Glorious Mountain Days

Harriet Freeman, Edith Hull, Emma Cummings and Fred Freeman stand on a log bridge in Cascade Ravine during their week-long traverse of the Presidential and Carter Ranges in July 1902.

Persistent sleuthing by two New England authors has brought together a remarkable group of letters and photographs that at the heart of a newly-published history.

What began as an idyllic week-long tramp across New Hampshire’s Presidential Range in July 1902 evolved into a passionate and political campaign that led to the preservation of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The lavishly illustrated book, “Glorious Mountain Days,” by Allison Bell and Maida Goodwin, would be a welcome gift not only for those interested in local and women’s history but for modern-day environmental activists looking for models in their own preservation battles that are very much in the headlines today.

The remarkable words and images, created during that hike by amateur naturalists Hattie Freeman and Emma Cummings, describe mountain birds, alpine flowers, rugged trails, and camp life enjoyed by the two women and their companions. 

The “glorious” experience of the title, at the precise moment when those forests were under extreme threat from logging and aggressive developers, inspired the women and their cohort to successfully work for Congressional legislation and the ultimate preservation of the White Mountains. Insight from naturalist Allison W. Bell and archivist Maida Goodwin brings contemporary context to this rare combination of artifacts from a once-forgotten adventure.

The letters, preserved in one of the largest libraries in the world, The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the photographs, preserved by the Lowe family in the tiny town of Randolph, N.H., and the Freeman/Rankin family, in Massachusetts, might never have been united without the persistent research of authors Bell and Goodwin. The saga of how three separate research projects ultimately revealed this history, is interwoven expertly into the book, and is as absorbing as the story itself, and a model for researchers and historians everywhere.

“For those who know the White Mountains well, it is utter delight to tramp along with Hattie. For newcomers, this narrative will open a door to the life-changing possibilities to be found in the mountains,” raves Laura Waterman, co-author of Forest and Crag: A History of Hiking, Adventure, and Trail Blazing in the Northeast Mountains. Forest and Crag:  A History of Hiking, Adventure, and Trail Blazing in the Northeast. “Truly, this wonderful and supremely personal account should be in the library of every White Mountain hiker.”

Glorious Mountain Days was published by Bogtrotters Press in partnership with Bondcliff Books of Littleton, N.H. It is now available at many local book stores or via Bondcliff’s website www.bondcliffbooks.