Call Us Today 207-879-0134
Darby Field first climbed Mt. Washington in 1642, but there were almost no visits to the mountains for another 150 years. Mountains were considered daunting and terrible and few had the time or inclination to visit them. Then, in 1784, Jeremy Belknap led a scientific expedition to Mt. Washington, which he named. Descriptions of this trip were published and created interest in the White Mountains. The first visitors were mostly scientists, botanists, authors, artists, adventurers, and academicians. They came on foot or horses and stayed at the houses of local settlers in the region. The most famous of the early residents were the Crawfords. Visitors became numerous enough that it was decided to cut a trail to the summit of Mt. Washington. This was the Crawford Path put in by Abel and Ethan Allen Crawford in 1819. Visitors continued to increase and in 1828 the first building solely for the accommodation of travelers was built. This was the Notch House which was located in Crawford Notch a little south of the Highland Center.
Around the 1850s, the railroads reached the towns of Littleton, Conway, and Gorham. The railroads greatly increased accessibility to the mountains and there was a great increase in vacationers beginning in the 1850s. Great hotels, some with hundreds of rooms, were built. These included the Crawford House in Crawford Notch, the Profile House in Franconia Notch, the Glen House in Pinkham Notch, the Summit House on Mount Washington, and lastly the Mount Washington Hotel built in 1902. The visitors at the hotels did little hiking but visited scenic sites and were led by guides up the mountains over bridle paths on burros or ponies. A bridle path up Mt. Washington from Pinkham Notch was opened in 1852. It became a carriage road in 1861. The Cog railway on the west side of the mountain opened in 1869.
Modern hiking is considered to have begun around 1870. People began to come to the mountains to climb and hike. They began to build foot paths and formed hiking clubs. The AMC was formed in 1876 at a meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The AMC subsequently had a profound effect on hiking which was accomplished through trail building, providing accommodations, and publishing trail guidebooks. The first AMC trail was Lowe’s Path put in by Charles Lowe and William Nowell in 1876. Most of the trails today were built between 1870 and 1910. The first hut where hikers could stay was the Madison hut built in 1888. The Carter Notch hut was built in 1914 and Lakes of the Clouds in 1915. The Pinkham Notch Camp consisting of two log cabins was built in 1920 and managed by Joe Dodge beginning in 1922. In 1928, he became manager of the hut system.
WTF is TFC? Listen HERE.
He oversaw the expansion of the hut system until stepping down in 1959. Louis F. Cutter’s map was published by the AMC in 1886. The AMC White Mountain Guide described the trails in detail and first appeared in 1907. The State of New Hampshire began selling wild lands in 1810. The last piece was sold in 1867 for $25,000 and consisted of 172,000 acres including Mt. Washington. Extensive logging on these lands began in the second half of the nineteenth century. Logging camps were built and most of the forest was clearcut. Logging railroads were built throughout the mountains. Many trails today follow the railroad beds. Inevitably, a conflict developed between loggers and those visiting the mountains.
The slash contributed to devastating forest fires the effects of which can be seen in places today, although mostly the forest has made a remarkable recovery. There was a great public outcry and a conservation movement developed. Finally, the Weeks Act was passed in 1911 and provided the legal basis for the establishment of the White Mountain National Forest. John W. Weeks was a Representative and later Senator from Massachusetts.
After the flurry of trail building, the trails were not maintained and many grew in and disappeared. In 1919, the AMC formed the first trail crew to maintain trails. The first crew included Sherman Adams, future governor of New Hampshire and Eisenhower Chief-of-Staff, Dudley Carleton, John Fuller, Cyril Fyles, Otto Hess, Paul Jenks, Carleton Reed, and Clarence Stilwill.
The AMC's trail crew is one of the oldest, and most respected in the nation. Find out about who they are, what they do, and what life on crew is like.
Camaraderie and love of the outdoors inspired the creation of the AMC Trail Crew Association (TFC) in 1952. It was certainly not the first time that alumni sat about and shared drinks and stories; after all, the first recorded trail crew alumni reunion was held at the house of Roy Bailey in November of 1948, and there were probably a few informal ones before that. Nevertheless, the TFC was organized to foster a renewed sense of community and outreach amongst an otherwise scattered community by Heinrich “Hix” Henrich, a member of the 1924 crew and later lawyer in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. The founders of 1952 asked for annual dues of $1.00 to fund the mailing of their November newsletter, Chips and Clippings. Today, the TFC asks for slightly higher annual fees, but their mission remains the same. The current Association maintains an addressee list of current and past trail crew members, holds an annual reunion and weekend reunions in summer at Shelburne the Lodge, and continues to publish Chips and Clippings. The state of New Hampshire recognized the TFC’s application for incorporation as a non-profit in 1999 and requires our renewals each five years as a NH Not-For-Profit Corporation.
Trail Crew Thoughts - Al Thorndike - 1966