View Full Version : Help! I'm Just Like My Parents! - or Revisiting Crawford Path

09-06-2009, 08:47 PM
Does anyone else not sleep good the night before a hike? Even when you know the weather is going to be great and everything else has fallen together? I think its all nerves and excitement, one just can't wait to lace up and go. Now I know how a family dog feels when someone grabs the leash off the wall. Anyway....

It seems as if there are those who have an affinity for remembering dates. My mom is like that. By means of a formula known only to her, factoring in variables such as which house we were in,what grade we were in, who may have been with us, who was single or married at the time, born when, our age, and an innumerable list of circumstances, the sought for event could be narrowed down to its respective year or season. I attempted a similar calculation to derive the date of my last hike up Crawford Path. Worst case: its been a long time, Best case: 1987 or 88.

Anyhow, this is the first time I've done it with Klutzy Cat, as well as her sister and husband Forester Jake. So as you can see, despite the passing of years, it was still a family affair, of sorts. Something about this Path creates a link to the past that cannot be denied. Whether that is the past in the sense of White Mountain history or that of one's personal or family past, the connection still exists. So much has happened here that one benefits if directly involved or just a bystander in time. Though there were many hiking trips in our years, the Crawford Path was an annual, if not more than once in a year, event. After all it was easy to get to. Drive down Valley Rd, up and over Jefferson Notch Rd, and there you were, real close.

The goal for today's hike was to breathe life back into that thought. My parents were always well versed in White Mountain history. How often it was while hiking that Dad would introduce some historical episode with the words: "Just think..right here..over there..back in.." So that was my springboard for today. I decided to allow my imagination to take leave of, that's right, just walk out on my brain and have a seat beside me. Free to do its own. Go wherever, see and experience whatever it wished. I hoped it would have much to relate when it returned.

Its a wonderful thing to release your imagination on the trail. Even here, a trail so well-travelled, so familiar, so seemingly frequented. The hiking imagination knows no boundaries. Sure, there are at times some known facts that try to hem it in, but more often then not, facts are unknown. Hiking is human, and we are limitless, so are our thoughts. The hiking imagination can be as close to reality as a whiskey jack eating from your hand. It can flutter like a junco or white-throated sparrow amidst the scrub. Even soar like a crow above the peaks. I like to think of it as flying, diving, lifting up again, rolling on its back just to swoop down again. Effortlessly,like a barn swallow over your July garden. Its a wonderful companion when you hike alone or a charming addition to your coterie'. It costs nothing, weighs nothing, and takes up no space in your pack. It also has no expiration date.

It thinks of Darby Field. Whichever way he got up here its likely he travelled along a portion of this Path. Call him what you will, treasure hunter or blind adherent to the human spirit of adventure. What was on his mind? What preperations did he make? How would he know what to bring? Its comparable to me planning a trip to the moon. Where does one start? Thanks to my Living History experience I have some gear adaptable to his time period. When it got wet, it got heavy and smelly. The three basics: wool,linen, and leather. Footing with such gear is not always reliable, he had to have slipped at some point. Did he recover in sight of his guides of the First People's, or did he eat it? Did he drink of the Lakes or just observe, would one do so not knowing the origin of their color? I like to think that once the dreams of riches were snuffed there was a aquiescence of the value of true natural beauty.

Then there are the sisters Austin. Originally from Portsmouth, but at the time of which I relate, like myself, from Jefferson, apparently when they hiked they resided in Jefferson, so let's give a hand to the hometown gals. Guided up this Path by Ethan in 1821. Without any personal experience in women's clothing I have nothing to relate. Somehow I like to imagine the morning of their final ascent. Steadfast,determined, tightening up their snood, or bonnet perhaps, a clear morning sun tracing its soft lines across their features. Their clothes, too, wet and heavy from rain the days prior. Just think of the brimming enthusiasm, the first women atop. Hard to contain, probably bursting at the seams. Bold, intrepid, and gutsy.Think of the pride in recalling the events in their later years. In 1825 a Mr Park wrote, after encountering a storm during his ascent,"Ladies, give up all thoughts of it (an ascent)..you will find it, for you, a tremendous undertaking." I like to imagine the misses Austin encountering Dr Park one day, and in the vernacular of their time politely telling him to take his advice and "Flush it."

Then I think of Crawford guiding Daniel Webster to the top. A foremost Son of NH. That was 1831. Initially against the idea of hiking that day, Crawford changed his mind when it was revealed who his client was, someone he truly respected. What was it like to hike with someone held in such high esteem? I'll bet he waited on every word, even those between the huffs and puffs of exertion. I can see him hurriedly gathering the essentials for the hike. Perhaps more than the usual considering the present company. Fumbling, looking for this and that. What did they talk about, or did they enjoy the quiet? I can see them now. Two men admired in their respective expertise, standing tall while enjoying a simple pleasure. And in the end, Daniel gives Ethan a $20 tip, hey, that's about $400 today. Not bad at all.

My imagination lingered in one other area today. An area I hope I never find myself in. It harkens to the storm of June/July 1900 that claimed Curtis & Ormsbee. I know bad weather, I know mountain storms, I know the initial blitz of panic you have to dodge in unexpected crisis, I know the dread of being adversely caught above treeline amidst a pale sea, but to know that every element is honing its force directly on you is another story. I've always noticed how quiet the birds are when a storm is building somewhere.Was it like that then? Were there no calls of the vireo or sapsucker in the hardwoods? No chickadees or thrushes? I'll bet it was like that. At what point does an inanimate event become a killer, a determined intent to take life, daring anyone to defy it? A foreboding silence. What does one think," Why me?,I know it can happen, but to me?,This shouldn't, couldn't,can't happen." One last expended breath carried quickly away by an angry, merciless wind. When was the cognizant realization this fight was over? A final rush of air to a tortured face, a final roar to the ear. Can one have the ability in their final moments to make peace with the mistakes that led to this? The irony that at a time of year when life is returning to the fields, forests, and mountains of the Whites, that life, your life, is about to end.

Then it asked me, as I sat atop these peaks, to imagine a time before us. A time of no trails, no cairns, no signs, no roads or treadways, no ladders, huts, or hotels. No anything. An unadulterated land, void of any type of infringement. An evergreen sea brought to life by a wind sighing across the treetops, overflowing and ebbing at my feet. A deafening silence. Brooks and rivers, like a silvery, silken thread, spun through the tapestry of the hills. What would my reaction be? Share it with others, or vehemently protect? Just think.

Triumph and tragedy,and everything in between. And if you think this is all ancient history that has no impact on you as today's hiker, well, I implore you, the next time you stand up, please, - take a look down. That's right. Your feet. The one connection all hikers share.You hike with them, so did they. Just think.

My imagination whispered to me one more sight before returning to the confines of my head. It tells of something it saw in the not too distant past, though certainly not the caliber of the previously related experiences. Of a boy, who bore a strong resemblance to me, just a lot younger. His blue windbreaker with the Hot Wheels patch, a white Snoopy hat with a yellow brim,his mom made him hike with it, because after all, it is July in the Whites. Like an imagination afloat he too was swooping, diving, moving to and fro, sometimes stopping to face realities, but more often than not, just letting his imagination take the lead. As an observer it surmised that the two of them would enjoy a long, healthy relationship, and should do just fine. Of this, I assured the imagination, that its intuition served it well.

So that's what can happen when you let go of the reins. When you go hiking and you take the time to...well.. the time to just think. Its now I realize that I've become a lot like my parents, and in this case, that's not a bad thing after all.

Pics are here:


09-06-2009, 09:15 PM
Wonderful. Usually pictures tell a story that can't be told by words. The pictures of this hike are beautiful - but your words tell a story that no picture ever could. Thanks for allowing us to share your memories (as well as the possible thoughts of those long ago) and reminding us that we need to take time to do more than just put one foot in front of the other on the trail.

Jimmy Legs and Little d
09-06-2009, 10:27 PM
A beautifully written and thought provoking report. I think it is safe to say that as we get older we realize that in some respects we do become like are parents.

Little d:)

Snow Miser
09-07-2009, 09:12 AM
Beautiful pictures. And a beautifully written account of your thoughts and hike. It was very nice to read. Thanks for sharing!

09-07-2009, 12:40 PM
Thanks guys! We had an awesome long weekend! By doing Crawford on Friday we missed most of the crowds, then had beautiful weather for Tom & Field on Saturday. There were certainly more people but it was a wonderful time!

09-07-2009, 05:04 PM
A great account, both in words and pictures, I enjoyed it.

09-07-2009, 10:14 PM
Then it asked me, as I sat atop these peaks, to imagine a time before us. A time of no trails, no cairns, no signs, no roads or treadways, no ladders, huts, or hotels. No anything. An unadulterated land, void of any type of infringement.
Very thought-provoking and moving report, Scott! Thank you for sharing!