October 7-12, 1926: Franconia Range trip report


At Liberty Shelter: Franconia Range
October 7–12, 1926


On the seventh we started out from Little Sunapee, cobalt blue and fringed with scarlet wind-tossed maples and dark pines and spruces–on a curving road over gold-prinked hills, among the draping boughs and fiery leaves. It was up beyond Plymouth when sunset overtook us, a marvellous and bewitching sunset, which we caught glimpses of from time to time. First we saw it over Newfound Lake with its two green islets–there we saw a long low bank of yellow-russet clouds, edged on top with a brilliant gold cloud of sharp mountain-peaks. The sky had a rosy glow above the clouds, and in the north and south were high narrow tiers of pink. We longed for it, but we could not wait–it vanished behind dark trees. Suddenly they broke for a moment–we saw another and an entirely different sunset. Now the west was a maze of fire, and nearer us, partly covering it, were dark purple clouds–drifting about and changing. Again we saw it–there were brilliant russet tiers in the north–but the west was almost concealed by those same violet clouds, much thicker now, and breaking open sometimes and showing through arching windows the fire and glow and rosiness.… Read more

Travels Without a Donkey

In the summer of 1932, eighteen year-old Barbara Follett and her “semi-platonic” friend Nickerson Rogers quit New York City and headed to Maine with the plan of following (or semi-following) the nascent Appalachian Trail from its northern terminus at Katahdin as far south as they could get before winter set in. To make matters tricky, the AT had not yet been cut in Maine, so bush-whacking and guesswork were in order. Travels Without a Donkey recounts their adventures from Katahdin to Lake Umbagog on the New Hampshire border. They then continued their walk over the White Mountains and down Vermont’s Long Trail to western Massachusetts. They had been planning to hitch-hike to Tennessee to continue their journey along the AT, but something changed their minds and they sailed to Majorca instead, spending the winter of 1932 and most of 1933 exploring southern Europe.

“It’s spring,” Nick said.

In the very shadow of New York’s skyline, one solitary white crocus had blossomed in a scrawny patch of grass.

“What shall we do about it?” he demanded.

“What does anybody in New York do about it? Grin and bear it.”

“Come on, Bar–show a spark of life, old gal. I’m getting out of here this summer.”… Read more

Lost Island, part 1


Here’s Chapter I of Barbara’s unpublished novel, Lost Island. All typos are mine. My plan is to post the thing in about fifteen parts, one or two per week.


Not even a cat was out. The rain surged down with a steady drone. It meant harm to New York and everyone there. The gutters could not contain it. Long ago they had despaired of the job and surrendered. But the rain paid no attention to them. It was bent on an errand of hate against the city.

Windows were gray and tight shut. There was one window fronted with a box of pansies, and behind the pansies, rather than behind the window, Jane Carey lived. There was nothing outside, this morning. Nothing but gray curtains hanging between the sky (was there really a sky?) and the flooded streets. Solid gray curtains, sometimes swaying ominously in the gusts of wind.

In New York people never lived in houses or even in burrows. They inhabited cells in stone cliffs. They timed the cooking of their eggs by the nearest traffic light. If the light went wrong, so did the eggs. All the cliffs were alike, and even all the cells.… Read more

Lost Island, part 2

Chapter II, (pages 15-28) of Lost Island. All typos are mine. You’ll notice that Barbara circled “flapper” in the first paragraph, suggesting that she might have wanted a different word. Chapter I here.


Jane awoke with a feeling that everyone in New York, perhaps everyone in the world, was unhappy or in trouble. It had been so long since one of her young friends had come to her with news of happiness and good fortune. There were two exceptions, and on them she counted more than she knew — Millie, Broadway flapper; and Professor Myers, contented scientist.

The worst of it was that nothing seemed to be leading anywhere. You might struggle up a mountainside, tired and aching, thirsty and scratched with brambles, your packstraps cutting into your shoulders as if they were red-hot; but the fight was to a purpose. You would win, stand at last on the crest with triumph. You would unsling your pack and feel light and free as the wind, and go joyfully about the chores of making camp for the night. Stars in the depth of an ice-cold little spring.

Here was never-ending struggle, with no aim in it; nothing more noble than the brute, beast maintaining of life.… Read more

Lost Island, part 3

Chapter III (pages 29-41) of Lost Island. If you missed the beginning, here it is.


The river was smiling surreptitiously in the bright morning. And there lay the schooner of the evening before, as though she were trying her best to be real, perhaps for Jane’s sake. There was not much doing at the lumber yard across the river, but at least the old watchman had gone. She found an efficient-looking person at last, who was apparently about to start off somewhere in a dirty launch. “That ship?” He waved an expansive arm. “Why, I’m just goin’ out to her. You kin come along, young lady.”

She looked him over again swiftly, and decided that he was harmless, in spite of the noisy alacrity with which he chewed and spat, in spite of the great red and green dragon tattooed all around his arm in spirals, and the swaggering coarseness of the atmosphere he inhabited and carried with him.

“Fine!” she said. “Do you know anything about this ship?”

“Sure. Whaddja want to know about her?”

“Well, what’s her name, who’s her captain, and where’d she come from?”

Annie Marlow, Captain Maynard, Nova Scotia,” recited the other, with a grin.… Read more

About Farksolia, part 1

Barbara began to formulate her imaginary world of Farksolia when she was a few months shy of nine years old—shortly before she began to write her first novel, “A House Without Windows.” She worked on Farksolia for several years, developing the language of Farksoo with its extensive vocabulary and mysterious alphabet.

Barbara described her new world in an essay (undated, but probably when she was nine, in 1923). Excerpts of the essay appeared in Harold McCurdy’s “Barbara: The Unconcious Autobiography of a Child Genius,” but I thought I’d transcribe the whole thing. Here’s the first part.


Farksolia is a separate planet from the earth, and much more interesting. The planet is about twice the size of the earth, and the Farksolians are about twice as highly developed as we are. Or, at least, they were. The Farksolians all agreed, in almost everything. They were all vegetarians, and above anything else they all agreed to live in one big city so that the surrounding landscape would not be spoilt by houses. So that they did, all except a few of the poorer folks. Sheheritzade is the name of the city where they lived. There were eleven queens over Farksolia and all of them were great people.… Read more

About Farksolia, part 2

Continued from About Farksolia, part 1.

The Farksolians were great people for inventions. Almost every one of their thirty-six hour days they invented something. One of the most important days was when one invented the marvelous mail system that they had. In the middle of the city was an electric mail station. From it ran underground passages to each house in the city. The person that wished to send a letter or a message, writes it out, puts it in the passage, pushes an electric button, and off shoots the box through the passage, to the mail station. The man which receives the letter takes it out of the passage and sends it along the underground passage which leads to the house to whom the letter or package is addressed. In the mail system there is a great closet full of cabinets in which are piles of boxes, so that if one was lost it was easy to replace it, and at the station the men were manufacturing them all the time, for they were lost very often. The envelopes to the letters were very varied indeed. For letters containing valuable things the envelopes were sometimes of metal. Though this precaution was not necessary, considering the fact that none of the men at the mail station were cheats, for they were thoroughly tried out by the queen before they were allowed to go into the business.… Read more

Lost Island, part 4

Chapter IV, pp. 42-53. All typos mine. If you missed the beginning, it’s here.

Jane sang as she fried the eggs for breakfast. The world had suddenly changed from a drab, exhausted mud-puddle into a rainbow. She sang ridiculous songs. Why, even the eggs had changed! They were positively smiling now, instead of presenting a wrinkled scowl. Literally the weather was desolate, but that was to be expected on Monday. It was probably trying to deceive her into thinking yesterday was all a dream. But it couldn’t deceive her. A tingling sunburn was on her arms and face. There was no mistaking that, or the haunting vision of rigging and white clouds.

Millie’s voice drawled sleepily from the bed, with a yawn in the middle. “Why all the operatics, Janie?” she protested.

“I’ll tell you when you get up,” Jane caroled. “But I won’t confide in a lump of bedclothes…. Millie, you make me quite tired lying there under the bedclothes on such a grand day.”

“Grand day, you nut! ‘S raining cats and hot dogs!”

“Oh, it’s clearing up fast. Do get up, lazybones, and let me tell you about yesterday.”

“Why didn’t you tell me when I got in last night, if it’s so important, kitten?… Read more

Lost Island, part 5

Chapter V (pp. 54-66) of Lost Island. Chapter I is here.

The Annie Marlow glided ahead evenly, obedient to the small snorting tug that was taking her down-river. Gulls veered around her, as if they were glad she was outward bound. They would escort her gracefully down to the open sea. The wake glimmered with their wings, flashing gray and white, beating strongly and softly, in a shifting, weaving crowd. Their yellow beaks glinted now and then, and their cries surrounded the ship. She herself was light-footed as she walked on the waves of the broad Hudson, as she swung down between the wharves and immense bright liners on either side of her. She was quite willing to follow the tug wherever it might be taking her, but, in spite of her patience, she was only waiting to show her own free strength, when they would give her sail and she would forge lightly ahead alone.

“It’s a sweet day,” said Captain Maynard, surveying the vault of sky like one who knew its whims and weaknesses. “And there’d ought to be a fair breeze once we get outside, Mr. Stevens.”

The mate nodded. He was pacing the poop deck slowly, keeping an eye on the tug ahead.… Read more

Lost Island, part 6

Chapter VI (pp. 67 – 83) of Lost Island. As always, typos are mine, not Barbara’s. The story began here.

Jane was up early, and came on deck to feel the incredible blue of a young morning at sea. The wind was like the primrose wind that chases about fragrant pastured hills at dawn; only bolder and freer.

That day Jane decided she would make a determined and systematic effort to find out where the Annie Marlow was bound. She tracked down Davidson, and found him busily painting the interior of the small engine-room up forward by the fo’c’sle.

“Mr. Davidson, I’ve come to ask you the most astounding question anyone ever asked you in your life,” she began.

He put down his brush and smiled. “The trouble is, I probably can’t answer it, Miss Carey.”

“So you’ve found out my name?” She frowned at him mockingly. “Well, that isn’t my name. Not here. That’s my Sunday-go-to-meeting ‘longshore name. Here I’m known as Jane, just plain old plain-Jane, you know.”

He gave her his shy smile again. “Then I haven’t any ‘Mr.’ to me,” he ventured, busy with the paint-brush now.

“Oh, I’m glad of that. I don’t like handles.… Read more