RANDOLPH — The words and photos that make up the core of Glorious Mountain Days: The 1902 hike that helped save the White Mountains,” researched and edited by Allison W. Bell and Maida Goodwin, were produced during a camping trip in the White Mountains in July 1902, 116 years before being published in 2018.
The photographs were preserved through the generations by the Lowe family in this small town and by a Massachusetts family.
The words in letters, mailed to the Rev. Edward Everett Hale who was a very well-known clergyman, ended up in the Library of Congress as part of the collected papers of an influential New England family.
Goodwin points out in her preface, “At 80 years of age in 1902, [Hale’s own] hiking days were over, but his two friends — Hattie Freeman and Emma Cummings — sent him a detailed and enthusiastic account if their trip.” These 1902 letters were only a few of some 3,000 that Freeman exchanged with Hale between 1884 and his death in 1909.
It was not until 2006 — over 100 years later — that historian Sara Day recognized that Hale and Freeman had had a long and well-concealed love affair. It was in 2013 that Day published her book, “Coded Letters, Concealed Love: The Large Lives of Harriet Freeman and Edward Everett Hale,” (New Academia Publishing).
The photo album was presented to Vyron Lowe (1869-1962) as a token of appreciation for his superb work as the hiking party’s guide, Goodwin explains.
The 100-plus-page paperback can be enjoyed for the interesting story it tells of a guided hike, organized in July 1902 just before the northern slopes of the Presidential Range were soon to be stripped of their trees.
Pioneering pathmaker J. Rayner Edmands joined Freeman, Cummings, her nephew, an accomplished young photographer Frank (Fred) Edith Hull, Freeman, at the start of a seven-day trip, starting from the Ravine House (hotel) at 10:30 a.m. on July 8. The hikers traveled on July 7 from Intervale, where beginning that summer Freeman rented various cottages on or adjacent to “Stonehurst,” the Merriman family’s grand estate.
“Each [hiker] carried a bag fastened by a leather strap over the shoulder containing all necessary articles for our camp life,” Cummings wrote. “Crossing the railroad track we found ourselves at once in the woods, among the canoe and yellow birches, beech, maple and some spruce, fir and hemlock, the latter all small trees, because lumbermen have long ago stripped the bark from the old trees, and left the trunks to rot on the ground.
“The guide Mr. Vyron Lowe, with a load of provisions went by another and more direct route to the camp called the Perch, on the western slope of Mt. Adams. At half past one we stopped by a brook to eat some luncheon and as soon as we felt well established for a short rest, the black flies, which we had scarcely noticed, were so troublesome that we were soon glad to move on. Mr. Edmands through the day called our attention to many interesting geological facts …
“After luncheon we made a detour from the Randolph Path over which we have been walking for the purpose of visiting the ‘Floor’ of King’s Ravine, an elevated plateau from which was seen a magnificent view of the valley. Part of the way was boulder climbing. Sometimes the path led among low shrubs & underneath them were great patches of Cornus Canadensis in bloom.
“Above came the boulder climbing and there we saw the evergreen leaves of the mountain cranberry growing over the ground partially covering the rocks, and showing its pretty pink-and-white blossoms.”
Cummings describes other blooming flowers and trees as well as birds, including Swainson’s thrush, winter wren, black poll warbler, black-throated blue warbler, Junco and Peabody (white-throated sparrow).
“We reached the ‘Perch’ about half past five o’clock and found a cheerful fire and hot dinner nearly ready for us,” Cummings continues. “We had been walking seven hours, having covered about as many miles and a seat before the blazing fire with something to eat was what we wanted more than anything else in the world, although we all declared we were not much tired.”
Their guide introduced them to the song of the Bicknell’s thrush.
Edmands was their host. It was he who had built both The Perch and nearby Cascade Camp a decade before.
The hiking party visited AMC Madison Hut on their third day, and then Freeman, Cummings and Lowe hiked to the top of Mt. Madison and enjoyed views of Gorham and Berlin Falls.
The four hikers and their guide walked over on the fifth day, Sunday, July 13, from Cascade Camp to Mount Washington over the Israel Ridge path to the Gulf Side path to Jefferson and across Clay to the highest peak.
“We ate our luncheon on the side of Clay and when near the summit of Washington walked for a short distance on the rail-road ties,” Cummings wrote. “Finding it tiresome we crossed to the carriage road, and by this reached the summit house [150-bed hotel] about five o’clock. There were but a few guests and the housekeeper told us that the season was very late. Flowers that usually are out of bloom when they arrived the middle of June are just coming into blossom.”
Bell and Goodwin compare the calm, clear day that marked this group’s hike across the range with the rugged bushwhacking that Hale, then 19, and his friend William Francis Channing had undertaken in 1841 during a September thunderstorm 61 years before. It was then that Hale fell in love with the White Mountains, and he always remained smitten.
“Visiting Cascade Ravine some 60 years later, Hattie’s group was among the last to enjoy the lush forest and beautiful cascades before logging devastated the landscape,” Bell and Goodwin point out.
The hiking party visited the Snow Arch in Tuckerman’s Ravine the next day on July 14 and also visited the Glen house before visiting Carter Notch and Gray’s Inn in Jackson.
When Hale visited Intervale later that summer, Freeman helped galvanize him to begin to work for forest preservation along with many others, including Edmands and forester Philip Ayres of the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests.
When Freeman visited The Perch and Cascade Camp again then next summer, she found their woodland paths ruined. “For a mile we walked over a logged area, the pretty forest path simply a mass of mud,” she wrote.
After Hale was appointed Chaplain of the U.S. Senate in 1903, Freemen encouraged him to keep lobbying Congress for federal preservation of the White Mountains.
Although Hale died before the Weeks Act of 1911 was passed, Freeman was “much gratified” that Ayres asked her in Nov. 1918 for a portrait of him to hang in his office at Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests once the White Mountain National Forest had been established earlier that year.