to remember RMC in their estate planning. Already, several RMC board members have shared information about their bequests with the club. If you would like more information on remembering RMC as you go about planning your estate, please contact Ben Phinney anytime via email.
Primary sources always beat secondary ones, for entertaining reading. So, in that spirit, rather than start by listing the work that was accomplished this past season, here's an excerpt from a Trails Diary entry on the RMC web site, by crew member Benzo Harris, grandson of 1952 trail crew member Chris Harris:
Rockwork, that is, the art of rolling and setting large chunks of granite that more often than not has a mind of its own, is both deceptively simple and maddeningly complex. Using little more than an 18-pound rock bar, a pick mattock, a shovel and ones own two hands, very elaborate and sturdy creations are fashioned.
The two main items on the list are water bars and staircases. Water bars channel water runoff in the forms of the spring thaws and the summer storms off of the trail, and staircases are more or less self-explanatory. We also redefine paths by setting stones and filling in eroded or under-defined areas with quarried mineral soil. Anything on the trails that needs to get done, chances are we can and have done it, most often with our own (gloved) hands and a few tools.
Naturally in this technological age, we cheat sometimes. Enter the Grip Hoist. A small but delightful contraption, the Grip Hoist is a kind of hand-operated winch that, in conjunction with any number of pulleys, slings, cables and shackles, can rip boulders weighing up to a ton (and with some elbow grease and the use of physics stones even mightier than that) out of the earth, to be slung through the air to where the crew is trying to place them. It's a very versatile tool that has many uses.
Technology and all manner of tools aside, the finished result is breathtaking to the trained eye. One thing that few people know is that we construct trails not for hikers, but to protect the woodland environment. Stone staircases, set by hand and only the simple tools we pack in, are not to make climbing easier -- they help keep feet where they are least destructive. A rock water bar, made of sunken rocks that can take one worker all day just to quarry (an infuriatingly lengthy process I have learned first hand), doesn't just keep the trails dry and our feet wet -- it mitigates erosion so that the trails we all love stay the way they are and people don't try to make their own, damaging more of the forest.
As well as being important, this is work that lasts. Each stone takes time to set, and must be done perfectly.
"The idea is that an 800 pound guy could jump on it and it wouldn't move," says Ben, a second year trail crew member says. "But a 150 pound kid with a rock bar can."
We build these simple things to withstand the hundreds and thousands of feet that will cross over them, the gallons of water that will rush by, the freezes of winter and the thaws of spring. Do it right the first time, and the problem may never have to be dealt with again.
Well said, Benzo! The crew's blog, with many other posts, is linked from the homepage of the site (www.randolphmountainclub.org).
As always, it was a busy summer for trails, with what seems like far too little time to accomplish a lengthy list. Highlights include:
* Patrolling of all of RMC's
trails in early June, to remove blowdowns, clean drainages and
Work continued into the fall, with a crew that focused on Pasture Path, replacing rotten bog bridges and installing rock steps and stairs. The crew wrapped up work at the end of October, with drainage cleaning in conjunction with RMC volunteers.
Throughout the season, a trail crew of relative newcomers did a remarkable job, working like a well-oiled, seasoned crew. Much of the reason for this is due to our stellar Field Supervisor, Curtis Moore. We're grateful to report that Curtis will be returning for a second season, next year-after a winter of construction work down south way south, at the South Pole.
Finally, a bit of news about changes within RMC. After 17 years as Trails Chair or Co-Chair, I'm passing the mattock and clippers to the able hands of RMC's Mike Micucci and Cristin Bailey. I look forward to trying on the role of trails volunteer, helping with grant writing, leading a work trip, and lending a hand with the annual trail crew orientation.
As I reflect on RMC's efforts, I realize how grateful I am to be part of this organization. It's a group that really cares deeply about stewardship of our paths. RMC has one of the most remarkable networks of trails to be found anywhere in the country. During the past generation, we've made great strides in setting up the infrastructure to care for them for a second century. We've added the Goetze Workshop, many thousands of dollars of new tools and, of course, Stearns Lodge. But trail maintenance is much more about people and enthusiasm, than the number of mattocks or grip-hoists on hand. Beginning 13 years ago, RMC's membership made a commitment to a crew size and volunteer effort that can meet the needs of the club. Later, we added a Field Supervisor position, to support the role of the Camps and Trails Chairs. Through it all, RMC's friends have shown just how much they cared, by donating seeming unthinkable amounts of time, energy and ideas. Thank you, to all of you who continue to support the good work of the club.
Most of all, however, however, I want to express my personal thanks to our crews, known among themselves as RMC PFC-the Path Fixing Crew. It's hard for most members to comprehend how incredibly hard they work, and how personally devoted they are to caring for RMC's paths. Their attitude, good cheer and ever-steady work ethic have been an inspiration to me. Many of you have become lifelong friends, and you all have my heartfelt thanks. Carry on, PFC!
Renee Dunham aptly summarized the RMC's Summer of '08 hikes when she said, "how it rained and rained... The trails were brooks, the brooks were rivers, the rivers were alarmingly high, and the waterfalls - oh my, they made it worth the getting wet." Despite a wet summer, twelve RMC hikes went as scheduled: three were rained out. The hikes fell into two broad categories: shorter hikes, often with themes, and longer hikes to higher summits.
Among the themed hikes were Judy Hudson's and Doug Mayer's trip covering, and discussing, parts of the Pond of Safety Trail (1882) and the Four Soldiers Trail (2002), and Dyk Eusden's geology hike to the Cliffways. Barbara Wysession and Joan Darlington led a hike to a cave on Mt. Jasper in Berlin where ancient Indians mined rhyolite for tool making. By popular demand, Joan and Barbara took a second group on the same trip the following week.
Lydia Goetze led a group discussion on photography the afternoon before her planned photography hike to Pondicherry, which unfortunately was cancelled due to rain. Likewise, Bill May's canoe excursion was cancelled due to weather. Sarah Clemmitt led several short, fun hikes for children of all ages, and reports are that the annual Gourmet Hike to Mt. Crag earned a five-star rating.
Longer climbs went to the Webster Cliffs, the Southern Presidentials, Mt. Osceola, Mt. Moriah, and Mt. Adams.
Many thanks to all who led hikes this summer, and special thanks to Renee and George Dunham, Keith Dempster, Jimmy Olsen, and Michele Cormier for organizing trips this summer. All did a wonderful job! If you have suggestions for hikes or want to lead a hike next summer, please e-mail me.
Another amazing RMC season of caretaking and trail crew has wrapped up successfully. The two caretakers up at Gray Knob and Crag Camp, Alexandra and Elizabeth Disney, were great and took their jobs seriously, from maintaining the camps, collecting fees and interacting with visitors to familiarizing themselves with the area by taking hikes in the vicinity. The trail crew (Ben Lieberson, Fiona Jensen, Gretchen Grebe, Chris Carlson, Benzo Harris, Corey Paridis, Duncan Lennon, Jake Desauliers, and fill-in celebrity, Rachel Biggs) did a lot of great work after patrolling for blowdowns and drainage cleaning. The major projects were on Ledge Trail and Israel Ridge Path. If you get a chance, check out the new rock steps and waterbars, among other structures and relocations. The crew also packed firewood up to Gray Knob, did some work on Lowe's Path and packed out some heavy bridge pieces that littered Snyder Brook.
A great deal of our success is owed to our active volunteers and other members of the community. The Lodge has performed exactly as anticipated, which shows great forethought and dedication on behalf of the Club. Maintenance continued this year with a small group of volunteers helping to open the facility including Al Sochard and daughter Brittany, Storm Schott, Dennis Pednault, Kate Allen, Dave Salisbury, and Doug Mayer. Cathy Goodwin also contributed by sharing her expertise in landscaping with time and plantings. Thank you to the Arnolds for their lilac bush and Bill's time with the radios. Laura Conchelos made our clothesline set up as a donation, thank you Laura -- it's served well for a full season now.
Throughout the season Storm, Paul Cormier, Bill Arnold, Doug Mayer, and Al Sochard also helped with the Lodge. Howie and Sue Wyemss donated some needed furniture. Dave Salisbury helped in our orientation, skills day and put a lot of time into the removal of bridge parts. Cristin Bailey shared her expertise with all components of axe work at our orientation. Mike Micucci helped out behind the scenes with RMC gear and arranging brushing trips for members. Thank you to Dave Govatski for donating the antique but highly functional grinding wheel. It makes our general sharpening so much quicker and more consistent. And thank you to Larry Jenkins for constructing and repairing our heavily used packboards.
Apologies to anyone not mentioned; I know it takes a lot of effort and time to make even a small club function, so thank you to all who have contributed. The camps, trails and lodge couldn't function without the conscious effort all the members and community put forth. Randolph retains and embraces a spirit unseen anywhere else, so thank you again and keep it up!
How long have you been an RMC member? What brought you to the club?
I had been aware of the RMC for more than 25 years, since I first visited my friend Albie Pokrob, who lived in Randolph and was working for AMC, the Mount Washington Observatory, and then RMC, as a spring and winter caretaker for many years. I didn't join RMC, however, until I moved to Randolph, 6 years ago. Shortly after joining, I also came onto the Board of Directors. I've been active ever since.
You've been very active over the years, in a number of trails organizations, include the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA), the Appalachian Trails Conservancy (ATC), and most recently with RMC as Camps Co-Chair and now Chair, handling all the hiring, year-'round, for our caretakers. What draws you to volunteer?
I started volunteering in 1979 for what is now 30 years of service. My first trip was with the famed Appalachian Trail hiker, author and trail maintainer Ed Garvey. We replaced a shelter floor in Maine. Since then, I have volunteered hundreds of hours on the AT as an adopter, trail corridor monitor, trail work-trip leader, and trail maintainer.
I spent six year on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Board of Managers, followed by these past 5 years on the RMC Board, where I have moved from a focus on trails to our beloved camps.
I volunteer for RMC not just
for my love of the trails and camps, but because of the sense
of community it brings me. Living in Randolph, it seems a perfect
fit. Just as all politics are local, so now is my trail club
If there was one thing that you wish all RMC members knew about the club, about which you think they might not be aware, what would it be?
That we have some of the nicest folks come work for us as caretakers and on the trail crew. My favorite part of being on the board has been getting to know some of these great young people!
What's your favorite path, and why?
Howker Ridge Trail is not only my favorite RMC path, but I think it's the best in all of the White Mountains. It's a classic hike, with a wonderful river to follow at the beginning, moss growing on the center of the trail, a steep unrelenting upward rolling ridge, and that wonderful above treeline section, unsurpassed in beauty for more than a mile as it stretches to the summit of Madison. Coming in second, and for quick access to Mount Adams, I love the Watson Path.
Your least favorite path, and why?
There are parts of the Link I would rather not think about!
What was your worst moment on an RMC trail?
It was the last 100 yards to the Log Cabin a year or two ago, when I was hauling a wet bag of mulch on a pack frame.
The moment I removed my pack!
Your favorite activity on an RMC trail-- hiking, running, skiing, snowshoeing?
All of the above! But, if I had to pick one it would be trail running-- we have great running trails!
What do you think is the biggest challenge now facing the club?
I see a change in our culture that is affecting our youth. Fewer of them are coming to the mountains, and fewer are interested in working in the mountains.
So far, it hasn't affected the quality of people we get to work for us as caretakers and trail crew, but I think the effects will be seen soon. We have to work to cultivate people who will work for RMC and then, later on, take our place in this organization to insure protection and preservation of our trails and camps.
Thanks for all you're doing for RMC! Any parting thought you want to leave us with?
I always say this, but it's worth repeating- "Come on up and visit the camps if you haven't for been there in a while!" A trip up to the camps encompasses everything our organization is about. A myriad of trails offers both challenging and moderate approaches to above treeline and beauty unsurpassed most anywhere in the eastern states. Our camps provide a welcome refuge from the fast-paced crazy complex world in which we exist. A night up at the camps in any season can bring you back to the days of old, bringing a renewed, wonderful perspective that can help us maintain sanity in our lives.
After my father died, my brother and I became involved with helping my mother Eleanor run her affairs. Randolph-related charities were among those that were particularly important to her.
My mother's mother, her aunts and uncles had cut the first Lion's Head trail on Mount Washington in memory of my mother's grandfather, who was also a devoted hiker. After having her own children, my grandmother moved her own family vacations to Randolph. Mom, therefore, vacationed in Randolph all her life.
At that time, there was no air conditioning. The family came to Randolph for six weeks at a time to avoid the heat in New Jersey. My mother's first romances were in Randolph. She in turn brought my brother and me to Randolph starting when we were babies, and she had us hiking from the moment we could toddle-- though we never turned out to be hikers as athletic as her siblings had been.
During her declining years in Wisconsin, she suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and fading vision. When she could not figure out why she was not in her childhood home in New Jersey, she concluded that she was on vacation in Randolph. Her connection with Randolph allowed even this confusing period to be more pleasant than it might otherwise have been.
I know that she would want others to enjoy Randolph and the hiking there as much as she always did.