PLYMOUTH — Generations of hikers know well to prepare for sudden weather changes in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Warning signs are posted at trail heads and often along trails at higher elevations warning hikers to be ready for unexpected meteorological shifts.
Artist Laurie Whitehill’s grandparents had such an experience during a late summer hike in 1915 when a three-day outing turned into a six-day test of survival. In a new gift to the Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University, the artist re-tells this story as written by her grandfather and re-imagined by Whitehill almost 100 years later.
Robert Whitehill, Laurie Whitehill’s grandfather, described that September 1915 experience a year later in the journal of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) in an article “Snow-bound in September.” Laurie Whitehill’s copy of Snow Bound In September: A Re-Imagining was received by the Museum on May 22.
Museum Director Catherine Amidon says, “The book provides a very personal glimpse into the experiences of early 20th Century White Mountain hikers.”
The book was acquired from the artist for the Museum by Rebecca Weeks Sherrill More, a member of the Plymouth State University President’s Council as well as a member of the Advisory Council for the Museum of the White Mountains.
Amidon stated that “Becky has been a great supporter of the museum before it even opened, this is one more way she’s continuing her on-going support.”
Featuring 14 linocuts drawn by Laurie Whitehill, the book illustrates excerpts from her grandfather’s original account along with the author’s own commentary about the hikers and their response to the circumstances. At first glance, “Snow Bound in September: A Re-Imagining” resembles a familiar mountain guidebook. The illustrations and text, printed on letterpress pages, follow the original story with Whitehill illustrating the mountains as seen in 1915 as well as the participants.
Whitehill had frequently heard this story as a youth, but a chance encounter with a photograph of the party after they were found made her ponder about the experience from her grandmother’s perspective.
More says the book creates “a dialogue between Whitehill and her grandmother about issues that her grandfather’s account does not address,” such as “the restrictions of her hiking clothing, and about her concerns for her two young sons left behind in Jackson.”
Snow Bound In September: A Re-Imagining will be added to the Museum of the White Mountains collections and displayed as part of a future exhibition. For more information, visit go.plymouth.edu/museum.