Mount Washington my Father and Me….. and the cup of hot chocolate

The best day I ever spent with my father was a hike up Mount Washington in New Hampshire when I was 11 or 12. For several years during my youth my parents were High School Camp counsellors at Camp Brookwoods on Lake Winnipesaukee during the last week of August. And so it was during one of these camp weeks that a hike up Mount Washington was planned and Dad decided to be one of the adults to go along. I’m not sure how it was I was allowed to go on this hike at such a young age however I do recall a fascination with mountains as a young boy and perhaps that factored in.

We started very early, a bus full of high school kids who seemed so old to me, tired counsellors and one young kid wearing his hiking clod hoppers, a term my Mother used the origins of which are hard to trace. Part of the adventure was the 5 AM breakfast before we boarded the bus. The usually busy campers’ dining hall was quiet. Not many of us were used to being up at that hour. The weather was heavy overcast skies and I remember some talk of abandoning the trip. Mount Washington is not a place to fool around with and storms blow in quickly. But the bus moved forward. I guess the ride was at least two hours long.

Low clouds persisted when we pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead which is also the Base Station for the Cog Railway which goes to the summit of Mount Washington. Back then the motors were coal fired steam engines. The smell of burning coal is distinctive and I will never forget the mixture of the fresh pine scented mountain air with it. Dad pointed out the angle of the engine boilers to account for the steep grade of the railway’s route up the mountain. All in all it looked like an accident waiting to happen. I was happy to be hiking up rather than being a passenger on the train. The railway is now mostly powered by cleaner burning diesel, the smell must be different today.

My hiking gear was crude. In addition to my footwear I had dungarees, a sweater and a rubber rain slicker with a hood. This hood proved to be the best part of the outfit because it kept my head warm as we moved up into the colder upper air, still wet with mist. At first the Ammonoosuc Ravine trail wound through the woods and was just a gentle climb. Not long into the hike the trail started to ascend steeply and my legs started to burn. It is a pretty trail with many streams and a great resting spot called Gem Pool. As I continued up the trees got smaller. I really can’t remember if Dad and I hiked together but I kept going, my legs still burning but I knew I had to press on and not make it a mistake to have brought me along.

The higher we went the colder it became. The cloudy air was very moist, the hood of my rain coat doing its job. Three miles into the hike we broke through the tree line. I had never been above tree line in my life. It was a thrill. There were scraggly bushes here and there but mostly rocks. AND, there was the Lake of the Clouds trail hut. We came up to it and it appeared before us in the mist. It had not occurred to me there would be a hut up here but what really did not occur to me is that it might have inside the best cup of hot chocolate I’ve ever had in my life. Now I am sure that by sea level standards this hot chocolate was a C- or a D+ offering however at just over 5000 feet and on a cold wet day it was THE BEST CUP OF HOT CHOCOLATE I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE. Dad paid the few cents for it and that gave me the strength needed to get back on the trail.

Hiking to the summit from the Lake of the Clouds hut means taking the Crawford Trail. This is mostly a scramble over rocks for a mile and a half. Through the fog and mist I saw numerous hikers carrying 100 pound packs of supplies from the summit to the hut below. The Lake of the Clouds hut also serves as a place for hikers to sleep as they travel from hut to hut along the Presidential mountain trail. So food and other supplies are needed and garbage needs to be hauled out.

Dad and I scrambled up the rocks, following the cairns that marked the trail. Cairn is a word of Scottish origin and is basically a pile of rocks. The visibility allowed us only to see the next one. On we went up to the summit. This rocky trial made me feel like I was a true mountaineer. It was pretty cool.

Reaching the summit I found it to be a little disappointing. Compared to the charm of the Lake of the Clouds hut the summit buildings were massive and inundated with people who had come by the Cog Railway and car. To this day when I see a “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker I think to myself “what’s the point?”

We left the summit and gladly so. I wanted to be away from the noise and the cars. We returned by a different route, the longer but gentler Jewell Trail. Once off of the rocks and as the trial led us back into the forrest I remember being aware of how sore my legs were going downhill, another new sensation for me. The trail stayed pretty close to the route of the Cog Railway and the lonely sound of the engine working the grade made the descent a bit surreal although that was probably not a word in my vocabulary at that age.

Eventually we made ti back to the parking lot, everyone accounted for. Most of us slept on the ride back and a late supper was provided when we got back to Camp Brookwoods.

I can’t remember what Dad and I talked about. I can’t remember what we ate for lunch or how we carried it. Two more times I’ve climbed that same route and on nicer days but neither of those times could top the best time I ever had with my Dad. I am very thankful he took me over forty years ago up that foggy trail to have the best cup of hot chocolate ever.

Doug Marshall


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Paul Potts First Audition Video of YouTube – THIS IS A GREAT STORY!

I am not a huge fan of Simon Cowell, he can be mean spirited more often than not. During the auditions for the first Britain’s Got Talent in 2007 (Susan Boyle came along during the 2009 season) Paul Potts sang opera (Puccini’s Nessun dorma) in front of a skeptical audience and panel of three judges. One of the reasons Simon Cowell saw the promise in Britain’s Got Talent was because he believed they would find an ordinary person who had an ordinary job (In Paul’s case a Manager at The Carphone Warehouse) but with a hidden extraordinary talent.

The show, Britain’s Got Talent gave Paul Potts the chance to tell his remarkable story. This is part of my recently found fascination with story and how to help others tell their own unique one. See the link below. It is good. Paul’s story by the way is being made into a move titled “One Chance” and the release date is late 2013.

Check out this video on YouTube:

Doug Marshall617-520-4695 – Voice
206-605-4695 – Cell


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Muriel Anne Thompson turns 80

On September 14, 2013 many of Anne Thompson’s family and friends will gather to celebrate her 80th birthday. For the record the actual date is September 18, a few days after the gala event. Anne is my Aunty Anne, no relation to the pretzel stores. I thought I would share a few memories of my own to contribute to this reason for a party.

It should be known that our family is a small one. Anne and my Father were born in Toronto, Canada during the early 1930’s just at the time the Great Depression was getting into full swing. Around the same time my mother Nancy was born in Boston and grew up in Marblehead. It was just Anne and Dad and my Mother was an only child. Therefore I had one Aunt and Uncle as did my siblings Scott and Kim. Anne had two sons Bruce and Paul which meant there were only 5 cousins. When our families talked about getting the together the logistics were a little simpler than families with many more brothers and sisters in each generation. We were closer than most. Anne and Winston were like a second set of parents and Bruce and Paul are like brothers.

To me Anne has always had a positive outlook on life, a positive opinion of most people and with that came a great sense of humor. I think of all she has done and it makes me a little tired. Anne raised two boys, took care of her Mum (Grandma), her Mum’s sisters as well as Uncle Bert. She took people on tours to New England and other places, opened up her house to church youth group meetings, Bible studies and hosted countless other events. Anne has always been a student, always reading, always writing and always studying. She is still giving rides to people in need of transportation. In later years she did get to travel to many parts of the world. Winston, Anne, Mom and Dad took a road trip together to Southwestern United States, the last trip together before Uncle Win died. I’m not sure it would have happened without Anne. They all had a great time.

Neither of our families had much extra money. Vacations during my youth sometimes were in tents. Many families would not have survived this kind of closeness, ours just got closer and laughed more. The rich childhood memories of mine include listening to Anne, Winston, Murray (Dad) and Nancy (Mom) laugh late into the evening playing Rook under the Coleman lantern. Even though rain followed us on many of our trips the laughs were still in abundance. When we stayed in cheap hotels, taking rain out of the equation, then as a family would take ill together and regardless, during those times someone was laughing at the irony of the situation.

For the family Anne compiled an impressive history of our English and Canadian roots. Her parents met on the boat as they came to the new world. Everyone has benefited from this labor of love. It is good to know our history and the stories of those that came before us.

Anne has always been there for everyone and is still full of surprises. I suppose that will not stop. She is strong, still full of goodness and optimism. Every once in a while she drops me a note or sends me a book to read. I know she prays for me daily. Now a Great Grandmother she will probably be busier than ever keeping up with all of us.

Soon after I post this I’m sure there will be other things that come to mind. Perhaps I will post those as well.

I hope she enjoys her day. It is not possible for me to be there this time but I do have the intention of getting up to Toronto to see her soon.

The story of Anne’s life is a wonderful one with a few yet to be written. She raised two great sons, kept the family together and moving forward and put herself last in deference to others. “The last shall be first.” I am glad to have been a part of that story. Happy Birthday Aunty Anne. Gook luck with all of the candles.

Muriel Anne Thompson – Born September 18, 1933

Anne Pictured on the right. My Mom Nancy left. At Maggie Bluffs in Magnolia in June 2013 a few days before Dad’s Memorial Service.


September Has Arrived – There are stories to tell

My 2013 summer reading often drifted toward the theme of storytelling and in at least one book, storydoing. Every moment we breath we are either telling our own story or helping someone tell theirs. It is unclear where life will go for me from here and if I will still be obsessed with the universal impact of story a year from now. But for now this idea of story has left a deep impression on me, how I tell my story and how I help my family tell theirs and how in business I help people become conscious of the stories they are telling through what they consume.

This is all new to me, creating a blog, and there will be mistakes along the way. But you can’t learn if you you don’t start. The sky will clear for me and stories will begin to emerge. The days are getting shorter as we approach the fall. The coffee will taste better. See you soon.