As one of the founding members, I was the least prepared for serious adventures. Tom & Charlie were hardy New Englanders and experienced White Mountain hikers in their teen years. They knew all the mountains and had hiked the trails. I grew up in the thriving metropolis of Jersey City, 8 minutes from Manhattan. There were few trees and fewer mountains in New Jersey and only New York slush for cross-country skiing. I was lucky enough to be put into the Boy Scouts by my parents and to attend the Rock Hill Scout Camp in the Pennsylvania Poconos for 2 weeks each summer with my older brother Ken and my older cousin Dave. I learned to appreciate the mountains and learned the essentials of swimming,canoeing, hiking and camping. One summer my brother and cousin went off “roughing it” for a week of hiking and camping on the Appalachian Trail, but alas I was too young and was left behind. This only strengthened the desire to someday hike on the Appalachian Trail.
Starting at 15 years of age, I pretty much left the outdoor adventurous side of life to play drums in a rock band, attend college, get married, establish a career as a medical device engineer and raise three kids. At the ripe old age of 30, I was overweight and needed to get some exercise. I took up racquetball, and soon was playing five times a week with buddies at lunch. I slimmed down quite a bit and loved the competition. Alas, the job ended, my back couldn’t take it, and I moved on to the medical device company where I met runner Tom & cycler Charlie. We started playing hearts at lunch, a game I still play with great enthusiasm. I intermingled running some days to stay semi-fit. This was in the days when the company had one shower for chemical emergencies and we called it the work out facility. We started to meet up after work for biking, then hiking, camping, cross-country skiing, and kayaking; whatever involved outdoor adventure.
Early on, my two boys were at the age where they also enjoyed hiking adventures so we took them along. They loved it; Mt Monadnock and the Whites were an every year event for a while. I have been going to Lake George NY every year on vacation for the past 20 years to meet up with my very large extended New Jersey family and they look to me to lead the kids up Prospect Mountain or take a kayak trip to the island. Amazingly, they think I am the expert. It’s really not very hard to delude a bunch of New Jersey natives when it comes to outdoor knowledge. In a blink of the eye, I was taking my grandson up the same mountains.
My city girl wife of 35 years has always been supportive of our adventures although she does not share the enthusiasm. Lake George is camping enough for her. She does enjoy dining out immensely, as do I, and we do that on occasion as PHD couples.
My culinary specialty is breakfast and barbecue and we work these into our adventures. It has become a surprising challenge to put something new and exciting on the table. The guys appreciate a good meal and good spirits before, during and after the adventures. We all have our traditional roles. I log the adventures, tabulate the efforts and generally sound the note of caution when these Wahoo’s get out of hand. I suspect this last role is not truly appreciated; I cannot help it, it’s innate, due to my inability to rise above my Jersey roots.
It’s been a fun-filled 25 years with Tom & Charlie, always something new, just a little dangerous and always a challenge. I cannot say that I’m as fit as the other guys, including the newer members; marathon man Matt or stair-climber Dave but I try to keep up with them, maybe a minute or two behind. These guys keep me in line and force me to exercise three or four times a week just to keep up. The general attitudes about exercise and the workout facilities have improved significantly over the years, which certainly make it easier.
This is the essence of the PhD’s, keep each other in line, test each other, and try new things always with a joke and a smile. Nothing is too outrageous, its winter yurting and snow showing this month. Never done it, but I am sure it is going to be a blast. How many older guys can say they are going overnight yurting in February, that they kayaked on the Pemigewassett last summer or that they hutted overnight on the Appalachian Trail on the mighty Mt Washington a year ago?