Saturday, April 24, 2021

Mount Kearsarge

Mount Kearsarge in New Hampshire is a popular hiking destination with an open summit and easy access from two state parks. From the south, the summit can be reached from Rollins State Park by the Lincoln and Rollins Trails, each approximately 1/2 mile. Access from Winslow State Park northwest of the mountain is via the Winslow Trail (1.1 miles) and the Barlow Trail (1.7 miles). Today we hiked up the Winslow Trail and down the Barlow Trail. (trail map)

There is a communications tower and a fire tower on the summit. The fire tower is operated by the NH Division of Forests and Lands and is generally open to the public when staffed. It was staffed today; indeed, we are having a dry spring this year and there are forest fire warnings across the northeast. But the top of the tower was closed because of COVID. The photo above was taken from the tower stairs just below the top. The view is looking south. Visible are the summit cairn and picnic tables in a sheltered spot.

The photo below is also from the fire tower, looking down at Nancy, a communications antenna, and the glacial striations in the exposed granite:


Mount Kearsarge is 2937' high. From Wikipedia:

The name of the mountain evolved from a 1652 rendering of the native Pennacook tribal name for the mountain, Carasarga, which it is surmised means "notch-pointed-mountain of pines".

The bare summit is the result of a 1796 forest fire.

A famous Civil War ship was named Kearsarge. The USS Kearsarge was built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Kittery, Maine, in 1861, and in 1864 it defeated the CSS Alabama off the coast of France in the Battle of Cherbourg.

The commander of the USS Kearsarge was Captain John Winslow, later promoted to admiral. Following the Civil War a summer hotel known as the Winslow House was erected in his honor on the northwest slope of Mount Kearsarge. The hotel was abandoned and burned long ago, but the foundation is visible in the picnic area for Winslow State Park, which was named for the hotel.

Mount Kearsarge is the highest point on the Sunapee Ragged Kearsarge Greenway, a 75-mile trail that circles Lake Sunapee. The Lincoln and Barlow Trails are part of the SRK Greenway.

The photo below is looking north from the Barlow Trail:


The lake is Bradley Lake in the town of Andover. Although it didn't come out in the photo, we could just barely see on the horizon the snow-covered cone of Mount Washington.

More information about Mount Kearsarge can be found on the websites for Winslow State Park and Rollins State Park.

There are actually two mountains in New Hampshire named Kearsarge, and there is some dispute as to which mountain the 1861 USS Kearsarge was named for. We climbed Mt. Kearsarge in Merrimack County near Warner. The other mountain is located farther north in Carroll County near North Conway and is known as Kearsarge North.

This interesting New York Times article dated February 18, 1894 discussed the naming dispute and an alternate theory about the origin of the name "Kearsarge":


Found via the Bartlett (NH) Historical Society here. If the NYT article is behind a paywall, the Bartlett Historical Society saved a copy here.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Northeast Kingdom Adventures


We celebrated New Year's Day this year with adventures in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom. Yes, there is plenty to see and do right here in northern Vermont, even in the midst of a pandemic lockdown and even in winter – without skiing.

The Northeast Kingdom – "NEK" or simply "The Kingdom" – consists of three counties in northeastern Vermont: Essex, Orleans, and Caledonia. George Aiken, governor of Vermont 1937-1941 and U.S. senator from Vermont 1941-1975, coined the phrase to refer to this rural part of the state.

Our travels today took us to only a small part of The Kingdom, just four towns: Hardwick, Greensboro, Glover, and Craftsbury. Nevertheless we found many interesting things to see and do in just a few short hours:
The photo above is Caspian Lake in Greensboro, as seen from Barr Hill.

NEK Odds and Ends

Our Northeast Kingdom Adventures today took us on many back roads with interesting sights. The marker above is on Lake Shore Road on the west side of Caspian Lake in Greensboro:

1781
Near This Spot By A
BLOCK HOUSE
Guarding
HAZEN ROAD
Two Scouts
CONSTANT BLISS
and
MOSES SLEEPER
Were Killed By Indians
And Buried Where They Fell
Lest We Forget The Pioneers
This Memorial Was Erected
1941

"Hazen Road," usually called the Bayley-Hazen Road, was a military road constructed during the Revolutionary War in what is now northern Vermont. This 2017 article in the Burlington Free Press has more background about the monument above: Search for the Greensboro blockhouse.

Our travels took us by several interesting agricultural enterprises including Kingdom Creamery in Hardwick, Shat Acres Highland Cattle in Greensboro, Pete's Greens in Craftsbury, and the modern (2015) hay drying operation of Jasper Hill Farm. Jasper Hill Farm makes award-winning cheeses at their farm in Greensboro and at the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick; the hay drying facility is in Craftsbury. Dry hay is critical to the flavor of their cheeses, three of which are named Bayley Hazen Blue, Moses Sleeper, and Constant Bliss (not currently in production).

Hardwick, where we entered the Northeast Kingdom on today's tour, was once known as the "Building Granite Center of the World." That industry died out about a century ago and the town declined for a time, but:

Over the past few years, Hardwick, Vermont, a typical hardscrabble farming community of 3,000 residents, has jump-started its economy and redefined its self-image through a local, self-sustaining food system unlike anything else in America.

Source: the description at Amazon.com for the 2011 book The Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt. Some of the businesses mentioned above are discussed in this book.

We drove by this sign in Hardwick:

The sign says: "The Highfields Institute / West Hill Farm / Compost Demonstration & Research Site / Promoting On-Farm Composting." The Highfields Institute, later the Highfields Center for Composting, is also written up in Ben Hewitt's book The Town That Food Saved, but the organization was dissolved in 2014.

We also drove by something that one does not expect to see in rural Vermont: a $14 million theater in Greensboro modeled on the Globe Theatre in London:


The photo above is from the grand opening of the Highland Center for the Arts in June 2017. News stories about the theater here and here. We have seen several excellent shows in this theater, but like all performance venues it is currently closed due the pandemic lockdown.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Barr Hill Natural Area

Barr Hill overlooks Caspian Lake in Greensboro, Vermont. We hiked most of the yellow trails on Barr Hill today, enjoying the overlooks in all directions, and some of the black trails including the Mossy Trail (see trail map below, click on the image to enlarge):

The photo at the top of this post is looking southwest. The view below is looking northwest; Belvidere Mountain is on the horizon near the center of the photo.

The Barr Hill Natural Area consists of 256 acres owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy in Vermont. The trails there connect to the trails at the Highland Lodge on Caspian Lake and the extensive trail system at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center.

Barr Hill Gin and Barr Hill Vodka, made by Caledonia Spirits, are named for Barr Hill in Greensboro. Click here for that story.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Museum of Everyday Life

The Museum of Everyday Life is on Dry Pond Road (aka Vermont Route 16) in Glover just north of the rest stop and picnic area for Runaway Pond. We were the first visitors to sign the guest book in 2021. The signs said to turn the lights on when entering, turn them off when leaving, wear a face mask and use the hand sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic, and consider leaving a donation.

The main exhibit in this museum is about a single theme, something in ordinary life, and the theme changes annually. The current exhibition is about knots. Previous exhibitions have been about scissors, mirrors, matches, dust, and many other things. The museum includes selected items from previous exhibitions.

Once you start thinking about knots, they are everywhere! Below I am looking at the exhibit on different ways to tie a necktie.

Hanging from the rafters was a rope swing with a huge knot at the bottom to sit on. We all enjoyed that! Here Nancy takes a turn:

The Museum of Everyday Life is in an old, unheated barn, hence the winter clothes. We did not see anyone else during our visit.

The museum's website is a rich, fascinating source of information. The Philosophy Department provides insight into what the museum is all about. The News page lists media articles about the museum, including this March 2019 article in the New York Times.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Runaway Pond

Vermont State Route 16 north of the Greensboro-Glover town line is also known as Dry Pond Road. Five miles south of Glover is the rest stop and picnic area shown above. The historic marker tells the story:

RUNAWAY POND

On this site, on June 6, 1810 settlers dug an outlet to the north from what was then known as Long Pond. The retaining bank collapsed, causing all water from the 1.5-mile long pond to be discharged toward Barton River, and on to Lake Memphremagog, with extensive damage to the countryside, but no loss of life.

The plaque in the photo below adds more details:


LONG POND / RUNAWAY POND / DRY POND

In 1810 the water level of Long Pond was 70 feet above this marker and the water flowed south into Greensboro and the Lamoille River.

Needing more water to power Aaron Willson's grist mill in Glover, 60 men and boys dug a ditch on the north shore (about .5 miles north of here) to cause the water to flow into the Glover/Barton River.

Due to the quicksand in the earth, the entire hillside washed away and the pond "ran-a-way" discharging its billion gallons of water toward the mill in 1.5 hours.

Spencer Chamberlin raced ahead of the wall of water for 5 miles and saved the miller's wife.

Glover Historical Society 1996

It was thought-provoking to stand at that picnic area, look at the steep hillsides surrounding the narrow valley, and contemplate how they once contained a 70-foot deep pond that drained in just 1.5 hours.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Camp Wapanacki


Camp Wapanacki was originally a fishing camp. The historic Trout Lodge, on the edge of beautiful and remote Wapanacki Lake, is said to have hosted many illustrious guests in the early 20th century, including Calvin Coolidge.

Dr. Merle Frampton of New York City and his wife, Iris, purchased the property in 1937 and the following year they established the first camp in the nation for blind and visually impaired children. The New York Institute for Special Education took over camp operations in 1942. Dr. Frampton served as director of the Institute until 1971. See this 1988 article in the New York Times for more information about this phase of the camp.

After operating as a summer camp for blind and visually impaired children for more than 50 years, Camp Wapanacki was sold in 1991 to the Girl Scout Council of Vermont and it became a beloved Girl Scout Camp. Our daughters spent many summers there as both campers and counselors.

The Girl Scouts sold the camp in 2014. Today the camp is privately owned and cabins are available to rent. See Camp Wapanacki, Wapanacki, and Airbnb (the link is to the former camp director's office, one of several cabins available on the property).


The Trout Lodge and Wapanacki Lake are not visible from the road, where the photos in this post were taken. The text of the historic marker in the photo at the top of this post can be found at Vermont Roadside Historic Markers (search for Camp Wapanacki). Other links I found about the history of the camp:
Camp Wapanacki is in both Hardwick and Wolcott. The usual approach is from Hardwick. The historic marker is on the Hardwick-Wolcott town line.

Northeast Kingdom Adventures: Follow the link for the introductory post about this series and a list of all the posts in the series.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thanks to Vermont


Thanks to Vermont was a film produced in 1955 by the Vermont Department of Agriculture and the Vermont Development Commission to promote Vermont farm products.

The scene is set on Thanksgiving Day in a typical Vermont home, the mother preparing the turkey and father trying to sneak a taste. After he is shooed out of the kitchen, he sits down in his easy chair, lights his pipe, and commences to think about all the good agricultural products Vermont has to offer to consumers both inside and outside the state.

This 31-minute video is a fascinating look at the state of agricultural technology 65 years ago. In the dairy industry, that was just prior to the introduction of bulk tanks. The dairy industry still used 10-gallon milk cans. Tractors had completely replaced horses in the fields, but not yet in the woods. Maple sap was still collected in buckets and horse-drawn gathering tubs. Today's pipelines came decades later. Other farm products featured in the video include eggs, turkeys, apples, potatoes, sweet corn, and strawberries. The film also shows haying (both baled and loose), cheesemaking, and agricultural fairs.

Thanks to Guy Page for bringing this video to my attention. And thanks to the Vermont Historical Society and the Vermont State Archives & Records Administration for digitizing the original film and preserving it at the Internet Archive. Here is the link again: Thanks to Vermont. Note that audio does not begin until 48 seconds into the video.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Shooting Stories


This summer I have noticed several stories online about first-time shooters.

Blogger Ann Althouse wrote about shooting a gun for the first time in June. There is a short video at the link. Ms. Althouse looks pleased with her bullseye!

Ann Althouse is a retired law professor living in Madison, Wisconsin, where she taught at the University of Wisconsin Law School for 32 years. Bio here. Althouse is a popular blog with an active commenter community. In the comments, Ms. Althouse reveals that she shot three guns that day.

The Denver Post reported in August that: Some women are opting to carry guns on Colorado trails to stay safe. The article stresses the importance of proper training. (Article found via Althouse.)

Closer to home, Guy Page recently wrote in Vermont Daily and True North Reports about women in Vermont learning to shoot from Major Ted Tedesco, USMC (Ret).

I encourage people to learn to shoot guns safely and responsibly, and I am not alone. Guy's articles prompted me to share with him the following story about Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy:

“Senator Leahy was a top shooter on the rifle team at Saint Michael’s College when he was an undergraduate. In 2008 he was being inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame in a luncheon ceremony at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex. I found myself standing next to him in the buffet line, and we started talking about our common experiences on college rifle teams (some 16 years apart – he graduated in 1961, I graduated in 1977). He remembered that experience fondly, and he told me that he still enjoys shooting on his property in Middlesex. He also told me something that I didn’t know before, that he is legally blind in one eye. He thought that helped him be a better shooter. As we parted, he said:

“Everyone should learn two things. They should learn how to swim, and they should learn how to shoot a gun.”

I previously wrote on this blog about my experience on the University of Maine Rifle Team – the Black Bears.

Guy Page kindly reprinted my story about Senator Leahy in Vermont Daily and True North Reports. Full disclosure: Guy is a friend and relative. I've known him since we were boys.

I got to know Senator Leahy when I was CEO of Yankee Farm Credit. For example, see:

All three shooting stories at the beginning of this post, from this summer, are about women. When Senator Leahy was on the Saint Michael's College rifle team, it was likely all men. The University of Maine rifle team was all men in its early days, but became co-ed my freshman year.

The photo at the top of this post is the University of Maine rifle team in 1977, my senior year. I am standing in the back, fourth from the left, wearing glasses. The sign over us shows the years that the University of Maine rifle team was New England Champions: 14 of the 18 years from 1959 to 1976, including three of the years when Senator Leahy was in college. In 1977 we were undefeated (18-0) and again New England Champions.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Cheese Tasting Event


Jasper Hill Farm held a virtual cheese tasting event on June 4. It was terrific! Cheesemaker Mateo Kehler and scientists Dr. Rachel Dutton and Dr. Ben Wolfe talked about the art and science of cheese, especially the five delicious cheeses in the tasting kit:
  • Moses Sleeper
  • Willoughby
  • Highlander
  • Landaff
  • Bayley Hazen Blue
Mateo was broadcasting from the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm where cheese is cave-aged under carefully controlled conditions in underground vaults. He showed us a lot of cheese and some of the aging process (affinage), including a robot for washing, brushing, and turning cheeses. 

Dr. Ben and Dr. Rachel talked about the microbiology of cheese. As Mateo explained:

It's the microbes that really do the hard work of transforming and unlocking the flavor potential of each of these cheeses.

Dr. Ben described the microbial process as "delicious rot."

We learned about the importance of the rind, and three different kinds of rinds:
  • Bloomy rind (inoculate with mold)
  • Washed rind (wash with salt)
  • Natural rind (do very little)
Should you eat the rind? It is definitely edible. Dr. Rachel: "If it's not a wax rind, then you should taste it, because you might like it." Mateo and Dr. Ben strongly agreed! A bloomy rind or a washed rind, especially, will often be delicious and enhance the flavor of the cheese.

There was much more about science and tasting notes. It was a delightful hour and a half. The event was advertised as the first of "an interactive online lecture series." More than 200 people participated in this Zoom presentation. Many participants submitted questions and comments via chat, which enhanced the experience.

The photo below shows the computer and cheese board at our house at the beginning of the event:


Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, Vermont, was a former dairy farm that brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler and their wives purchased in 1998. They broke ground for the Cellars in 2006. Since then the business has grown significantly and they have won many cheese awards. See their history here.

Dr. Rachel Dutton researches the microbiology of cheese in her laboratory at the University of California San Diego. See The Dutton Lab @ UCSD.

Dr. Ben Wolfe researches the microbiology of cheese and fermented foods in his laboratory at Tufts University in Massachusetts. See The Wolfe Lab @ Tufts University.

The collaboration between the scientists and Jasper Hill Farm is discussed in this article: The kings of artisanal cheese wear lab coats. The Kehler brothers are not only dairy farmers. As cheesemakers, they also farm microbes.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I have connections with some of the people mentioned in this post beyond simply being a cheese consumer. Before I retired at the end of 2016, I got to know Mateo and Andy Kehler through my job at Yankee Farm Credit (link). Completely coincidentally and unrelated to that connection, a few months ago our daughter became a post-doctoral researcher in The Wolfe Lab @ Tufts University (link).

Nevertheless I did not learn about this "interactive online lecture series" through any of those connections. I learned about it because I am on the mailing list for Jasper Hill Farm. Anyone can sign up for that mailing list here (scroll down to "Join the Herd").

Enjoy good cheese!

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Smugglers Notch Rock Slide

The road through Smugglers Notch was briefly closed today due to a rock slide that damaged at least one car pretty significantly. No one was injured to our knowledge. The photos in this post were taken at about 2:30 PM after the road was reopened.

The photo below shows a large rock partially in the road:


The photo below shows a slightly smaller rock on the edge of the road.


The second rock significantly damaged the rear end of a parked car. WCVB in Boston has photos of the damaged car here, courtesy of the Vermont State Police. Thankfully no one was in the car.

The photo below is another view of the second rock, and shows both where the rock slide started high on the mountain and the path where this rock rolled out of the trees.


The photo below shows both rocks. The rock in the distance is the larger rock that is partially in the road, and the closer rock is the one that hit the car that was parked on the side of the road. The rock slide occurred just on the Stowe side of the height of land.


We drove through Smugglers Notch twice today, the first time around 11:30 AM. The rock slide had recently happened. We saw the damaged car as shown in the WCVB photos and there were rescue vehicles on the scene. The road was not yet closed. There was a trooper from the Vermont State Police directing traffic, and things were so exciting that I did not get any photos at that time.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

COVID-19 in Other States

The previous post included data about the prevalence of COVID-19 in Vermont and I concluded: "At least for the present, COVID-19 is fading away in Vermont." What about other states, and the country in total?

The Washington Post has statistics for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the U.S. in total. No subscription is required to access this page:


The statistics are presented graphically in a manner similar to my previous post about Vermont: cases and deaths, per day and the 7-day average. Following are graphs for the United States in total. Both cases and deaths are trending down:


(Click on any image to enlarge. Sreenshots captured on May 29.)

Total deaths in the United States recently passed the sad milestone of 100,000. In Past Pandemics I noted that U.S. deaths were estimated to have been 100,000 from the 1968 flu pandemic, 116,000 from the 1957 flu pandemic, and 675,000 from the 1918 flu pandemic. U.S. deaths per 100,000 population (rounded to the nearest multiple of 10):

 1918 flu 
 650 
 1957 flu
 70 
 1968 flu
 50 
 COVID-19 to date 
 30 

What about our neighbors? Here in Vermont we get a lot of visitors from neighboring states. Following are COVID-19 deaths to date per 100,000 population (rounded to the nearest multiple of 10):

 Massachusetts
 100 
 New Hampshire     
 20 
 New York
 150 
 Vermont
 10 

New York and Massachusetts are significantly worse than the national average of 30, but both states are trending down for both cases and deaths:


Here is the link again if you are interested in data for other states: