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--M.
03-03-2009, 01:34 PM
Well, guess what came in the mail today?


"Logging Railroads of the White Mountains

by C. Francis Belcher

with a foreword by Sherman Adams."

Upon seeing my last reference to it in a public forum, Google was kind enough to push at me several copies for purchase. Twenty bucks and two weeks later, here it is in my hand. It's a little "edge-worn" (as they say), but is otherwise unmolested by dog-ear, pen or scissor.

I look forward to consuming this book like a double whopper with extra cheese on the way home from the supermarket. I hope that, unlike the BK, it will surprise me with something rare: good writing about an interesting topic.

I'll let you know.

How does this relate (even remotely) to hiking in the northeast?

I first saw reference to this book sometime in the seventies, while thumbing through my dad's editions of the AMC White Mountain Guide, The Complete Walker, and Freedom of the Hills (no, I'm not saying it shows up in all three). My first copy of the WMG was the 25th edition (pocket-size). It was almost certainly edited by Steven Smith and Gene Daniell (who are on the front page of my 27th & 28th editions), but they don't get a mention in the 25th. I guess that kind of information didn't make the cut for backpacking. I have since randomly made enquiries about Belcher's book's availability. I once even asked Steve Smith himself about it, as he happens to run a bookstore in Lincoln.

Nonetheless, here it is, on page 162 of the 25th's WMG, wherein in it is written (on whatever they write on up there), that...:


"The Pemigewasset Wilderness is a vast, forested area surrounded by high mountains and drained by the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River. A bit more than a century ago, it was an untracked wilderness; then during the period between 1890 and 1940, lumber operations left it a virtual wasteland, logged and burned almost to total destruction (often referred to as the "so-called Pemigewasset Wilderness"). Though the birch forests that clothe its slopes in many areas still testify subtly to the devastation of the not-so-distant past, the beauty of the area is almost completely restored, and a recent act of Congress establishing the Pemigewasset Wilderness has once again officially entitled it to the name of Wilderness. The history of the logging, and of the railroads that made it possible, is recounted in C. Francis Belcher's Logging Railroads of the White Mountains, published by AMC Books [sic]. The long ridge of Mt. Bond divides the main part of the Pemigewasset Wilderness north of the East Branch into two lobes."

If Mr. Belcher's little fifteen minutes turns out even a little as interesting as its set-up, then I'm in for a good read. I also recognize the foreword author as the same name that sits on the summit building atop the Rockpile and from certain other sources. If it blows like a march rain, I'll recommend mssrs. Smith and Daniell delete its reference in future editions and dump any concepts of a reprint.

Otherwise, I'll encourage the powers that be to invest in another run of this fine little book.

What was the last book that made you go on & on?

--M.

Dr. Dasypodidae
03-03-2009, 01:52 PM
"Logging Railroads of the White Mountains
by C. Francis Belcher, with a foreword by Sherman Adams."

I also recognize the foreword author as the same name that sits on the summit building atop the Rockpile and from certain other sources.

Excellent book! Right up there with White Mountain books by the Waterman's. The forward author also founded Loon Mountain ski area, and his son Sam was a well-known geologist, not to be confused with the craft brews from Jamaica Plain, Mass. :)

David Metsky
03-03-2009, 02:05 PM
Sherm was also a great long distance hiker, having once covered 86 miles in a day while a student at Dartmouth. There are lots of great stories about him in Dartmouth lore. I met him a few times at the Ravine Lodge when I was an undergraduate - a very nice man.

He was a NH State rep, Congressman from NH, Governor of NH, and one of the most powerful Presidential Chief of Staff, for Ike.

--M.
03-04-2009, 08:51 AM
I started right in last night: wow, what a story! It's also very strange seeing the rail lines mirror today's hiking trails. See also Brad Washburn's photos of a cleared Mount Hancock (http://www.washburngallery.org/view.php?p=57&WASHBURN=1fbfde3412127bdfa720ecc109737dd9).

Also, the copyright says the book came out in 1980, with excerpts published during the 70's in Appalachia, so there's no way I saw it referenced in so early a WMG. More truth in reporting.


He was a NH State rep, Congressman from NH, Governor of NH, and one of the most powerful Presidential Chief of Staff, for Ike.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherman_Adams


Author and movie critic Michael Medved wrote a book on Presidential aides called The Shadow Presidents. He mentioned Adams was probably the most powerful Presidential Chief of Staff in history. He told of a joke that circulated around Washington in the 1950s. Two Democrats were talking and one said "Wouldn't it be terrible if Eisenhower died and Nixon became President?". The other replied "Wouldn't it be terrible if Sherman Adams died and Eisenhower became President!".

Adams (who named one of his children "Samuel"! Wouldn't the son still maybe be alive today?) writes in his foreword about the public owing a debt to JE Henry for raising awareness, but it sure sounds ironic, given Henry's method of waking people up. Also, the locomotive and logging 'trucks' out in front of Loon Mountain's parking lots are genuine Henry pieces. And the book implies that Zealand Hut was built with rail ties. I would bet that if a logger from the era could see the forest today.... It's strange to consider how much it was both denuded AND built out. The cellar holes on the Sawyer River Road whisper about a town that was quite robust and is no more ("downtown Livermore"). So much clearing and build-up! In fact, these were tiny places with hundreds, not thousands, but it really looks different in the photos. The development of the railroad just exploded this country. The rail lines look like ant trails busily set up for the most efficient job possible.

Fascinating stuff.

"If men will persist in knocking out grab hooks with their cant dogs they will be charged to them." --J.E. Henry & Sons' Rules & Regulations, Rule Nbr 26.