Cave Hill Road in North Leverett, MA was the gathering point last night for the 40th anniversary gathering of the UMass/Amherst 1967-72 Outing Club.
This was a group of which three of the members- Albert Howcroft ( “Craft”), Dave Palmer ( “Pommer”), and Terry (“T.C.”) Cassidy served as my mentors, chauffeurs, and guiding lights during my stay at the campus.
From them I learned about spelunking, rappelling, backpacking, canoeing, winter backpacking, and how to live cheaply enough so that I had enough spare cash to pay the $.01 a mile driving cost that allowed me to be spirited around the northeast countryside having unanticipated adventures in the outdoors.
It was a life that I immediately latched on to. A life that made immediate sense to me. On the weekends, I eventually became comfortable sleeping on the ground, eating either peanut butter and jelly or bologna and cheese ( American style) on white bread sandwiches for lunch, and eating supper out of glop pots containing mac and cheese or some other thick hot mess.
These people were so damn funny that most trips took on the spirit of nonstop stand-up comedy routines with a never ending stage show. Of course , I can also remember being intensely miserable, often for hours at a time- either from the big hurt of nonstop climbing in the Whites, or from hypothermia during long trips in subzero temps in unheated VW buses.
So I braved up and walked in to encounter over 30 folks, the VAST majority who I did not recognize- at all! It was likely the same for them when they looked at me. But I could easily find those big three icons, still the same spirit of adventure, and great big hearts simmering underneath their forms.
We ate from rickety old BBQ grills stuffed what appeared to be home-made charcoal, with the usual burger, dogs, and chicken for the gang.
There was an entertainment hour, with old Four Seasons songs, morphed Beach Boys tunes, a stint of bluegrass fiddling, readings from ancient notebooks, and old “SmokeSignals” newsletters. Here’s a video clip of the fabled trio leading the outdoor audience in a rousing chorus of Thunder Road.
I wrapped up the night’s program with my PCT presentation, aided by the General, who came along for the ride. We slept in freshly-cut hayfield under quiet , star-covered sky on a night when the air was clear and cool.
In the morning Palmer made us blueberry pancakes with syrup from his own maple trees.
Tonight I plan to study a couple of photos of two pages taken from a Fall 1968 “SmokeSignals” newsletter, a journal that I edited. It’s Craft’s meticulously researched nonfiction piece “The UMass Scroungers Guide”.
I could learn something.