When you think of physical toughness, who comes to mind? Army Rangers? Navy Seals? Elite athletes? Well, add one more category: the White Mountains Professional Trail Crew of the Appalachian Mountain Club. With 80 pound packs on their backs, they are known for sprinting the trails of the Presidential Range, including Mt. Washington. Steep trails. Up into the clouds, in sun or fog or downpours, they run at full speed with their axes, freeing the forest trails of downed trees and hoisting five hundred pound rocks around to build stairs.
Every hiker who has ever climbed New Hampshire’s White Mountains has walked over bridges the Trail Crew has built, or rock stairs they have constructed. You don’t see them much. When you pass a sign that reads, “Trail Closed,” that’s where they are. A crew of men and women, living in the open for long stretches of time, unable to bathe for days, covered with spruce pitch to fend off bugs. A wild bunch. Smelly. Dirty. When they emerge from the trees to surprise hikers, they often resemble something out of Deliverance. Many hail from the country’s best universities.
Founded in 1919, the AMC Professional Trail Crew is a hundred years old this summer, and to celebrate their centennial on Mt. Washington this August, they’ve asked me to tell their story.
I’ve been working on it for a year. It’s called THE OLD MAN SPEAKS.
More to follow.