But Wait, There's More! Question and Answer Part II of Camel's Hump History


The former Will Monroe house
On a recent blog post, "A Question Asked and Answered: Some Really Interesting Camel's Hump History",we shared a question asked by a park visitor about the history of Camel's Hump, and a really interesting answer from Stewardship Forester, Gary Sawyer.

Well, Doug, our park visitor, came back with a few more questions for Gary, and here's how it went:

Doug: My sister recently found a hand-written journal kept by our father when he and two other lads from Montpelier hiked the Long Trail from Duxbury to Rutland in August of 1921. Here is an excerpt of his first day account:

"Brock, Lindsay and Jones left Montpelier at 3:00 P.M. Sunday with every expectation of rain. Arrived the Callahans 4:00 P.M. Packs weighed about 35 lbs. each. The first half mile was somewhat of a torture to our untrained muscles. Stopped about 6:30 at the Boy Scout camp for supper. The rest of the way to the top was so steep that our noses scraped on the boulders. Most of the trail was composed of a running brook which thoroughly soaked our feet. We reached the top at 8:00 P.M.,  five hours after leaving Montpelier. This was called good time as we came up over the old trail. R. Kate was in charge of the huts and he made us some excellent coffee and we had a most delicious meal. By the use of nine blankets we were able to keep fairly warm. Covered 4 miles."


I assume that 'R. Kate' was a GMC caretaker at the 'hut clearing'. Is that correct? Where was the Boy Scout Camp? Is it still there or are there any remains?
A section of one of the old maps
I have some weather record data from the VT State Climatologist for August 1921 for Morrisville and Middlebury. Can you tell me, based on your experience, what the normal high and low temperature differentials are for the valley floor at Waterbury versus your summit?

Gary's answer: Thanks for your questions, Doug. I looked back and found even more from surveys from 1917 - 1919 which helped to produce maps showing old trails and buildings. These maps (a portion shown to the right) and corresponding journal entries helped to fill in some blanks from the past.

On the map, there is a label for "Callahan’s" which refers to a house that used to be at the base of what is now called the Monroe Trail. This house was occupied by Will Monroe and his sister Katherine after the Callahans moved out and was removed in the early 1970s due to its poor condition. On that same side of the mountain in the early part of the 20th century, two main trails lead up to the summit, the Old Callahan and the New Callahan.

Old fashioned winter camping
The New Callahan at some point became the Forestry Trail before more recently being re-named as the Monroe Trail. The Old Callahan trail, which was closed due to erosion in the late 1970s, was a more direct route to the summit area. If you stand at the base of the Monroe Trail (New Callahan) today and look upslope, the old trail was to the right of the Monroe Trail. This is undoubtedly the route your father took, and in places is still findable. Paralleling this old trail was a phone line, pieces of which a very observant person can still find attached to old trees. This led to a phone located at the Hut Clearing, the junction of today’s Long/Monroe/Burrows Trails.

One of the old cabins
Another old building on the map, the Boy Scout cabin, was a little more than ¾ of the way up the old trail, probably near where it crossed today's Alpine Trail. A journal note describes the trail as being steep and having a running brook. I hiked this route back in the late 1960s as a Boy Scout, and again after I joined FPR in the late 1970s. It's a wonderful trail to hike with beautiful vistas. The trail is under consideration for re-opening someday. It would take a good bit of work and some route adjustments before opening.

Another feature referred to on the old maps, were huts which were probably the ones at the Hut Clearing run by the Camel’s Hump Club, not the Green Mountain Club. The map indicates that at the huts was a phone, a store, and a caretaker. There are no remains of the huts in the clearing or the Boy Scout camp - at least none that has been found yet!


First forest fire lookout in Vermont
 Finally, an answer on your temperatures question. Today, as well as 100 years ago, the temperature on the mountain ranges quite a bit. It can drop 5 degrees per 1000’ elevation change, so from Waterbury to the summit of Camel’s Hump the ambient temperature could be about 20 degrees less, plus wind chill. Winds are normally a bit stronger up there too, so if you are venturing out to explore new or old trails on Camel's Hump be sure to dress warmly and take all the provisions you will need for the journey.

If you have some history on a state park or state land, please share it with us. You can email your stories to parks@state.vt.us or call us 888-409-7579.

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