Tales of Woodstock

Dhodital Hiking Trip
June, 1958 (during Summer Break from Woodstock School)
By Scott Bucher

(recreated from notes, February 2013)

Class of 59
Contents - In 1958 - June 1 || June 2 || June 3 || June 4 || June 5 || June 6 ||
June 7 || June 8 || June 9 || June 10 || Maps || Epilogue || Commentary

Members of the Woodstock High School Class of 1959 hiking party:
Scott Bucher, David Chance, Jackson Day, and Hugh Griffiths





Trekking Mileage: Planned = about 120 miles. Completed = after early termination, about 80 miles.

Initial Food Supplies: Powdered milk, tea, sugar, sooji n1 Sooji is a term used in India to describe a type of grind applied to
wheat grain , oat meal, rice, flour, macaroni, sausages, potatoes and beans (other supplies acquired along the way).

Beginning Point-Woodstock School, India
Beginning Point-Woodstock School, India

June 1, 1958
We started from Upper Woodstock School n2 Woodstock School is
a Christian, international, co-educational, residential school located in
Landour, a small hill station contiguous with the town of Mussoorie,
Uttarakhand, India and nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. at 12:30 pm for Dhodital n3 Also spelled Dhodi Tal, Dhodi Taal,
Dhoditaal and Dodital , planning to reach Uglar by supper time. We reached Uglar by 5 pm and took a swim before we set up camp. We discovered that wood was scarce, so I tore down a portion of an apparently abandoned cow fence to build a fire. We set up camp on the rocky river bed. For supper, we had sooji and tea.

June 2, 1958
After eating rusks n4 Biscuits and drinking tea, we started out for Deolsari at 7 am. The breakfast was insufficient. We were completely worn out when we reached Deolsari at 11:30 am. After recovery, we cooked sooji and bought buffalo milk from some villagers.
Rest stop with Scott and Hugh
Rest Stop with Hugh & Scott
We rested until 3 pm. All of us already had blisters and sunburn. Climbing 4 miles (to 7,500 feet) to Nag Tiba Pass, we started down the other side at 6 pm to find a camping spot. We could not find water so we started down a pine ridge and kept going until 9 pm. On the way, we came across a man with leprosy who had been shunned and left out in the woods to die. We finally found a main path that led to a small trickling waterfall about 100 feet high. We attempted to cook rice and string beans, but because of the effect of the high altitude on the boiling point of water, we lost patience and ended up eating the beans raw n5 Or perhaps woefully undercooked. I was so tired that I fell asleep upon a rock on the main path which caused discomfort during the night now and then.

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June 3, 1958
Waking up abruptly in the morning, we were startled to discover three mules led by three women trying to pass us on the path where we were sleeping. We rolled over in our sleeping bags to allow the mule train to pass. Breaking camp quickly, we descended to 4,000 feet past a government bungalow, encountering a troupe of langurs along the way. We found ourselves in a hot valley with cool but small streams. It was so hot that we could almost cook our macaroni by leaving it in a pan of water out in the sun.

At 2 pm, we started to climb a ridge to 5,000 feet. Jackson drank all the water remaining in my canteen.
Dharasu-We camped on top of hill.
Dharasu-We camped on top of hill.
When we finally reached a stream, I gulped down water from the stream without using halazonen6 Water purifier. When we reached the pass, Jackson and I forged ahead because David and Hugh were slowed down by bad blisters. The pass was 7 miles from Dharasu. Jackson and I went at almost a trotting pace. Several times we stopped to pick apricots and ask directions on possible shortcuts. The understanding of the information given was rather vague since neither Jackson nor I spoke Hindi n7 Except for the
following words/phrases for Scott: <i><b>Namaste, kitni budgie hai and
. My largest blister popped but no harm came from it.

 We reached Dharasu (3,000 feet) on the Ganges River at 8 pm. We stopped at the first tea stall and ate five chapattis and drank 3 glasses of tea each. We slept on the veranda of a forest bungalow without any more to eat because we were too tired to feel hunger. David and Hugh arrived at about 10:30 pm.

June 4, 1958
Hugh and I left at 8 am, leaving Jackson and David behind because of bad blisters. The trail was very hot. I spotted a deer early in the day. After 8 miles, we stopped at a tea stall and ate chapattis n8 Flat, pancake-like bread, usually of whole wheat flour, baked on a
griddle. and drank tea. Hugh wanted to rest a bit (1:30 pm), so I went on ahead. The trail became sandy but cooler. Four miles from Uttarkashi, Hugh and David passed me on a jeep. Jackson, because of his ailing feet, stayed behind and returned by bus to Mussoorie n9 Near Woodstock
School.. David had found a Good Samaritan with a jeep, hitched a ride and picked up Hugh on the way. I reached Uttarkashi by 6 pm. Hugh and David had attempted to set up camp but found a dead body floating in the Ganges River nearby and decided to move the location of the camp two furlongs n10 About two-eighths of a mile. upstream.

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June 5,1958
We discovered in the morning that we were camping just below a Buddhist monastery. We talked with a monk for awhile before setting out for Aghora which was 12 miles up hill. David's blisters were so bad that Hugh and I went on ahead. We reached Aghora (7,000 feet) utterly exhausted at 2:30 pm. David arrived about 9 pm. We slept on the veranda of a dirt school house.

June 6, 1958
We started out on the last stretch at 8:10 am. I got out ahead of Hugh and David, so far ahead that I decided to eat my lunch without them. I ate two rusks and some glucose near a cool-drip spring water that tasted like nectar to me. The path was very steep. I could tell that I was getting away from civilization by the lack of tea stalls. I encountered two boys carrying wood. They asked for cigarettes (I think), but the only thing I had that lit up was firecrackers. I lit one and threw it down the path. When it exploded, they were convinced that I had nothing they wanted to smoke. One of the kids had an open sore to which I applied a band aid.

I reached Dhodital (10,000 feet), about 10 miles from Aghora, at 3:30 pm. I washed and cooked some rice, peeled some potatoes and rested until about 6 pm when the other two arrived. David reported that he killed a viper along the way. The food was already cooked by then. It snowed, rained and hailed all day. We slept in the forest cabin against regulations by crawling in through a broken window.

June 7, 1958
Hugh on slope of Dhodital ridge
Hugh on slope of Dhodital ridge
The next day, the watchman paid us a little visit. We had to bribe him with money. With five chapattis each, we started up to the upper ridge. We climbed up along a stream and, where there were waterfalls, we had to scale huge boulders. At about 12,000 feet, we came across a patch of dirty snow. The slope became so extremely steep and the air so thin that one could only take a few steps at a time before resting.
Dhodital Ridge
Dhodital Ridge
We finally reached the top of the ridge at about 13,500 feet with extensive patches of snow on the north side of the mountain. It was cold, and due to insufficient clothing, I caught cold with pains up and down my legs and back. Taking my five chapattis, I returned to the cabin to dry out while David and Hugh continued another mile. On returning, it began to hail and sleet causing the ground to turn soggy. Since the rocks in the stream I was crossing were all wet, I slipped several times into the water. Back at the forest cabin, I dried out by a fire and ate a couple of chapattis. It continued to hail. I was preparing to leave the cabin when a group of pilgrims arrived. I left at 1:30 pm, making my descent to Aghora and arriving there at 4:30 pm. David and Hugh joined me later and we spent the night in a forest bungalow.
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June 8, 1958
We started out the next morning at 1 am. I got ahead of David and Hugh. I reached the Ganges River about lunchtime. A forest fire had crossed our path since a few days before on our way up. I followed the Ganges River for three miles to Uttarkashi, where I stopped at a tea stall and ate jalebis and other Indian candy. One young man, intrigued by the German pan knife I was carrying, tried to shave with it and cut up his face. One old n11 Back then, anyone over the age of 30 was considered
old. lady, who heard I had been to Dhodital, put a tika on my forehead n12 Dhodital is considered to be the birthplace of Lord Ganesh, a
prominent Hindu deity..

I rested until 5:30 pm when David and Hugh arrived. We hired a horse for our packs and left Uttarkashi at 6:15 pm, continuing for 10 miles where we slept at a Pilgrim Rest House.

June 9, 1958
We reached Dharasu at 11:30 am. We had no lunch. David's feet were in no condition to hike another forty miles. Dharasu was our last chance on the way home to stop hiking and ride a bus for the long route back. It did not take much for David to convince Hugh and me to take a bus most of the way back to Woodstock School. We all bought tickets for the 1:30 pm bus to Tehri, the first leg of our circuitous bus trip. Somehow, Hugh managed to miss the bus. Unfortunately, for David and me, Hugh was the only one who had any money remaining. Well, maybe we had a few annas n13 Worth,
perhaps, about 2 cents U.S. each. between us.

When we arrived at Tehri, my clothes were the color of the dirt street, and my skin was so filthy and sunburned that I could not convince the curious locals that I was an American. David and I began making plans for food and shelter for the night, as there were no more buses leaving Tehri that day and we did not have any money anyway to purchase tickets. We found an abandoned tea stall to cook sooji, but only if we could scrounge up fuel for a fire. I thought I would solve the problem by gathering some dried cow dung, but there was none. We assumed that locals had harvested it as quickly as it appeared and took it home to dry for their fuel or other uses. I finally ended up walking along the streets picking up paper trash, cigarette butts and beedi wrappers for fuel to cook the sooji, but this was not enough. Looking like a homeless person, I was able to convince a local carpenter to let me have the shavings off the floor of his nearby carpentry shop for fuel. Amazingly, he even offered to give me to give me a few annas, but I refused to accept money. David and I ate 3 bowls of sooji each before Hugh arrived from Dharasu with his pocket full of money n14 It's hard for poor folks to appreciate rich people, but
in this particular case, Hugh was much appreciated.. We managed to locate a sala n15 Open pavilion. with several carpenter's benches stored in it. We slept on those benches.

June 10, 1958
At 5 am we took the bus for Rishikesh. We ate a few chapattis, purchased with Hugh's money, on the bus. The temperature was 110 degrees in the shade. We arrived there at 11:30 am. Then we took the 1 pm bus for Dehradun, arriving there at 3 pm. Next, we took the 4 pm bus to Mussoorie n9 Near Woodstock School.. The bus broke down twice on the way up. The second time, the bus driver needed water for the radiator. We saved the day because all three of us had a full canteen. We arrived at Mussoorie at 5:30 pm. When I got back to Woodstock School, I took my first shower in 11 days. Did it ever feel good! The only trouble is that a plumber had to be called to unclog the drain after I was finished n16 This might be an exaggeration. .

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l. Sooji is a term used in India to describe a type of grind applied to wheat grain. [Back]
2. Woodstock School is a Christian, international, co-educational, residential school located in Landour, a small hill station contiguous with the town of Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India and nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. [Back]
3. Also spelled Dhodi Tal, Dhodi Taal, Dhoditaal and Dodital. [ Back]
4. Biscuits [Back]
5. Or perhaps woefully undercooked [Back]
6. Water purifier [Back]
7. Except for the following words/phrases for Scott: Namaste, kitni budgie hai and "is-pecial" unda mungta. [Back]
8. Flat, pancake-like bread, usually of whole wheat flour, baked on a griddle. [Back]
9. Near Woodstock School. [Back]
10. About two-eighths of a mile. [Back]
11. Back then, anyone over the age of 30 was considered old. [Back]
12. Dhodital is considered to be the birthplace of Lord Ganesh, a prominent Hindu deity. [Back]
13. Worth, perhaps, about 2 cents U.S. each. [Back]
14. It's hard for poor folks to appreciate rich people, but in this particular case, Hugh was much appreciated. [Back]
15. Open pavilion. [Back]
16. This might be an exaggeration. [Back]

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Community Walk and Google Maps Courtesy of Philip McEldowney-Class of '59
(Copy and paste into your browser or click on link)

Community Walk http://www.communitywalk.com/dodi_taal_and_back/map/1561871


Google http://goo.gl/maps/AFpah

See additional map, epilogue, and commentary below.

Regional map
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Scott Bucher is the son of Rev. Henry (Sr.) and Mrs. Louise Bucher, Presbyterian fraternal workers to Thailand and earlier, missionaries to Hainan, China and the Philippines. Scott had a career as an insurance actuary. His eldest sister, Anna B. Jones, is author of Ocho Ocho: My Childhood in War-Torn Asia. His older brother, Rev. Dr. (Humanities) Henry H. Bucher, Jr., is Chaplain Emeritus and Adjunct Associate Professor of Humanities at Austin College in Sherman, TX. He and his wife, Cat, are human rights activists in their spare time.

David Chance is the son of Rev. Max and Mrs. Dorothy Chance, American Baptist missionaries to Assam, India. David began his career as an archaeologist but later worked for the Immigration and Naturalization Service and even later for Homeland Security.

Jackson Day is the son of Rev. J. Wesley and Mrs. Ruthlydia Day, Methodist missionaries to Malaysia, earlier missionaries to China and later missionaries to Sumatra, Indonesia. Jackson is now a distinguished clergy member of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church and Adjunct Instructor at the Howard University School of Divinity.

Hugh Griffiths is the son of Rev. Walter and Mrs. Margaret Griffiths, Presbyterian missionaries with the boy's agricultural school in Etah, U. P., India. Hugh died in 1996. His older brother Robert became a renowned, brilliant physicist.

February 12, 2012 Commentary from David Chance

Phil, good job on the [Google] map. The only correction I can see that is obviously needed is that the No. 4 pin should be farther north; the ridgeline is actually where you see the snow & ice starting. From there we turned northeast and ascended the ridge for about 2000 horizontal feet to close to where you see the ridge bending about due east. About there we found ourselves in the midst of a thunder and lightning storm, high wind, a snow storm, and close to the point where one loses one's bearings. Below us, to the north, the slope was so steep and slick that we had trouble picking our way back down. Only minutes before we had been skidding boulders down the ice--they seemed to go the entire distance to the Jumuna River below. Lightning was flashing below us on both sides of the ridge. There were no trees up there to attract the lightning and no holes to climb into as we once had to on a mesa in eastern Oregon.

We worked our way back down slowly. I was worried that Hugh, who was wearing those Indian sandals that crisscross on both sides of each foot would keep going down each time he began to slide. I believe we had to grab him once or twice. When we reached the saddle where the trail reaches the ridge, I felt as if our lives had been saved by a minor miracle, requiring some kind of puja to the local deities.
Bucher and Hugh were by temperament always quite fearless. I on the other hand was in the habit of looking out for ways to avoid impending death, having just seen my father disappear that way. But it was all worthwhile because the view of Bandar Punch from so near under such stark circumstances was my one experience of the high Himalayas. The scene still animates my memory, not yet burned out by age.

Using a topographical map, I estimated that we had come up to about 14,000 feet. The air seemed too thin for further ascent and was one reason we decided to turn back. Osgood, my brother, Tom, also both fearless, and I once climbed the South Sister in the Oregon Cascades, over 10,000 feet, along with Binoy Raichaudhuri of Assam, since flown from this world. We were likewise caught in a sudden storm with about 5 feet of visibility. Remembering Doditaal we decided to rope up to descend. But I seem to remember there was no rope, so we fastened our belts together, with one end tied to Binoy. He was frozen and could hardly open his eyes. After we were down some 400 feet below the summit, we were out of the storm and in the sunshine, which was restricted to the summit, an object lesson perhaps in the finite character of many dangers, just as at Doditaal.

I suspect that you, Phil, also visited Doditaal at some point.

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Tales of Woodstock Class of 59

Webber Philip McEldowney
Last Update - Sunday, 17 February 2013
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