Saturday, February 2, 2013

Part III Pemi Traverse: Coming of the Trails (complete, needing corrections)

Brad Washburn, Director of the Boston Museum of Science and long-time climber and explorer, on the summit of Mt. Jefferson in 1984 taking readings for his map of the Presidential Range. Brad's map project took nine years to complete: 1978-1987, due, in part, to the accuracy he achieved. Fixing points required a lot of bushwhacking to various rock outcroppings and trail-less summits to establish "targets" for precise readings of heights and distances. Further down in this article there's a story about "The Taming of Owl's head," one of the 4000 footers that is close to the mark in terms of altitude, and the enormous difficulty, due to its topography, to find the "true" summit and its correct altitude, back in July, 1960. Brad's work increased the accuracy of the extraordinary maps of the Presidentials made by Louis F. Cutter in the early 1900s.

In Part III, my goal isn't to get everyone out bushwhacking. It's focus is about how to experience and explore the mountains, the out-of-doors, nature; see them from different perspectives,and in the process to learn how to relax more--enjoy the mountains and nature in more satisfying ways. Bushwhacking is clearly not every one's cup of tea, though, so it's okay if you're not in the mood to try it. The following narrative of Part III is mainly about craft and history of  trail making in the White Mountains and the necessity, for the trail blazers, of bushwhacking to "prospect: and cut trails.

Interestingly, there's an article in the June, 1963,  Appalachia titled: Bushwhacking--Pain or Pleasure by Marie Carden and Ronald Gower, (p. 530). The two authors split the article in to two, each of them making their observations separately. Marie went first. I've edited some of her notes by removing long passages about bushwhacks she did in areas away from the White Mountains. She begins: 

"for the most part, and for most people, bushwhacking is a means to an end rather than an end in iteself. It can either be torture or, with practice, quite enjoyable. This is true whether it be for a half-mile, for a whole day, or a real production of two or more days.

What, then, are some of the reasons for bushwhacking? Certainly it is necessary in "prospecting" a new trail. Take the relatively short Parapet Trail (ed: traverses between Osgood Ridge and the Parapet near Madison hut so you can avoid the summit of Mt. Madison in bad weather). (Back to Marie:) I can remember at least our exploratory bushwhacks, including one all day in a dismal, cold rain, before the routes were finally determined; and I have it on good authority that the Parapet was explored numerous times even before the idea of a trail germinated.

The fairly recent deification of the Four-Thousand-Footers has resulted in a good many bushwhack trips in the last few years. These illustrate another reason for bushwhacking--the desire to reach a certain destination to which there is no trail. A particular fascination for me regarding bushwhacking is following brooks back to their source. Another good reason arises when a perfectly good trail, shown on the map, turns out to have been abandoned years ago. (she adds some stories from this category).

Sometimes bushwhacking appears to be the lesser of two evils like the time I ran into a lot of blow downs and had to give them a wide berth. So what have I learned over a period of twenty-five years of experiences of this kind that makes me almost--let me stress the "almost"--prefer bushwhacking to following trails? It's more of a challenge, really. That word has become horribly trite through overuse, but there is no other with exactly the same meaning. It's exciting to thing that just possibly no one else has ever been in this particular place before. And it's fun to find place off the beaten path just to satisfy one's curiosity as to what is there and what the view is like. Bushwhacking usually means much slower travel, too, which is easier on the wind, although admittedly it is harder on the shins and shoulder muscles."

Marie describes some tricks she's learned:  "easing through, over and under, rather than fighting everything along the way. Keep well behind the person in front so that you don't take a branch in the face. It's much easier to reach forward, grab the branch and pull it back and behind you rather than crashing through. Be careful where you place your feet so that it's not on moss over a hole, or on a tippy rock, etc. Break off branches that are dead, dried out, etc.

"Bushwhacking in winter has advantages.  When leaves are off the trees you can see farther for route finding and planning, you can roam over frozen swamps, and if there's snow and you use snowshoes you can always find your way home again (ed: by your tracks). Deep snow, navigated on snowshoes, makes for a nice smooth trip over otherwise difficult terrain.

She tells the story of a dog her family had named Bing, that they would always take bushwhacking with them because he loved it but mostly because when they reached their turn-around time, they'd just say to Bing, "it's time to go home" and he would lead them out of the woods. No worries about getting lost.
 Mizpah Cut-off Cut prospected and cut by Paul Jenks and Charles Blood in 1913

Ron Gower, the second author, and a very experienced off-trail hiker lists  the basics. He wrote the following:
When bushwhacking consider the following:

Physical conditioning. You have to train, be in excellent shape.

Group must stay together and in sight of each other.

Optimal size of group is 4.

The sweep, or last person, must be the the most experienced, best navigator, etc.

Study maps before you go.

Pick good landmarks to use, eg a familiar peak, for checking route, direction, etc.

Must be good at navigating. It should be second nature, and knowing how to read the landscape.

You should be able to say at any time (pointing) "were about here" when looking at map.

Check compass regularly.

Pay attention to contours.

Know your own capacity. Bushwhacking requires more energy than trail hiking.

Pay attention to "wood lore" as in using endless tricks you learn from experiences e.g. distinguishing survey lines, spotted trails, old paths, animal paths, old wood roads--understanding how to "read" these features may help you along and save time.

Look ahead and if there is a lot of light in the woods ahead stop. It's either a blow down area, a beaver pond, or bog, or other large opening that may be filled with brambles, etc. Always stay in the leafy, dark, older forest and you will travel easily.

Area downstream from beaver activity will be drier. Best way across beaver disturbed area is on top of the beaver dam.

Avoid beaver dams or bogs, blowdowns, and scrub. In that order.

Feeling things with feet, eg firmness or a trail-like, or old logging road-like contour underfoot as you come across an old trail/road.

Leave some kind of marker when taking an abrupt turn or the point when you find an old path.

Absorb things you pass into your consciousness, remember their sequence, and use them as route markers. You should be sensitive to light, ground cover, the ground, itself unusual rock formations or shapes, etc. It's called "reading the landscape."

Use the compass anyway.

Land slide tracks provide good, open routes.

Bushwhacking requires a continuous assessment of the drainage slope which you're travelling on to avoid mistakes that may require a lot of backtracking.

Bushwhacking is a study in stream systems.

Avoid krummholz or find ways to move through it such as rock outcroppings, ledge, slides areas.

Ultimately you will find that experience is the greatest help to successful wilderness travel. With a keen woods sense, which I suspect is a compound of seventy per cent commonsense and thirty percent experience, plus an intuitive sixth sense which comes with practice, you can traverse the wilderness, enjoying freedom from the restrictions of following rails, and be at home where you choose to stop. This may result in your conversion to bushwhacking for its own sake, for it is a source of satisfaction to feel that your woodsmanship is good enough to make a practice of abandoning the signs and cairns of the well-trodden trails for the unfamiliar and less secure way through wilderness."
Jumping back for a moment to Part II and the necessity of bushwhacking up through the 1840s and the realization that many, many people were out exploring every nook and cranny of the mountains, heading where ever they liked, who were curious, felt the urge to be first to scale the "highest" summits,  or the first at something, like finding a beautiful cascade, or pool for swimming, or a striking view, or a rare flower. They were everywhere--bushwhacking and, likely, the popular routes were being "stomped" into makeshift, unblazed trails. We know that a trail from the Glen House to Tuckerman Ravine existed by the 1850s and was finally "standardized" (blazed and improved) by Major Curtis Raymond in 1879 and christened the Raymond Path. 

We also know the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, intially referred to as "the Escape Glen" was a well traveled route beginning in the 1820s but became officially standardized by Nat Goodrich and Charles Bloon of the AMC in September 1916. They had just completed the shelter at Mizpah Spring along with the Mizpah Cut-Off. The cost of standardizing the "Ammy" was $18.87. The cost of the Mizpah Shelter and Cut-Off trail was $120. 84. (December 1916 Appalachia, p. 87). By comparison, I've heard that today a mile of trail costs thousands of dollars to build and a shelter the size of the Mizpah Springs Shelter would also cost in the thousands of dollars.

Sunrise from Mt. Hayes in Gorham, NH, looking at Mts. Shelburne-Moriah, Moriah, North Carter and Wildcat. The ledges on top of Mt. Hayes were a popular destination for guests at the large hotels in Gorham, like the Alpine Hotel, in the the mid 1800s. In August the ledges are awash in blueberries. It has a wonderful view of the northern Presidential peaks and a great spot to watch both sunrises and sunsets. Currently, access to the ledge on Mt. Hayes is provided by the Mahoosuc Range Trail. 

The AMC path builders were doing their best to accommodate growing numbers of hikers who were using the trails and shelters.  The spotted trails made by the repetitive use of popular routes by hikers trying to get to some scenic view or summit that was suddenly popular, like the summit of Mt. Hayes, were ones the AMC path builders improved first.  Many of the earliest trails didn't go straight to the summit of some mountain, but to a "place" of note, or exceptional beauty, for example a great vista like the one in the above photo. Another example is a trail that was cut with some effort around the large lake in Carter Notch by people who wanted to gaze up at Pulpit Rock, the massive boulder that dangles on the cliff above Carter Lake

Marie Carden used the example of scouting, or "prospecting" the Parapet Trail on Madison that had already being "stomped out" by hiker avoiding the Madison summit for one reason or another. She spent the better part of a cold, rainy day repetitively going back and forth along the proposed route to find the best "line". Prospecting a new trail is just another word for bushwhacking. In the following piece, by Charles Blood, he describes with a great deal of humor the making of the Garfield Ridge Trail involving weeks of prospecting and cutting the trail spread out over three years and all of it having to be bushwhacked. Most of the trails did.

Sunset behind the Franconia Ridge from South Twin. The Garfield 
Ridge Trail extends from Mt. Lafayette (in the background), over 
Mt. Garfield (on right) to Galehead Hut on Twin Mt.. Photo taken 1968.

A Twentieth Anniversary: The Garfield Ridge Trail, 1914-1916

Matched with Marie and Roland's article is this wonderful reminiscence by Charles Blood published in Appalachia December 1936:

"The idea began in Waterville as has been the case with many of our trail ideas. From Osceola we had often looked north at the cone of Garfield lying between the Franconia and Twin Ranges. When we began to take trips out of the valley--we went on foot in those pre-auto days--the Twins and Franconias were about the first peaks that we climbed, and again, we saw the great 'horseshoe curve' which these ridges formed with the Garfield Ridge. Finally, the Goodrichs and George Blaney traversed the ridge from Lafayette to Garfield and learned how vile the going was on the 'big lump.'

With this as a background it was natural that our thoughts turned to this region in 1914 when I became Councilor of Trails. Here was a high ridge with a fine peak in the center, connecting two ridges along which the club already had trails. The idea of a series of connecting ridge trails maintained by the club across the mountains was beginning to take shape.

We were at once faced wiht the problem of where to start work. The two ends were impossible camp sties and would also invovle transporting camping equipment and supplies to needless elevations. Letters written on this subject in the spring of 1914 make amusing reading in the light of our present knowledge.

A study of logging roads, however, simplified matters and on Labor Day 1914, while the Battle of the Marne was raging (During World War I in France). Ed Lorenze, Hubert Goodrich, Fred Crawford, and I packed in to Hawthorne Fall and pitched camp in a small patch of green forest that had escaped the lumberman. We had the week at our disposal and had wonderful visions of what we should accomplish. But we had hardly made camp with the clouds settled down and it rained steadily for three days. Prospecting was useless and hopeless without views. However, we made a wonderful stone fireplace and Ed constructed a bench, using only three nails.

Friday opened clear and cold. We found our way up Garfield by surveyors' lines which Paul Jenks had previously prospected--Paul was always doing the dirty work for me--and strung our trail down to the col to the east. The next day we pushed along the crest of the ridge, by the edge of the big burnover, halfway to what is now Galehead, but we had begun to see the magnitude of our task and, as Fred and I had to leave, Hubert and Ed merely made a recognizance to South Twin.

In 1915, Paul Jenks, Nat Goodrich, Ed Lorenze, George Blaney and I went to Hawthorne Fall again, expecting to finish the job. This time we ran the trail east to the foot of the cone of South Twin, where it met a surveyor's line, and left it therre for the local woodsmen to clear. To the west we cleared to Garfield Pond, but a hectic day prospecting to Lafayette proved that it was out of the question to complete the trail in that direction from our base at Hawthorne Fall.

A rainy day, however, provided the opportunity for a game of "freezeout" with flapjacks. In this game as each cake (fry pan size) is fried it is divided up equally between the  the participants. When a man reaches his capacity and drops out the portions become correspondingly larger. To hasten matters, Ed had the bright idea of seasoning the cakes with cinnamona and finally, as we were running low on flour, he lengthened out the batter by adding uncooked malt breakfast food. Paul and Ed were the 'survivors' of the contest, but I have forgotten which of them won.

In 1916, Paul, Nat, George, and I established camp at Garfield Pond, determined to stay until the job was completed. One of the major problems was to work out a satisfactory route over the 'big lump'. I believe Nat crawled twelve times through one particularly bad stretch before he found a line that suited him. Indeed, I'm not sure that he was satisfied then, but he had got tired of being a rabbit. The story of that camp,  however,--with such liberties as to fact as the writers of historical novels usually take--has been preserved by Nat in his characteristic sketch, 'The Attractions and Rewards of Trail Making' (Appalachia, June 1916, p. 246).

During those three years I doubt whether any of us dreamed of this trail becoming part of a through route from Katahdin to Oglethorpe. We were concerned with a trail which seemed to us worth while in itself."  

(ed: "Nat", or Nathaniel Goodrich, Charles Blood and Paul Jenks, were the first of a handful of early designers and builders of paths (trails) in the White Mountains. They restored old paths like the Bridle Path (now the Old Bridle Path) on Mt. Lafayette, and the Davis Path from Mt. Crawford to Boott Spur and the summit of Mt. Washington and they crafted new ones like the Garfield Ridge Trail. They loved their mountain paths as Charles suggests in the last sentence above. Each of these  writers contributed stories of path building into a rich trove of yarns about the paths, mountains and the trail builders. The stories fill early volumes of Appalachia up through the 1940s. A wonderful example is Nat's piece, The Attractions and Rewards of Trail Making,  a portion of which is included below,  published in the December 1934 issue of Appalachia is a "must read". Its an amusing, poetic and heartfelt account of his experience on the Garfield Ridge Trail (with Charles Blood and Paul Jenks in 1916) as well as a philosophical treatise on trail building.

Photo by Miriam Underhill of Mt. Garfield from South Twin taken in February, 1960. (Appalachia, June 1960, p. 1). This blog article present a number of Miriam's photos. Miriam and her husband Robert L.M Underhill were wonderful, prolific writers  and they were both good photographers, but Miriam was the best of the two. She had a great eye and easily stood as an equal to Guy Shorey, Winston Pote, Harold Orne, Dick Smith; any of the other "great" photographers of the White Mountains. Her mountain photography began when, as a young woman, she climbed in the French Alps and Italian Dolomites, and evolved quickly into a superb rock climber and mountaineer. James Ramsey Ullman referred to her as "a specialist in the most difficult alpine asscents."She documented her climbs with stunning photos some of which are found in her autobiography, Give Me The Hills, Chatham Press, Riverside, CT. in association with the Appalachian Mountain Club, Boston, MA. 1956, 1967, 1971 printings.

In September 1915 a great storm, "such a storm as old men know but once in a life time" as Paul Jenks described it, pummeled the mountains. It brought snow, freezing temperatures and extremely high winds that flattened the forests across the mountains. A group of hikers were snowbound for 5 days at Lakes of the Clouds Hut. Whole trails were obliterated. Charles Blood reported that "miles of trails were literally wiped out", and that "it took two professional woodsmen armed with axes and crosscut saws sixteen days to tunnel a way through the blow downs on a two mile section of the Ethan Pond Trail." (Appalachia, June 1917, p. 204). In 1903 and 1908 there were devastating forest fires on the Carter Range, in Zealand Valley, and the west side of The Twins and the area of the Pemigewasset Wilderness around Owl's Head. These fires called for the relocation of existing trails with the Carter Range one example. Clearing trails was an enormous job that went on and on in cycles. There were storms in the early 1920s and then, of course, the 1938 Hurricane that repeated the destruction of the Great Storm of 1915.

 Mt. Washington from Caps Ridge on Mt. Jefferson, with Mt. Clay visible in foreground.

Earliest Paths on the Northern Presidentials

I want to go back a bit from 1916 to where I left off in Part I and bring us up to date from the 1850s, the end of the era of bridle paths.  The bridle paths meaning the Fabyan Path, the Crawford Path, the Davis Path and the Bridle Path on Mt. Lafayette were cut first as hiking trails. They became bridle paths in the 1840s, just 20 years before the Carriage Road and 30 years before the Cog Railway reached the summit of Mt. Washington. By then, the bridle paths that had functioned as commercial entities fell into disuse, but, in 1850  there were few actual hiking trails in the White Mountains that gave climbers access to the higher summits so as not to require bushwhacking. The Stillings Path, mentioned in Part II, and opened around 1852 (Appalachia, May 1951, The Pace of the Grub-Hoe, by Trail Master Howie Goff, p. 273, ). It ascended from the highway (now Route 2) probably following the the same course as the Lowe's Path does now, from Randolph, skirting Mt. Adams on the west side, then skirting the summits of Jefferson and Clay close to where the Gulfside is now,  on up to the summit of Mt. Washington. Mention is made that pack trains carrying timbers and other building materials for the Mt. Washington Tip Top House were taken up the Stillings Path. There are other mentions in Appalachia, however, suggesting that the timbers for Tip Top came up from the "Glen", or eastern, side of the mountain.

The transition from bushwhacking as a necessity to the advent of a comprehensive trail system took decades. The bridle paths being the exception there were no concerted efforts to build paths affording access to the summits of the ranges solely for hikers on foot. From the early 1800s up to the 1870s anyone wanting to climb to the tops of the main peaks had limited options. There are stunning narratives, including Starr Kings below, of great bushwhacks that occurred simultaneously as the horses on the bridle paths on Mt. Washington and Mt. Lafayette were carrying sightseers to the highest summits (and making money for their owners.) Thomas Starr King, in his The White Hills: Their Legends, Landscape and Poetry published in 1859 describes a 2-day bushwhack from Randolph up through King Ravine (named for Thomas Star King) and over the headwall to the col between Madison and Adams. His group, guided by George Gordon, then hiked the ridge to the Tip Top House on Mt. Washington. He wrote, "Not less than five thousand persons make the ascent of Mount Washington, every summer, by the regular bridle-paths. There is year by year now, however, an increasing proportion of visitors who desire more loneliness and wildness in the track, and more adventure in the experience, than the commonly traveled routes to the summit will supply," (p. 351).

Starr King bushwhacked into Tuckerman Ravine on the southeast side of Mt. Washington that same year, 1858, and found no shortage of companions as the trail was busy with hikers heading to see the impressive glacial cirque, the legendary snow arch, and the "thousand streams" that cascade down from the top of the headwall. The point, although it is conjecture, is that a lack of trails was not keeping people from freely exploring the entire range. Even the seemingly insurmountable krumholz has slowed bushwhackers down but rarely stops them. Starr King described it perfectly in his account of the ascent of King Ravine. He wrote, "the huge rocks were piled in the most eccentric confusion; crevasss, sometimes twenty and thirty feet deep and spanned with moss, lay in wait for the feet; thickets of scrub spruces and [balsam fir] overgrew these boulders, and made the most sinewy opposition to our passage. Every muscle of our bodies was called into play in fighting these dwarfed and knotty regiments of evergreens. A more thorough gymnasium for training and testing the working and enduring powers of the system, could not be arranged by art." (The White Hills: Their Legends, Landscape and Poetry, by Thomas Starr King, Crosby, Nichols and Company, Boston, 1860 p.359) Another facet of bushwhacking in the late 1800s that rarely gets mentioned relates to those individuals who work in the woods in various capacities and are therefore fortunate to get paid to bushwhack. They include hunters, game wardens, hikers, guides, foresters, surveyors, hermits, and "gummers".
 Vyron Lowe Randolph Guide and Gummer

In a short article in the June 1953 Appalachia written by Richard G. Wood, a third generation resident of Randolph, that was a transcription of a conversation he had with Vyron Lowe, the legendary guide and son of Charles E. Lowe. The title of the article is "Gumming and Guiding In The White Mountains" (p. 370) and it covers a portion of Vyron's early life, in the 1870s, when he used to go into the mountains and collect rough spruce "gum" that he would take back to a small "factory" across the road from his home and transform into pure spruce gum by first boiling it down and then forming it into sticks that he sold for a penny a piece. This enterprise kept Vyron traveling all over New England.  The fascinating aspect of this employment was that he literally went out in the woods and wandered around looking for tracts of old spruce. As he put it, "The first step in the gum business was to go out and collect a couple of tons of rough spruce gum. We could not hope to pick enough gum by ourselves (his father, Charles, and brother, Thadeus, helped out) so we bought what gum we could for 10 cents a pound (meaning they hired neighbors, etc.)." (p. 370). Vyron said that he went out of business in the 1890s due to a shortage of the gum, not from competition from other confectioners. At any rate, Vyron preferred guiding and, like George Gordon before him, was highly respected throughout the White Mountains. In the late 1800s there was a cadre of excellent guides with names like Benjamin Osgood who made the first recorded winter ascent of Mt. Washington in 1858 (Appalachia, June 1953, p. 372 footnote) and for whom the Osgood Ridge on Mt. Madison is named.  Osgood had a dog named Snyder that Snyder Brook is named after. Osgood also placed the first register on Mt. Adams in the early 1850s to keep track of the number of people climbing in the northern peaks.
 The Northern Peaks from the lawn above the Great Gulf Headwall at Twilight. Photo taken 1970

There are myriad stories, too, about Vyron who had, like his father Charles E. Lowe, such an active role in the history of guiding and path building particularly on the peaks near Randolph. He was hiking up through Tuckerman Ravine in the same blizzard, on June 30, 1900, in which Curtis and Ormsby died. When Louis Cutter found Curtis' body the next day Vyron was one of the party that went out to bring it in to the summit hotel.  One cheerier story involving Vyron contains a wonderful image of his life and is by and chiefly about his wife, Ethelwyn (Winnie). Winnie wrote of a trip she made alone in a horse and buggy to the summit of Mt. Washington in July of 1897 when she was only 22 and she and Vyron had been married for two years. Winnie offered to drive their horse and buggy from Randolph over the Dolly Copp road and around to the Glen and up the Carriage Road to the summit to meet Vyron at the end of one of his guiding trips. His client, Harry P. Nichols, was going to descend via the "Cog". Mind that the Carriage Road had been open for 35 years when she did this which underlines the title of the story that appeared in the June 1961 Appalachia, as First Woman To Drive The Carriage Road (p. 408). Vyron had instructed her not to come if there was "so much as one cloud in the sky" which was the case when she left Randolph but, as she said, "I was tickled to death to have this chance to go up Mt. Washinton since I had never been there." The clouds held out until the moment she arrived at the summit around noon when a fierce thunderstorm swept the top of the mountain. "It didn't last long and as it got over in Maine, Vyron and I stood outdoors together, in front of the Stage Office, and enjoyed very much watching the lightening."

Founding of the Appalachian Mountain Club

A story in the November 1935 Appalachia (p. 452) begins:
"One day 60 years ago (1875) before there was an Appalachian Mountain Club, two men (E. C. Pickering and J. Raynor Edmands) reached the summit of a mountain (Mt. Adams) said to be inaccessible and unascended. These men had vision beyond the ranges. They discerned the people who were to come after them. One of the seers (Pickering) spoke stridently, 'I'd build a trail up this very mountain if there were only a club which would appreciate it and find it of permanent value.  Pickering became the first president of the AMC and Edmands would serve in several distinguished positions in the AMC until his death in 1910. A register for hikers to sign their names, if they so desired, was first placed on the summit of Adams around 1854 which means it was a popular destination at least 20 years prior to the above conversation but, I suppose, that is not as important as the fact that within a year Charles Lowe and Dr. William Nowell had laid out the Lowe's path that ran from Charles' front porch to the summit of Adams and, the Appalachian Mountain Club ("The AMC") was born (1876). In May of 1876 Nowell became the Club's first Counselor of Improvements (trails). His first recommendation was to speedily make 20 trails that would give public access to the most desirable summits including Carrigain, North Twin, Carter Dome, and  complete the Lowe's Path.
George Gordon, a Randolph guide, wass credited with laying out the first path, the Gordon Path, up Mt. Madison and the northern peaks that was much like a bushwhack and only secured by faint blazes cut with his axe as he climbed. It was too rough to be considered a real hiking path. Interestingly, Frank H. Burt (Among the Clouds editor) commented that by the early 1900s he was not able to find a trace of the Gordon Path. The Lowe's Path is affectionately referred to as "Trail #1" as it was the beginning of a great, wonderful tradition of path building in the White Mountains led by a cadre of strong, creative, energetic men and cheered on by many women in long skirts who "hit" the trails in droves as soon as they were finished.

Randolph Idyll

Randolph was a haven away from the commercial riff-raff of Mt. Washington. There was nothing commercial about Randolph but, over several years, there was a modest nod to income development in the construction of a few hotels for summer guests that included the Mt. Crescent House and, my favorite, the Ravine House located right on old Route 2 at the foot of the trails up Mts Madison and Adams. The Ravine House was constructed in 1876 and was owned by Laban Watson who, at about the same time, laid out the Watson Path up Mt. Madison (He originally called his hotel the Mt. Madison House and changed it quickly to The Ravine House) (Koop, p. 140 after Cross, p. 20). In the period between 1876 and 1910 Randolph was a hub of trail builders and trail users. There was a flurry of trail building activity starting at about the time Charles Lowe and Dr. Nowell finished the Lowe's Path. Names like J. Rayner Edmands, Eugene B. Cook, William H. Peek (the famous trail building team of "W. H. Peek and E. B Cook" or just plain "Peek and Cook" who laid out more miles of trails in the nothern peaks than anyone (Pease, Appalachia, p. 167) . Other important names were Watson, Gordon, the Torrey family, Allen Sargeant, Albert Matthews, and Hubbard Hunt ("Early Trailmakers at Randolph and The Founding of the R.M.C (Randolph Mountain Club), by Arthur Stanley Pease, December 1960, Appalachia, p. 167).

J. Rayner Edmands built Cascade Camp (photo) and the Perch in 1892 (Koop, J.  p. 139). Edmands used them as overnight shelters while he worked on the Randolph Path and other paths high above the valley in order to shorten the daily commute from the Ravine House. Edmands had a distinctive style and different philosophy about path building that made him stand out among his peers. There's a long list of trails that he created in the vicinity of the northern peaks including the Valley Way, the Short Line, the Randolph Path, Gulfside, the Link, and Israel Ridge Trail to name a few. Edmands "graded" his trails so they were easier on the climbers. On steep sections he created "stair cases" out of rocks, he built water bars, and back filled cribbing to level out sections to reduce erosion and help preserve them. Watson, Cook and Peek, and several of the other trail builders, on the other hand, believed a trail should challenge hikers by flying upwards like a lightening bolt, unadorned by creature comforts. (photo from Appalachia, December 1956, p. 193 from an article by Hazel de Berard, Memories of Randolph.) (References to Jennifer Koop, former Hutmaster at Madison Spring Hut, in a lovely article she published in the  Fall 1994 Historical New Hampshire published by the New Hampshire Historical Society. Her article is titled,  Randolph, New Hampshire, A Special Community Founded by Farmers, Transformed By Trailmakers, p 133.)

Randolph map maker Louis Fayerweather Cutter made the first accurate maps of the Presidential Range with incredible detail. His maps are things of beauty. This map, a little worse for wear, is the 1955 AMC guide book map which was an up-to-date version of the original map published by Louis in 1914. Randolph is at the top and Mt. Washington is near the bottom. I only copied half of the map as it's quite fragile. His maps had a reputation for accuracy, or rather, he had a reputation for accuracy along with his encyclopedic knowledge of trails and terrain. He measured distances over and over with his bicycle wheel measuring device. He greatly influenced the trail makers and, in turn, was influenced by them. 

A cartoon of Louis Cutter that looks like the work of Hazel de Berard, As a youngster, Hazel hung around with people like J. Rayner Edmands, the Watsons, Torreys and Lowes, and, or course, with Louis Cutter the illustrious map maker always seen with his bicycle-wheel-odometer with which he proudly measured distances down to the exact tenth of a mile. The knee-high stockings were very fashionable with the men. Women were required to wear ankle length skirts, but there are many stories of the skirts coming off a few hundred yards up the trail to reveal more suitable clothing for hiking that was deceptively worn under the long, heavy skirt. A memoir by Hazel, Memories of Randolph was published in the December 1956 Appalachia and is a wonderful glimpse of all the characters and the setting of Randolph at the turn of the 20th century--well worth reading.

Hikers, and there was no shortage of them, found Randolph idyllic. With the publication of Starr King's The White Hills and the coming of the railroads in the late 1850s, the undeniable "pull" of Randolph "caught" people from all walks of life.  Large numbers of them came, and many never really left. They took rooms in the comfortable, modest, family-style hotels. Some stayed all summer and came back summer after summer, staying at the same inn each time. Still others bought or had built small summer cottages, "camps" where they summered and hiked and socialized. They were compelled by Randolph's quiet, Yankee character, but mainly by the presence of the mountains, the thrill generated merely by looking up at the high, alpine summits, the ecstatic feeling of climbing upwards through the deep, sentient forest until one emerged high-up on the ridges and summits in the wild mountain weather, all of it indescribably beautiful. Randolph was a hiker's heaven. The "Whites", shorthand used to refer to the White Mountains, were a hikers' heaven.  

The Perch around 1930

Photos above of Cascade Camp and the Perch are from Hazel De Berard's Memories of Randolph in Appalachia, December 1956. Path maker J. Raynor Edmands was credited with building the Perch elsewhere in this article, but there's a confusing statement in the December 1958  Appalachia (p.275), by Klaus Goetze of the RMC, who attributes construction of the Perch to Freeman Holden who also rebuilt Gray Knob in the 1950s. 

In this crucible, particularly within the friendly atmosphere and camaraderie of the Ravine House, the path makers sat down at the table and ate, conversed, debated and dreamed with the paths' users, and it was in this informal collaboration that something like an "aesthetic" of path building emerged.  There were certainly no rules but each new trail evoked an anticipation, an excitement in all quarters, that was evidence of the close bonds between those that applied their skills and fashioned the paths and those that gloried in their ascents.  It was clear to everyone that both the path makers, who were not paid for their time and effort, and the enthusiastic, myriad, path users; men, women, young and old, were delighted with their common connection to the paths and the mountains. 

It was often said that the early paths up Mt. Washington were merely "roads" built by guides to transport the maximum number of people to the summit so the path owners could get paid. It was a rallying cry in Randolph and it has to be said that the paths of the northern peaks were then and still are beautiful beyond compare, whether laid out by an Edmands or a Peek. The Airline, alone, built by Peek and Cook in 1885, is one of the most scintillating mountain path in existence and if you ascend the Valley Way (Edmands) to the Scar Trail and the Scar Trail to the Airline (Peek and Cook) and take Airline to the Adam's summit you will have had some of the best of everything. Or if you take the Randolph Path to the Short Line (both Edmands creations), the Short Line to the King Ravine Trail to the Gully Trail (both Charles Lowe creations) and the Air Line (Peek and Cook creation) to Adam's summit you will have had a totally different experience and reap unforgettable delight. 

Junction of Air Line Trail with Gulf Side Trail, Knife Edge in back ground, photo from 1970.

AMC and the Beginning of the Trails

The incorporation of the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1876 began a new era in path building. The Club established it's primary tasks as Exploration and Improvements. Exploration meant exactly that, and making maps, and Improvements meant path building.

Dr. Wiliam Nowell, one of the designers and builders of the Lowe's Path, became the AMC's first Counselor of Improvements (trails) and it was his task to propose new trails. As Howie Goff tells it in his Pace of The Grub Hoe in the May 1951 75th Anniversary of Appalachia, "Nowell recommended twenty paths be made, seven of them 'speedily'. Among those were Lowe's Path, (Great) Gulf to Jefferson, Jackson over Carter Dome and down to the Peabody (river) Valley, from Gorham over Surprise to Moriah, and up Starr King. He also wanted  to see connected paths in the Waterville area to Kancamagus and Carrigain, and a path up North Twin from the Twin Mountain House. Mr. Nowell suggested that paths (the name 'trails came later) be six to eight feet wide, cleared of all underbrush and trip roots, signed and blazed. Each blaze was to be stamped with the official Club 'A,' and on rocks AMC stenciled in white. Pyramids of four rocks--three at the base and one on top--is the first formula for a cairn. Record bottles were to be placed on summits difficult of access." (p. 274.)

Howie observed that:

"Three-quarters of a century ago (1876) there were almost no trails in the White Mountains area now associated with the AMC, then take the 1950 total of approximately 1,750 trail miles and divide by seventy-five you come up with the amazing figure of twenty-three and a half, the average yarly increase in miles of trails un-encumbered with any of that adjustment the statisticians always insist is necessary. Keep in mind that these paths were all hand made." (p. 273)

 Sandwich Range with Chocorua near the center on the horizon, Moats 
to the left and Passaconway and White Face on the right. Jackson is 
in the foreground. From Carter Dome Trail, 1984

All during the first quarter century etensive trail construction was going on in most of the now familiar areas such as the Presidentials, Carter Range, Randolph, Twin Mountain, Carrigain, Franconia, Waterville, Sandwich Range, and around Jackson. Trampers were comapring notes on the wild beatuy of the Pond of Safety, the amazing boulder formations in the Ice Gulch, impresssive Pulpit Rock in Carter Notch and the huge balanced rock we now know as Glen Boulder. It was even possible (in 1882) to go from Twin Mountain to North Twin, South Twin, Guyot, then on to Bond, and down to North Fork Junction on the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River and, meeting the logging railroad above Franconia Branch, continue on out to North Woodstock." (p. 275)

A heavy gale in November 1900 resulted in hundreds of trees being blown down over the whole mountain area. Our camp in Carter was almost destroyed, but was replaced for the modest sum, it seems now, of twenty-five dollars. Jefferson Notch Road was under construction and the old path up Mount Lafayette which had been give up, was reopened in 1901. Men like Watson, Nowell, Peek, Sargeant, Cook, Edmands, and others had been active on the Northern Peaks with trail construction work. The Spur Trail on the west edge of King Ravine was cut in 1901 by Charles C. Torrey (who also constructed Spur Cabin and Gray Knob). Already in use were the Osgood Path, Valley Way and Air Line, Randolph Path, Watson Path, Short Line, Amphibrach, Israel Ridge Path, and Castle Trail on the Northern Peaks. Madison Hut, constructed in 1888, at the same level as the present hut, but nearer the point where the trail begins to descend, was becoming so popular that crowding was as common an occurrence as during our current Augusts when the summer camps invade the present hut system. The term "graded paths" is always associated with J. Raynor Edmands, whose greatist contribution over a long period fo trail making was his work on the Gulfside Trail, which he began in 1892. Mr. Edmands died in 1910 before he had wholly completed this tremendous undertaking."
By 1901 a tremendous effort by the AMC trail croos, and other path makers, had created more than 800 miles of trails in the White Mountains. But in 1901 it was still necessary to bushwhack in many areas where hikers wanted to go.

 Airline looking up at King Ravine Headwall and Mt. Adams,  photo from 1967.

From the Sketch Book of George Flagg: More Tales of Bushwhacking

The following are two descriptions of hikes made by George Flagg with his wife, brother, and sister-in-law in 1902 and 1906:

"We started from the Glen about noon (July 11, 1902). We headed almost directly toward Mt.Madison, hoping to hit the West Branch of the Peabody River. We followed the old trail, although ti was of very little use as a path and we should hardly have known it was such had we not occasionally found the old signs, 'Glen House one-half mile' (ED: this was likely the Osgood Path cut by Ben Osgood in 1881 from the Glen House to Spaulding Lake that was abandoned after the old Glen House burned to the ground and was not rebuilt.) and so on. AT the end of 1 1/4 miles of not difficult travel we struck a ood sized stream which we too to be the West Branch. From this on it was simply a succession of climbing up and climbing down among windfalls and rocks. We finally crossed to the other side, went over a ridge, and struck a much larger brook, which proved to be the true West Branch. The first one was not on the map at all; in fact, we found many brooks which were not indicated on the map. By nightfall we had gotten up off the flank of Mt, Adams, where we pitched our 7 X 7 A-tent in a sheltered place and passed a comfortable night in spite of the cold.

Next morning we made good headway, following the river until about 11 o'clock when we went up on the bank and renewed our struggles with windfalls. We came within an ace of going up the ravine betwee Jefferson and Adams. The cliffs looked just like the headwall.
The sides of the Gulf are very steep, especially at a point where a spur runs down from Mt. Jefferson and another from Mt. Washington, making a narrow cut. About 4 o'clock we came in sight of the patches of snow on the headwall and struck to the left, finding pretty good going until we reached the scrub. here it proved a terrible struggle and we were fully an hour and a half going hafl a mile, cutting our way wint an axe to some extent by depending largely the strength of our arms to make progress through the terrible jungle of dwarf spruces. At last we reached the rocks and were gratified to catch a sight of two telephone linemen working a short distance above us. We struct the road near the seventh miles post and reacherd the summit about 6:30 pm. Mrs. Flagg, who was certainly the first woman to make this trip came through in fine shape, with her dark brown walking skirt as fresh in appearance as if she had but just started where as it was a dilapidated appearance the the men of the part made after their struggle through the scrub, for one had entirely lost the crown of his hat, and another needed the aid of numerous pins to keep his garments together. (p. 353).

George, along with his wife, his brother and sister-in-law explored the Dry River watershed including Oakes Gulf by bushwhacking up and over the headwall then on to the summit in 1903. In 1907 they repeated their ascent of the Great Gulf by a new route in what they called the toughest tramping trip that had ever taken in the White Mountains:

They started from Randolph Monday morning, following the Randolph Path until under the cone of Jefferson, and about 11:30 a.m. struck down into Jefferson Ravine. They were obliged to use a 60-foot scaling rope in many places, and passed or peered into caves made by the huge conjoining boulders (Ed. like Emily Klug). Several they entered a distaqnce of 15 or 20 feet. One boulder 'as big as a house', supported by nothing but two small rocks, they dared not pass below--the jar of footsteps might set it going. Under one of the old slides they heard the roar of a waterfall--a veritable roar, not a sound of gently running water.

They passed all Monday afternoon in getting round the spur of Jefferson (Where the Six Husband Trail descends now) and down into the Great Gulf, which they entered nearly opposite the Halfway House. In following the West Brancy up for about a mile they encountered all the rough traveling they desired i their then fatigued condition. The easiest  way to get over the logs, they found, was to tumble over. Camp was made at 6:30 p.m. at the base of several waterfalls, three of them at least 20 or 30 feet high and still unnamed. They had bee traveling twelve hours with pack varying in weight from 24 to 30 pounds. To say that they slept soundly does not fully describe their night's experience and condition.
At 8 a.m. Tuesday they started directly up the floor of the ravine towar Mt. Clay. Thier path lay over all sorts of boulders and through thick scrub spruce as formidable in roughness as any they had encountered. But on arriving at the headwall of the ravine they chose a difficult point of ascent, coming up between Clay and Washington practically on hands and knees. One of the part would thus climb ahead with the rope, letting it down to draw up the knapsacks and blankets. There were places where the ascent would have been impossible without the rope. The dangers from loose stones were not to be ignored, and many were the large rocks sent tumbling down the mountain. C.S. Flagg's knapsack took a downward shoot, and its recovery meant the doing over again of a few rods of perpenidcular work.

After a three hours' struggle the top of the headwall was reache and the party gathered at the Appalachian platform [on the Cog railway, near Gulfside Tank). They arrived at the summit at 12:30, all in good condition but unanimous in the statement that they were satisfied to let the Great Gulf alone for a pleasure trip hereafter." (354). (The third person narrative is due to the article being a transcribed interview with the Flaggs by Among The Clouds editor Frank H. Burt.)(drawings are by George Flagg from his excursions in 1902 in the Great Gulf and were scanned from a story in the June 1959 Appalachia, titled: From the Sketch Books of George A. Flagg, p. 352)

In the same years that George and Charles and their wives (sorry, I don't know the two wives' names) made their forays into the Great Gulf from the north, the mountains around them were being stripped of their stunning spruce forests by loggers who showed no mercy to the mountains or the trails. In 1906 the cutting had "obliterated" the Raymond Path on Mt. Washington, not far from Great Gulf. The gorgeous sentient forest on the northern peaks was destroyed completely. The hiking community was devastated. The path builders retreated in horror. J. Raynor Edmands moved his path making to the southern Presidentials, first build the Edmands Path up was what then called Mt. Pleasant (on the maps now as Mt. Eisenhower). and he worked a few sections of the Crawford Path where it needed improvement.
Logging: Paradise Lost

Going back quickly to the moment when Edmands and Pickering were having the above quoted conversation on the summit of Mt. Adams in the summer of 1875, only 10 miles away by the flight of a crow, a man by the name of James Everell Henry, or J. E. Henry as he preferred to be called, was planning to build a rail road up the Zealand River to Zealand Notch and commence logging out the old spruce growth on nearly 10,000 acres of forested slopes that he owned on both sides of the river. The history of logging is a vast subject covered by several publications. Two of the best of these are  Fran Belcher's Logging Railroad of the White Mountains, AMC, Boston, 1980, and Bill Gove's, J.E. Henry's Logging Railroads, Bondcliff Books, Littleton, NH, 1998.  I'll take a few quotes from Fran's narrative regarding the start-up of the logging era only because it would dramatically alter the White Mountains and the trails. Fran wrote:
"The Zealand Valley, originally called the New Zealand Valley, was the key to the opening of the treasure chest of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. It was the stage for the first act in the performance of the greatest of New Hampshire's lumber barrons, James Everell Henry. Here in the heartland of the White Mountains, on 10,000 acres--the largest single forest tract to be controlled by one man, or even one family, "J. E." was to find his destiny. For better or worse, in the true tradition of a free wheeling age, here was a rea  craftsman plying his trade. J. E. put together the businesses of harvesting trees and of operating lumber railroads with a devastating efficiency never again equaled in the White Mountains. (p. 80).
 Looking south through Zealand Notch towards the Pemigewasset Wilderness.

 Looking north through Zealand Notch towards Mt. Hale from the Ethan Pond Trail.

Amid the stories that emerged from early explorations of the Zealand Valley are descriptions such as "The scenery is simply that of a vast primeval forest, most of the environing mountains being hidden by the foliage and by intervening ridges. Trout increase and multiply almost undisturbed in the brooks and ponds" from Moses Sweetser's,  The White Mountains: A Handbook For Travelers 1876,  (Belcher, p. 81). Or the narrative produced by two men, Allen "Old Man" Thompson and Benjamin MacDonald, for the weekly The White Mountain Echo published in Bethlehem, NH, of a trip they took through Zealand Notch in August 1879, in which they described the route they took as:
"pathless, except for deer paths, over fallen stumps of giant trees...through swamps...and into brooks..The path. too. is through some of the finest timber lands in the country, mostly spruce but varied with white and yellow birch.

The scenery along the route is simply grand.The Notch, formed by the two mountains (ed: Zealcliff and White Wall) I have mentioned before is superb....nothing but the primeval forests surround the visitor from the entrance to the exit (at Ethan Pond). Thick, tangled brush impedes his every step, enormous tress, green with moss that has formed upon them for years, lie in his path in every direction." (Belcher, p. 82).
I'm inserting this here for contrast with what was to come as "J. E." got rolling in his "devious" tree cutting and railroading businesses best illustrated by a Boston newspaper using the headline Death Valley to describe Zealand Valley in the early 1900s after all the logging and the fires that burned over much of the clear cut areas up thru 1908.

Looking south from Camp 22 towards the Hancocks (Photo by Harold Leich)

 Aerial photo of the Hancocks in 1928 by Brad Washburn. Photos showing the recklessnes of J. E. Henry's logging operation in attempting to cut every tree and denuding the mountains to their summits. (Both photo are from Logging Railroads of The White Mountains by Fran Belcher, AMC)

J. E. Henry's logging interest were pretty much confined to the vast area of the "Pemi", from Fabyans to Lincoln (two ends of my proposed Bushwhack), but there were others who would follow and copy Henry's destructive. Logging took place where ever there was enough high quality spruce to be cut which means everywhere from Stark to Conway, and from Moosilauke to the east side of the Carter and Mahoosuc Ranges on the Maine side. It included the Presidential ridge from current Route 2 to just below the timber line on Adams, Madison, and Washington, and by 1903-1908, the devastation of these forest in the hikers' paradise was too much. Jennifer Koop writes;

"The year 1903 brought devastation to Randolph's beautiful mountain forest. As lumbering became a large and highly profitable business for the lumber magnates, logging roads, and railroads sliced through the nottches, p the reidges of ther Franconia Range, and deep into the Pemigewasset Wilderness. On the Presidential Range, extensive logging scarred and left bare Nowell Ridge, King Ravine, and many of the slopes of Mt. Madison and Mt. Adams. The lower sloipes lost t heir large spruce groves. Loggers slashed entire slopes, even whole mountains, as the new techniques made it necessary 'to cut clean, worthless and valuable trees together, i order to exticate the few logs of commmercial value and roll them down to the logging roads.

More than  trees and aesthetic beauty were lost in the northern Presidentials. Randolph treasured recreational paths were either oblitrated or made impassable by the vast deforestation. The people of Randolph saw thier trails in danger, or already destroyed. In the face of this threat, th etown took action. In 1910 John Boothman, a local hotel owner and farmer, proposed and advocated for the formation of an organization to 'restore and maintain the scattered remnants of trails and camps.' Within the same year, summer and year-residents formed the Randolph Moiuntain Club (RMC). Members began at once to clear and repair the paths. Recruitment was not necessary. Many Randolph residents and vactioners became committed to the goal of the organization and by 1923 there were 214 members paying dues. Almost anyone with an associaation with Randolph wanted to be a part of the communal effort." (Koop, p. 150)

The RMC was founded, in part, to create a united front with other conservation advocates to take on the logging industry and fight it to the death. The brutality with which the logging moguls had done "their business" created a stunning, powerful back lash. Members of the AMC, including its president Harvey Shepard, members of the New Hampshire state senate such as J. H. Gallinger, and the Society of the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, founded in 1901, under Forester Phillip Ayers, joined hands to beome a militant and persistent voice for the creation of a public forest reserve in the White Mountains. It was a time of dissension and public outcry in support of the logging outfits who were the soul supports for the local economies. "Not a Penny for Scenery" was their battle cry, but they did not prevail. For a number of years proposals for preserving the Nation's forest reached the floor of the house and senate, 47 of them, before the Weeks law was finally enacted. John Weeks was born and grew up in Lancaster, NH, a mill town, and moved to Massachusetts in 1885. He became a representative and, later,  a senator. Representative Weeks presented his bill in the House on July 23, 1909 and similar bill was introduced in the Senate on December 20, 1909. The Weeks bill was passed by the house on June 24, 1910 and by the Senate on February 15, 1911. It was signed by President Taft on March 1, 1911. It's preamble reads:
"An act to enable any state to cooperate with any other state or states, or with the United States, for the protection of the watersheds of navigable streams, and to appoint a commission for the acqusition of lands for the purpose of conserving the navigability of navigable rivers."
With the 50th anniversary of the Weeks Law in 1961 the National Forest Reservation Commission had approved purchasing nearly 20 million acres of land under jurisdiction of the Weeks law. Land exchanges approved by the commission added another 600,000 acres. (Appalachia June 1961, The 50th Anniversary of the Passage of the Weeks law, p. 417.) The Weeks law did what it was intended to do. It finally stopped the butchering of forests on the public lands.

Questions arise about last damage done to the environment of the White Mountains, generally, by the logging of the late 1800s into the early 1900s. Was irreparable harm done? Would the forest that was destroyed have lasted forever? Was there unseen, long term benefit from the logging and fires, benefits not necessarily measureable within a human's life span. When I do the evening naturalist's talks at the huts I empasize four distinctive disturbances to the local forest: the glacial ice sheet (the last one being the Wisconsinan), logging (including the fires that occurred directly as a result of the logging), acid rain, and overuse of forest areas. The glacier did not completely destroy the forest. The forest came back quickly. Logging and acid rain both had measurable negative impacts on the forest represented as a decline in overall environmental quality decrease in leaf canopy density. Soils were heavily impacted by both logging and acid rain.

Some of the damage is residual but, to a great extent the negative impacts of both these disturbances have been reversed and largely because the area is under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Agiculture and contains tracts that are federally protected Wilderness Areas. Humans have also helped through enforcement of anti-pollution laws and creation of the EPA in 1973.  Acid rain is still a reality but with far less effect than at its height in the 1940s through the 1980s. In spite of deep negative effects from acid rain, the forest has displayed characteristic resilience. We often refer to the "Primeval Forest" as the ideal, but we've learned that the forest is not static. What each of us sees in a lifetime is only a snap shot, and, as a complex, living system the forest is always in flux, is resilient if not tenacious, sleeplessly working towards a "state" of balance (homeostasis).

The AMC Side by Side With the U. S. Forest Service

What did the path makers do during the height of the logging era? It's interesting to note that the AMC was building paths and shelters in the White Mountains for 35 years before the Weeks Law went into effect way before there was a  National Forest system in place. For two decades the Forest Reserve Law on 1891 was in place, but had little clout with logging barons like the Henry family who owned a lot of the land upon which the forests they slaughtered grew.  Therefore, the AMC, in cutting trails and building shelters was largely doing work to support its twin mission statements of Exploration and Improvement. It was also consolidating some control over the White Mountains, creating a place for itself that endures into the 21st Century.

The following item was entered into the minutes of the first annual New England Trail Conference by Paul Jenks:
"The first steps of the Forest Service in creating an area of national forest are the acquirement of forest land and the running of patrol lines for its protection. One of its next steps is to open those public lands to the enjoyment and benefit of the public by means of trails and roads. At the beginning of the year it appeared possible for the Service to enter upon this stage of work in the White Mountains. Since, however,  this region has already been made accessible principally through the Appalachian Mountain Club, the immediate problem became almost entirely a question as to what relation should exist between this corporation and the Forest Service. " (Appalachia, June 1918, p. 280.)
In Volume IX, covering 1899-1901, published May '99, there's an important article on p. 302 by H. W. Tyler about a hike over the Carter and Twin Mountain ranges that necessitated bushwhacking but was thoroughy enjoyable, planting the seed for a continuous trail affording long hikes over vast distances (The Appalachian Trail). In Volume IX there is also a detailed story regarding the tragic deaths of William Curtis, 63, and Allan Ormsby, 28, both from New York City, both on the AMC board, and who both succumbed to exposure when caught in a blizzard on Mt. Washington, June 30, 1900 while hiking to the summit to attend the AMC's annual meeting. Also in Volume IX is this item:
"It is reported that active lumbering operations are in progress on the easterly slope of Mt. Washington, and that a long section of the Raymond Path which connects the Carriage Road with the Tuckerman Ravine Path has been obliterated."(p. 308)
In Volume X of Appalachia, covering 1902-1904, in the Reports of the Counselors on p. 93 there begins a description by Louis Cutter, Counselor of Improvements (Trails) of the lumbering going on above Randolph and how it is making path building impossible. Hired help is another problem, Louis notes, pointing out that he was finally able to hire Mr. Lucy, of Lucy Farm in North Conway, to clear the Moat Mountain Path, and he ads "no work has been done this year on the Willey or the Carrigain Path or the path over the Twin Range" due to a lack of hired help. Lastly, there's an exciting article by F. O. Carpenter about the former bridle path up Mt. Lafayette and plans afoot to re-open it as a hiking path. This must have been done quickly because it is included in a trail guide from around the same time and Ken Harrington described sitting on top of Lafayette and watching the great fire on Owl's Head which burned in the summer of '07.

Mt. Carrigain and Carrigain Notch from Mt. Tremont, August 1982.

In Volume XI, June 1905 there's an article (p. 27) by Charles Fay titled The Mountains As An Influence on Modern Life as well as a number of letters sent to different forestry and conservation clubs and organization promoting conservation. In the May 1906 issue there is an article (p. 134), advocating for The Proposed Eastern Forest Preserve, by Gifford Pinchot. In the Reports of the Counselors, Autumn '06 there's a really interesting article about the AMC preserving natural areas in New Hampshire and placing registers on all the mountains summits in the state. In the May '07 issue there is a letter from Professor Arnold Guyot written on 8-25-1857 from the summit of Mt. Washignton enroute to the summit of Mt. Carrigain urging congress to create forest preserves to protect watershed areas in and around the country's mountain chains. In the June '08 issue there's an article. In the June '08 issue there's an article on Arthur Stanley Pease botanical collections and an excellent article on Darby Field by Warren Hart.

Finally, on p. 81 in the June '09 isssue under Improvements by Warren Hart there's a section titled New Trails: Star Lake Trail, June '08, Trail around the larger lake at Carter Notch, May '08, and for five days in September '08, the Great Gulf Trail is started on September 13th and finished on the 18th. The article also contains important information about the logging in the Great Gulf.  J. Rayner Edmands' obituary by Arthur Stanley Pease is in the July '10 issue. In the same issue there's an article on a special honrary dinner for Sir Ernest Shackleton (that I'm sorry I missed!) in Boston hosted by the AMC. On p. 196 Warren Hart reports that J. R., Evans, a woodcutter, had finished the Carrigain Path, finally, and that the Carter Trail was successfeully rerouted after the fires of 1903. Hart also reports that the Six Husband Trail was completed and a short explanation is given by Frank H. Burt (Among the Clouds editor) of why, exactly, the line for the Six Husbands Trail took the route it did. The Adams Slide Trail was completed a few days after the Six Husband Trail in September '09. In the July '11 issue there is a brilliant story by Warren Hart about the re-opening of the Davis Path up Mt. Crawford continuing on to Mt. Washington cut by Nathaniel Davis in 1844-45. Davis was the son-in-law of Able and Hannah Crawford and brother-in-law of Ethan Allen and Thomas Crawford. In the July '11 issue there is also a lovely article by Arthur Stanley Pease with a completed list of the plants of Three Mile Island, another one of the AMC camps.

By May '13 the counselors are reporting the opening of more trails and maintenace issues on current trails and there's a general feeling of confidence that after a relatively slow start the Club is moving forward and learning a lot from mistakes. By that summer they could report completion of the Carter Range Trail down to Carter Notch and out to Route 16, the improvised hut at Carter Notch (see photo) the Guyot Shelter and the re-opening of the complete Davis Path  in 1911. This last item was a labor of love for Paul Jenks who hired a woodsman out of his own pocket, to help clear the path.

The following is from the June '15 issue of Appalachia:
"The Madison Spring Huts were open in charge of B. W. Grills & Roy C. Smith from June 25th to October 8th (1914 season) and notices relative to the occupation thereof were posted as heretofore in various local hotels. Keeping the huts upplied with food was hard work, owing to the necessity of carrying up the mountain everyday, and sometimes, twice a day, loads weighing from 50 to100 pounds. The procuring of firewood also is difficult, as it must be cut some distance from the huts and carried there upon the back. The new hut has been furnished with window urtains and cushions for the fireplace benches." (p. 304). (an article titled Two Summers At Madison Hut was published in the December 1960 Appalachia by K. D. Swan and is a detailed account of Madison at the turn of the century. Swan operated the hut the summers of 1909 and 1910. A good source of early hut history!)
Turning the pages of Volume XIV, 1916, is dazzling with its table of contents filled with numerous appetizing articles. I won't list them all but Warren Hart's biographical piece about Timothy Nash is important historically, as is Arthur Stanley Pease's two articles, Mahoosuc Notch, and Notes on the Botanical Exploration of the White Mountains, Frederick Tuckerman's A Naturalist's Visit to The White Mountains in 1853 (about his dad), George N. Cooks often quoted piece, Randolph Old and New, and finally Richard Whitehall's Snowbound in September. The last items is a "must read" and introduces the Great Storm of September 1915 which I've already mentioned. Two articles are specifically about path building: Nat Goodrich's now famous article, The Attraction and Reward of Trail Making, and Paul Jenks', The New England Trail Conference.

 Mahoosuc Notch at sunset from Old Speck. Mt. Goose Eye is on the left and 
the northern Presidentials are in the distance on the right. Photo from 1967.

The Attraction and Rewards of Trail Making

I'm going to insert an edited version of Nat Goodrich's article which has already been described as an amusing, poetic and heartfelt account of his experience in 1915 and 1916 prospecting and cutting the Garfield Ridge Rail.  He starts:

"Like many greater things, a trail begins at a chance remark. Looking at distant reidges through the haze of the noon-halt pipe (Ed: smoking a tobacco pipe ostensibly to keep away black flies)--or dreaming over the map in idle winter moments--the word slips out: 'There ought to be a trail on that ridge.' Months, or years, later one who heard, and scoffed, summons his friends to help make that trail, his trail, the trail he is surprised no one hever thought of making before.

The are grub lists about, and equipment underfoot and agrument; plans, and shifted plans, and disappointments--at last a date. Then at some cheerless station old friends meet and sit on duffel bags--awaiting a car or putting off the shouldering of packs. Always there is more weight than planned to get into camp. There follows the sweating grind under fifty pounds, a plodding, dragging grind, and camp to make at the end. Camp is made, sketchily, in a weary, chilly daze. Something hasty is dug from a duffle bag, cooked doggedly, eaten with increasing interest and reviving energy. Someon finds loose stuff for a camp fire. Pipes are lit. It is not so cold. Then it is colder. There is a wakefulness of hasty beds, of the first night in camp, but morning comes soon.

Of trail making there are three stages. There is dreaming the trail, there is prospecting the trail, there is making the trail. Of the first one can say nothing--dreams are fragile, intangible. Prospecting the trail--there lies perhaps the greatest of the joys of trail work. It has a suggestion of the thrill of exploration. No one of us but loves still to play explorer. And here there is just a bit of the real thing to keep the play going. Picking the trail route over forested ridges calls for every bit of the skill gained in our years of tramping. There is never time to go it slow, to explore every possibility. Usually there is one hasty day to lay out the line for a week's work. From a basis there is the look of the region, from some distant point, from a summit climbed last year, perhaps. For help, there is the compass, but in our hill country we use it little. Partly we go by imperfect glimpses from trees climbed, from blow-down edges, from small cliffs--but chiefly we feel the run of the land, its lift and slope and direction. The string from the gorcer's cone unwinds behind--an easy way of marking and readily obliterated when we go wrong. We pay little heed to small difficulties, those are for the trail makers to solve. Only a wide blow-down, a bad ledge, a mistake in gereral direction, cause us to double back a bit and start afresh.

There is a an edge, a tenseness about this work. The day is a long strain of keen concentration, of quick decisions, of driving through scrub and blow-downs. The unexpected may appear at any minute--an outlook, a spring, a trail. It gets done at length, and so back to camp.

Mt. Garfield from South Twin with Galehead Hut in foreground, July 1967.

Making a trail is the more plodding work; yet it has reliefs and pleasures of its own. Each day, as the gang works along the string line, problems of detail arise. Ours is no gang of uninterested hirelings. If the line makes a suspicious bend, the prospectors have to explain or correct. If it plunges through a blow-down, their intelligence and motives receive pungent criticism, and someone is likely to take a vacation for exploration of his own.

So there is scouting ahead and shouting, running of trial lines in doubtful places, argument, decision. If we go over a hump in the ridge instead of slabbing around, we keep a straighter line, but cause posterity to climb up and then climb down again. And all is complicated by the requirement that the footing shall not be too rough for men under heavy packs.

Decisions made, the gang scatters along the line, each apart a rod or two, for we find working together is not effcient. Each then finds that he has in little the problems of the general line. He casts ahead over his section,  picks his line over a bit of leddge, decides whether to loop around a small snarl of down timber or drive through, aware that few will ever know the difference whatever he decides, but thinking always of the future trail crank who might inspect his work with critical eye. In thick growth where is is impossible to see ahead it is sometimes necessary to break, head down, through a rod or two of country four or five times before the line is right. Then he settles to the job and the odor of fresh cut fir arises. He works in a remote little world of his own, a way through lengtehning behind him, happy, intent and oblivious, until quite suddenly he finds a fresh-cut way aead--and that stint is done. He looks back and sees that is is good, looks forward up the next man's job and sees that is is very bad, shoulders tools and disappears up the line to start another section.

Cutting trail through  a patch of the thicker sort is suggestive of tunnel operations. One has to clear space to swing the axe. The stuff cannot be tossed or kicked out of the way; it has to be forced into the scrub piece by peice, or thrown up and over. We accused one of our gang of losing his direction in one of these jungles, of cutting his trail right round a circle, and doing so bad a job withal that he didm't know it for a trail when he crossed it again!

One dismal noon of wind and intermittent rain found us cutting high on the shoulder of Lafayette, in the scrub belt below timber line. The trees were little more than head high and drenching wet. The cold gusts swept through, but little broken by the low growth. The most strenuous exertions hardly kept us warm. Each as he finished his section turned on the next man's until we were all together on the final stretch. The last tree fell, the last branch was tossed aside. 'All done above?' Said one. 'All done, she's through to timber line.'

The next day dawned brilliant and still, a mountain day, a day of days for the last of our work, cairning the line up the ledges beyond imber line. High on the shoulder of the world, our gaze sweeping a crystal horizon, revelling in the incommunicable joy of the great sunlit hills, the hours passed unnoticed. We picked our line up the ledges and around low cliffs, carried rocks and built our cairns. The old tall cairn at the summit drew near. 'One more will do it, ' we said. Then we dug from the pack the sign, long since painted for this very spot, sand wedged it into the summit cairn. We gathered there--'Garfield Ridge Trail,' it read. 'To Garfield and S. Twin.' Our work was done. We were all professional men, dealers with books and papers, with the abstraact and the intangibles. Here, at least, was one concrete thing done, a visible result of labor, not unlikely to endure. So we sat in the sunlight on Lafayette, and were happy." ( , 1916: p. 246-256. I only inserted a third of the article and it's really worth reading the whole piece. It's a wonderful testament to all of the trail builders the White Mountains have known.)

Cairn on Franconia Ridge, photo from 1967

 The AMC Trail Crew 1919-1964
By all accounts the Great Storm of 1915 was the worst storm on record. At the 1916 councelor's meeting there was a long discussion about how to deal with it. Some areas were not hit heavily but in others, like the Ethan Pond Trail and the newly re-opened Davis Path those trails had been decimated. Paul and Charles estimated that there was a "solid, two miles" of blow downs on the Ethan Pond Trail alone. "Whole miles of trails were literally wiped out of existence," Charles reported, adding, "It took two professional woodsmen armed with axes and crosscut saws sixteen days to tunnel a way through the blow downs on the Ethan Pond Trail." It was overwhelming. Charles also made this observations:
"Henry (Jame Everell Henry--logging baron) pushed his logging railroad upt the North Fork of the Est Branch to North Fork Junctio, and it was obvious that the fine forest in that vicinity--happily thus far spared--was doomed within a few months. Consequently no attempt was made this season to clear the very extensive storm damage ti the Willey Pond (Ethan Pond)-North Fork Trail below Zealand Notch." (p. 204, 1916.)
Ethan Pond towards Zealand Notch with Zeacliff (L) and Whitewall Mt. (R), July 1959.

Paul Jenks had pushed and pushed for a New England Trail organization that would provide forum for down to earth discussions about the real tasks and ways to organize the creation of a large network of trails. He wanted to create an environment for a cross fertilization on all the subjects attendant to trail building and maintenance. The AMC, inspite of its deep roots in the experiences of the Randolph Path Makers, was struck dumb by the enormity of what they were taking on. Paul, Charles, Nat, Warren Hart, and others were waking up to that reality. In his Appalachia piece Paul talked about his pleasure and excitement attending the first New England Trail Conference, held in Vermont in 1917. He wrote about how helpful it was to share ideas, how other groups were struggling with the same issues the AMC was, passionate everyone was about the work, and even their ability to find humor in what they were doing.

In the June 1964 Appalachia, Charles had a short article, The AMC Trail Crew, 1919-1964, which sheds a lot of light on the direction this core group took the task at hand. He wrote,

"When I became Councillor (of Trails) in 1914, most trails were local and trail clearning was done by local woodsmen. Ray Evans looked out for the trails around Gorham; John Boothman's men took acare of the Randolph trails, etc. That method was followed in 1914 and 1915. In 1916, after the great wind storm of September (1915), Nat Goodrich got two groups of Dartmouth Outing Club (D.O.C.) boys to work for me, to supplement the local labor.

When Paul Jenks became Councillor in 1917, he hired a local man on a full-time basis for the summer. Local labor  was unreliable, as the men had other interests which took precedence over trail work, and by that time we had several trails which could not be handled locally. In 1918, some D.O.C.  boys also worked for him.

In 1919, as an experiment, Paul began to recruit some of his present or former Flushing High School pupils to work on the trails. So started the trail crew. At the beginning of the season, he went into the woods with these boys and taught them how the job should be done. On their weekends, and whenever they were not in the woods, the boys were housed in the attic of Locust Cottage in Whitefield, a small farm boarding-house, where Paul spent his summer vacations.

 1924 Trail Crew at The Flume

At that time there were no generally accepted standards for trail maintenance in the White Mountains. Our generation had learned trail clearing the hard way, by trial and error. Edmands has set stadards in his own work which were and are impossibly high for most mountain trails. However, through the New England Trail Conference, we were developing a set of stadnards which are now generally followed. In dealing with the boys, therefore, we tried to transmit and to instill in them our great love of the forest and its trails. This experiment proved most satisfactory, and before long the group was expanded to include boys of college age from other localities."

Charles goes on to describe the running of the trail crew, the appointment of Trail Masters, and their method of overseeing the work. The first trail master was Harold Miller who had worked on the crew for several years and had become something of a specialist and he became the Councillor of Trails in 1928. He continue, "The experiment proved satisfactory and from then on the old Trail Masters were succeeded by the new Trail Masters and the experience and traditions were carried forward. Nearly every year, from 1914 to 1938 some of the old masters and other kindred spirits would have what we called a "Trail Spree" camping at some convenient spot to open a new section of trail. With Paul's organization of the trail crew, we frequently took a few of the boys as rookies. I believe that while sitting around the campfire with us in the evening, these boys must have absorbed some of our love of trail work."

In the summer of 1938 the crew's structure changed somewhat and John Hutton, former Trail Master in 1936, became the full-time supervisor of the trail crew. The position of Trail Master was "down graded" and less attractive as a result, but Charles observed that "if there was to be a Supervisor, John was the logical man for the job.
Hurricane damage on Kinsman Ridge Trail, 1939 (photo Forrest House).

"The 1938 hurricane created a clolossal problem for the Crew in the 1939 season. The resulting devastation made large sections of many trails impassable, and some trails were closed for the year by order of the Forest Service. Fallen trees were piled up like jackstraws thirty deep in some places. Although the Forest Servcie cleared some of the worst sections, many bad areas were left to the Trail Crew. The Trail Crew was greatly expanded to cope with the sitaution. As Greystone Lodge could not accommodate so many boys, part of the Crew was housed in another part of Whitefield, but we began to talk about whether the Trail Crew should have a house of its own and whether Whitefield was the best place. We plotted out on a graph the number of probably trips to the places where the crew would naturally work, and the time to be consumed on the road in each case. While Twin Mountain would presumably be a more central location, its lack of stores and other facilities ruled it out. With that exception, Whitefield seemed unquestionably the most economical base. (A house in Whitefield was purchased in 1940 and named Hutton Lodge by the Crew, after John Hutton, and it became the Trail Crews base for several decades. Ed).

During the Second World War it was difficult to maintain a full crew do to the shortage of men. In some cases the wives of former trail masters filled in, or, in another case the father of one of the boys from the previous summer came and acted like a 'den mother'. I spent quite a little time in August with the Crew trying to instruct them in fundamentals, and my son Henry, who had been Trail Master in 1939, spent two weeks with the Crew before going into the Navy in September.

After the war was over it became possible to get a better Crew and it began to function normally. There was a tremendous backlog of work to be done, as standardization had necessarily been neglected during the war. The Trail Master made a particular effort to instill in the (new) boys the traditions of the Crew which had made is so effective in the past. A problem began to present itself around the question of wages. It had not been important in the past as most boys or their families could finance their college education without well paid summer jobs. In recent years, however, with rapidly rising college expenses, the necessity for most boys to earn real money during the summer has made it difficult to get or hold, at wages paid by the Club, boys we would to have on the crew.

Newly standardized Ethan Pond Trail, Mt. Willey in background circa 1953. (photo Ted Brown)

Another difficulty has been that, except for a few individuals with real experience, the Councillors and the Supervisor employed have been seriously handicapped by limited personal experience with trail maintenance. Few people know much about trail maintenance and about standardization in particular. When a trail is opened, modern standards require that it be cut to such a width that a tramper carrying a pack can swing along without either himself or his pack touching any vegetation or either side. It must be cut out high enough so that nothing will interfere with the vision of a tramper, particularl when going downhill. Except when there is a definite turn, the trail should be straight enough or the tramper to a get a clear view of the trail a considerable distance ahead. Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that when it is raining (or there's snow. Ed) all branches tend to droop more than in dry weather.

Except in places where there are no small trees or underbrush, vegetation will gradually grow into the trail. As a result, every few years--the interval depending upon the character and rate of growth--each trail below timberline must have special treatment to bring it back to standard. This is what is meant by 'standardization'. It is not the same thing as the annual patrol each trail must receive to rid it of fallen trees and quick-growing raspberry and blackberry bushes. All of this involves a great deal more than the ability to swing an axe. It is really both a science and an art which requires considerable instruction. That instruction and interest in the work cannot be inspired by academic pep talks. The boys must learn the individual trails, what they should expect to find, what tools are best adapted for each trail. They must learn to take care of themselves. someone who knows and loves the foreest and its trails must, at sometime, work in the woods with the boys until they have had experience. Pride of craftsmanship is the basis of success in most occupations. It is this pride which has been and must be the basis of success of the Trail Crew." (p. 88-95)

The 1976 Fall Trail Crew. I've forgotten most of their names. Allan Prescott is in the front on the left with his axe crossed with Jake's, and Ed standing behind them. Nick, looking like a Russian balalaika player, is on the far right, standing. I was the Fall Caretaker at Galehead in '76 and it was my great pleasure to have this group staying at the hut for a few weeks while they made needed improvements to the Twinway Trail from the hut up to the top of South Twin and over to Guyot. They did incredible work on the steep section of the Twinway. I was much in awe of their expertise and passion. Where ever you are now, know that at least one person still remembers your skill and hardwork.

Paul Jenks died in February 1953. In his obituary for Appalachia Charles Blood wrote, "I first met Paul Jenks in Waterville, New Hampshire, in 1897. He had graduated from Dartmouth with honors in 1894 and was then Principal of the High School in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Our acquaintance was slight at the time. It was my first experience in the mountains and I looked with admiration and considerable awe as he and his three tramping companions would come back from a hard day's trip. I first began to tramp with him in 1903 and learned from him the lessons I've never forgotten. During summer vacations we tramped together, camped together, and prospected and cut trails together for nearly forty years. During the rest of the year we corresponded about every subject under the sun, but principally about matters pertaining to trails.

 Standard Directional Sign, 3 X 9 inches. (Photo by Harold Orne).

In the spring of 1913 Paul 'dared' me to camp with him for a week on the cone of Mt. Jackson and open a trail from that peak to the Crawford Path on Mt. Clinton. The plan had the approval of Professor Tyler who was then Councillor of Trails. This trail was the one connecting the summit of Mt. Webster and Jackson which Paul had opened alone the syear before, were the beginning of the Webster Cliff Trail.

In 1914 when I became Councillor of Trails, Paul was my right-hand man. Indeed, although others helped, without him and Nat Goodrich, I should have had little to show for my three years in office.
When Paul succeeded me as Councillor in 1917, our present trail system began to take shape, pushing south over the Kinsman Range and north in to the Mahoosucs, relinquishing certain trails to the Forest Service and exchanging  others with the Randolph Mountain Club. He kept records of the work done on each trail each year and the work needed to bbe done next year. He developed a system under which each trail would be re-standardized at the end of a predetermined number of years. He systematized the tools needed for trail work and tool best adapted to each type of work. He began a comprehensive study of trail signs--the most durable type of board to use and the best paint to use. In a primitive way we had become interested in painting signs at Waterville. We were not good at free-hand painting but had secured a set of block numerals from which to work. From these as a basis Paul developed the almost perfect letters he used on our A.M.C. signs.
Most people pay little attention to the words on trail signs so long as the signs direct them where they want to go--not so Paul. With him the wording on the sign had to be not only right for that sign but consistent with the wording on every other sign on that trail. He would correspond with me about what objectives or destinations should be put on certain signs. He would discuss whether the letters on a certain line should be the same size as the letters on the line below. NO detail about a sign was too trivial for him to consider. He studied and experiment to determine the most satisfactory method of attaching signs to trees or stakes. While he was the Councillor he was one of the group that organized the New England Trail Conference and then became its chairman." (CWB, June, 1953)

Paul Jenks' largest Trail Sign. It was 9 X 24 inches, had 153 letters plus an arrow. He spent months designing it, asking others for feed back in his characteristic perfectionist way. Every detail was fretted over including the means to attach the sign to the tree. Trail signs had a way of disappearing in the wake of souvenir hunters. Paul was known as the Sign Man and in his tenure with the AMC Trail Crew he made more than 5,000 signs. (Harold Orne photo).

If you're interested in the history of the AMC Trails and want more to read the best articles are With The Sign Man, by Charles Blood in the December 1934 Appalachia, p. 219--about Paul Jenks and his method of making, painting, and installing signs and the way he organizes and keeps track of all the trail signs year to year and there's Pauls' own story of his sign productions in the December 1945 Appalachia, titled Five Thousand Trail Signs.

The 1938 Hurricane smashed into the mountains and hurled up trees, as Charles described it, "like jack straws". Trails all the way from the Kinsmans to the Mahoosucs were covered by blow downs. The woods beside the trails were littered with great stacks of dead, or dying wood and poised to cause a fire hazard. Many trails were closed either because of blow downs or by the Forest Service due the massive number of dead trees that presented an extreme fire hazard.

19 Mile Brook Trail near the junction with the Carter Dome Trail 
after extensive work by the AMC Trail Crew to correct damage 
to the tread from erosion This is one of the oldest trails in the White 
Mountains dating back to the mid-1800s and has gotten an enormous 
                                amount of traffic over the years. Photo from September 2004.

"Trails Clear!"

The 1938 hurricane and its subsequent clean up tested the AMC Trail Crew. Bear in mind that all the cleanup work completed by the trail crew was done with just axes and cross cut saws. The cleanup operations tested the relationships between the AMC and the Forest Service, as well as the the RMC, the Wonalancet trail crew, and other trail organizations. Under the duress they worked extremely well and efficiently well together. John Hutton, Trail Master in 1938-1939 wrote a story for Appalachia published in the December 1939 issue titled "Trails Clear!" which describes the task they faced and the heroic effort to "blow a hole through" from Franconia to Gorham by the end of July, 1939.

Hutton wrote, "faced with the seemingly hopeless task of clearing hurricane-obstructed trails, the AMC trail crew set to work early in June to open the through routes and make a way for trampers and the Federal Fire Hazard Reduction crews. That the task was by no means as easy one can be readily appreciated. Hot, dry days, warms of early summer flies, and hands blistered from steady chopping soon made it evident that the summer of  1939 would not be forgotten for a long time to come.

By working the clock to shame, the crew punched a hole through along the Appalachian Trail from Franconia Notch to Gorham by the firest week in July. This rate of trail clearance exceeded our expectations. Following this job, the crew attacked the more popular trails. By the middle of Juy, the Franconia Ridge and feeder trails had all be cleared, although several trails remained closed to the public because of the hazard.

Contrary to reports that the Mahoosucs were spared, because the storm had veered to the west, we found the damage there sever in spots. The New England Federal Emergency crews cooperate with the AMC in clearing the 30 miles of range trail and the many feeder trails.

Clouds clearing off Old Speck, the Mahoosucs, after a storm. Photo from Goose Eye, 1968

Our work began with the trek to Garfield Pond Shelter, a strenuous one for the first week of the summer. We went in with heavy loads of food, duffle and tools. Winter had done little to keep climbing muscles in shape, and we arrived at the Garfield Pond Cut-off, muscle-sore, but thankful that the storm had spared the Garfield Trail and there had been no blow down tangles to climb through. A short way in on the Cut-off and our relief changed to consternation. Every tree between us and the shelter was down! We arduously worked our way, now snake-like, the kangaroo-like, until we finally came to Garfield Pond. There was no sign of a trail at this point, and in disgust we surveyed our scant opportunity of reaching the shelter. Finally we chose to wade across to the shelter in mud and water up to our waists, with our saws and axes and packs on our backs. However wet the trip was, it was easier through the weater than through the blow downs that obliterated the trail. We arrived at the shelter only to find that the roofing had been torn off b y the hurricane. This meant another trip down the mountain, out to Littleton, and back up again with three rolls of roofing paper.

The ridge trails and especially Garfield Ridge were real tests for the crew. There were long hous of continuous hammering away at what seemed an impenetrable tangle of jackstraws, in an effort to punch a six-foot hold for clearance. In the many areas where windthrow was complete it was difficult to spot a neew location for the trail. Furthermore, our problems did not end with cutting through the tangle. In many places the ground was a torn-up mess of upheaved boulders and roots. The footway was treacherous and rough. One had to be cautious in covering the trail.

Humorous incidents were not lacking in the crew's summer. Dave Lovejoy, a member of the trail crew, while following another man who had gone ahead up the Nancy Brook Trail, heard chopping. He carefully investigated the surrounding trees, but could see no one. At this point the trail was lost in a hopeless tangle, so he called out to the invisible worker in an effort to get his bearings. An answering shout located the missing man clearing trail some fifteen feet overhead!

At present, many of the trails in areas of heavy windthrow are like tunnels through a jungle, with considerable amounts of inflammable brush on either side. On most of the important trails the Forest Service has cleared a strip twenty-five feet on either side of the trail to reduce the fire hazard. In these areas and along these particular trails, people are not so conscious of the fire heazard that exists and will continue to exist for many years. However deceptive appearances may be, in no case should the need for intelligent use of fire be forgotten.

The hurricane has had a peculiar effect on wild life. First of all, the existing vegetation has been disturbed, and many new forms of plant life have been allowed to gain foothold, under favorable conditions. There is and will be a greater variety of possibly a greater quantity of food for animals. The mass of wintthrow has furnished excellent cover and protection for animal life. Hunters have received nature's "stop" sign in that they cannot hope to penetrate the blowdowns. Many more deer, rabbits, birds, Canadian lynx, and porcupines were noticed on and near the trails then in previous summers. The increase in rabbits in the past summer may be attributed particularly to the fact that they have been given increased protection by the great amount of cover due to the hurricane." (Hutton, December 1939)

Liberty Shelter. Photo by Robert Reifenstein (from Appalachia, December 1939)

In addition to all the hurricane cleanup the AMC trail crew was also able to complete construction of  the Liberty Shelter and Guyot Shelter during the Summer of 1939. Notice the fine craftsmanship in the doorway with the curved roof and roof supports.

In 1950 another storm caused damage to the Whites entailing more clean up work by the trail crew and then there was Hurricane Carol in 1954 and Hurricane Diane in 1955. Carol and Diane which dumped a considerable amount of water on the Whites that caused flooding.  The wind damage to the forest was high, but not as severe as the storm in 1950. With hurricanes Carol and Diane we are at the date of my entry point in this narrative, the time when I first began exploring the White Mountains and hiking these trails with my parents. 

My first encounter with the AMC trail crew was in my first summer working in the huts, 1961, opening Carter Notch Hut in early June. I was packing a heavy load up the 19 Mile Brook Trail near the height of land and wading up to my hips in snow when I heard chopping ahead and, around the corner, nearly fell over a guy about my age who was clearing out a large fir windthrow that we had been ferrying our loads around and requiring unwelcome extra effort. He was a member of the 1961 AMC Trail Crew. His name was Don Montgomery and he was doing his early season "Patrol" of the main trails of the Carter-Moriah Range. I invited him to stay at the hut for the night, which he did, and we had a great evening swapping tales. His job entailed much more raw physical work than mine, and there was little in the vein of "public relations" that he had to endure and he was always on the trail and I will admit I was a bit envious.

Trail work is unending and, in the 21st century it is becoming more and more expensive for the various organizations that maintain the trails today, but primarily the AMC. I've heard of per mile cost of trail clearing as high as $20,000, but don't quote me. In the 1960s we were blessed with organizations like the Connecticut Roving Trail Crew, a group of 8, or so, souls, from Connecticut who worked on specific trails, cleaning them up summer after summer. For instance, they would stay at Galehead for several nights compliments of the AMC and spend days standardizing trails in the vicinity of the hut, like the trail across from South to North Twin, and they did an excellent job. They were a hale and hearty group and it was great to see them coming up the trail each summer.

Members of an AMC Volunteer Trail Crew resting on the porch at Zealand Hut, 2010.

The idea of the volunteer trail crews came out of a meeting in May, 1956. The damage from the 1938 hurricane was still a problem. So many trees had been uprooted that vast openings in the forest canopy were causing extremely heavy second growth so that standardizing trail was taking up a lot of the trail crew's time. To help out the Trail Crew, a proposal to entice some volunteers to "vacation" in the mountains for a few weeks each summer and as one of the volunteers suggested "getting some pleasant exercise, good food, daily swims, fine mountain air, and good sleeping. And the song of the white-throated sparrows to cheer us on the way. Could it be spent more enjoyably." (Appalachia, December 1956, p. 268. Four volunteers showed up at Lonesome Lake Hut where Ray Lavender was hutmaster. Ray put on the dog for the group who, in turn, went to work cleaning up blow downs and water bars on the Fishin' Jimmy, Cascade Brook, and Kinsman Ridge Trail. Everyone involved felt it was a great success. The volunteer Trail Crew idea has gone through several permutations. For several years up to the present the focus as been on building the volunteer crews out of young, high school age youths, males and females, supervised by seasoned supervisors.  

It may be an odd place to exit an article on bushwhacking but my main objective has been to provide  a glimpse of the effort, consideration and love that has gone into making the trails in the White Mountains (so that we don't have to bushwhack all the time) over the past 140 years, or so, and namely, some of the characters who were involved in the design and actual making of the trails so that you might get to know them on a personal level, by name at least, and enjoy their yarns and appreciate their commitment to making trails of breath-taking beauty. 

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