RMC Newsletter - Winter 2002-2003

Table of Contents

President's Letter
By Mike Pelchat

"Beginning with this issue, the RMC newsletter will be published twice a year. Through it, we hope to inform the entire membership about all that is happening within the organization..."

Reports from Committees
By Ben Phinney, Jeff Smith and Doug Mayer

Report from the RMC Long Range Planning Committee, Camps Report, Web Site News, and Trails Report.

Building the New Four Soldiers Path and Underhill Path
By Aaron Parcak

"With food in our bellies and packs strapped on we walk down the puddle filled logging road towards the work site. We arrive at the blue tarp, unwrapping the large burrito to reveal an array of trail building tools..."

Mt. Washington--Revisited
By John Dykstra Eusden

"My brother David and I began to discuss a way of rediscovering the mountain. We decided to spend a long day on Washington, beginning before dawn and ending after nightfall, ascending and descending, going up and down and across the mountain using different routes."

Four Soldiers Path and Underhill Path: Naming RMC's New Trails
By John Eusden, Jack Stewart and Doug Mayer

At its October meeting, the Board voted to name the new trails Four Soldiers Path, in honor of the four Revolutionary soldiers for whom the Pond of Safety is named, and Underhill Path, in honor of Miriam Underhill.

Crag, the Cozy Camp
By Norma Hart

"Crag Camp is a retreat in the Northern Peaks of the Presidentials. It is as comfortable in winter as in summer and twice as charming. To judge from the blank appearance of the register in winter, this is not well known or exploited."

Designing RMC's New Paths
By Carl Demrow

"Trails today are designed, first, with the resource itself in mind. Minimizing grade, strictly avoiding the “fall line” (the path a ball would take if you were to roll it down a hill) and staying out of wet areas are paramount."

A Letter to the RMC
By Melina Shannon-DiPietro

"I am writing to ask your help. As you know, only three of the five peaks of Adams have been named. I would like to propose that one of the unnamed peaks, Adams 4, be named in honor of Abigail Adams."

Mountain Peace
A poem by Dana Snyder-Grant

President's Letter
By Mike Pelchat

The RMC Moves Forward

Your club is moving ahead with many projects. The most obvious project is in your hands right now-- a dramatically improved newsletter.

This newsletter is a direct result of feedback to our recently established  Long Range Planning Committee, headed by Ben Phinney. The committee found that many club members were unaware of the growing challenges faced by the RMC today. (Further details can be found in Ben Phinney's article, in this issue of the newsletter.) An expanded newsletter is, therefore, our first step at improving communications between the board and the membership. Beginning with this issue, the RMC newsletter will be published twice a year. Through it, we hope to inform the entire membership about all that is happening within the organization.  By also including the writings of fellow members, we hope that the RMC newsletter will further the mission statement of the club to, "promote enjoyment of the Randolph area through hiking, trail development, upkeep of camps and shelters, and sharing in the collective knowledge of its members." We invite all members to contribute articles or letters to the editor so that we can share points of view about our club - it is a club for all of us, after all.

Kat DeAngelus, Nick Enke and Curtis Moore helped construct new tent platforms at The Perch this past summer.Perhaps the most interesting news for the club this past year involves the possibility of acquiring the Bowman Base Camp building at the bottom of Lowe's Path. At the August annual meeting, I read a letter from Bowman owner David McMurtrie, who was offering the building and surrounding land for sale. The Bowman property presents an opportunity for the club to provide permanent housing for our summer trail crews and caretakers, secure storage for our priceless archives, housing for retail items, and ample meeting space for activities-all literally right at the foot of one of the club's most important trails. A committee comprised of Neal Brodien, John Eusden, Doug Mayer, John Scarinza and Edith Tucker was established. The committee worked diligently throughout the fall. At this point, however, it looks as if the building, as offered, is simply too dilapidated and would require too great an investment to bring up to snuff and then to operate. Of course, we will keep you posted with an update in our next newsletter.

What has occurred, however, is the realization that RMC has genuine need for permanent space in the valley. As Edie Tucker said at the annual meeting, the RMC should seriously consider the Bowman offer, as she and Dan could not guarantee continued use of the Jones Cottage and the sites for the tent platforms and the tool shed into the indefinite future. The investment the club has already made in the tents and their platforms and in the tool shed would not be lost, as these could easily be moved to a new site. The benefits to the Trails and Camps of a centralized location for their work crews and tools has already been demonstrated over the past few summers. Morale is up and output is improved through efficiency.

A final note. At our last board meeting, Treasurer Michele Cormier reviewed our expenses and income. We've included that information, elsewhere in this issue. One noteworthy fact: fully 96% of every dollar RMC receives goes right to work on the mountains we love. Only 4% goes towards administration! What other non-profit can make that claim? And it's all because of the behind the scenes, hard work of many volunteers. You can help, by volunteering for a trail or camps project, leading or participating in a club hike or social event, or just sending along your constructive ideas. It all helps.  Whatever shape your support takes, you can rest assured that it bolsters the morale and enthusiasm of all the Club's members and our especially our hard working core volunteers.

Happy hiking,

Mike Pelchat, President

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Designing RMC’s New Paths
By Carl Demrow

It’s safe to say that new trails hardly ever get built in the White Mountains these days. With the general consensus that the region has been “built out” in regard to trails, proposals for new trails generally fail unless they come from within a community that has the vision, clout, and follow through to make the project happen.

Such is the case with the two new trails in Randolph, Four Soldiers Path and Underhill Path. The extraordinary group of people that made the community forest happen also made the two new trails happen. I just happened to be the lucky guy they asked to design the two trails!

One hundred years ago, trails were laid out with string, and unless you were J. Rayner Edmands, you laid out your trail by taking the straightest possible line from point A to point B, with little regard for potential long term erosion or maintenance needs. I’m sure that many of the early trail designers would be surprised to hear of the use their trails get today. Trails were usually designed for the designer and his or her friends, not for projected use 100 years into the future!

Trails today are designed, first, with the resource itself in mind. Minimizing grade, strictly avoiding the “fall line” (the path a ball would take if you were to roll it down a hill) and staying out of wet areas are paramount. These three guidelines, when followed, result in dramatically reduced erosion damage to the treadway, and thus reduced maintenance costs in the future. But the most important point here is the environment. We know now that the soil from eroded trails ends up in streams or wetlands, where it has detrimental effects on fish, amphibians, and other wetland and aquatic species. We also know that we have to do our best to project many years into the future when we build new trails, and imagine at least the possibility of many more people hiking on them, and then design for such an impact.

The above concerns are the primary considerations in trail layout, but these days there are also many other factors, most notably any requirements of the relevant land managers—in the case of the new RMC paths, the Community Forest Commission and the US Forest Service. Other considerations include avoiding sensitive cultural resources, rare, threatened or endangered plants and maximizing the scenic and aesthetic values. In the case of RMC, the new paths were laid out to avoid impacting several culturally significant sites near the Pond of Safety. We also worked to minimize the amount of new trail in higher elevation forests. We were able to maximize the aesthetic values, by bringing the routes past a number of fine viewpoints.

With all of these concerns in mind, the entire process of laying out the route for the new RMC paths took over two years, from start to finish. The first step was to gather all available information, including infrared maps from the county forester, USGS, AMC and RMC maps and aerial photos, interviews with forest ecologists and forest managers familiar with the area, and Brad Meiklejohn’s 1994 Natural Features Inventory for Randolph. Together, these resources guided us away from steep slopes, heavily ice storm damaged woods and out of especially wet areas. Then—still before setting foot on the ground-- the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Program was asked if there were any natural communities or rare and endangered plants in the area that might be impacted by the trail. It was noted that higher elevation spruce-fir forests, while relatively abundant in this part of New Hampshire, were considered somewhat sensitive because of their global scarcity.

Locations that did not conflict with existing uses had to be chosen. In the case of the Four Soldiers Path, we tried to locate the trail at least several hundred yards away from snow machine routes. All crossings were made at right angles and with good sight lines, to make the route clear and as safe as possible.

Finally, in the summer of 2001, field work began. In total, RMC volunteers and I made 12 bushwhacks over proposed routes. Our major priority was to minimize possible erosion. The route had to avoid steep pitches or, where they existed, had to have room for relatively gentle switchbacks, several of which we incorporated into what became the Underhill Path. This fit nicely with a goal of RMC’s, to make the trails reasonably suitable for winter snowshoeing and backcountry skiing.

Once the routes were established, in the fall of 2001, they were flagged along their entire lengths. The next and final step was to mark the “center line” of the actual trail treadway, using wire wands. Once this field work was completed and the route was exactly marked, the route could be reviewed with the managers of the land.

Both the Community Forest and the US Forest Service had their own particular requirements; in the case of the Forest Service, the portions on National Forest had to be reviewed for their impact on sensitive plant and animal species, water resources, and cultural resources. Finally, a “scoping letter” was mailed to the public in May. With no negative comments in hand, and a number of supporting letters, George Pozzuto, the District Ranger for the Androscoggin District, approved the proposal in early September, just in time for RMC’s crews to start work!

If you hike the new trails, you may notice some changes from typical White Mountain trails. For instance, The Four Soldiers Trail has only one very steep section on it, just before it reaches the Crescent Ridge Trail. From there to the Pond, the trail generally follows the contour with very gentle grades. On the Underhill Trail, you’ll also find gentle grades that are aided by a number of switchbacks on the north side of the ridge. Our intent was to create trails that not only were easy on the land, but also easy on maintenance budgets and by way of their more gentle grades, useable by a wider segment of the population.

We are particularly interested in your feedback on these trails. We enjoyed designing them for you, and hope you will enjoy them!

Carl Demrow is a trail consultant based in West Topsham, Vermont. He is also a consultant for The Conservation Fund, New England Vice-Chair for the Appalachian Trail Conference, and a former Trails Director for the Appalachian Mountain Club.

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Building the New Four Soldiers Path and Underhill Path
By Aaron Parcak

6:30 am, Laura's alarm clock sounds, she begins to put on all of her warm layers. I follow in suit and Dan rises soon after. Matt rolls over and goes back to sleep. We make our way down to the stove for food and some hot drinks. Brisk morning air shocks our still warm and sleepy bodies. Going down to the Pond of Safety a family of moose just off the peninsula acknowledges me while gathering some water along the pond shore. All four of us gladly wrap our hands around a warm mug of tea.

With food in our bellies and packs strapped on we walk down the puddle filled logging road towards the work site. We arrive at the blue tarp, unwrapping the large burrito to reveal an array of trail building tools; chain saw, brush saw, clippers, metal fire rakes. Dan asks, " Does anyone mind if I start with the cutting today? ", which the rest of the crew is fine with. He fires up the saw, taking down any tree that stands in the line of pink flagging tape. Laura gases up the brush cutter in preparation to fight the miles of hobble in front of her. Matt and I will rake and clip for the morning, ugh!

Cutting with the power tools not only makes time pass by well, but also moves along the trail rather quickly. When that task is finished there remains only raking and clipping. This is not a difficult task, however it becomes extremely monotonous and taxing. Eight hours a day are spent either stooped over clipping the six-inch remnants of hobblebush or raking duff out off the treadway. This is our job, our every day life.

What a satisfying way to spend one's time. No matter the hardships any person on trail crew endures; exhaustion, pain, injuries, mosquitoes and black flies all day long, heat, cold, you name it, this still remains an excellent job. To wake up in full view of the Northern Presidentials and spend the morning hiking up such a beautiful trail-- my gosh, what a wonderful job.

This fall we have had the chance to experience blissful solitude in remote wilderness far from habitation, let alone any other busy hiking trails. It has been a bonding experience like no other. Complete saturation with one another practically all the time has been surprisingly easy with few conflicts.

Once again it will be difficult to leave beautiful Randolph. But next summer is right around the corner.

Aaron Parcak has been on RMC’s trail crew since 1999. In the spring of 2000 and fall of 2001, he was a fall caretaker at Gray Knob. This fall, he led the four-person crew that constructed the new Four Soldiers Path and Underhill Path.

RMC Fall 2002 Trail Crew, at Knight's Castle. Left to right: Laura Conchelos, Matt Cittadini, Dan Rubchinuk and Crew Leader Aaron Parcak. Photo by Brian Post.

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Reports from Committees...

Report of the RMC Long Range Planning Committee
By Ben Phinney

Over the course of the summer of 2002, the Long Range Planning Committee interviewed 24 families of RMC members and a representative of the Northern New England Charitable Foundation. The committee consisted of Mary Brown, Doug Mayer, John Eusden and Ben Phinney. The original charter of the committee – to do a feasibility study to raise funds for an endowment – was changed in mid-summer to a more general approach – to ask for advice on a number of issues and to conduct outreach.

The committee made the change for several reasons including new information that Bowman Base Camp might be available for acquisition and awareness that some families being interviewed were not current on RMC issues. Therefore focusing on one issue was inappropriate. Key qualifications for choosing respondents included long-time interest or involvement in the club and/or perceived financial ability. Just under half of the families consider Randolph their main residence while the rest are summer residents.

That said, endowment was discussed with all the families and Bowman Base Camp was discussed with 11 families. Of the 24 families surveyed, 14 were in favor of an endowment, 4 were against, and 6 were undecided. Of the 11 families surveyed concerning Bowman Base Camp, 7 were very much in favor, 2 were against and 2 were undecided.

We sensed strong support for the RMC, confidence in the board, and relief that the club is sticking to its core mission (trails, camps, and Randolph community). Our visits have increased understanding of outside pressures with which the club has to deal, but we have more education/cultivation to do before asking for substantial support. Many respondents expressed very strong appreciation for the volunteer spirit of the RMC and the important role that the club plays in building a sense of community in the town. Some families fear that too much growth might adversely change the essence of the club. Overall, we had the sense that the RMC really matters to most of those interviewed and that, if presented with a convincing case, they will offer financial support for an endowment and/or acquisition of Bowman Base Camp.

1. The RMC should engage in organized comprehensive fundraising AFTER the board has sorted out priorities with respect to Bowman Base Camp and an endowment. Although the difficult economy, possibility of competing causes for philanthropy in the community and political uncertainties are obstacles, they should not derail a well-conceived case for financial support for the RMC.

2. If the club decides to raise funds for endowment, there should be clearly defined guidelines for both investment and use of the funds. Non- invasion of principal should be sacrosanct. Further exploration of cooperation with The Northern New Hampshire Charitable Foundation should be pursued. Building an endowment should rely heavily on estate planning/planned giving as well as current giving.

3. If the club decides to acquire the Bowman Base Camp, a number of questions will need to be answered before formal fundraising should begin, although lining up informal pledges from a few large donors early on would be desirable. A plan to proceed should address the cost of acquisition, cost of remodeling, and cost of operating the property. We will need to articulate a vision for the property which is grounded in the core mission of the club, show benefits to the club, explain the operating plan, and note sources of sufficient additional operating cash flow. Raising funds to endow the property should also be considered, along with convincing donors that the board has both the vision and the skills to manage the property matters.

4. The club needs to reach out and more effectively educate the membership. The website was praised but is less effective with many long-time members. Better coverage of the issues in articles and membership letters could help. More important than the media, however, is building personal relationships among members who may not know each other well. We sense that the folks who were interviewed really appreciated the outreach and recommend that the process continues in some form. Educating and involving potential major donors will be key.

Camps Report
By Jeff Smith

Camps Co-Chair Bill Arnold, RMC President Mike Pelchat and Camps Co-Chair Jeff Smith welcomed RMC winter caretaker Will Kemeza at a Randolph potluck this past November.Another great year has gone by up at the RMC Camps! Currently, Will Kemeza is braving the winter as Gray Knob’s caretaker – and is doing a terrific job. Will has joined us with a great deal of winter caretaking experience, ranging from the AMC’s Carter Notch Hut to the GMC’s Taft Lodge.

This past year, The Perch received three new tent platforms. The planning and construction of the platforms was all done by volunteers! Special thanks go out to Bill and Barbara Arnold, Ray Cotnoir, Kat DeAnglus, Randy Noring, Jon Martinson, Curtis Moore, Dennis Pednault, Mike Pelchat and Dan Tucker.

Also, in July, Crag Camp and Gray Knob received 25 new mattresses. For 2003, we are hoping to convert the currently pit toilet at the Log Cabin into a batch composting system.

I would like to thank the caretakers of 2002 for doing such an incredible job maintaining the Club’s camps throughout the year. This would include Cindy Drake, Erik Eisele, Eric Scharnberg, Nick Enke, Roz Stever, and Andy Woods. While calling Gray Knob and Crag Camp their home, they fulfilled their caretaking responsibilities beyond expectations and represented the Club extremely well.

Web Site
By Jeff Smith

Site use continues to grow – with over 13,400 hits this past year! Our “Weather Conditions at Gray Knob”, with weekly updates from November 1st to June 1st, is still the most popular page within the site. Our photo gallery of 175 photos has recently been archived for easier web browsing. A “Frequently Asked Questions” section has also been recently added. A new Trail Sign Auction will begin on March 1, 2003, this time hosted by eBay – be sure to check it out! If you have any suggestions or ideas for the site, please feel free to e-mail me.

Trails Report
By Doug Mayer

The 2002 RMC trails efforts were notable for their duration and the wide array of projects tackled by volunteers and paid crews.

The trail work season kicked off with National Trails Day, on June 1st and concluded with the last day of work for our fall crew, amid the first snows of the year, on November 1. Two remarkable trail crews worked consistently and smoothly all summer, first patrolling all of RMC's paths for blowdowns, cleaning drainages, then moving on to a variety of skilled projects, including work on Lowes Path, Kelton Trail, Ice Gulch Path, a new relocation of Carlton Notch Trail, recairning of sections of trails above treeline, replacement of a major ladder on the Israel Ridge Path -- not to mention the requisite miles of brushing.

In the last days of August, when the season normally wraps up, a four member paid crew got back to work. Consisting of Matt Cittadini, Laura Conchelos, Aaron Parcak and Dan Rubchinuk from our summer crew, the foursome spent all of September and October building two new Pond of Safety trails. (See related articles in this issue.) Our fall crew was funded by a generous grant from the Fields Pond Foundation and a special grant from the Randolph Foundation. All told, $9,600 was spent to construct the new trails. The two new Paths are now fully cut, brushed, raked and blazed. The crew even managed to find time to complete some "sidehilling" on the steeper sections, and install 24 cedar and tamarack bog bridges. Next June, the RMC trail crews will tidy up some loose ends, and add trail signs. A formal dedication is expected in early summer.

Trail work, at work: A formerly muddy and boot-scarred area on Pasture Path has grown moss, thanks to cedar and tamarack bog bridges placed by the trail crew in 1998 and now used by all manner of trampers.Looking ahead to 2003, RMC's Senior Crew will be focusing on a contract with the US Forest Service on Kelton Trail, while our first year SCA crew will be finishing up a two year State of New Hampshire, Recreational Trails Program grant on the Cook Path and Ice Gulch Path. Portions of Watson Path and Castle Ravine Trail will have their cairns rebuilt, and more bog bridges will be added to the Owl's Head trail.

Annual donations above and beyond dues continued to play a critical role in RMC's abilities to accomplish all of its trails goals. Along with regular dues, grants and a contract from the US Forest Service's parking pass program, the club was finally able to add a fifth senior crew member, a long sought goal.

This year, RMC will once again be looking for three members for its first year trail crew. If you know someone who is interested, have him or her visit the "Mountain Jobs" section of the RMC web site. Crew members must be at least 18 years of age. Anyone between the ages of 16 and 18 is welcome to volunteer with the RMC trail crew for a few days, to see what trail crew life is like.

Volunteers played an increasingly important role in the RMC's trails efforts this past year. Thanks to everyone who turned out to help brush trails, and to John Eusden, Mary Krueger, Jon Martinson, Sally Micucci and Eric Scharnberg for leading work trips. Dennis Pednault deserves special thanks for his many hours of work, getting bog bridge materials delivered to near the Ice Gulch Path. Jon Hall is single handedly rebuilding the RMC map in time for republication in 2003. Larry Jenkins is our pack frame specialist, and is building two new frames for RMC and repairing four others. John DeLeo and Lyndon State College have prepared new GPS data on the Owl's Head relocation, and Larry Garland and AMC provided GPS data for the new Pond of Safety paths and Carlton Notch relocation. This past fall, volunteers cleaned all of RMC's waterbars and ditches, so that the fall crew could concentrate on building the new Pond of Safety paths. Thanks go to Brian Donoghue, Mary Krueger, Doug Mayer, Jay Meyer, Dave Salisbury, Jim Snyder-Grant and Matt Schomburg. If you would like to be added to the e-mail list of trails volunteers, to be kept informed of upcoming projects, please e-mail Trails Chair Doug Mayer through the RMC web site.

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Mountain Peace
By Dana Snyder-Grant

early wednesday morning
awake and unsure where I am
start to step out of bed
discover it is
just a mattress
remember now
4200 feet up to Mt. Adams
Crag Camp
a cabin
at the edge of
King's Ravine
the edge of beauty

see watch on floor
six a.m.

pull on shirt and pants
find shoes
step outside onto porch
silky air
sky surrounds
muted light and color
blueish-gray, yellow-white

mountains against
the distant skyline
rocks above me
brown, grey, green
precious in their simplicity
their constancy
perfectly formed
I want to put out my hand
and grab a mountain peak
be still in this

walk over slowly
to slab lookout
gaze down into the green abyss
of King's Ravine
jagged rock peers out
from its depths
sharp contrast
demands respect
inhale and breathe deeply

two hawks glide into ravine
suspended in air
they own

I look for Randolph homes
but they have disappeared
in the valley below
lakes emerge
low-lying fog
creates this
water mirage
but still
the world sleeps
but not me

mountain peace

Dana Snyder-Grant is a social worker and a freelance writer. She lives in Acton, Massachusetts with her husband, Jim Snyder-Grant, a caretaker at Gray Knob in 1977 and Crag Camp in 1978. She has been a regular visitor to Randolph since marrying Jim in 1990.

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Mt. Washington--Revisited
Remembering a long day on Mt. Washington, searching for its specialness in the midst of all that has happened to it.
By John Dykstra Eusden

Zen is always concerned with particulars, based on a belief that individual things have their own specialness and that this specialness is to be honored. We know and appreciate a mountain when massiveness, angularity, changing hues are before our eyes. A mountain has its “suchness”—the wonder is that it is. This particularity is often called Buddhahood—something so unique and recognizable and so enjoyed.

In Randolph we live in the valley, looking up at Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams. We do not see Mt. Washington and, in many ways, are glad that we do not—with its crowds, its cog railway, its busy summit. (I make a reluctant peace, however, with the auto road for skiing and for the Mt. Washington bicycle hill climb race.)

Staying away from and disappointed with Mt. Washington, I often wondered how well I really knew Mt. Washington. Had I made over the years a judgment too quickly? A Zen saying haunted me: “At first I thought I knew what mountain was and what a river was. Then I felt I did not know what a mountain was and a river was. Now I know what a mountain is and what a river is.” I was in stage two: I did not know what Mt. Washington was. What, in my rejection, did I know about its specific Buddhahood? It seemed to have lost its spirit and soul, through no fault of its own. But what did I really know about its spirit and soul? What could I do to understand Mt. Washington in a new way?

My brother David and I began to discuss a way of rediscovering the mountain. We decided to spend a long day on Washington, beginning before dawn and ending after nightfall, ascending and descending, going up and down and across the mountain using different routes. Our hope was that we could come to know the mountain sono mama “just as it is,” leaving behind our judgments and opinions. Perhaps we would be able to climb Mt. Washington several times, although, in Zen spirit, we had no goal. We would just be there for a long mountain day—continually moving while observing, discussing, discovering, doing kensho, “seeing into the nature of things,” eating and drinking while walking, stopping to look for a few minutes.

Mt. Washington from Tin Mountain. Photo courtesy of the Mt. Washington Observatory.As it turned out we climbed the mountain three times. (Could I do that now, even with my Himalayan walking sticks, well ...) We began on a mid-August day just before 5:00 A. M. under a setting full moon, and we finished around 8:00 P. M. in the wind and the rain. As we started in the cold under the moon, occasionally using flashlights in the woods, we might have been the only people moving on the mountain. It seemed to be our mountain as we climbed in the early morning through Tuckerman’s and came to the top, watching the valleys fill with light. But, as we began our first descent, the glories of a sun-filled August way called people to the mountain by the hundreds—on the trails, the cog railway, the auto road. Suddenly we were two among many. At the end of the day, however, in the dusk, we again felt very alone on the mountain.

David and I had gone back and forth between a “people phase” and a “no-people phase” of the mountain. In the dim light of the dawn, the mountain seemed alone, awe-inspiring, and very much itself. But we were surprised that these qualities continued even in midday. The people who came to Washington were, in fact, on it for a very short part of the day. The mountain seemed to welcome those who were there for those brief few hours, and then seemed to return happily to its lonely self for the long hours of dusk and night. We came to have an appreciation for both phases—when the mountain was with people and the greater time when it belonged to itself. Something of its goodness, spirit, and character were there all the time. We became aware of the mountain’s massiveness and variety. As we went up and down and across during the day, we appreciated anew the extent of the ridges connecting adjoining mountains and the broadness of the high plateau land. The ruggedness of Mount Washington came through to us in a new way. We discussed a sign we saw: “Respect the mountain; some day she will demand it.” We understood that warning as we descended the Ammonoosuc Ravine in the sunlight without shirts, but on a later descent elsewhere we put on all the clothing in our packs as wind and rain caught us. We found that on this day we were on both a midsummer mountain and an autumn mountain. We commented on how different the same ravine, trail, and rock field looked now in sunshine and now in clouds and rain. Lastly, as we gave ourselves to the mountain that day, we discovered new things about familiar places: large clumps of Labrador tea in a boulder field above tree line; smooth, straight places on a well-known trail; a miniature spruce flattened against the lee side of a big rock at a resting place. On the way down, we noted the open beauty of a particular alpine plant at midday; later, on the way up for the last time, we saw it closing as it made ready for a night of growling wind and driving rain. A pair of white butterflies flitted about the summit at 1:00 P. M., but later at the top the temperature had dropped and the butterflies were gone.

The meaning of the mountain came through in those fifteen plus hours. The specialness of Mt. Washington was beginning to be understood by simply observing it, being on it, and letting it declare its own Buddhahood. There were other things connected with Zen on that day. In order to understand the tathata, “suchness,” and particularity of the mountain while moving on it continuously through its day, we drained ourselves physically, emotionally, and mentally. The wisdom of taking something “as it is” only came through an emptying of ourselves as the day wore on. When the afternoon became early evening and we wondered if our legs and lungs would carry us farther, we ceased to think of our ourselves and concentrated on the mountain. Early in the day we gave up discussing objectives or trying to think about them; we didn’t now whether we would be able to climb the mountain three times or not. The meaning of the experience was not to concentrate on a goal or an end, but to grasp the significance of what was unfolding at each hour and minute as the mountain went through its day. Only when we thought about one moment simply following another were we able to enter into the mountain’s Buddhahood. In this spirit, we continued and made the day not a contest with the mountain but a time of its self-revelation to us.

Mt. Washington was going through its daily hours from dawn to nightfall and displayed its summer and autumn phases to us. Slowly and majestically, without going anywhere, the mountain went through time on that August day. Slowly and unmajestically, we kept moving on and through its space, up and down, over and around.. Our spatial movement matched the chronological movement of the mountain. One of the abiding memories of the experience is that “mountain-time” and “we-space” went on together and each was a part of the other. We came to affirm that “A mountain is a mountain” and that Mt. Washington did have its own uniqueness and its special Buddhahood.

David and I became aware of the mountain’s aloneness and its character. But we also saw the erosion on trails from hundreds of hikers, litter at summit, black smoke from the cog railway on the ridge. We saw what people were doing to the mountain. We talked about how to preserve the beauty of this great mountain—to let its uniqueness shine through. The Buddhahood of all things means that no one form of existence may heedlessly and destructively impose its desires and habits on another. We are a part of nature, not above it, not dominating it. Human beings have their own uniqueness, but they are to live in the midst of other forms of vividness. The Buddhahood of all things calls us to search for ways which will allow things to be as they are supposed to be. The “suchness” of rivers, mountains, trees, plains should inspire us to look for, cherish, and nurture the life force and spirit of these natural things. Our “great work” is to make the connection between them and our lives, as Thomas Berry has written in the Dream of the Earth. What can we do for Mt. Washington—no immediate answers, but a commitment to not let the question vanish.

The wife of Kobori-roshi, master of Ryoko-in, a subtemple of Daitoku-ji in Kyoto, was once seen pouring ichi ban no sake, “choice rice wine,” on the roots of a pine tree in the garden. Asked why she was doing this at the foot of the tree, she smiled and said, “To keep it happy.”

John Eusden is a religion and environmental studies professor and a Congregational minister who has spent, with his family, many teaching/research times in Japan where he is member of two Zen Mahayana Buddhist temples in Kyoto. Much of this account comes from his book, Zen and Christian: The Journey Between.

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A Letter to the RMC...

Dear Mike Pelchat,

I had the distinct pleasure of hiking Mt. Adams this October. It is one of the most beautiful peaks in the White Mountains, and I appreciate all the effort you, your board and staff put into maintaining trails and shelters in the area.

I am writing to ask your help. As you know, only three of the five peaks of Adams have been named. I would like to propose that one of the unnamed peaks, Adams 4, be named in honor of Abigail Adams. Abigail, wife of John Adams, was First Lady from 1796-1800. She was fiercely loyal to the new nation, and as First Lady carved an important role for herself. Abigail was John's chief political strategist. She predicted the state-by-state election outcomes that brought John to the White House and acted as his primary advisor during the next four years. Adams called her his "fellow laborer." Abigail was also one of the first advocates for women's education and women's rights; she reminded her husband to "remember the ladies" when he went off to the nation's first Congress.

Renaming Adams 4 in Abigail's honor would be an appropriate way to recognize this woman's service and influence in early America. And, I think Mount John would appreciate having her so close by.

I wonder if you and the rest of Randolph Mountain Club might be interested in supporting this effort. Please let me know if you might be able to help by writing a letter or signing a petition in support.

I appreciate your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Melina Shannon-DiPietro

The Chewonki Foundation
485 Chewonki Neck Road
Wiscasset, ME 04578

Editor’s note: Melina suggested that interested RMC members contact her at the address above, or at mdipietro@chewonki.org.

RMC senior crew member Matt Cittadini building a new ladder on the Israel Ridge Path, fall 2002.

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Four Soldiers Path and Underhill Path: Naming RMC's New Trails
By John Eusden, Jack Stewart and Doug Mayer

Over the past year, the RMC has received nearly two dozen nominations for possible trail names, for the two new routes to the Pond of Safety. The Board of Directors would like to thank everyone who contributed. There were many wonderful and deserving recommendations but, of course, only two could be selected!

At its October meeting, the Board voted to name the new trails Four Soldiers Path, in honor of the four Revolutionary soldiers for whom the Pond of Safety is named, and Underhill Path, in honor of Miriam Underhill. Bill and Barbara Arnold nominated “Four Soldiers.” Tami Hartley and Regina Ferreria nominated “Underhill Path”. (Dan Brodien nominated a similar suggestion, “Miriam’s Way”).

Miriam Underhill on Ago di Sciora from Give Me the Hills. Photo by Adolph Rubi.The tale of the four soldiers is recounted in a number of North Country histories. George N. Cross’ fine history of Randolph, Randolph Old and New, published in 1924, has one of the best accounts of the story. In it, Cross writes,

On the mossy shore of this little tarn through the last years of the American Revolution lived, unknown and undiscovered, four soldiers of the Continental Army, Benjamin Hicks, James Ryder, William Danforth and Lazarus Holmes. The cause of their long retreat from the world was as curious as it was honorable to the four patriots. Early in the war they were captured by the British but quickly paroled and sent back to their regiment. Their superiors believing their parole papers to be fraudulent, ordered them back into the ranks. The four men refused to take up arms again in violation of their word of honor to the British. Learning that they were about to be arrested as deserters, they fled to the wilderness in the north to find in unknown Durand among the mountains, a little pond that for more than three years was to be their safety. Here, undiscovered and perhaps forgotten, these involuntary hermits lived as best they could on what rod and gun provided. At the close of the war they emerged from their hiding to join the early settlement in Dartmouth, now Jefferson, of which they became valued and respected citizens.

To this day, descendents of the four soldiers still call Jefferson their home.

The steeper and more rugged Underhill Path honors one of the great climbers of the last century, Miriam Underhill. Together with her husband Robert, she pioneered previously unclimbed routes in the Alps and elsewhere, while Miriam organized the first "manless" (all-female) climbing parties on major expeditions.

By the late 1930's when World War II precluded overseas travel, the Underhills turned to the White Mountains. They became summer visitors to Randolph and later permanent residents. They were early members of the Appalachian Mountain Club's 4,000-footer club, and Miriam was the first person to climb all 48 of these peaks in winter. Later, she completed all of New England's 4,000-footers, as well as the region's 100 highest. She became an active member and officer of the Randolph Mountain Club. With her husband, she laid out and cut the western section of the Link between the Castle and Caps Ridge Trails on Mt. Jefferson. She also was an author, writing articles for the A.M.C.'s journal, Appalachia, and working with her son, Robert, Jr. on the A.M.C.'s Mountain Flowers of New England. Her autobiography, Give Me the Hills is a mountaineering classic. Many older members of the RMC remember climbing locally with Miriam in her later years, always with her ice axe. She died in 1976 at age 77.

In keeping with RMC tradition, the Board of Directors voted to use the nomenclature of “path” rather than “trail.”

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First printed in Appalachia, December 1952.

Crag, the Cozy Camp
By Norma Hart

Crag Camp is a retreat in the Northern Peaks of the Presidentials. It is as comfortable in winter as in summer and twice as charming. To judge from the blank appearance of the register in winter, this is not well known or exploited. Crag is an architectural felicity in these days when porches face on garages and picture windows on main highways. Its window frames Mt. Madison with the sensitivity of a great artist. It is blessed with a cantilevered porch that faces King Ravine. If you stand there long in the quiet, a structural phenomenon no engineer could contrive takes place. The walls of the ravine recede beneath your feet, the sky ahead widens unlimitedly, and you are projected into a space for which science has no definition.

An evening at Crag wouldn’t be complete without spending a while outside watching the lights of Gorham and Berlin far below and the suffused reflection on Madison from stars and moon. The cabin never looks quite as inviting as it does then with its lanterns flickering through the windows onto the snow. It is good for a moment’s profound soliloquy and then you rush inside to escape the cold.

We were five snowshoers and two skiers for the Twenty-oners’ excursion who had spent a night at the camp and started out to climb Mt. Adams last April. There were clouds on the summits and rain seemed to be sifting through up there, but we started off nevertheless. The clouds proved to be true to form when we hit timberline, but we plodded on into the unreality that fog and rain bring to a mountain of snow. All solidness was displaced except for seven moving figures. Soon even they were no longer there. Having settled into the rhythm of climbing, they encroached on the minds no longer. There was not line of demarcation for time and space, and before we reached the slope above the ravine’s headwall, there was a long line of mountaineers out to conquer the peak that all mountaineers know exists somewhere. It didn’t matter much where they headed, the hill was there somewhere and mountains breed patience. The wind, however, can be a frightful reality. Snapping over the crest of the Adams ridge it cut into our void. If we hadn’t decided of our own accord to turn back, it would have pushed us in any event. Another warm hour inside Crag Camp was an inducement, along with the wind, to hurry. Our material goal unachieved, but our spiritual goal replete, we wended our way down the trail.

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