Brad at Seek the Peak 2010 at his favorite place -
the summit of Mt Washington
I first "met" Brad in late 2007 when I joined the Mt Washington Observatory forums. Nat and I had just started to seriously get into hiking in the Whites and I was looking for a good source of information. When I posted my first "hello" message the first one to respond was someone named Brad. User names on the forums are often trail names or FirstnameLastname combinations or something to distinguish the different individuals. In this case that wasn't needed. Just Brad.
Brad was definitely the most prolific poster on the forums. He started many threads with information , photos, contests to guess temperature or wind speed on the summit. He also responded to every post where someone was looking for information - particularly about Mt Washington or the Observatory. These were his passion. After joining the forum one of the first things that I learned about was Seek the Peak. Although we had spent a night at Lakes of the Clouds on our way across the Presedentials the previous summer we had actually skipped the summit and we were looking forward to going back to do it. Over the next six months my fascination with the mountain and the observatory both grew - largely in thanks to Brad (and the rest of the forum community).
In July of 2008 I finally met Brad in person for the first time. We were heading up the Tuckerman Ravine trail for Seek the Peak. When we arrived at the Lion Head junction we met Brad, Charlie and Corey taking a break. I immediately knew who they were. There was certainly no mistaking Brad and Charlie - the "twins".
Brad heading up the Lion Head trail on his favorite mountain
Brad and his twin Charlie with Corey close behind
Photo taken by Brad of Nat and I with Charlie
We unfortunately didn't get to hike up together that day as complicated circumstances intervened. I'm not really sure why, but over the coming years we never actually hiked with Brad and it now saddens me that we never found an opportunity. At the dinner after Seek the Peak Brad had also driven the creation of a "forum table" where all the MWO forum members could sit together and get to know one another in person. It was a wonderful idea and we met many of our online friends that day. This was something else that Brad was particularly good at - bringing people together.
Over the next year Brad and I communicated frequently on the forum and occasionally offline as well. I had become a supporter of the Observatory thanks in large part to Brad's encouragement. For my second STP I was determined to be one of the ones to raise $1000 and earn the coveted MWO STP fleece that goes to the highest fund raisers. Brad of course earned one of these every year. It was another great event. The hike was wonderful, the forum section at the dinner had grown to several tables and I had reached my fundraising goal. I stood next to Brad with the rest of the group that had earned the right to be in the drawing for the lease on a new Subaru. We had all kidded before the event that we already had the plans for it after we won. Brad had been the most insistent that it was already his, but I don't think there was anyone more surprised than he was when his name was actually drawn. He was simply ecstatic and the rest of us were equally happy for him. Nobody deserved it more.
Erich, Brad and I standing together waiting for the winner to be drawn
Brad reacts as he hears his name
The official winner!
Brad and his new baby
Brad and Erich kid with each other about who finally won
During the next year Brad drove that car everywhere and always took pictures of it in the many locations with the MWOBS logo and license plate prominently displayed to promote his beloved institution. Of course driving all over the place was nothing new for Brad. When we first met, he was still driving back and forth between North Carolina where he was working and his home in Maine on a near weekly basis. I could never believe this, but Brad said he never found it to be a big deal. That willingness to drive anywhere led to a number of other events.
Brad was the kind of person that would give a stranger the shirt off his back. He opened his home to friends and made them feel like family. He also went out of his way at every opportunity to help people. He would drive from Maine to Boston to pick up a friend that was coming up for an event in New Hampshire. He would drive hundreds of miles to meet someone for lunch. One of my favorite memories was several years ago when a stranger who was planning a winter hike posted a message on the MWO forums and asked if anyone knew the conditions of Cog road and parking lot. Brad quickly responded that he wasn't sure, but he'd find out. Later that day he posted a message saying that the road and lot were plowed and that everything looked good. He had driven from his home in Maine, 130 miles round trip, just for this purpose. That was Brad.
In 2010 Brad decided to organize a series of get-togethers for MWO forum members. Since we'd had such a good time meeting at Seek the Peak each year, he figured it would be good to extend this to regional events throughout the year. There were events in NH, MA, CT, NY and PA to cover many of the local areas with MWO friends. Brad of course went to all of these himself - thinking nothing of driving back and forth to PA for a day trip. We were fortunate to be able to attend three of these and connect with a number of old friends as well as make some new ones. Brad of course always documented these with group photos.
MA forum get-together
Mystic CT forum get-together
My favorite of these events was held last June at the Blue Hills Observatory - a sister organization to MWO. Rather than just going out for lunch or dinner, this event included a hike up to the Observatory and around the Blue Hills Reservation, a great tour by the Observatory program director Don McCasland and a picnic lunch on the grounds. As usual, Brad was the "official group photographer" for the day.
The official photographer gets ready as Don flies his kite on the summit
He always hauled all that camera gear
Getting the tour
Nat and Brad apparently sharing a joke
The master at work
Brad and Chris taking it all in
Setting up for the group portrait
The Blue Hills forum get-together crew
The planning for Seek the Peak 2011 was lots of fun. This was the first year that the event allowed teams, and a regular group of us registered as the Kilted Clan. This came about based on a number of the team members being avid kilted hikers. Brad and I did not share their enthusiasm. The team members continually egged us on and my continued response was "I'll wear a kilt when Brad does". I figured we both were safe. As the event approached, Brad and I continued to kid each other about this. With about a month to go Brad, who was now a member of the MWO Board of Directors, issued a challenge to Scot Henley and the Board. If they could facilitate the team raising enough money, Brad and I would both wear kilts. Wait, how'd I get volunteered for this?!?! It was all for a good cause and the banter continued up to the day of the event. In the end, the team raised over $11,000 and Brad and I donned our new kilts before the dinner and awards presentation.
I only saw Brad once again after that day. In November he sent me a note and said he was coming to Rhode Island that Saturday and wanted to know if we could meet for lunch. He was driving down from Maine to North Scituate to take photos at a track meet that one of the students from a local school in Maine was competing in. Yup, that's Brad. We met that afternoon at a nice restaurant overlooking Narragansett Bay and had a great lunch and caught up on things. So glad that we did it.
A few weeks ago we were in North Conway for the weekend and were trying to arrange to get together, but unfortunately it didn't work out. We agreed to try again soon. I found out later that on Sunday morning, as I was driving past Peaches restaurant on the way to the store, he had been sitting inside Peaches waiting to be seated for breakfast. That was as close as we got.
Perhaps my strongest memories of Brad will always be his love of photography. You just never saw him without his camera around his neck or that huge camera pack on his back. His photos were beautiful. Landscapes of lakes and mountains (and lighthouses) were obviously his favorites. He thought nothing of leaving the house in the middle of the night and hiking out into Tuckerman's Ravine to be there for sunrise. He was also a great "photo journalist" and we could always count on him to capture images from every event. I'll miss seeing all those images...
Yesterday I was still trying to come to terms with the news of Brad's passing. I wanted to find some way to pay tribute to him and to say goodbye. I settled on the idea of taking a photo. I think Brad would have liked that. There were unfortunately no mountains or spectacular landscapes to be had. I wandered around with my camera and decided to simply capture the most beautiful thing that I saw. This was it. I know that the Brad's wishes were that people not send flowers. I hope this exception is OK.
So goodbye my friend. Our time together was way too short, but I'll never forget it. Rest in peace.