Crawford Notch is named for the eponymous family which moved into the Notch in the late 18th century, and by 1819 had established the Crawford Notch House (visited by 5 Presidents) and began to cut trails up the Presidential Ridge. The most famous of these trails – the Crawford Path – is still in use, and forms the basis of a large part of the Appalachian Trail through the area. Crawford Notch is a large glacial valley, with the characteristic U shape of a continental glacier valley, but with numerous late stage alpine glaciers in the cirques along the peaks. Mts. Tom, Field and Willey are 4,000 + foot hills which form the Western Ridge of Crawford Notch, and make for a terrific day hike – albeit requiring a little bit of doubling back on Mt. Field for a straight shot back to the car. The Presidential Ridge starts up out of the East side of the Notch with Mt. Webster, then trends NE to Pinkham Notch.
Mt. Tom was named for Thomas Crawford, the first proprietor of the Crawford House, and Field was named by Professor Hitchcock of Dartmouth (also the State Geologist for NH) for DarbyField, the first person to climb Mt. Washington in 1642. Mt. Field was originally named Mt. Lincoln, but as that name was previously taken by Lafayette’s sister mountain in Franconia Notch, Mr. Field was given the honors. Mt. Willey was named in honor of the Willey family, which died en mass in a horrible catastrophe in 1826 in a gigantic landslide after a torrential series of August rains. In a particularly ironic twist, the family fled their home to a shelter in which all 9 people died, and the house was not touched by the landslide. Nathanial Hawthorne captured both the horror and the irony of the tragedy in the short story, The Ambitious Guest.
The day started clear and cold (5 degrees at the base) with a 9:30 departure from the AMC Center at Crawford Notch and 3-4 inches of fresh snow – ideal for tracking. While still in the parking lot, and to my amazement, I saw a bunch of people headed up the Avalon Trail towards Mt. Tom, so I stripped down to some light climbing clothes and gave chase. I started to catch people after turning from the Avalon Trail onto the A-Z Trail, and kept passing them all the way to Mt. Tom where I caught up with a pair of Ladies from Vermont, and three French–Canadians. The weather at the top was quite brisk – well below zero – and I was frozen into helmet head hair that would have done Mitt Romney proud.
A very frosty morning on Mt. Tom
You can see 21 of the 4,000 foot Hills in the White Mountains from Mt. Tom – and the air was crystal clear for the viewing. I enjoyed the company of several strangers at the top, but was amazed at the large numbers of people out on Christmas Eve day, until I recalled the trip that my daughter Mary and I made up Mt. Monadnock just a year before – and the crew of lunatics that were out that day. Little did I know. The Ladies from Vermont were good climbers and pretty rugged, but they said that they originally came from some small Island in Greece – funny, they had no noticeable accent.
North & South Twin from Mt. Tom
In any event, I had been given strict orders not to be late for Christmas Eve dinner, so I took off at a trot – headed for Mt. Field down the Willey Range Trail. The tracks before me fell off to one person with big feet, and a big dog. Just as I came up to the top of Field, I came upon a set of snow shoe prints – but with really big strides. At the top of Mt. Field I came upon the snowshoe traveler – having a snack in a dark patch of woods, and dressed for a trip in the Antarctic. I took a couple of pictures and headed down a small steep section – when he came flying by me – literally. He was going at a dead run on MSR plastic snowshoes – falling head-over-heels twice, and not seeming to care at all. This was shaping up to be the strangest day I’d had in the Hills since leaving the Aliens in West Texas.
I continued the 1.4 miles towards Mt. Willey, which has a nice view down the Notch. I figured that I’d have my lunch there, and then retrace my steps back up over Field and then out to Mt. Avalon and down to Crawford. As I approached Mt. Willey I came upon the biggest guy I’ve ever seen in the mountains, with a dog to match. I’d seen this guy’s tracks before, but I was still surprised. This guy was a huge man with big feet, and also dressed for a trip to the South Pole. We exchanged pleasantries, and I beat feet towards Mt. Willey and lunch – trying to avoid being lunch for this guy’s hybrid lion/dog.
Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range
I got a couple of terrific shots of Mt. Washington and headed back to Mt. Field, and then down the Avalon Trail to Crawford Notch. Along the way I noticed that the number of tracks had picked up tremendously – the trail was completely tracked up and I could no longer identify the number of fellow pilgrims. This was in part due to the fact that the trail was steep, and large numbers were descending on their butts – butt tracks are quite distinctive. Most comically, they are always paired by multiple hand tracks down the sides. No question about it – there were a very large number of timid hikers right in front of me.
I started to catch up with them in bunches of 2-4 people, and they were all Chinese – both men and women. The line went on and on. I must have passed 3 dozen over a half mile stretch. I asked one guy where they were from and he said Boston – funny, it didn’t sound like the North End to me. Finally, somebody told me that they all went to school together, but didn’t say where. It looked like a Christmas Eve reenactment of Chairman Mao’s Long March – the day just kept getting stranger. At this point I was cutting into the safety zone I had for getting home in time for dinner, so I was making tracks. I came flying out of the woods at Crawford Station, hopped into the car and leaned into the gas all the way home – talking to myself the whole way.
Crawford Station at Sunset
This day was the best that winter hiking has to offer – great views, easy traveling and the wildest crew of fellow travelers that I’d met since last Christmas Eve. Honestly, it makes me look forward to Christmas.
A Cold & Beautiful December Day for Kilimanjaro Preparation
The Prouty Mountaineering Program (the first Prouty Challenge Event benefitting Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center)
Prep Hike #6
6.8 miles, 4,083 feet
December 17, 2011
Camel’s Hump – An Iconic Vermont Landmark
The Camel’s Hump is perhaps the most iconic landmark in Vermont, and one of the best hikes in the state. The mountain is one of only five 4,000 foot hills in Vermont, and the only undeveloped alpine environment in the state. The striking idiosyncratic asymmetry of the Hill is compelling as a symbol of Vermont, and has been widely adopted as a state symbol, including on the State quarter. Camel’s Hump is also one of the oldest mountains in the world, and like all of its neighbors is topped by a 550 million year old hunk of quartzite. Like so many other mountains in the area, it is capped by cliffs facing to the southeast, caused by glaciers moving from the northwest actually breaking the brittle quartzite cap rock, and plucking it from the backside – forming the cliffs.
This striking Hill was initially named Le Lion Couchant(the resting lion) by Samuel de Champlain in his trip down Lake Champlain in 1609, and currently has over 10 names recognized by the Geographic Name Information System. My Favorite is the Abenaki name Tahwahbodeay Wadso, which translated roughly, means “prudently, we make a campfire in a circle near water (and rest) at this mountain”. Since Wadso translates as mountain, that is a lot of information to pack into the remaining 12 letters.
Camel’s Hump is part of a 20,000 acre State Park, which started in 1905 with a 1,000 acre gift including the summit from the publisher/philanthropist Joseph Battell.
The Route and Team
The weather today was clear and cold, and we have very little snow on the ground, making road access widely feasible late into the season. We came in the Park through the East entrance, and headed up the Monroe Trail, which comes in from the Southeast.
The trail winds up through hardwood forest, with terrific southern exposure. It was 5 degrees at the bottom when we started, and the solar gain was greatly appreciated. The cold weather over the last several days had resulted in tremendous amounts of soft wet ice in the trail, and our Micro-Spikes were wonderful and greatly appreciated traction. The dogs didn’t seem to mind the ice at all, and turned a 7 mile hike into at least 14-15 miles – ranging out in front and chasing every squirrel and bird along the way.
Rick Morse with Liz and Ted at the summit of Camel’s Hump
With me were Dr. Rick Morse, and his two dogs Liz and Ted, a pair of Labra-doodles. The trail climbs at a fairly steady grade, and we made good time up to the top. The views from the top were terrific, and the weather quite bracing. We didn’t stay long at the summit, but were joined by a group of 3 climbers from Quebec who were planning on camping out – they were carrying what looked like summer packs and were certainly in for a cold night.
The author enjoying the day
With some snow, this would be a very nice ski trip. The bald summit and the open hardwoods would make for a really nice backcountry day. I can only hope that the next few weeks bring enough snow to make this dream a reality.
Exactly one year from tomorrow we should be summiting on Kilimanjaro! I hope to see you there.
The Fed’s Dual Mandate and the Birth of Crybaby Capitalism: Finding the Butterfly
Crybaby Capitalism: n (ca. 2007) 1) a state of whining and miserable self-centered avarice, 2) the antithesis of Masters of the Universe, 3) a psychotic state suffered by free market participants when overfed a steady diet of cheap money. See below:
That’s Jim Cramer, the original poster boy for crybaby capitalism. The fact that he feels empowered to scream and rant about the need for the Fed to cut rates and save his friends’ jobs would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic. Jim Cramer is a good showman and has a reasonably good research firm, directed at stock picking. He has an amazing knowledge and memory of individual companies and is an accomplished advisor to small investors. He is also, however, the archetype of a generation of Crybaby Capitalists fed an ever increasing diet of cheap money by the Fed – which has been desperately trying and miserably failing to answer multiple and contradictory mandates.
The Great Recession is a rolling disaster that the world economy seemingly stumbled into in the spring of 2008 and continues most colorfully today with the slow motion train wrecks of monetary policy in the United States and the collapsing Euro. This rolling economic Verdun was born many years before in a series of ill-conceived and poorly understood policy initiatives championed by consumer advocates and industry groups alike. These reforms – generally characterized as deregulation – were targeted at the seemingly laudable targets of risk mitigation and fairness, and categorically achieved just the opposite.
Each of these examples is a terrific case study of chaos theory at work. In chaos theory, a small action/change in a complex/dynamic system can have enormously disproportionate impact in the future. The classic example is posited by Lorenzo in his 1972 paper, Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas? What is most important to remember here is that chaos theory is very sensitive to initial conditions, and unpredictable beyond very short periods of time. For those making economic policy this requires a constant vigilance for the undesirable unintended consequences of policy changes – clearly the butterfly did not intend the tornado.
It is to the quest of finding Lorenzo’s butterfly that I dedicate this series of articles.
The second such reform considered in this series is The Fed’s so-called dual mandate – the debacle dating back to the Full Employment Act of 1946, but brought to the full flower of fiasco by the Humphrey Hawkins Act of 1978.
The Federal Reserve – A Much Hated American Institution
President Andrew Jackson was a prototype for Ron Paul in many ways, not the least of which was his loathing of the Eastern Establishment and Central Banking. The Second Bank of the United States lost its unique charter in 1836 during the Jackson Administration, although Jackson had attempt to kill it earlier stating, “beyond question that this great and powerful institution had been actively engaged in attempting to influence the elections of the public officers by means of its money.” Sound familiar?
Following the demise of the Central Bank, the US survived and prospered in a system of precious metal backed currency throughout the late 19th century, although with enormous issues surrounding the impact of the currency and banking system on occasional bank panics. In general, however, this was a period of strong economic growth with benign and constant deflation (reflecting the broad economic growth faster than the monetary base).
The Fed in its current incarnation was created in 1913, largely in response to a variety of bank panics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the most compelling being the fabled Panic of 1907, the resolution of which depended entirely on the personal intervention of J.P. Morgan.
President Andrew Jackson slays the multi-headed hydra of Central Banking
The explicit impact of politics on the Federal Reserve System began with the Full employment act of 1946 which committed the federal government to pursue the goals of “maximum employment, production and purchasing power.” The Federal Reserve is normally interpreted as part of the federal government (despite its putative independence), and various Fed chairmen have suggested over the years that the goals of the 1946 act are applicable to the Federal Reserve – making the tie to the Federal Government closer than the original documents creating the Fed contemplated.
The real creation of a multi-mandate Fed came in the Humphrey-Hawkins Bill of 1978, which actually created multiple related mandates for the Federal Reserve as indicated in the title of the Act:
“An Act to translate into practical reality the right of all Americans who are able, willing, and seeking to work to full opportunity for useful paid employment at fair rates of compensation; to assert the responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable programs and policies to promote full employment, production, and real income, balanced growth, adequate productivity growth, proper attention to national priorities, and reasonable price stability; to require the President each year to set further explicit short-term and medium-term economic goals; to achieve a better integration of general and structural economic policies; and to improve the coordination of economic policymaking within the Federal Government.”
The guts of this monstrosity created four clearly identified mandates to be considered by the Fed: 1) Full employment and growing incomes, 2) Balanced trade with our trading partners, 3) Balanced Federal Budget, and 4) Reasonable price stability. Dropping this load of impossibly conflicting mandates on the Fed, converted it from a fundamentally focused organization, directed at price stability through interest rate and money supply (open market) activities, into a politically charged and activist organization.
The Fed’s Dual Mandate helps the Fed retain its place as an incomprehensible mess and deserving object of derision in the eyes of all opposition politicians, as the September 12th Republican debate made all too clear. First Rick Santorum criticized the Fed and Dual Mandate, saying, “Make it a single charter instead of a dual charter institution”. Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Mitt Romney all piled on with further encouragement to end the dual mandate, but with very little discussion about the particulars as to the whys or wherefores. Perhaps Perry couldn’t remember, and Romney had taken a contrary position while Governor – but more probably they simply had never thought it through.
The Dual Mandate – as the Fed Sees It
The Fed seems to see no problem in the Dual Mandate, stating on its website,” The Congress established two key objectives for monetary policy–maximum employment and stable prices–in the Federal Reserve Act. These objectives are sometimes referred to as the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate. The dual mandate is the long-run goal for monetary policy, and the Congress also established the Federal Reserve as an independent agency to help ensure that this monetary policy goal can be achieved. The independence of the Federal Reserve in conducting monetary policy is critical to guaranteeing that monetary policy decisions are free from political influence and focused exclusively on achieving the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate.” Those clever folks at the Fed kick the blame back on Congress, but agree to shoulder the burden and press on with a smile, attempting to accomplish the impossible.
The crux of the issue is that classical Keynesian economics instructs that there is a direct tradeoff between inflation and employment. The concept is that “modest” levels of inflation serve to maximize economic activity – sort of a Laffer Curve in reverse. This became a real problem in the late ‘70’s and through the ‘80’s, when the Fed took it upon itself to break the back of rapidly growing inflation through high interest rates and restrictive monetary policy. This anti-Keynesian approach infuriated many elements in society – remember the farmers driving their tractors to Washington to protest interest rates? The dual mandate was put in place to combat the perception of an out-of-touch Fed, sacrificing American workers on a later day “Cross of Gold”.
The Volker Alternative
The inflation of the ‘70’s was caused by a series of policy disasters which began in the Johnson Administration, and accelerated in the Nixon Administration with the unilateral abrogation of our currency treaties, and the imposition of wage and price controls. The arrival of Paul Volker as Chairman of the Fed ushered in a new era of monetary sanity, and with a real currency came real economic growth. In short, Mr. Volker felt that a strong currency was the path to full employment – not devaluation through inflation.
Beginning with the Greenspan era in 1987, the Fed began a much more activist stance towards its dual mandate, aggressively lowering interest rates and easing monetary policy in response to an increasing number of fiscal crises, culminating today with the absurd situation today of short-term interest rates pegged at zero for multi-year periods and the wild expansion of the money supply through the imaginative QE x-1 programs.
History would suggest that an increasing rate of inflation actually increases the rate of unemployment.Inflation diminishes the purchasing power of most consumers and falling real wages mean reduce discretionary spending capability – decreasing aggregate demand in the economy. The result is always a contraction in net economic activity, and very strange distortions in economic activity. In November of 1974 CPI hit 12.2% leading to the cyclical high of 9% unemployment during May of 1975. Likewise, In 1980, the CPI hit a whopping 14.6% in April, which was followed by 10.8% unemployment in December of 1982. Inflation is clearly not a benign bedfellow for employment.
Crybaby Capitalism and Chaos
The fact that the dual mandate didn’t work very well is pretty clear. But consider for a moment – this activism from the Fed since 1987 was a pretty big change from past norms. Chaos theory would suggest that it probably did make some pretty big changes – just not in the areas intended.
Clearly this torrent of cheap money has not made our Nation rich, nor has it provided financial/employment security as would be suggested by the Fed. But it has created a large and growing cadre of crybaby capitalists. These folks are the only beneficiaries of all of the currency devaluation, and the Cramer rant may be considered their most visible primal scream therapy.
“Finance is the art of passing money from hand to hand until it finally disappears.“
Robert W. Sarnoff
Sarnoff was one of the great media tycoons of the modern age, growing RCA into a sprawling behemoth. He knew a fair amount about finance, and clearly had a fairly cynical view of the whole affair. And he fundamentally understood the problem underlying financial activities – they really contribute precious little to the delivery of goods and services to the economy.
Financialization is a late stage economic phenomenon in which creating and trading financial instruments comes to dominate all other economic activity. Nassim Taleb and Kevin Phillips have commented extensively in the Black Swan and American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century about the corrosive and ultimately destructive economic forces that financialization creates. Financial activities have come to dominate the profits and GDP growth in our economy, even as manufacturing and other service areas have contracted.
The concept is really very simple, as the cost of anything goes down; people tend to consume more of it. Since 1987, the Fed has steadily increased the supply of money, and dropped its price, until today, if you are in finance, you can borrow all the money you want, and pay an interest rate at or near zero. The hitch – nobody else can borrow any money at all for any real economic activity. An average investor can borrow at rates less than 3% to buy stock on margin – but cannot even begin to get a mortgage. We are told that lending is “frozen up”, but only for money used by real people for real world applications. The NYSE trades well over $50 billion per day, and total financial turnover is over 300x GDP. Clearly, there is plenty of liquidity from the Fed for finance – just not for anything else. Robert Sarnoff would probably be amused.
The Fed set out on its dual mandate in 1987, and has been futilely pumping excess liquidity into the economy ever since, hoping to promote economic nirvana, and got a bunch of crybaby capitalists instead. These guys need ever increasing injections of cheap money, much like a junkie needs his fix. As in Japan before and Europe now, we’ve reached the point where money can’t get cheaper, the babies are crying, and the economy is stuck in the mud. No amount of economic chicanery is going to pump this economy up through the chasing of the dual mandate. Can you hear the butterfly wings flapping yet?
A Beautiful December Day for Kilimanjaro Preparation
The Prouty Mountaineering Program (the first Prouty Challenge Event benefitting Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center)
Prep Hike #5
3.8 miles, 2,830 feet
December 3, 2011
Black Mountain – Mt. Moosilauke’s little brother
Black Mountain is a great local hike for Kilimanjaro preparation, located in the town of Benton, just to the Northeast of Haverhill NH. The Chippewa Trail up Black Mountain (off the Lime Kiln Road) was written up this past summer in our local newspaper, TheValley News, as the “Stairmaster from Hell”. Earlier in the season, and prior to a Dartmouth Football game, I climbed it for the first time with Gary and Jill Rogers in a fairly ugly snow/rain storm to test that description.
L to R, Gary & Jill Rogers, Wes Chapman, and many dogs
Our test group uniformly rejects the florid Stairmaster descriptor – finding the hike short, pleasant and rewarded with great views. I guess we know how the author of the article sets his Stairmaster.
Black Mountain from Lime Kiln Road, Benton NH
My next trip up was the Saturday after Thanksgiving with Rick Morse. Today’s climb was with my favorite climbing companions – my dogs Kate and Baby – and four other Pilgrims that we bumped into on the trail. Early December can bring some great weather, and today started at 29 degrees, warming to 38 by the time we got to the top. The sky was clear, and the wind from the north at 5-10 mph. In short, it was just about as nice as it gets. The photos shown herein are a combination of these two trips.
This mountain lies just a little outside the Smarts/Cube/Moosilauke axis that most Hanover and Dartmouth people seem to favor, and accordingly gets less traffic and offers a great, short alternative for folks training for Kili.
Hoar Frost crystals on the Trail near the summit
The Kinsman Range with Lafayette beyond from Black Mt. Summit
Moosilauke seen from the summit of Black
The Author and two friends on the trail in November
Rick Morse and Wes eating Thanksgiving leftovers on Black Mt.
Fog across the Connecticut River Valley from Black Mt. in November
Mrs. Baby – the dog treat bandit
Like many of the other local hills in western and southern New Hampshire, the summit of Black Mt. is quartzite, a very hard “cap rock”. Quartzite is basically highly metamorphic beach sand, composed of quartz – silica dioxide. Although I haven’t done the research to confirm, I assume that the origin of the quartzite is from thrust faulting from across the river in the American Plate. Quartzite is also very resistant to chemical weathering, and is very poor at supporting plant growth. The plants occupy the same tenuous position on these mountains that a toupee does on a bald man’s head – they are much more tied to each other than what lies beneath.
A small fold in a quartz vein in the Black Mt. Quartzite
The Black Mountain Quartzite is generally massive, and frequently polished by glaciation, with clear striations and check marks. It is brecciated near the summit along the former contact zone into the coolest quartz breccia that I’ve ever seen. The fold shown in the photo above is a great example of plastic deformation in this very hard rock – it’s hard to imagine the pressure and temperature to facilitate that. This is a great hike, with cool geology and super views – well worth the trip.
I may be the luckiest man in the world. I’ve been blessed with a beautiful family, wonderful friends, and a fully engaged career. I live in one of the most picturesque parts of the world, where I get to indulge my passion for the outdoors. If you are an old friend visiting anew, welcome back. All newcomers are welcome and sane comments are appreciated. I hope that you enjoy my thoughts on business and politics, and I hope to learn from you and your comments. Please check out my Company website at http://pcdpartners.com/.