Mountain legends (e.g., Rheinhold Messner, Sir Edmund Hillary), are usually created in the great ranges. Another kind of legend, however, had its making in the smaller but nonetheless noble mountains of New Hampshire. In this eponymous biography, writer William Putnam covers the life of Joe Dodge, creator of the United State’s first commercial backcountry hut system, and the grandad of huts as we know them.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a few spirits up at the cabins, or perhaps back at home, be assured that Mr. Dodge was no teetotaler. You can picture rough-and-ready Dodge chatting it up with author Putnam, who describes Dodges cocktail hour, “…two glasses, some ice, and a bottle of Platte Valley Corn Liquor. After sampling of the contents, ‘to make sure it won’t rot your fillings,’ Joe filled my glass…”
Judging from the contents of Joe Dodge, Putnam’s glass was emptied more than a few times, for most of the book is in the form of reconstructed conversations with Dodge that sometimes border on tedium, but for the most part give you a sense of Dodge’s persona. His bull headed determination is what created our first true mountain hut system, and there is something to be learned from Dodge in this.
Perhaps one question Putnam asked of Dodge really sums it up, “Have your ever had any regrets about taking up such a different life from your family?”
“Sure,” answered Joe, “I haven’t made any fortune up here, but I’ve had more fun in my life than any city slicker you’ve ever met, and it gets better all the time.”
Keep old Joe in mind next time you volunteer for a weekend of work on a public hut.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.