RMC Newsletter - Summer 2009

Table of Contents

President's Letter
By Michele Cormier

"2009 is proving to be a year of extremes for the Randolph Mountain Club. Trying to get our heads wrapped around the idea of reduced revenues has been a major challenge for the Board."

Reports from Committees
By Sally Manikian and Mike Micucci

Camps Report, Looking Ahead at RMC Trail for 2009.

Mount Crescent Trailhead Project Underway
By Doug Mayer

"In just a few short months, much has transpired. An active committee is now hard at work. Members of the committee represent a broad cross-section of the Randolph Community..."

Being a Trails Steward - On and Off the Trail
By Doug Mayer

"The healthy upkeep of RMC’s paths requires more than our hard-working trail crews, or eager, clipper-wielding volunteers. It is truly a much broader endeavor that calls upon the thoughtful efforts of a trails community."

Lost Hiker: Four Days in a Whiteout in the Northern Presidentials
By Sally Manikian

"Using this advance and retrieve method, he inched his way above treeline to find himself in a whiteout, with drifted snow blocking the path and ground blizzards cutting visibility. High winds make the use of a map and compass difficult..."

Jeff Smith, Volunteer
By Doug Mayer

"I worked with Andy Woods both summers up there and we definitely accomplished a lot. We took a lot of pride in our work and continued to come up with ways to improve the camps along with completing the daily maintenance and chores."

The Day the RMC Trash Pits Came Down the Mountain
By Al Hudson

"Of course, the biggest trash pit of all was the area in King Ravine directly below Crag Camp. Early in the summer of 1970, with our middens overflowing, the Forest Service decreed that all trash pits must be emptied and closed by the end of the season."

A Poem...
By the Summer 2008 Trail Crew

President's Letter

Benzo Harris (TC 2008) enjoying the view from the Northern Presidentials. D. Mayer photo.2009 is proving to be a year of extremes for the Randolph Mountain Club. Trying to get our heads wrapped around the idea of reduced revenues has been a major challenge for the Board. The budgeting process has been difficult, as we recognize the downturn in the economy affects us in all aspects of what we do. We are trying to be practical, yet at the same time achieve our mission of providing maintenance on the trails and great camping experiences. We know we have a responsibility to the membership to spend wisely. We hope all you members recognize that and really dig deep in making your financial contributions to the Club.

At the same time, we are experiencing some really positive opportunities for the club.

The Federal stimulus program has provided us with a chance to be on the receiving end of $14,000 in matching grant money for trails work. Our friends at the Forest Service were eager to share this information with us and pleased to give us the opportunity. We have two years to make use of the funds.

Three agencies in the town of Randolph are participating in active fundraising for the Mt. Crescent Trailhead project: The Randolph Foundation, the Town of Randolph and the Randolph Mountain Club. A committee representing these groups has been meeting throughout the spring planning to acquire the 10 acres offered by Becky Boothman and Wayne Parker for a new trailhead at the end of Randolph Hill Road. This acquisition must be completed by Dec. 31, 2009, so you will be hearing more about this project as the year progresses.

Mark your calendars for July 11. We will be kicking off the Trailhead Fundraiser with a very special event: a benefit concert by Historical Musician Bob Kilham. He recreates the sights and sounds of mid-19th century America. Bob is a selftaught musician who focuses on period instruments including banjo, fiddle, guitar, accordion and flute. He uses original sheet music and period clothing. We are very lucky he has offered his services to us for this special evening. Location and time will be announced in the Weekly.

In other news, the RMC may soon be taking over management of a section of the Appalachian Trail. The Gulfside Trail from Thunderstorm Junction to Edmonds Col is right in the middle of RMC territory. The exact limits are yet to be negotiated with the Forest Service, but plans are afoot.

Many of you who visit in the summer will have another option for overnight hiking and camping. Especially if you have children, the yurt on the Dernbach parcel of the Town Forest is close by, yet off in the woods. The yurt is available for overnights, but there are only primitive facilities so far. The Club is looking for donations of items for the yurt, which include bed frames or cots, Coleman stoves and lanterns. There is no toilet at this time. If you would like to make a donation or use the yurt, contact Bill Arnold.

Meanwhile, summer approaches. You will be making your plans for visiting Randolph and we hope you include the Club in your activities, be it the Fourth of July tea or the regular Tuesday/Thursday hikes, the Annual Meeting on August 8, or the Picnic on August 15. I hope to see you all this summer!

Michele Cormier
RMC President

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Being a Trails Steward - On and Off the Trail
By Doug Mayer

The healthy upkeep of RMC’s paths requires more than our hard-working trail crews, or eager, clipper-wielding volunteers. It is truly a much broader endeavor that calls upon the thoughtful efforts of a trails community. We are each a member of this group, whether you count yourself as a diehard RMC board member or a casual friend of the club. Knowing how we can each do our part is an important piece of the puzzle that, when assembled, yields a vibrant, healthy trails system.

When most of us think of how we can help RMC’s network of paths, one or two of a limited set of ideas spring to mind: we can keep our RMC membership current, we can make an additional annual contribution to the club, we can join in the fun by participating in a work trip. The fact is, however, there are a multitude of ways you can help the club carry out its trails mission, beyond the conventional notions of support. In the interest of expanding how even the most low-key of RMC friends can do his or her part, here are a dozen ways you can become a more thoughtful trails steward:

RMC Historian Judy Hudson leads a history walk. Watch for her RMC history to be published for the Club's centennial in 2010. D. Mayer photo.1. Be aware of shoulder seasons.
The shoulder seasons of early spring and late fall are times when trails are especially susceptible to damage. The ground is muddy and soil is easily disrupted. When possible, stay on snow that’s in the trail, to protect the soil underneath. Take extra care to stay on route, using trail work structures such as bog bridges and rock steps to minimize your impact.

2. Stay on the work.
RMC’s trail crews pour an enormous amount of muscle and sweat into setting rock steps, building bog bridges and installing step stones. Hiker convenience isn’t the goal: protecting the resource is. You can do your part by staying within scree wall boundaries, and stepping on rock steps and step stones. These are durable surfaces, designed to accept years of abuse from thousands of hiking boots!

3. Do trail work.
As you hike, there is trail work you can accomplish, if you keep your eyes peeled. Even though RMC cleans its drainages twice a year, it’s still possible that waterbars or ditches may become clogged between cleanings. If you notice a clogged drainage, spare a moment to kick a pile of leaves or sticks from the outflow with the heel of your boot. The goal is to keep the drainage open, so water can flow off the trail and not cause further erosion. Are there branches across a trail or drainage? Take a moment to toss them from the path. Consider bringing along a 6 to 8 inch folding saw to cut the limbs from a blowdown, remove small blowdowns and accomplish minor brushing. A folding saw is light and compact, and you won’t feel like you’re committing to a day of trail work rather than going for a hike.

4. Don’t do trail work.
Of course, this point is said somewhat in jest. The point, more accurately, is that some trail work is best left for trained trail crews or expert volunteers. Is a blowdown snagged high in the crotch of an adjacent tree? Don’t try to yank it down—the consequences could have “body cast” written all over them. Does a trail need blazing, in your opinion? Please don’t head out with a can of paint!

RMC’s trails are maintained to the State of New Hampshire’s Best Management Practices and White Mountain National Forest guidelines. It’s important for all of our work to meet these standards. And it’s sometimes imperative for your safety not to attempt trail work that is beyond your skill level. Finally, please don’t do trail work without first consulting with RMC’s Trails Chair. There may be a very good reason why certain work hasn’t yet been accomplished. We may be checking for rare, threatened or endangered plant species, or we may be saving the project for the trail crew, or a gang of eager trails volunteers.

5. Above treeline, stay on the trail.
One of the biggest challenges to trail maintenance above treeline is preventing trail “braiding,” which occurs when hikers take multiple routes. Follow the trail closely above treeline. If you must step off the trail, do the “rock hop” to protect vulnerable alpine plants.

6. Accurately report trail conditions.
As a former RMC Trails Chair, I can say that there’s nothing more frustrating than receiving a report that, “there are a lot of blowdowns on the such-and-such path.” “A lot” is relative, and over the years that has been defined as everything from three to thirty trees over the course of, say, a mile of trail. Where possible, always quantify your description. Roughly how many blowdowns did you encounter, between which junctions, on what trail? If the trail needs brushing in your opinion, how bad was it? Was brush interlocking, totally obscuring the trail treadway? Useful quantitative data helps the RMC Trails Chair better prioritize work for the crew, and gives the crew a sense of what they’re facing when they head for the project.

7. Don’t be rescued.
Not being rescued has other benefits, of course. But, staying safe also serves the health of the trail system. If you’ve ever participated in a rescue, or seen a photo of a “litter carry,” you’ll notice that three rescuers are located each side of the Stokes litter. The patient, in the litter, rides happily (okay, more likely, morosely) down the centerline of the trail. The rescuers? They’re off the trail, in the brush, banging over scree rocks, and generally having a miserable time of it. And the same could be said of the trail -- it’s being hammered by Vibram soles in an area that’s been relatively untrodden. The result is that plants are damaged and soil is disrupted at the edges of the path—the very plants and soil that trail maintainers are counting on to help hold the remaining soil in place.

8. Donate time, money—or both.
If you have either to donate, RMC has an offer for you! In these challenging economic times, your club sorely needs
both volunteer time and financial contributions. If you are able, consider a contribution above and beyond your annual dues. And, if you have the time, join us for an RMC work trip. Not only will you feel good about the work you accomplish during the day, but work trips are a fun way to meet other, like-minded RMC friends, and get some exercise.

9. Support the work of land managers.
The work of land managers, such as the US Forest Service, NH State Parks, and the Randolph Community Forest Commission, is at times a thankless task. They juggle competing interests, often with tightly restricted budgets and a variety of management objectives. As trail users, we represent just one of a large number of constituents. You can support land managers in their work by volunteering when called upon and by providing public comments when solicited. And, of course, when you see one of these hard working public employees or civic volunteers, thank them! Their work on our behalves often goes unappreciated.

10. Thank volunteers and trail crew.
In my dozen years as Trails Chair, some of my most memorable moments were when I was pulled aside and… thanked! The work of volunteers often consists of fielding complaints and comments, and there is no shortage of folks willing to provide either. On the flip side, for each public action you see by a volunteer, there may well be six or ten times as much work that transpired in the background. So, take a moment, and convey your thanks. Who knows—it might just earn you a little good karma, too.

11. Hike with awareness.
It’s remarkable how goal focused we can become when on the trail. In the process of attaining the summit, we literally and figuratively lose sight of the ground beneath our feet. Look down. Observe the trail work that went into each section of the trail you’re on. See if you can figure out how water has moved down the path, contributing to erosion, because hiker’s treads have created a shallow gully. Observe the plants, struggling to hold on at the edge of the treadway. See how a bog bridge has reduced trail widening, by keeping hikers on its stringer for the last dozen years—do you see mosses growing in from the edges? As you pay attention, you will come to see the trail as something dynamic. Your understanding of trail maintenance will grow, and your experience in the woods will be enriched.

12. Share the ethic.
Spread the word to passing hikers. Let them know about the challenging erosion control work that goes into maintaining our trails, and encourage them to support a local trails club. Share the ideas listed above.

From Crescent Ridge to Castle Ravine, RMC’s trail efforts are a collective undertaking. Costing nearly $40,000 a year, the club simply cannot carry out its trails mission without the support of a wide and diverse membership. However you can, please do your part to be a thoughtful trails steward.

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Mount Crescent Trailhead Project Underway
By Doug Mayer

For nearly the past two years, members of the Randolph Community Forest Commission, the Randolph Mountain Club, and the Town of Randolph have quietly been laying the groundwork on a very exciting project: securing a permanently-protected trailhead at the end of Randolph Hill Road for the many trails in the Crescent Range. Thanks to the generosity of Becky Boothman and Wayne Parker, we now have an option for 10 acres of land which would serve as a perfect location for a trailhead area, including parking and a small, informational kiosk.

The Town of Randolph has until the end of December, 2009, to secure funding and exercise the option to buy the land. Realizing that time is of the essence, this spring representatives of the Community Forest Commission, the Town, the Randolph Foundation, and the Randolph Mountain Club came together to develop a strategy to achieve the goal. The town needs to raise $150,000 to cover the appraised value of the land, and complete the simple, rustic parking area and kiosk for hikers, skiers and snowshoers. The first $105,000 is needed by December 31, 2009, to purchase the land.

In just a few short months, much has transpired. An active committee is now hard at work. Members of the committee represent a broad cross-section of the Randolph Community, and include a current and past President of the RMC, members of the Forest Commission, a representative from the Board of Selectmen, and the current President of the Randolph Foundation. The roster of the committee consists of Ben Phinney, Paula Bradley, Michele Cormier, Dave Govatski, Ken Lee, Cathy MacDowell, Doug Mayer, John Scarinza, and David Willcox.

Since its inception, the committee has developed a project budget, a fundraising plan and a timeline for the endeavor. Members of the RMC, as well as recipients of the Mountainview, received a mailing about the project a few months ago. In conjunction with a successful grant application to the Fields Pond Foundation, over $40,000 has already been pledged to the project, including two pledges of $5,000 each from the Randolph Foundation and the RMC.

Over $100,000 remains to be raised, however—a heady goal, in this era of economic unraveling. This spring and summer, the committee hopes to secure a number of meaningful gifts from both foundations and private donors. Gifts of cash or securities can be made to the RMC, the Randolph Foundation, or directly to the Town of Randolph.

Look for more news on the Mount Crescent Trailhead project this summer. Should you have questions about the Mount Crescent Trailhead project, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the members of the committee, or Committee Chair Ben Phinney directly.

When an opportunity presents itself to help preserve part of Randolph’s unique outdoors heritage, its residents have consistently shown themselves to be generous with their time and money. The trails clean-up from the devastating 1998 ice storm, the creation of the Randolph Community Forest, and the construction of Stearns Lodge all come to mind. Now, this outdoors community is faced with another great opportunity that, if achieved, will help protect our mountain heritage for future generations. We look forward to sharing more information on the progress of this project, this summer.

View looking south to the proposed new trailhead. B. Arnold photo.

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The Day the RMC Trash Pits Came Down the Mountain
By Al Hudson

In the old days there were trash pits associated with the RMC's camps. Of course, the biggest trash pit of all was the area in King Ravine directly below Crag Camp 1. Early in the summer of 1970, with our middens overflowing, the Forest Service decreed that all trash pits must be emptied and closed by the end of the season. During July and August Tad Pfeffer and Woody Canaday, the caretakers at Crag and Gray Knob respectively, by dint of heroic efforts, managed to clear out the offending detritus in their camps 2. However, as September approached, Log Cabin and the Perch were not yet cleared, the weather was not helpful, and the situation was looking grim. In the middle of August I became President of the Club and, having agreed earlier to lead a climb on September 1 (I can't remember where I had intended the trip to go), I changed course and announced a work party for all who would care to ascend to the heights and bring down the trash. The accompanying entry from our family logbook tells the heartening story.

September 1, 1970. Tuesday dawned in an unpromising manner. Clouds covered the peaks from 4,000 feet up. Over Randolph valley clouds and blue sky fought for control, with one moment bringing bright hope for a perfect day, and the next dark gloom and forebodings of sub-Arctic conditions. As we left the cabin to drive to Appalachia, blue sky held the upper hand and optimism reigned. As we pulled into the rendezvous the picture had changed somewhat to feature cold rain and hail. Nonetheless, the volunteers started to gather, and while the infirm were encouraged to stay home near their fires, hale climbers of both sexes and various ages elected to brave the elements in a dash up Lowe's Path.

Those making the ascent included: Burt Dempster; John Eusden (and dog), Alan Eusden, Suzanne Eusden (John's niece); Klaus and Erika Goetze; Jim Grant; Joan Horton (and dog), Jamie Horton; Al and Judy Hudson; Jim, Meg, Randy and Brad Meiklejohn; Linda and Chris Nugent, (who had spent the previous night at Crag Camp) came over with Chuck Bowers to collect garbage; Tad Pfeffer (from Crag); Charlie Woodard; Woody Canaday (from Gray Knob). On the way up the mountain the climbers carried the parts for two new iron stoves, one for the Log Cabin and one for Gray Knob. It should be mentioned that Scott Meiklejohn was also on the mountain in RMC service helping to carry two Stokes litter baskets up to Crag.

Those ascending from the valley gathered at the Log Cabin. From there the Meiklejohn-Dempster party and Charlie Woodard were detached to carry the new stove to Gray Knob and, thereafter, to go over to Perch to remove its trash.

Al Hudson left Klaus in charge of delving in Log Cabin's garbage pit and made a solo run directly to Perch. At Perch he found seven Quaker campers, under the leadership of Jerry Werhner of Amherst, MA, who had been socked in there for three nights. This group said they wanted to come down the mountain, but needed a place to stay in the valley. Al offered accommodations in the large squad tent that was set up near
our cabin. Jerry's group accepted, and said that they'd bring down Perch garbage when they descended.

With a bag of Perch garbage, Al went back to Log Cabin where he added another bag (75 lbs) and headed down the mountain with Judy Hudson, John and Suzanne Eusden, and Woody Canaday. This closed out the Log Cabin phase of the operation.

In the afternoon Tad Pfeffer, Charlie Woodard, and the Meiklejohn-Dempsters swung over to Perch and bagged the contents of the can pit. These folks, together with the Quaker group, cleared out all the contents of the Perch middens and carried them down the mountain.

In all, a total of 29 folks were involved in the operation: 22 RMC'ers (and 2 dogs) and 7 Quakers. Thirty-seven large bags of garbage and trash were brought down the mountain and deposited at Lowe's station, effectively clearing out the Log Cabin and Perch pits. Gordon Lowe reported that it took one garbage truck and one pickup to transport the trash to its final resting place in the Randolph dump.

Jerry Werhner's Quaker group spent the night in our squad tent. Al and Judy went to Portland the next morning before the group's departure, but found the following note in our cabin upon our return,

"Al - All of us would like to thank you for the kindness you have shown us in finishing our trip ... I think it was very important and meaningful for the boys to discover that a group of people could climb up 4000 feet just to get dirty and do the work of others in such bad weather, and to care for that small section of country that they felt close to. This attitude is missing from their sheltered city environs. And for myself, whose long association with the AMC members has been extremely disappointing, I too was very pleased to experience yesterday. The line of people descending with their burdens, all ages and sizes, was akin to a funeral procession in a way; to a demonstration in another way; and more so than these, it was like our silent marches and work in the Society of Friends. A purpose and answering devotion to it. So we congratulate you again for your help to us. Pax et Lux. Jerry, Frank, Davis, Paul, Rob, Lenny, Andy."

So, although the trip began in hail and rain, the sun later came out to warm us in our work and on our descent. Our memories of the trip will keep us warm for a much longer time.

1 For a broader discussion of trash at the camps see "Trash" in Judith Maddock Hudson, "A history of the RMC Camps, Part 2," RMC Newsletter, Summer 2004, p. 6.

2 Tad Pfeffer writes, “There was truly a monumental volume of trash accumulated at Crag. Woody and I were caretakers during the Great Trash Removal (Great Leap Downward?), and whenever we went down to the valley would carry out 60-70 lbs of trash – sort of Madison Huts in reverse. Beside the trash pit to the west of Crag was a 55-gallon steel drum full of water-saturated trash, and one day I somewhat impulsively tied it onto a wooden AMC-type pack frame and started carrying it down. Jeff Bean was with me – fortunately, since I couldn’t stand up underneath it without assistance – and it took 6 hours to get down to the valley. We took it to Lowe’s and used their deer scale to find it weighed 205 lbs. (This number makes sense – 205 lbs/55 gallons is about half the density of water, which would be about right for wet garbage. If I had known it weighed that much at the outset I wouldn’t have tried.) Someone took a picture of me with the pack, and it was on the bulletin board at Lowe’s for several years.”

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Reports from Committees...

Camps Report
By Sally Manikian

Former caretakers Sally Manikian and Matt Moore getting ready for a rapid descent by "Swiss bob." Photo courtesy of S. Manikian.As I write this in early April, the sun is warm, the days are long, and Lowe’s Path is turning into a sheer wall of water ice…..it must be the end of another winter at the RMC Camps. We were fortunate this winter to have two seasoned caretakers, Juliane Hudson and Mike Foster. Both did a superb job at the always-fun winter chores of digging out Crag Camp’s privy from snowdrifts, keeping the water flowing in the spring (which they managed to do all winter), and enjoying sunset walks along the Perch Path and full-moon hikes through the winter alpine zone. They worked well together, overlapping at times, notably during one of the major storms this winter as they put in a team effort to shovel snow.

Juliane and Mike are both strong hikers: For the second year in a row, Mike completed all NH 4,000 footers during the calendar winter (on his weeks off!). Juliane, who completed the Pacific Crest Trail in 2007, will hike a section of the Appalachian Trail in April and May after leaving Gray Knob. You can read Juliane’s online journal on the RMC website.

This spring our caretaker will be Ariana Johnson. Ariana comes to us with strong outdoor skills from her experience as a teaching intern at Sterling College, as well as emergency medicine: her most recent job was as an Emergency Room Technician in Exeter Hospital and she is an AVSAR volunteer. Ariana will be manning Gray Knob for April and May.

One of the benefits of the tough economy is that the RMC receives a larger pool of applicants, and more qualified candidates. It was tough picking the two summer caretakers! One of our two caretakers is Jamie Trombley, who is majoring in environmental studies at Colby Sawyer. Jamie is a Leave No Trace Master Educator, with outdoor leadership experience through the National Outdoor Leadership School. She is looking forward to learning the landscape, but also interacting with visitors and the community. Gray Knob will be staffed by Hunter Hague, an environmental studies and English major at St. Lawrence University. Hunter’s previous work experience includes managing his family’s sugarbush in Bradford, NH, and three years selling cordwood from his family’s woodlot.

This spring and summer, we will be improving the RMC composting toilet system, as we adopt the “batch bin” system of composting. This system is used by the USFS, the AMC, and the GMC, and is an efficient system for composting human waste in the White Mountains. We will begin with Crag Camp and Gray Knob, and will upgrade the Perch in 2010. When the Log Cabin outhouse was rebuilt a few years ago, we changed that outhouse to a batch-bin system. This project has received the input and collaboration of Pete Antos-Ketcham, former Gray Knob winter caretaker and current GMC facilities manager, and who literally wrote the book on the batch composting system. Look for an article describing this project in the next newsletter, or come lend a hand on June 13-14 for a volunteer work weekend at the camps.

So this summer, come on up and witness the newest in composting technology, stop in to meet the friendly caretaker, or spend an hour or so sitting on Crag’s porch in the warm sun!

Looking Ahead at RMC Trails for 2009
By Mike Micucci

The 2009 trails season is eventful and exciting for many reasons. After nearly 15 years, the trails baton passed from Doug Mayer to Cristin Bailey and Mike Micucci. Cristin comes to the RMC with many years of trails experience, having been the NE trails manager for AMC and now a trails manager for the USFS in the Saco District. Mike has been with the RMC since he was a caretaker at Gray Knob during the Cretaceous period and has been cycled on and off the board in many capacities, including Trails co-chair. Together, Cristin and Mike have pulled together a tremendously competent crew from a candidate pool that was as deep and talented as any in recent memory. The crew will be moving into Randolph and their home at the Stearns Lodge in early June and after three intense days of orientation, followed by a potluck supper at the Lodge, the crew will begin patrolling on June 8th.

Returning from last season will be Benzo Harris, Fiona Jensen and Ben Lieberson. New to crew will be Caitlin Johnson (who comes over from AMC), Deva Steketee (from Rivendell Trails Association), Johanna Stansfield (just returned from South America teaching English) and part-time Randolphians Spencer Eusden and Liz Pfeffer. Without a doubt, the most difficult aspect of putting this year's crew together was turning away some exceptional candidates.

Recent logging in the Community Forest opens up views to the east from just above the Ice Gulch Path. L. Goetze photo.The crew will be led by returning field supervisor Curtis Moore, who has a depth of experience related to trail work, caretaking and leading that will serve the RMC very well. Curtis and the crew will focus on finishing up work started on Israel Ridge in 2008 and move onto a major project on the ever-popular Inlook trail. Remember to wave and say hi when hiking past our hard-working crew members.

Also new for the coming season, Chris Fithian, a past TC member and Field Supervisor, will be taking our ever-expanding volunteer program to new heights. In the past, the RMC has relied heavily on volunteer work trips and in this coming year, the effort of our volunteers will be especially important as we try to fill the gap created by eliminating the fall trail crew who usually do the critically important job of drainage cleaning and put the finishing touches on summer projects. The entire Board is hopeful that the volunteer program can fill this role and keep our trails to the high standards we've come to expect.

The first of the volunteer work trips will be on June 6th, as part of the National Trails Day celebration sponsored by the American Hiking Society. This trip is planned for the Inlook Trail (prepping for a big project later in the season), and at press time we expect that Trails chair emeritus, Doug Mayer will be leading. Please stay tuned for more information on work trips and if at all possible, sign on and join in or better yet, come on as a trip leader. Dates and locations will be set later, once we've had a chance to patrol and see just what needs doing, and announcements will be on the web site www.randolphmountainclub.org and in the Randolph Weekly. Of course, you can always just e-mail Mike.

With concern about the budget, it's nice to bring a bit of good financial news. As part of the federal stimulus program, the RMC has been awarded a $14,000 matching grant to do trail work on the Northern Presidentials. At this time we expect that the money, passed through the USFS, will be used on the Howker Ridge trail. This incredibly beautiful trail has been sadly neglected over the years, and is now greatly in need of drainage control work. This grant will certainly assist us in fielding a crew for that vital project. Thank you, President Obama!

Also exciting is the new Mount Crescent Trailhead project [see article elsewhere in this Newsletter]. This badly needed addition to the Community Forest will protect access to the popular and enjoyable RMC trails in the Crescent Range and will improve parking and access to the Dernbach yurt, to be managed by the RMC for members and guests as a more accessible overnight location for families and others to enjoy the Randolph outdoors. Your contributions to the trailhead project are most welcome.

In closing, the RMC, like so many groups and organizations sees challenges in the coming year. The trails co-chairs, the Board and the crew will be working extra hard to complete our jobs to the best of our abilities. That said, it would be very nice if, when paying dues this year, each member could toss in a little extra to support RMC activities that are important to them. Here's to seeing you all out enjoying the RMC trail system in the coming season!

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Lost Hiker: Four Days in a Whiteout in the Northern Presidentials
By Sally Manikian

Sylvain Robillard, of Montreal, spent four days alone in the Great Gulf and above treeline in the Northern Presidentials, through a winter storm. Photo by Sally Manikian.When the solo hiker came into the Randolph Mountain Club’s (RMC) Gray Knob Cabin on the evening of Saturday, January 31, the entrance was unremarkable: he was just another latearriving visitor with a heavy pack and a frosted face mask. The other guests, settling down to dinner and tending to their gear, informed him that the cabin was full and he’d have to find space elsewhere.

Although slightly disoriented, his story soon came out: he had been out in the elements for the previous four days, three of which were spent in the alpine zone of Mt Adams. He’d been through a snowstorm that dropped over a foot of snow, and winds that had peaked at 114 MPH. He was quickly seated and fed hot soup and warm fluids, and Sylvain Robillard, of Montreal, told his story.

An avid adventurist and former member of the Canadian military, Mr. Robillard is a frequent seeker of challenges. His stories range from volcanoes in Mexico to swamps in Louisiana. However, he also comes prepared for adventure: for this winter hike, he relied on his military training but also avalanche awareness courses, map and compass use, and a thorough set of winter gear, with spare food and fuel, and well insulated clothing. He was prepared for multiple nights in winter wilderness.

The original plan was to head up Mt Jefferson, via the Caps Ridge trail, and follow the ridgeline to Mt Adams and then to the RMC’s Crag Camp, then heading down into the Great Gulf, only to climb out of it the next day via the Great Gulf trail. This route is highly untraditional, as the access road to the Caps Ridge trail is not maintained in winter. More importantly, and dangerously, the steep cliffs in and out of the Great Gulf become sheer slabs of snow, most of them avalanche- ready. For this reason, most hikers opt for a traditional route across the ridgeline of the Northern Peaks, avoiding the Great Gulf.

Mr. Robillard changed his plans, yet they remained untraditional. Starting from Pinkham Notch on Tuesday evening, he headed across the Auto Road and the Old Jackson Road trail into the snow-filled Great Gulf, where the unbroken Madison Gulf trail led him astray.

Wednesday had brought deep snows into the woods, with wind sculpting deeper drifts on Thursday and Friday. As the snow piles in, blazes disappear and the path of the trail can barely be distinguished from brooks and gullies. Moving slowly with a heavy pack, sinking in snow up to his waist, Mr. Robillard spent his first night along the base of the Madison Gulf trail, or at least what he thought was the Madison Gulf trail. The next day, he headed towards the summit of Mt. Adams.

High winds on Thursday kept Mr. Robillard on the edges of timberline. The summit of Mt Washington, at the Observatory, recorded a peak wind gust of 114 MPH.

On Friday, when the winds died down, Mr. Robillard attempted to break across the alpine zone over Mt Adams. “I know the north side of Adams well, and I knew that if I just got to the other side I’d be fine,” he said. He picked his way up the southern slope, out of the Great Gulf, dropping his pack to break trail, then returning for his pack.

Using this advance and retrieve method, he inched his way above treeline to find himself in a whiteout, with drifted snow blocking the path and ground blizzards cutting visibility. High winds make the use of a map and compass difficult to impossible in these conditions. The temperatures were in the single digits, and winds were in the 40-50 mph range. He spent his third night outside bivouacked on the side of Mt. Adams.

Friday was also the day that Mr. Robillard had originally planned to come out of the woods. When his wife did not hear from him, she sounded the alert with the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), who then passed the call onto the US Forest Service and N.H. Fish and Game, the two agencies responsible for rescues in the Presidential Range (the USFS is responsible for the Cutler River drainage, commonly understood as Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines, with NH Fish and Game covering the rest).

Due to the established experience of Mr. Robillard, emergency teams such as Androscoggin Valley Search and Rescue were contacted, and put on standby until Sunday morning. Weighing the variables of Wednesday’s snow and Thursday and Friday’s wind, and based on Mr. Robillard’s experience, emergency crews figured, correctly, that he was hunkered down in the storm and would make himself known once conditions improved. This was no lost day hiker, this was an experienced and well-prepared mountaineer.

On Saturday morning, the AMC notified the RMC, a volunteerbased mountain club that has a caretaker in the wintertime at Gray Knob. At 4,370 feet, Gray Knob is at the edge of timberline on the northern slopes of Mt. Adams, and was the closest facility to where Mr. Robillard was expected to be. Juliane Hudson, the caretaker, received a radio call to be on the lookout for a lost hiker.

While remaining in the clouds on Saturday, the winds lessened significantly (with Mt Washington recording a wind speed of 22 MPH at 5 a.m.), and Mr. Robillard was able to make his way across the alpine zone to Gray Knob, arriving shortly after dark. Ms. Hudson, out on her nightly check of the three other shelters the RMC owns, was relieved to return and find Mr. Robillard alive and well, and being cared for by the other guests.

“I was really happy,” she said. “Other people had turned away from traversing the ridge, it was a terrible time to be out.”

Mr. Robillard attributes his survival to his knowledge and experience. “I used all my survival skills,” he said, from his winter avalanche classes to his years spent in the Canadian military. Importantly, he also credits his two good luck charms: “Junior,” a 10-inch long knife, and “Peter Rabbit,” a blue stuffed bunny rabbit hanging on the side of his pack, his companion for the past six years.

Undaunted by his foray into winter wilderness, his next winter hiking trip will be in a few months. He tells this story with the voice of calm experience and cool calculation. What he was nervous about, when he was hiking down from Gray Knob, was dealing with his worried wife. But first he wanted to stop in Gorham for pizza.

Reprinted with permission from The Berlin Reporter.

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Jeff Smith, Volunteer
By Doug Mayer

Jeff Smith on the trail. Photo courtesy of J. Smith.How did you find out about the RMC?

During a day hike up Mt. Adams in 1995, we had stopped at Crag Camp for a rest. I was impressed with the cabin and its location, but didn’t know much about the RMC at the time. In 1998, I was looking for summer work and my uncle, Mike Pelchat, got me an interview with Bill Arnold to be Crag Camp’s caretaker. While waiting for that job to start, I was introduced to Doug Mayer, who was looking for people for his spring chainsaw crew (due to the ice storm earlier that year). It wasn’t until then that I discovered what the club was about and began to meet all of the great people who volunteered for it.

Tell us about your time as Crag Camp caretaker. What stands out during that time?

Caretaking is definitely one of the best jobs that I’ve ever had. I remember wondering if I could adapt to “mountain life” since up to that point I was very used to “city life.” It turns out that I could easily switch between the two. I went from spending an 11-day shift at Crag Camp with no electricity, no hot showers, no refrigeration, and hiking miles every day to spending my 3 days off playing video games, eating fast food, and watching television.

I worked with Andy Woods both summers up there and we definitely accomplished a lot. We took a lot of pride in our work and continued to come up with ways to improve the camps along with completing the daily maintenance and chores. We could schedule our projects to allow for plenty of time to explore the area as well. During one day trip I climbed Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, and Monroe and still made it back to The Perch in time for nightly rounds.

What was your best moment caretaking?

I have many great moments from caretaking... from watching incredible sunrises from the Crag, to hiking over to Madison Hut for dinner, then hiking back using only the moon to light the way. However, I think my favorite moment was creating the first Cragstock trail crew and caretaker party with Andy. There were several old log books at Gray Knob and we discovered that a previous caretaker had hiked up a couple of lobsters for a special meal. We wanted to do the same, but decided to hike up 30 lobsters and make it an event! We had live music courtesy of Andy’s band, Wooden Toe, and everyone had a great time.

Your worst?

In 1998, Gray Knob had two toilets. There was a regular pit toilet for winter use, and a summer toilet that collected waste in a bin designed to be flown out and emptied by helicopter. Well, the bin was full and there wasn’t any money in the budget for a helicopter run, so Andy and I, along with and our Field Supervisor, Jack Bell, had to empty it by hand. I will never forget the moment of standing precariously on the edge of human waste while filling buckets and lowering them down by rope one at a time... Today’s caretakers have it easy!

Jeff Smith and his daughter. Photo courtesy of J. Smith.What draws you to volunteer for the RMC?

I like how the club doesn’t go out and try to be the biggest and boldest mountain club. It just quietly keeps to its mission and embraces tradition. I’ve also always been impressed with the generosity and passion of the club’s members when a fundraising challenge comes along; whether it is to provide housing for the trail crew or to recover from a devastating ice storm.

What do you enjoy most about being the RMC’s webmaster?

I enjoy the creative freedom that I have with the site. My web design knowledge is limited, but I’ve learned a lot over the past 10 years, and continue to take pride with how the site is visually presented while keeping the information current and useful to visitors.

About 100 people visit the site every day, with each person viewing an average of 3-4 pages within the site. Over the past year, the RMC web site has had visitors from 130 countries!

I enjoy conducting the trail sign auctions and reading the caretaker journals as they come in. I also like the page that features a selection of logbook entries from the old Gray Knob cabin. If I can remember the story correctly, I believe a winter climbing accident had left Doug Mayer house-bound with a broken leg for several weeks. He spent the time going through dozens of log books from between 1906 and 1989 and selected the best entries. When the RMC web site was created, I was pleased to find out that Doug still had the digital copy of his work, so it could be added to the site.

If there was one thing that you wish all RMC members knew about the club, about which they might not be aware, what would it be?

I don’t think many members know that the RMC facilities are self-funded from overnight fees. If camp use goes down, then the ability to pay the caretakers and fund projects goes down as well. So, if you want to support the caretakers and the camps, the easiest way is to just hike up to your favorite RMC shelter and spend the night.

Thanks for all you’re doing for the RMC! Any parting thoughts?

I hope to contribute to the club for many years to come! I can’t wait until my daughter is able to hike up to Crag Camp. If she ends up wanting to be a caretaker, I’ll have to get Bill to set up another interview…

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A Poem ...

Summer begins by patrolling for blowdowns,
Axe or saw, these trees we chop
So hikers can hop rock to rock without stop.

Shortly thereafter drainages must be clear.
Leaves and mud pushed to the side
So water may pass the trail with easy glide.

Digging for rocks, the hillsides fill with holes
To construct staircase and bar
On Ledge Trail and Israel Ridge, near or far.

Heavy loads drench our clothes and break our backs
Packboarding firewood and hiking up tools,
Randolphians ought know, we are the new mules.

c.p. Trail crew, summer 2008

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