Sunday, March 11, 2018
The ridgeline of Mount Mansfield extends two miles from the Chin in the north (Vermont's highest point at 4395') to the Forehead in the south (3940'). Butler Lodge is nestled in the woods south of and below the Forehead at 3030'. On a clear day, part of the ridgeline would be visible above and beyond the lodge in the photo above, but today was not a clear day.
Nancy and I snowshoed today from Stevensville to Butler Lodge via the Butler Lodge Trail on the Underhill side of Mount Mansfield. As we were leaving the parking lot, we met a party of seven or so snowshoers coming out, but otherwise we saw no one on the trail. There had been a fresh snowfall overnight of about 6", and we estimated 1.5-2.5' of snow in the woods depending on elevation. Fortunately the trail was well packed:
The Butler Lodge Trail is part of the Long Trail System. The Long Trail itself is on the ridge 0.1 miles above the lodge; we did not go that far. The Long Trail is blazed with white paint, which is sometimes hard to see in winter. Side trails are blazed with blue paint. The blazes on the Butler Lodge Trail must have been painted last fall. They were bright blue and easy to see.
But these are not the only trails in Vermont's woods, especially in winter. The Catamount Trail is a ski trail that, like the Long Trail, runs the length of Vermont. We did not encounter the Catamount Trail on today's snowshoe hike, because it is on the other side of Mount Mansfield (the Stowe side). But about halfway to Butler Lodge, we crossed a backcountry ski trail blazed with red plastic markers:
That red marker looked a lot like some of the markers we saw last month on the Madonna Vasa Trail! Indeed, the map at the Stevensville trailhead revealed an extensive network of backcountry ski trails. (But not the Madonna Vasa Trail.) On the map, the ski trail we crossed was labeled "W.B. Trail" north of the Butler Lodge Trail and "Underhill/WB" to the south.
North of the Butler Lodge Trail, the W.B. Trail crosses the Frost and Tear Drop Trails and continues to Underhill State Park. South of the Butler Lodge Trail it connects to the Underhill and Overland Trails which lead over the ridge to Stowe where the map showed even more backcountry ski trails. (The W.B., Tear Drop, Underhill and Overland Trails are all backcountry ski trails. The Butler Lodge and Frost Trails are hiking trails in the Long Trail System.)
I learned a lot from the map at the Stevensville trailhead that I didn't know before. In addition to those backcountry ski trails, I learned about the website www.trailfinder.info about trails in Vermont and New Hampshire. The main organization behind the website is the Upper Valley Trails Alliance headquartered in Norwich, Vermont, which I had not heard of before. There's a lot going on in the backcountry of Vermont!
Stats for today's hike: Distance – 1.8 miles each way. Elevation – 1400' at the trailhead and 3030' at the lodge for a gain of 1630'. Temperature was in the upper 20s.
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Today we snowshoed a section of the Madonna Vasa Trail. It was a beautiful day!
Our party of six snowshoed from Smugglers Notch Ski Area to Iron Gate Road, a distance of perhaps five miles. There was about a foot of snow on the ground in most places, less here than on our hike a few days ago on Laraway Mountain. A fresh snowfall of 2" overnight made for pleasant snowshoeing. When we started it was clear and sunny, about 20 degrees F. By the time we finished, it had become cloudy and warmed up to 30 degrees F.
We saw several old cellar holes, signs of civilization past:
And we saw signs of civilization present: a logging operation and three maple sugaring operations. The photo below is a typical pipeline system for collecting sap from sugar maple trees:
The box on the tree in the photo above is a solar powered Tap Track wireless vacuum monitoring system. Maple sap pipelines are on vacuum, and they work best when there are no leaks. The Tap Track system helps the sugarbush operator identify the location of leaks.
The Madonna Vasa Trail was built in the early 1960s for cross-country skiing. The full trail extended about 14 miles along the side of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain, from Smugglers Notch Ski Area in Cambridge to Mountain Road in Underhill (the road to Underhill State Park). There were cross-country ski races on the Madonna Vasa Trail in most years 1967-1975, as snow conditions permitted, but use of the trail declined after that.
Nevertheless, we found several kinds of trail markers in the woods. The tree below had three kinds of markers: rectangular metal, faded plastic diamond, and newer plastic diamond.
The tree below had a plastic diamond indicating that the trail turned right, plus a plastic circle:
We also saw round metal markers:
The Madonna Vasa Trail was named after Madonna Mountain (one of the mountains in Smugglers Notch Ski Area) and the Vasaloppet – a famous cross-country ski race in Sweden inspired by a legendary ski run in 1520 by Gustav Vasa, later King Gustav I and considered the founder of modern Sweden. "Vasaloppet" is Swedish for "Vasa race."
Thanks to Joel Page for organizing today's adventure. Most of us on today's outing had snowshoed a portion of today's trek in 2012, also led by Joel.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
The Long Trail on Laraway Mountain goes under south-facing cliffs which form impressive ice columns in the winter!
Just above those cliffs is a lookout. The mountains on the horizon to the right of the tree in the second photo below are Whiteface, Madonna and Mount Mansfield.
Laraway Mountain is in Waterville, Vermont. Today Joel, Nancy and I snowshoed the Long Trail from Codding Hollow to the lookout on Laraway Mountain, about two miles each way. It was a sunny day with light winds and temps in the low 20s. There was about two feet of snow in the woods, much more than at home, but we did not have to break trail. The trail was well packed, although we saw no one.
At the lookout we saw a dozen or so ravens having fun in the sky. (I took photos, but failed to get a good one.) We could see Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains of New York on the far side of the lake. It was a beautiful day.
Below is another photo of the ice formations on our way down from the lookout:
The best day in winter is better than the best day in summer! (I've said that before.)
Monday, January 8, 2018
Backcountry recreation is growing in popularity in my town of Cambridge, Vermont, and in northern New England generally. By "backcountry" I mean off-road, not necessarily deep wilderness. The photo above was taken yesterday in a field at the West Farm in Cambridge, owned by the Brewster Uplands Conservation Trust, which in turn is owned by the Vermont Land Trust. The farm property includes seven miles of multi-use trails open to the public. Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain, is in the background.
Winter backcountry recreation in Cambridge includes Alpine and Nordic skiing as well as snowboarding and snowshoeing at Smugglers' Notch Resort, snowmobiling on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, snowshoeing on the Long Trail (or almost anywhere), and all of the above (plus sledding!) on the state highway through Smugglers' Notch, which is not plowed in winter. Smugglers' Notch, with 1000' cliffs on both sides, is popular in winter with ice climbers.
Smugglers' Notch Resort is a four-season resort, and the scenic road through Smugglers' Notch is popular in spring and summer and especially during fall foliage season. Other summer backcountry recreation in Cambridge includes hiking on a wide variety of trails, bicycling of all kinds, and paddling on the Lamoille River. All of these activities, in all seasons, have increased in recent years.
I have been interested and a little surprised to learn about so many organizations that exist to support backcountry recreation all across Vermont and northern New England. In addition to the organizations linked above, here are a few more that I recently came across:
- Vermont Mountain Bike Association
- local affiliate: Brewster River Mountain Bike Club
- Vermont River Conservancy's Paddlers Trails
- local affiliate: Lamoille River Paddlers Trail
- Kingdom Trail Association
- Catamount Trail Association
- Craftsbury Outdoor Center
- Vermont Association of Snow Travelers
- Vermont Huts Association
- Maine Huts and Trails (see this earlier blog post)
It should not be surprising that Vermont is a leader in backcountry recreation. The concept of long distance hiking has deep roots in Vermont, with the creation of the Green Mountain Club and the Long Trail in 1910, which in turn inspired the Appalachian Trail. Regular readers of this blog may recall that Nancy and I spent several days on the Long Trail in 2017 (details here).
In fact the concept of long distance hiking in Vermont goes back nearly a century before the creation of the Long Trail to one Alden Partridge (1785-1854). The link is to an article about Partridge by Vermont historian Mark Bushnell. Partridge was a native of Norwich, Vermont. He attended nearby Dartmouth College before transferring to West Point. In 1819 he founded what is now Norwich University, the oldest private military academy in the United States. The school was originally in Norwich, hence the name, but it has been in Northfield since 1866. Partridge's backcountry hiking exploits were legendary, as described in Mark Bushnell's fascinating article which includes an account of a bushwhack ascent of Mount Mansfield in 1818, the year before Partridge founded Norwich University.
Today the town of Norwich (about the size of Cambridge) is still making news, as noted in this New York Times article last month: A Tiny Vermont Town Is a Big Cradle of Olympians (subscription probably required, sorry). But that's merely the Olympics. In this post I am interested, like Norwich's native son Alden Partridge, in backcountry – and I am proud to say that Cambridge is the home of Backcountry magazine.
Backcountry recreation draws visitors. Last summer the men's and women's cross country running teams from West Point visited Cambridge to train on the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail and other trails. All this interest in backcountry recreation is exciting for Cambridge!
So, I am part of Cambridge town government. What are the implications here for government? That is a topic for my other blog, The Switchel Philosopher.
See Backcountry Recreation, Part 2.
Monday, January 1, 2018
Today I am renaming this blog to "The Switchel Traveler."
Henceforth my two blogs are:
- The Switchel Traveler – this blog
- The Switchel Philosopher
What is a proper relationship between a free people and their government?
"The Switchel Traveler" is for travel adventures in the physical world. The tag line is:
There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
The tag line for "The Switchel Philosopher" is meant to serve as a muse for that blog, where a frequent topic is government and citizenship. The tag line for "The Switchel Traveler" is Hamlet's reminder that we can never know everything. Philosophy alone is not enough; we also need to explore the world.
Why switchel? Because I like it! Also because switchel has a yin and yang aspect to it, and much of life is like that. Even my two blogs have a yin and yang aspect, with one about the physical world and the other about the world of ideas.
Switchel is a non-alcoholic beverage dating back to Colonial times. My mother made switchel for our family when I was growing up on the farm, and we drank a lot of it in the hayfield.
The main ingredients in switchel are sugar, vinegar, ginger and water. The sweet and sour of sugar and vinegar are the yin and yang of switchel. In my part of the world (Vermont), the sugar is usually maple syrup and the vinegar is almost always apple cider vinegar. But variations are allowed. Honey and pomegranate vinegar are also good. Sometimes additional ingredients are added such as lemon juice (or even rum!). Today, commercial versions of switchel are available, for example Vermont Switchel and Up Mountain Switchel.
Oh, another thing about switchel. The ginger tends to settle out, so you have to shake it before drinking. Sometimes life is like that, too.
My blogging history
"The Switchel Philosopher" is my most recent blog. I started it in February 2017, after retiring in December 2016. It is about adventures in the world of ideas, including government and citizenship. Being elected to the town selectboard in March 2017 has contributed to some of the themes on this blog.
"The Switchel Traveler" – this blog – is an older blog and has had two previous names. I started the blog in 2007 as "George's Home Blog" to distinguish it from my "work blog" which I also started in 2007. After retiring, the work/home distinction was not applicable any more, and I renamed this blog to "George's Other Blog" to distinguish it from "The Switchel Philosopher." Today I am renaming it again, this time to "The Switchel Traveler" to more clearly indicate how my two personal blogs complement each other.
Post retirement, my two personal blogs have different and distinctive themes:
- The Switchel Philosopher – adventures in the world of ideas
- The Switchel Traveler – travel adventures in the physical world
There are also some earlier adventures in the world of ideas on "George's VAFPDB Blog." I published ten posts there in 2012-13 before resigning from the Vermont Agricultural and Forest Products Development Board.
Sunday, December 31, 2017
After retiring in December 2016, this blog became my home for writing about travel adventures. Below is a summary of my 2017 posts here.
We started the year with brunch with family and friends followed by a snowshoe hike:
When Nancy and I retired, she had about 50 miles left to complete the Long Trail. We hiked those miles together, in four day hikes in July, August and September. I had fun both hiking and blogging about it, including interesting things we learned along the way:
- Long Trail to App Gap – a rugged hike, incl. a ladder
- Long Trail to US-4 – we hiked through Maine Junction
- The Inn at Long Trail – it's still there!
- The Breadloaf Wilderness – our longest hike, 17 miles
- The Proctor Family – benefactors of the Long Trail
- The Long Trail Lodge – alas, not there any more
- Who was Emily Proctor? – mystery solved!
- Nancy Finishes the Long Trail – photo above
I write on two blogs. This blog, The Switchel Traveler, is for travel adventures in the physical world. My other blog, The Switchel Philosopher, is for adventures in the world of ideas. See my About page for more information about switchel, me, my two blogs, and my blogging history.
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Milton Pond lies within the Milton Town Forest. The photo above shows the outlet of this 33 acre pond, which used to be part of the municipal water supply for the town of Milton, Vermont.
We had celebrated Thanksgiving by hiking around ponds in Massachusetts, and today we continued that practice in Vermont for the Christmas holiday by hiking around Milton Pond. This time we had 6" of snow on the ground, as compared to bare ground at Thanksgiving. We were joined by friends including Kona the dog:
There are several trails in the Milton Town Forest. Our hike around the pond today was 3.75 miles. We did not use snowshoes. The following map is from the link in the first sentence above:
We met Brian Pease who lives next to the Milton Town Forest and works on the trails. Northern Vermont experienced a powerful windstorm two months ago, on the night of October 29-30, and Brian talked about cutting up and clearing more than 100 trees that had fallen across the trails during that storm. We appreciated his hard work!
Monday, November 27, 2017
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Henry David Thoreau wrote those words in Walden; or, Life in the Woods about living in a small cabin near Walden Pond in Concord, Mass. The photo above was taken from where his cabin was located. Walden Pond is visible through the trees.
It was a small cabin, only 10'x15', which Thoreau built himself. He lived there for two years, two months, and two days – from just before his 28th birthday in 1845 to just after his 30th birthday in 1847. (Thoreau only lived to age 44.)
We visited Walden Pond State Reservation over the Thanksgiving holiday. Thoreau's original cabin no longer exists, but a replica stands near the park entrance, along with a statue of Thoreau:
Below is a better photo of the statue:
Our timing was fortunate. There is considerable interest in Henry David Thoreau this year, the 200th anniversary of his birth. The park features a new (2016) visitor center with informative exhibits, a gift shop well stocked with books, and a very new* Ken Burns documentary film. You can watch the film at the link.
*The film premiered at Boston College on November 8, 2017.
We celebrated Thanksgiving this year in Cambridge, MA instead of Cambridge, VT. There is another notable pond in Cambridge, MA – Fresh Pond, part of the municipal water system for Cambridge. The photo below is Fresh Pond at dusk, with a sliver of a new moon reflected in the water.
Fresh Pond and Walden Pond are about 12 miles apart. Both ponds are heavily visited by the public, but they are quite different. Walden Pond retains its rural character, while Fresh Pond is surrounded by development. One can swim and fish at Walden Pond, but not at Fresh Pond. On the other hand, no pets are allowed at Walden Pond, while dogs are numerous on the path around Fresh Pond.
In the photo below, the building is the Cambridge Water Department on the edge of Fresh Pond. The sign says "Envision Cambridge" and the bicycles are part of Hubway.
We walked around a pond every day this Thanksgiving weekend, either Fresh Pond or Walden Pond.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
The Billings Farm and Museum in Woodstock, Vermont, is a wonderful place to visit on a nice fall day – or anytime when it is open. This is a working farm, with cows, sheep, chickens and draft horses, as well as modern tractors to work the fields that grow the crops to feed the animals. The Jersey cows raised and milked here have been winning awards since the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Some of the milk from the farm goes to Grafton Village Cheese Company where it is made into three different kinds of cheddar cheese with the Billings Farm label. Nancy and I purchased some Woodstock Reserve Cheddar when we visited yesterday.
The Billings Farm and Museum is also a museum of farm life as it existed on Vermont hill farms around 1900. The indoor exhibits contain a wide variety of farm machinery and implements. I do not recall ever seeing a more complete or better preserved collection. Both Nancy and I remarked how much fun it would have been to have toured the exhibits with our fathers, and hear their stories of growing up with some of those implements on farms in Cambridge and Royalton in the 1920s and 1930s. The museum also includes exhibits about life in the home and community, including a country store and even a display about town meeting.
Frederick Billings (1823-1890) grew up in Royalton and Woodstock, becoming a lawyer before heading west in the gold rush of 1849. He made a fortune in California, and returned east to New York City in 1861. He also made money in the railroad business (Northern Pacific Railway) in the 1870s and early 1880s.
Billings loved Woodstock, and in 1869 he purchased the 270-acre farm belonging to the family of George Perkins Marsh. Billings poured resources into the farm, which eventually grew to nearly 1,000 acres and more than 100 workers. A significant part of the early success of the Billings Farm was farm manager George Aitken, whom Billings hired in 1884. The photo above is the fully restored 1890 farm house built for George Aitken and his family. The house included an office for the farm manager, a creamery in the basement for the production of butter, and an attached ice house for butter storage. Aitken was farm manager until his death in 1910.
After Billings died in 1890, the farm was carried on by his widow and daughters. The Great Depression brought hard times to the farm, but it also brought the 1934 wedding in Woodstock of Mary French, a granddaughter of Frederick Billings, to conservationist Laurance Rockefeller. They inherited the farm when Mary's mother died in 1951 and set about modernizing it. They opened the Billings Farm and Museum to the public in 1983, nearly 50 years after their wedding and nearly 100 years after George Aitken had been hired by Mary's grandfather.
Frederick Billings and the Rockefellers were influenced by the life and writings of George Perkins Marsh, mentioned above. George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882) was a brilliant scholar and diplomat who had grown up on that farm. At the time Billings purchased the farm from the Marsh family in 1869, George Perkins Marsh was serving as the United States ambassador to Italy, a post he held from 1861 until his death in 1882.
In 1864 George Perkins Marsh published the book Man and Nature about the effect of human action, especially deforestation, on the environment. This influential book helped launch the modern conservation movement. Frederick Billings saw themes in this book that resonated with his observations in the denuded gold fields of California and even in his native Vermont at the time. Billings established his model farm in Woodstock, on the farm where Marsh had grown up, to demonstrate "principles of efficiency, sustainability, and responsible land use" as espoused by Marsh. (source) Succeeding generations continued this conservationist ethic on the Marsh farm as noted above.
Today the Billings Farm and Museum is on one side of Route 12 and the Marsh - Billings - Rockefeller National Historic Park is on the other side. They are both well worth a visit.
UPDATE 11/01/17: For more about George Perkins Marsh, see this post on my other blog.
Saturday, September 23, 2017
Nancy finished hiking the Long Trail today! The photo above is celebrating on the summit of Mount Abraham with family and friends.
Today's hike was from Appalachian Gap south to Lincoln Gap. The photo below is in App Gap at the beginning of the hike, just as the sun was rising:
Emily, Laura, Eliza and Dylan (and their dog Kona) hiked with us from App Gap. It was a beautiful day, with good views. Not much color in the fall foliage yet. This section of the Long Trail is along the top of a ridge with several ski areas on the east side – Mad River Glen, Sugarbush North, and Sugarbush South. Below is the famous single-chair ski lift at Mad River Glen Ski Area:
The photo below was the view from Sugarbush South Ski Area:
There are five 4000 foot peaks in Vermont, and we hiked over two of them today: Mount Ellen (4083') and Mount Abraham (4006'). Mount Ellen has a wooded summit, but the top of Mount Abraham is open. From the Long Trail Guide:
The alpine summit of Mt. Abraham offers one of the best panoramas on the entire LT, ranging from nearby valley farms to New Hampshire's White Mountains, 80 miles east. Due west is Mt. Marcy and its Adirondack neighbors. To the south the Green Mountains may be visible as far south as Killington Peak. To the north, though partly hidden by nearby higher peaks, the Greens may be visible as far as Belvidere Mtn.
We had a beautiful day, but we could not see as far as Belvidere Mountain. The other three 4000 foot peaks in Vermont are Mount Mansfield (4395'), Killington Peak (4235'), and Camels Hump (4083').
Howard, Sue, Bob, Joel, Bill and Donna (and their dog Moia) hiked in from Lincoln Gap and met us on Mount Abraham. The photo at the top of this post shows the whole crew on the summit of Mount Abraham.
Eliza packed cheese and crackers, as well as a cheese board and cheese knife, all the way from App Gap:
We celebrated Nancy's accomplishment in style! There might even have been some champagne and switchel consumed on top of Mount Abraham...
Below is Nancy at the end of the hike in Lincoln Gap:
Today's hike was 11.6 miles. We started at 7:05 AM and finished at 5:20 PM. (We lingered on the summit of Mount Abraham for an hour and 20 minutes.) Nancy's Fitbit registered 35,522 steps, mine registered 38,512.
Nancy is the fourth member of the family to complete the Long Trail. Howard and I and others hiked the LT with Boy Scouts in 1997-2001 (Bob and Joel were on some of those hikes). Laura hiked the LT with Eliza in 2006. Emily hiked the LT with a friend in 2009 (see Emily Hikes the Long Trail). Nancy supported all of those undertakings and hiked portions of the LT herself as part of each of those adventures, but her log of recorded LT hikes for her End to End Journal begins before any of those dates. Nancy's log begins with a short hike to Prospect Rock in 1988, the day before Emily was born.
Thursday, September 7, 2017
The Emily Proctor Shelter (photo above) is on Vermont's Long Trail in the middle of the Breadloaf Wilderness. The Emily Proctor Trail is a side trail that leads from USFS Road 201 to this shelter. Who was Emily Proctor?
I wrote about the Proctor family in my earlier post The Proctor Family. Three generations of the Proctor family led the Vermont Marble Company and provided four Vermont governors. Emily Proctor was part of this family. But which Emily Proctor? My earlier post about the Proctor family listed three Emily Proctors, one in each generation:
1st generation: Emily Proctor (1835-1915) was the wife of Redfield Proctor.
2nd generation: Emily Proctor (1869-1948) was the daughter of Redfield and Emily Proctor.
3rd generation: Emily Proctor (1887-1964) was the daughter of Fletcher and Minnie Proctor, and granddaughter of Redfield and Emily Proctor.
The Green Mountain Club (GMC) publishes a book titled Place Names on Vermont's Long Trail. This book says the following (1st edition, 2007):
Emily Proctor Shelter - This shelter, built in 1960 and rebuilt in 1983 and 2002, honors Emily Proctor, for whom a previous shelter was named early in GMC history. In 1914, she gave $500 to the GMC for the construction of three shelters.
Alas, that does not tell us which of the three Emily Proctors is being honored. All three of the Emily Proctors mentioned above were alive in 1914.
In my earlier post The Long Trail Lodge, I wrote about Mortimer Proctor (1889-1968) who was the son of Fletcher and Minnie Proctor and thus brother of Emily Proctor (1887-1964) in the third generation of Proctors. I mentioned that Mortimer Proctor was twice president of the Green Mountain Club, which built and maintains Vermont's Long Trail. But nothing in that post, either, tells us which Emily Proctor the shelter and trail are named for.
The Proctor family was "the GMC's wealthiest patrons" in the early years of the Green Mountain Club (source: On the Trail: A History of American Hiking by Silas Chamberlin (Yale University Press, 2016), page 119). In my earlier post The Long Trail Lodge, I explained how Mortimer Proctor and his mother gave the Long Trail Lodge in Sherburne Pass to the Green Mountain Club in 1923. But which Emily Proctor gave $500 for three shelters in 1914? Mortimer's grandmother, aunt, and sister were all named Emily Proctor!
Construction of the Long Trail began in 1910 and was completed in 1930. Mileage was added throughout that period. The book On the Trail notes that more than 50 miles of trail were added in 1913 between Camel's Hump and Killington Peak, and goes on to say:
With the additional mileage, the club began to construct log lean-tos that would provide temporary shelter for hikers. The first were built at Birch Glen, at Broad Loaf Glen [sic], and south of Mount Horrid with the private funds of Emily Dutton Proctor, the philanthropist daughter of Redfield Proctor, founder of the Vermont Marble Company and U.S. Senator from Vermont.
(Source: On the Trail, page 118. Should be Bread Loaf or Breadloaf not Broad Loaf.)
Bingo! Emily Dutton Proctor was the Emily Proctor (1869-1948) in the second generation of Proctors. She was Mortimer's aunt. She was a noted philanthropist – known, for example, for collecting foreign-language and picture books for the immigrant workers of the Vermont Marble Company and their children.
I wish to thank John Page, the current president of the Green Mountain Club, for solving this mystery for me by finding the above reference in On the Trail. John further wrote the following to me in an email:
The shelter "south of Mt. Horrid" that Emily Proctor also funded was the original Sunrise Shelter, just south of Brandon Gap. This shelter was replaced in the 1960's by the current Sunrise Shelter with funds donated by Mortimer Proctor. Thus the current Sunrise Shelter appears to be the last remnant of the Proctor family's GMC legacy other than the name of Emily Proctor Shelter.
Full disclosure: I am related to John Page, a cousin. John Page's aunt, Jane Clark Brown, and my father, Harold Putnam, co-authored a book in 2001 titled Cloverdale: An Anecdotal History of A Rural Neighborhood. My sister Beth and I used this book as the basis for a presentation in July for the Cambridge and Westford Historical Societies on the history of Cloverdale. Minnie Robinson Proctor, Mortimer's mother, grew up in Cloverdale. It's a small world.
Today US-4 passes through Sherburne Pass in the town of Killington. The Inn at Long Trail sits on the north side of US-4 directly under Deer Leap Mountain and continues the hospitality tradition of the former Long Trail Lodge, which had been just across the road. See my earlier post about The Inn at Long Trail, where Nancy and I stayed last month after a long day-hike on the Long Trail. Nancy is finishing hiking the Long Trail this year, and all of the posts on this blog since July have been related to that project.
The Long Trail Lodge was built and donated to the Green Mountain Club by the Proctor family. I have become interested this summer in some of the history of this prominent Vermont family, especially Minnie Robinson from Cloverdale who married into the family in 1886. See my earlier post about The Proctor Family for background and who's who in the Proctor family.
Three generations of the Proctor family led the Vermont Marble Company and provided four Vermont governors. For this post, we are particularly interested in Minnie Robinson Proctor (1865-1928) who married Fletcher Proctor (1860-1911), and their son Mortimer Proctor (1889-1968). Both Fletcher and Mortimer were governors of Vermont, as were two other members of the Proctor family.
The idea of Vermont's Long Trail was conceived by James Taylor in 1909. The Green Mountain Club (GMC) was formed in 1910 to build the trail, completing the task in 1930.
Mortimer Proctor played a significant role in the early years of the GMC. The first four presidents of the GMC were:
- James P. Taylor 1910-1916
- Mortimer R. Proctor 1916-1917
- Charles P. Cooper 1917-1925
- Mortimer R. Proctor 1926-1933
The Proctor family was "the GMC's wealthiest patrons" in the early years of the club (source: On the Trail: A History of American Hiking by Silas Chamberlin (Yale University Press, 2016), page 119). When the growing GMC expressed the need for a clubhouse, Mortimer Proctor and his mother, Minnie Robinson Proctor, provided it:
In 1922 came the exciting news that a clubhouse was assured and would be built the next year at Sherburne Pass where the trail crossed the highway. President Mortimer Proctor telegraphed from Los Angeles to Acting-President Cooper, "I wish to donate complete the new Green Mountain Club House to be built near Deer Leap on Sherburne Pass." With his mother, Mrs. F. P. Proctor, he generously gave the land and money to build what was long considered to be the home of the Green Mountain Club.
(Source: Green Mountain Adventure, Vermont's LONG TRAIL, An Illustrated History, by Jane and Will Curtis and Frank Lieberman (The Green Mountain Club, 1985), page 39. Mortimer's father, Fletcher Proctor, had died in 1911.)
The Long Trail Lodge, built in 1923, was no ordinary back-country lodge:
The most agreeable example of rustic architecture on the trail is the Long Trail Lodge opposite Deer Leap in Sherburne Pass, the lodge being the gift of Mortimer R. Proctor and the furnishings the gift of [his mother] Mrs. Fletcher D. Proctor. These two lovers of Vermont, with the aid of Architect [Paul] Thayer, have done something exceptional not only in the appointment of the lodge itself but in the surroundings, and as it is at a junction of the Trail and a main automobile road, it can be more readily reached and seen than it can be described.
(Source: Footpath in the Wilderness edited by W. Storrs Lee (Middlebury College Press, 1941), pages 31-32.)
Visitors never forgot their amazement when they entered the lobby whose walls weren't wood and plaster but a huge fern-covered rock ledge down which trickled a miniature waterfall. The club was particularly pleased with the effect of the dining room. The architect had left bark on the yellow birch beams and had designed a great chandelier of ten lights made of white birchlimbs with shades of birch bark. ... The most astonishing feature of the Lodge was that the Long Trail went right through the building!
(Source: Green Mountain Adventure, pages 39-41.)
On September 12, 1931, a grand celebration was held at the Long Trail Lodge in recognition of the completion of the Long Trail the year before and the "coming of age" (21st birthday) of the GMC:
James Taylor called the lodge – the gift of club president and future governor Mortimer R. Proctor and his mother – the "finest mountain camp in the world." The festivity began with speeches by Governor Stanley C. Wilson, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Will Monroe, Taylor, and others.
(Source: A Century in the Mountains: Celebrating Vermont's Long Trail edited by Tom Slayton (The Green Mountain Club, 2009), page 47.)
The Long Trail Lodge served as headquarters for the GMC for more than 30 years. It was also a grand hotel, but the GMC ultimately tired of the hospitality business and owning a property that was expensive to maintain. The GMC sold the lodge in 1955. Sadly, it burned during a blizzard on November 8, 1968. Mortimer Proctor did not live to see that. He died at age 78 in April 1968.
I wish to thank the Green Mountain Club, especially President John Page and Executive Director Michael DeBonis, for the references in this post – for suggesting books in print that I could purchase, and for lending me books that are out of print. I recommend the following books for anyone wishing to do further research:
Green Mountain Adventure, Vermont's LONG TRAIL, An Illustrated History, by Jane and Will Curtis and Frank Lieberman (The Green Mountain Club, 1985). See pages 39-41, 60-61, 66, 72-73. There are photos on many of these pages. This book was written in recognition of the GMC's 75th anniversary.
A Century in the Mountains: Celebrating Vermont's Long Trail, edited by Tom Slayton (The Green Mountain Club, 2009). See pages 47, 52. There is a photo of the interior of the Long Trail Lodge on page 47 as well as considerable information about the lodge, especially the grand celebration on September 12, 1931. This book was written in recognition of the GMC's 100th anniversary.
So Clear, So Cool, So Grand: A 1931 Hike on Vermont's Long Trail, by James Gordon Hindes (The Green Mountain Club, 2008). See pages 2, 33-37. This is one of the first accounts of a Long Trail end-to-end hike, undertaken by James Gordon Hindes (1909-1973) in the summer of 1931, between his junior and senior years at Dartmouth College, together with his fraternity brother John Eames. The Long Trail had been completed just the year before. The young men arrived at the Long Trail Lodge on July 18 and left on July 20. They were enchanted by it. Their visit was two months before the grand celebration noted above. The photo at the top of this post is from page 2 of this book, an undated view of Pico Peak and the Long Trail Lodge from Deer Leap Mountain, courtesy of the Vermont Historical Society.