Sunday, August 5, 2018

Mount Mansfield - Underhill side

Nancy and I had a delightful hike on Mount Mansfield today. Our hike on Mount Mansfield last month was on the Stowe side. Today's hike was on the Underhill side.

We parked at the Underhill State Park and hiked up the CCC Road and Maple Ridge Trail to the Forehead. From there we hiked north on the Long Trail along the ridge of Mount Mansfield past the Nose, and then down the Halfway House Trail back to the CCC Road and the state park. Unlike our hike last month, we did not go over the Chin, the highest point on the mountain (and in Vermont) at 4395'. Our highest elevation today was the Forehead at 3940':

We were in the clouds on the Forehead. The photo at the top of this post is from part way up the Maple Ridge Trail looking south toward Dewey Mountain (3371'). Lost somewhere in the distant clouds are Bolton Mountain and Camels Hump.

Today's hike was 7.9 miles, elevation gain of 2140'.

The rest of this post is about past and present developments on Mount Mansfield along the route of our hike today.

On the ridge we walked past this marker:

It identifies the "Mount Mansfield Natural Area" as a National Natural Landmark. Not far from this marker is the Summit Station and Mount Mansfield Visitor Center at 3849':

At this location near the base of the Nose, the Summit House offered summer accommodations from 1858 to 1958. Also known at times as the Tip Top House, the Mountain House, and the Mt. Mansfield House, this hotel had 50 guest rooms at its largest extent. Guests arrived originally by horse or foot, later by automobile. The Summit House was intentionally burned in 1964 after falling into disuse and disrepair.

The Summit House was a major attraction in its day, one of numerous "grand hotels" in the mountains of New England.

One distinguished guest, the famous American poet and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, described how in the morning following his overnight stay "a man went through the house ringing a large bell, and shouting Sunrise." In response guests rumbled out of their beds to climb the Nose for a pre-breakfast view of the sun's emergence.

When access to the Summit House was by horse or foot, there were routes on both the east side of the mountain (Stowe) and the west side of the mountain (Underhill). Each route had a Halfway House, which were also hotels – about halfway up the mountain. The Halfway Houses apparently perished in the 1930s, but the routes up the mountain remain: the Auto Toll Road on the Stowe side, and the Halfway House Trail on the Underhill side.

The Halfway House Trail starts on the CCC Road 1.2 miles from the parking area at the Underhill State Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps built both the Underhill State Park and the CCC Road in the 1930s and early 1940s. The CCC Road was not a route up the mountain, but a road along the side of the mountain at an elevation of about 2500'. The road was intended to connect the state park to Nebraska Notch at the southern end of Mount Mansfield, but only a portion of the planned road was built. The project was abandoned when the CCC was ended in 1942 because of World War II. Today the CCC Road is part of the hiking trail system on the west side of Mount Mansfield:

Is the summit ridge of Mount Mansfield more "natural" today than it was in the era of the Summit House? When Nancy and I left the Mount Mansfield Visitor Center at the top of the Auto Toll Road at 11 AM today, the caretaker there had already registered 88 visitors for the day, who arrived either by trail or by the road (the majority). And the trail up the Nose that captured Emerson's attention at sunrise is now permanently closed because of radiation from nearby communications towers:

The signs in the three photos above are all near each other at the base of the Nose. The signs in the top two photos warn of radiofrequency fields. The hand lettered white sign on the post below "Long Trail South" says:

This trail does not go up "the Nose," which is closed to pedestrian traffic indefinitely.

I can remember hiking the short side trail over the Nose (4060'), but it was a long time ago. That trail, called the Triangle Trail, was closed in 1997 when the power of the nearby broadcasting facilities was increased.

I have no photos from today's hike of the antennas near the Nose because we were in the clouds. Click here for a description of the broadcasting facilities in this area (as of 2011). They are impressive. There are several photos at that link.

Other sources:

Mansfield: The Story of Vermont's Loftiest Mountain by Robert L. Hagerman (1971)

The quote about Ralph Waldo Emerson came from this book, page 60. This book has photos of the Summit House and the Halfway House on the Underhill side.

National Register of Historic Places: Registration Form for Underhill State Park (2002)

This source has considerable information about the activities of the CCC at Underhill State Park.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tuckerman Ravine Trail

Mount Washington in New Hampshire is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi and north of North Carolina. The most popular hiking route is the Tuckerman Ravine Trail on the east side of the mountain. The lower part of the trail to Hermit Lake is closed this summer for bridge repairs. There is a detour available, which Nancy and I took today. Below is an excavator that we saw on the trail. It had been driven quite a ways up the mountain!

The Tuckerman Ravine Trail starts at Pinkham Notch (2000'). Hermit Lake (photo below) is at 3800' on the floor of Tuckerman Ravine:

Above the floor of Tuckerman Ravine, the trail climbs the headwall. It is steep, but the trail is well constructed. Today there were beautiful waterfalls cascading down the headwall:

As shown in the photos above, we were in the clouds once we climbed above the floor of the ravine. The photo at the top of this post is at the junction of the Tuckerman Ravine Trail with the Alpine Garden Trail at the top of the headwall. We continued on for another 0.3 miles past that point before turning around in the rain. The temp was in the mid 50s, the rocks were slippery, and it wasn't fun anymore. We were 0.5 miles from the summit and reached an elevation of 5500'. The summit of Mount Washington is 6288'.

On our way down the rain stopped and the clouds lifted a little. Below is a better view of the waterfalls on the Tuckerman Ravine headwall:

Tuckerman Ravine is famous for spring skiing. Skiers hike in to the floor of the ravine, and then up the sides of the ravine as far as comfort allows. Below is a 15 second video from our hike today that gives a sense of the ravine. The video starts with the waterfalls on the headwall, then sweeps around over the ravine, and ends with a view of Lion Head, the ridge that forms the north wall of the ravine:

As I was admiring Tuckerman Ravine from this location, and not paying attention to what Nancy was doing, she took a photo of me that perhaps belongs on my Switchel Philosopher blog??

Today's hike was 7.5 miles, elevation gain of 3,500'.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Mount Mansfield and Barnes Camp

Nancy and I had a delightful hike over Mount Mansfield today. We parked at Barnes Camp on VT-108 and did a loop hike up the Long Trail to the Chin, along the ridge to the Nose, and down the Haselton Trail back to Barnes Camp.

The photo above is from the Long Trail on the way up. This photo is looking north from just north of the Chin. The nearby hump on the right side of the photo is the Adams Apple (4060'). To the left of the Adams Apple is the Lake of the Clouds, a pretty mountain tarn at about 3900'.

The photo below is from the Haselton Trail on the way down. This photo is also looking north, back at where we had come from. The Chin (Vermont's highest point at 4395') is visible between the trees at the left, as is the top of the gondola at Stowe Mountain Resort (3600'). Smugglers Notch (the geological feature not the ski resort) can be seen between the trees at the right.

Today's hike was 5.8 miles, elevation gain of 2,800'.

A few comments about Barnes Camp (photo below)…

Barnes Camp was built in 1927 as a logging camp and renovated in 2013-14 as a visitor center at the "southern gateway" of Smugglers Notch (i.e., the Stowe side). More info here and here.

In 2017 a boardwalk was completed at Barnes Camp that allows visitors to stroll through wetlands that would otherwise be inaccessible. More info here and here. The one-eighth mile long boardwalk also offers views of Smugglers Notch that were previously unavailable. The photo below was taken from the boardwalk earlier this year (not today), and shows Smugglers Notch and its reflection in a beaver pond:

The Long Trail in Smugglers Notch was re-routed this year to use the boardwalk, and Barnes Camp has become a major access point for the Long Trail. There is ample parking across VT-108 from the camp.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Eagle Island

Robert Peary built an unusual home on Eagle Island in Casco Bay off the coast of Maine in 1904. The house was built to resemble a ship. The two photos below show the house from the front (bow) and the rear (stern):

Inside the house is a unique three-sided fireplace, each side constructed with a different kind of stones found on the island:

Robert Peary (1856-1920) was an explorer who won renown for his Arctic expeditions, especially his 1909 expedition which was widely credited as the first to reach the North Pole. While he was an officer in the U.S. Navy for 30 years (1881-1911), retiring with the rank of rear admiral, his Arctic expeditions were privately financed and undertaken while on leave from the Navy.

Peary fell in love with Eagle Island while exploring the coast of Maine as a student at nearby Bowdoin College, from which he graduated in 1877 with a degree in civil engineering. He was also an accomplished surveyor and taxidermist. The house on Eagle Island contains many examples of his taxidermy work, some of which are visible on the fireplace mantel above.

In addition to the main house on Eagle Island, Peary also built the caretaker's cottage shown in the photo below:

Eagle Island remained in the Peary family until 1967 when they donated it to the State of Maine for a state park. See Eagle Island State Historic Site and Friends of Peary's Eagle Island.

The island is accessible only by boat. While commercial transportation is available, we visited today via the private boat of our friends Pam and David:

The building behind Pam and David is the Welcome Center, built in 2014. It is the first building one encounters after walking off the dock. Here visitors can watch the 10-minute film "Admiral Robert E. Peary – A Man and His Island" and pick up an audio wand for a free self-guided tour of the Peary home, now called the Peary Museum and containing many interesting artifacts and displays. There are also gardens and walking trails on the 17-acre island.

Robert Peary's study and library is the round stone structure behind Nancy and me in the photo at the top of this post. Visible in three of the photos above is the wind vane on top of the Peary house. It is in the shape of the Roosevelt, Peary's arctic ship, named for his friend President Theodore Roosevelt.

The granite bench on which Pam and David are sitting says:
In Memory of David S. Chaney
Park Manager Eagle Island 1986-1998

That was Pam's uncle.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Connecticut's Valley Forge

In the middle of the American Revolutionary War, a portion of the Continental Army spent the winter of 1778-79 at three camps in southwestern Connecticut. The main camp in Redding is remembered today as Putnam Memorial State Park, so named because the troops were under the command of Major General Israel Putnam.

The park's nickname is "Connecticut's Valley Forge." Why this nickname?

The previous winter (1777-78) the Continental Army under General George Washington had encamped at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. It was a difficult winter for the army and a significant event in the national memory:
Few places evoke the spirit of patriotism and independence, represent individual and collective sacrifice, or demonstrate the resolve, tenacity and determination of the people of the United States to be free as does Valley Forge. (source)

While the Connecticut encampments were smaller than Valley Forge, about 3,000 men as compared to 12,000 men, the winter conditions and lack of supplies were equally challenging.

Israel Putnam (1718-1790) was born and raised in Massachusetts, but he lived his adult life in Connecticut. He was a successful farmer and tavern keeper. At the relatively old age of 37 he volunteered for military service in the French and Indian War (1754-63) and achieved renown as a military leader. The Continental Congress appointed Putnam one of four major generals under General George Washington in the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), and for much of the war he was Washington's second in command.

Many of the displays at Putnam Memorial State Park are about Major General Israel Putnam – understandably so, since he was from Connecticut. Israel Putnam was a character, and there are many stories about him. Following are two that are told at the park.

On April 20, 1775, Israel Putnam was plowing a field on his farm in northeastern Connecticut when a messenger on horseback delivered the electrifying news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord the day before – "the shot heard round the world." Putnam unhitched his horse from the plow, leaving the plow in the field, and rode away to volunteer his services in the war that he knew had now begun. He was 57 years old. He rode 80 miles to Cambridge, Massachusetts, arriving the next day. Two months later, on June 17, he was one of the commanders of the colonial forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill. The "Putnam Plow" is now in the visitors center at the park:

Later in the war, during the winter of "Connecticut's Valley Forge," Putnam was pursued by the British in Greenwich, Connecticut. He barely escaped on his horse by riding down a steep hillside where the British chose not to follow. They shot at him but hit only his hat. He was then 61 years old. It is unclear if he actually rode down stone steps on that winter day in February 1779, but that is how the story was told – as depicted by this statue by Anna Hyatt Huntington near the park entrance:

Israel Putnam's military career ended in December 1779 when he suffered a debilitating stroke.

We visited Putnam Memorial State Park today. Are we related to Israel Putnam? Same family tree, but not direct descendants.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Prince Edward Island

Earlier this month we traveled to Prince Edward Island for vacation. On this blog are nine posts about our travels:
We traveled by car. Nancy had been to PEI once about 50 years ago, before Confederation Bridge was built. I had never been.

About a year ago, we took a similar vacation to Nova Scotia. On both trips, we traveled through New Brunswick and spent time exploring the exceptional Bay of Fundy.

All of the Canadian Maritime provinces are wonderful places, and we highly recommend visiting.

One of the things that Prince Edward Island is noted for is potatoes. Here is something that I learned about potatoes from a sign at the Canadian Potato Museum in O'Leary, PEI:

Father of the American Fry?

Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence, a Founding Father of the Republic, is also credited with bringing the French fry to North America. He encountered deep fried potatoes while serving as Ambassador to France in the 1780s and introduced the crop to his garden when he came home. While serving as President he had "potatoes cooked in the French manner" served at official dinners.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Tidal Bore

A tidal bore is when the incoming tide in a tidal river is large enough and fast enough to create one or more waves moving upriver.

I had never heard of a tidal bore until our vacation last year in Nova Scotia. There are not many rivers in the world that experience a tidal bore; there are none in the northeastern United States. On rivers that do have a tidal bore, they occur on the same schedule as the tides, about every 12.5 hours.

Below is a 40-second video of a tidal bore that I took last year in Truro, Nova Scotia, on 5/29/17:

We watched another tidal bore today in Moncton, New Brunswick. Below is a 40-second video that I took this morning:

Note the two blue herons that fly away as the leading wave approaches.

This map shows the two locations, both in rivers that flow into the upper parts of the Bay of Fundy:

Well, the rivers flow into the Bay of Fundy except when the tide makes the water flow the other way!

The tidal bore that we watched today in Moncton was on the Petitcodiac River. I was standing next to the covered pedestrian bridge on the Riverfront Trail that I wrote about in my earlier post titled Bridges.

Monday, May 28, 2018

North Cape

The North Cape of Prince Edward Island is home to a lighthouse, eroding red cliffs, the longest natural rock reef in North America, a nature trail, and wind turbines:

The birds on the rock reef above are Eider ducks.

The North Cape Interpretive Centre was closed "until further notice" and without explanation, but we enjoyed a hike today on the Black Marsh Nature Trail. The trail goes along the tops of the cliffs, through scrub woodlands, and among wind turbines on its way to the Black Marsh. Most of the photos above are from this trail. Also from the trail:

Two interesting features in the photo above: the remains of Elephant Rock sticking up out of the ocean, and dead tree roots sticking out of the eroding bank.

The Wind Energy Institute of Canada is located on the North Cape. In addition to WEICan's research and development facilities, there are two wind farms on the North Cape. The North Cape Wind Farm consists of 16 Vestas V-47 turbines installed in 2001 and 2003. These turbines are mounted on 50 meter towers, with 23 meter blades, and a rated output of 660 kilowatts each. The selfie photo above is under one of the V-47 turbines. The Norway Wind Park consists of nine Vestas V-90 turbines installed in 2007. These turbines are mounted on 80 meter towers, with 45 meter blades, and a rated output of 3 megawatts each. Click here for more information about wind energy in PEI.

Our travels to and from the North Cape took us on the North Cape Coastal Drive. The signs along the road referred to this area of Prince Edward Island as the "Canadian Oyster Coast." We stayed at Mill River Resort, which was in the midst of major renovations. Before leaving northwestern PEI, we visited the Canadian Potato Museum.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908. From Wikipedia:
Set in the late 19th century, the novel recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, an 11-year-old orphan girl who is mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who had intended to adopt a boy to help them on their farm in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with the Cuthberts, in school, and within the town.

The book was an immediate success, and author Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) became famous. From Wikipedia:
The first novel was followed by a series of sequels with Anne as the central character. Montgomery went on to publish 20 novels as well as 530 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays. Most of the novels were set in Prince Edward Island, and locations within Canada's smallest province became a literary landmark and popular tourist site.

We saw references to "Anne of Green Gables" all over central PEI.

Lucy Maud Montgomery drew on her life growing up in PEI for material for her books. She was born in New London, PEI but moved to the neighboring town of Cavendish when 21 months old to be raised by her maternal grandparents, Alexander and Lucy Macneill, following the death of her mother. The Macneills ran the Cavendish post office. Avonlea is based on New London and Cavendish.

The house and farm in the photo above belonged to David and Margaret Macneill, cousins of Montgomery's grandparents. The farm, also in Cavendish, was a short distance from where Montgomery lived with her grandparents. She often walked between the two properties, as did we when we visited on May 25. Although she wrote at home, the house and farm above – now part of PEI National Park – were the inspiration for the Cuthbert's house and farm in the novels. The famous "green gables" did not exist in real life in Montgomery's lifetime, but were only a product of her fertile imagination. They were added by Parks Canada due to popular demand. The two Macneill properties in Cavendish are a national historic site.

Two musicals have been written about the "Anne" stories.

Anne of Green Gables: The Musical has been produced annually at the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown since 1965. As noted in my earlier post about Charlottetown, the Confederation Centre was built in 1964. Nancy and her family saw Anne of Green Gables at the Confederation Centre in the late 1960s. Click the poster to enlarge:

Anne and Gilbert: The Musical has been in production since 2005. In the original musical (above), Anne is a student in the one-room schoolhouse in Avonlea. In Anne and Gilbert, an older Anne is the schoolmaster at the Avonlea school, and she falls in love with Gilbert Blythe.

We heard (but did not see) actors rehearsing for Anne of Green Gables in the Homburg Theatre in the Confederation Centre of the Arts. It was not yet in production for the 2018 season. However, Anne and Gilbert was in production at The Guild Theatre across the street, and we saw a performance today. It was very good.

The map below shows the locations of Cavendish and Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island. For scale, they are about 25 miles apart.

Saturday, May 26, 2018


Charlottetown is the largest city on Prince Edward Island and the provincial capital.

The seat of government is Province House, completed in 1847, and shown in the photo below. This national historic site is currently closed for several years for renovations. During the renovations, the provincial legislature is meeting in the Honorable George Coles Building located east of Province House.

The main cultural center in Charlottetown is the Confederation Centre of the Arts, completed in 1964, and shown in the photo below. This building complex includes a large mainstage theater (the Homburg Theatre), an art gallery, library, restaurant, and shopping. The Confederation Centre occupies an entire city block west of Province House.

Prince Edward Island is known as the "Birthplace of Confederation" or the "Cradle of Confederation" because of the Charlottetown Conference held in Province House in September 1864. This historic conference was the first formal step in the process that led to Canadian Confederation, the formation of Canada as a country, on July 1, 1867. (Canadians celebrate Canada Day on July 1.)

Normally there is an exhibit about the 1864 Charlottetown Conference in Province House, but the exhibit, shown in the photo below, has been moved to the Confederation Centre of the Arts while Province House is being renovated. The 20-minute video "A Building of Destiny," which was part of the exhibit, is an excellent documentary about this important part of Canadian history.

Charlottetown is named for Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. There were many things in the city named "George": Province House is located at the end of Great George Street and The Great George Hotel hosted some of the delegates to the 1864 Charlottetown Conference.

Alas, we did not stay at The Great George Hotel, but we had excellent accommodations a few blocks away from Province House at Cranford House, pictured below with our car, part of the Fairholm Inn properties.

Prince Edward Island is the smallest Canadian province. It is approximately one quarter the size of Vermont in both area and population. Nearly half the population of PEI lives in the Charlottetown metro area, yet the central city is compact and very walkable. The city is located on Charlottetown Harbor which opens onto Hillsborough Bay which in turn opens onto the Northumberland Strait between PEI and the mainland (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia). There is a pleasant boardwalk along Charlottetown Harbor:

One of the fun things we did in Charlottetown was to follow the trail of Eckhart the Mouse, starting at the Visitor Information Centre on the waterfront which had a brochure about the trail. This news article from 2009 provides interesting background about the trail.

Friday, May 25, 2018


Today we visited the Cavendish section of PEI National Park, and other points west of Dalvay.

The amenities at Cavendish Beach were not yet open for the season, but the Cavendish Dunelands Trail was open. Like the Greenwich Dunes Trail which we hiked yesterday, there was a new floating boardwalk across a pond. The photo below shows the pond to the right of the dunes and the ocean on the left:

Cavendish Beach is west of Rustico Bay. Later in the day, we drove around to the east side of Rustico Bay and hiked some of the trails on Robinsons Island. Below Nancy is relaxing at a lookout over the bay:

From this lookout we saw a pair of bald eagles in the trees, and a raccoon fishing for food in the bay. We also saw a red fox and a snowshoe hare in our travels today. All relatively close.

The Robinsons Island Trail System was unique in our travels. This trail is for both hikers and mountain bikers. It includes 12 technical trail challenges for the latter – rollers, pump tracks, teeter totters, and wood and rock bridges, as well as a bicycle repair station with tethered tools and an air pump. The R.I.T.S., the floating boardwalks, and several of the outlooks on the trails were all new. I would guess that they were built last year.

Today we drove portions of the Central Coastal Drive. This scenic drive is divided into two sections – the Green Gables Shore (north shore) and the Red Sands Shore (south shore). We were on the north shore. The reason it is called the Green Gables Shore is because of this house in Cavendish:

I'll have more to say in a later post about this famous house with green gables.

One of our interesting stops today, outside of PEI National Park, was in Rustico. This town on Rustico Bay is the oldest Acadian settlement on Prince Edward Island, and it is the home of the historic Farmers' Bank of Rustico:

From a sign in front of the building:
A symbol of Acadian survival, The Farmers' Bank of Rustico operated from 1864 to 1894 and was the precursor of the credit union movement in North America.

The building is now a museum, but it was not yet open for the season. The church in the background in the photo above is St. Augustine's Church. From the same sign:
A pro-cathedral built in 1838 by Acadian craftsman, St. Augustine's is the oldest Roman Catholic church still in use on Prince Edward Island. Three tower bells, cast in Sheffield, England, were added during the tenure of Father Belcourt, who also founded The Farmers' Bank of Rustico. Visitors are welcome!

The church was open; there was a funeral in process. We did not visit.

Although we did not tour any buildings, we walked about 200 yards down to the water where we had a close-up view of mussel farming in Rustico Bay: