Putney Mountain Hawkwatch:
Self Limiting for 2020 Season
Information provided by Terri
This fall due to the Covid 19 pandemic Putney Mountain Hawkwatch will be posting only a limited number of observers on the mountain for any given day. Over the years many ‘Friends of the Watch’ have also spent time with the designated watch crew. Sadly this year we are asking others to not visit even as we are severely curtailing our own numbers. Hopefully these steps will let those present maintain needed social distancing while monitoring raptor flights.
Each day’s volunteers will be exclusively from those who are on our roster of long time qualified personnel. They will work from a very limited, roped off, watcher-only area and only those with assigned duties can be accommodated. Due to the overall narrow scope of the summit clearing itself and the trail use that also occurs there we feel that it is imperative that other casual visitors to the watch do not congregate in and restrict movement through that area.
The Putney Mountain Hawkwatch has done an annual fall raptor count since 1974. Data collected at the site is part of the Raptor Population Index, a study of raptor population trends in the Northeast. Since 2003 Monarch Butterfly flights have also been recorded. Watch results will be posted daily and can be viewed at www.hawkcount.org.
The safe successful continuation of the Hawkwatch is our goal this season. Toward that end we need to limit the number of people on the mountain.
Tom Longtin, 1940-2020 by Martha Stitelman
A few years after I moved to Vermont, I was fortunate to meet Tom, who became my friend, next-door neighbor, and outdoor guide (along with the rest of the GMC buddies). Having grown up in Bennington, he knew many of the back roads and trails I was hoping to explore, and helped teach me (usually patiently) the skills I would need to get there by foot, ski or bicycle. His signature technique was to get ahead, just out of earshot, so that I couldn’t argue about the route; but he also could set tracks at an easy angle to follow so that I could catch up. We had many trips that I wouldn’t have thought I could do - until I did. We had a couple where I gave up and came home.
One of our most memorable trips occurred in a particularly icy winter, when a persistent boilerplate crust made skiing miserable. Tom took it as a challenge to go mountain biking on regular unstudded tires, slightly underinflated, until he was skilled at picking routes through the lowest contours in the terrain. One day he, Hubey, Birgir Vigsnes and I set off from the Red Mill entrance on the snowmobile trail to the Burning. Three of us skittered and grumbled on skis along the icy packed trail, while Tom nonchalantly and gracefully pedaled through the trees and around the rocks til we got to the Boiler. As we went across a grassy area the crust broke beneath Tom’s front wheel and he did a dismount over the handlebars; the only time I ever saw him leave his bicycle unexpectedly. A few days later he took me biking across Adams reservoir, not a challenging trip for him, just to show me what it was like.
There was always something interesting to see when out with Tom. We skied by the phone lines, pipes and manholes in the old Bennington watershed, bushwhacked up Bald Mtn to discover that the "Yellow Trail" was really the town boundary line, figured out the best way to snowshoe to Boxcar Rocks, and held our breath when meeting a moose in Medburyville. He might tease us by leading a group twice around “Twice Around Peak”, but didn’t hesitate to pull Margie out when she broke through the ice of a Woodford beaver pond. And he was generous with the various things he’d acquired here and there; the last thing he gave me was a long-handled ice scraper with an added foam handle so I could clean out the crevices in the Harmon Hill rock steps.
Tom’s house too contained many amazing artistic creations. A talented computer graphics artist (https://www.arsmathematica.org/is2003/3dsc/tom_longtin.htm) he created sculptures and puzzles in wood, metal, particleboard and plastic, often involving complex geometrical designs and knots. He was active in Bennington’s art community and has had various sculptures exhibited around town.
I hope sometime we can take a group trip in Tom’s memory (suggestions for destination welcome - where do you remember him best?)
Tom was a team player, so long as he got to say who was on his team. Tom was a US Army soldier in Germany, asked not to reenlist as the Vietnam Conflict ramped up. He lived and worked in Germany, traveled to Australia and Central America, and used drink too much. Tom would share his water and snacks when the trip went longer than advertised. (Which they often did.) Tom told a local couple, “You didn’t have to come on this trip.” when they complained about a ski trip tougher than advertised. (One of them bought new skis after that, tho.) Tom often said he was ’not training wheels’, but would help learning a skill he knew if you were willing to be shown his way. If you wanted to learn your limitation, he was your guide.
He preferred to travel in a loop and to explore ‘all new territory’, yet was always willing to point out historic sites, favorite springs, and interesting trees. He slowed down and ranged closer as he passed 75, but an electric-assist mountain bike extended his range. Too bad he didn’t get to ride it longer. Typically for Tom, the stock motor had straight-cut gears instead of the more expensive helical-cut, so he complained about its noise.
Tom was my hiking buddy, my cycling partner, our cross-country skiing friend, and my inspiration to return to dump-picking and dumpster-diving. He told Martha of a house for sale in his backyard, allowing her to downsize and to become his neighbor for 15 years. We saw him most weekends, so he helped us gather firewood, food, and books and strange objects. He made sculptures from scrap metal, then moved onto puzzles and Bennington Monument models of salvaged material.
We shared books and magazines, where he noted typos and other errors in red pen. Yes, he was critical, yes, he was picky, but he was paying attention.
Thanks for listening,
Hubey Folsom Newfane, VT
We moved to Bennington less than 2 years ago, so didn't know Tom as long as many others, but our lives were enriched by the times we spent together. We marveled at the creations in his house; metal sculptures, intricate puzzles, inlaid hardwood flooring cut from his laser printer and the myriad of machines that he used to construct them. We went on numerous hiking and snowshoeing adventures with Tom - and every trip was truly an adventure. He took us places that were unmarked trails (or bushwhacking) and started to learn how the local areas connected together. Most of the pictures below were from winter 2020.
Tom had created his "Beaver Tail" extension for his pickup truck so that he could easily put on and take off snowshoes, spikes, etc.
It was our good fortune to know Tom.
Ann and Billy Martin
COVID-19 ResponseJune 26 UpdateTrails and Shelters: Shelters and privies on the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in Vermont are open under modified use guidelines. As of June 26, all trails and facilities on the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in Vermont are open.
Backcountry Overnight Sites
The rugged and remote nature of backcountry overnight sites are one of the things that make hiking the Long Trail special. As these sites are remote and rustic, visitors are being asked to be self-sufficient and prepared to minimize the potential for spread of COVID-19. Focus will be on maintaining physical distance between unrelated visitors and to manage, reduce, or eliminate common touch points.
Thank you for being a partner in this endeavor and doing your part to minimize the risk to yourself and others
Visitors to backcountry overnight sites are being asked to adhere to the following guidelines:
Listen to a Podcast about the writings in the Melville Nauheim Shelter Log Book
Thank you to our Log Book readers: Ham, Lorna, Ann, Billy
Click the recording below. (You will have a slight pause while the audio file is downloading.)
Note: In the podcast you will hear a short portion of the song "Happy Wanderer" by Frank Weir, a British orchestra leader. The "Happy Wanderer" was quite popular in both Britian and USA in 1954.
Picture Gallery Below:
The first 3 North Bound shelters on the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail in Vermont
Seth Warner, Congdon, Melville Neuheim, and the Neuheim Work Crew getting ready for the hiking season!
Some scans from the Log Book for your review.
Trails and Shelters: Trails on state and federal lands are open, but caution is still needed: staff and volunteers have not been able to perform the normal levels of spring trail maintenance or assessments. We will be operating with very limited field staff this season and will need your help in stewarding the trails.
To protect public health, shelters and privies on the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in Vermont are closed. Trail managers are developing guidelines for the safe use of backcountry facilities and hope to open some facilities in a reduced capacity by June 26. If you plan to stay in the backcountry please familiarize yourself with and follow primitive camping guidelines for camping on state and federal land and know what land base you are on. This is especially true for the private land that hosts the trail where primitive camping should be avoided altogether.
The Green Mountain National Forest food storage order geared toward minimizing black bear and human encounters and interactions put in place in July 2019 is still in effect in 2020. What it means for backpacking is you need to either hang your food and other smellable items, or use a bear box (available at a limited number of shleters) or personal bear can, and you need to carry out any and all trash that you create, including food scraps. Learn about the order and bear can options here.
Out-of-state visitors: The state restriction for out-of-state hikers to quarantine for 14-days is lifted for residents of certain counties across New England and New York that have a similar active COVID-19 caseload to Vermont (less than 400 active cases of COVID-19 per one million residents). These residents may enter the state for leisure travel without quarantining.
Hadsel-Mares Camp at Wheeler Pond: On June 15th at 10:00 AM, we will open Hadsel-Mares Camp to new bookings between June 26 and October 31. We plan to open the cabin for late fall and winter rentals on October 15th (subject to change). A one-day “maintenance day” in which the cabin is free of guests will exist between all bookings.
New COVID-19 Camps Policy: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, GMC is taking the following measures to comply with State of Vermont requirements and promote renter safety.
Vermont's 2020 Hiking Season and COVID-19The answer you’ve all been waiting for: Yes, the Long Trail System’s trails will open tomorrow, May 22. However, it’s not as simple as that statement. With both a late snowpack and COVID-19 as dominant concerns this hiking season, we are asking hikers to take a few extra precautions to both protect public health and protect the public resource of our beautiful trails.
Hiking is the ideal outdoor recreational activity for these times since you can get outside for exercise and fresh air while still adhering to social distancing and hygiene guidelines, but let’s be smart about it, and above all, let’s be sensitive to trail conditions and courteous to other hikers itching to get out just as much as we are.
Trail Conditions and Backcountry Facility ClosuresDoes this mean winter conditions are gone? Nope. If you are hiking at higher elevations, there is definitely still snow and ice, with the snow line at anywhere from 2750′ to 3000′ depending on your location. The Mount Mansfield snow stake is showing 41″ of snow still present (versus 15″ for this date in an average year). The snowy treadway is undermined in many places where drainages and streams are running, creating the potential for bad post-holing and the risk of ankle injuries. All of the alpine zones are exposed at this point, but you definitely need microspikes to get there. If you are hiking to these areas, please be prepared for winter conditions (with traction, layers, and experience) or consider staying below the snow line for another couple of weeks.
Does this mean muddy conditions are gone? Also nope. According to GMC field staff, the mud is still pretty significant in a lot of places since the snowline is so low. It depends on the location, but people will see mud at every elevation on the Long Trail System this weekend. If you encounter muddy conditions, please either turn back or be prepared to walk straight through puddles and mud to avoid damaging the surrounding vegetation.
Trails on state and federal lands are open, but caution is still needed: staff and volunteers have not been able to perform the normal levels of spring trail maintenance or assessments. GMC volunteers were delayed in starting their spring trail maintenance due to COVID-19 restrictions and late-season snowpack. They are still working on clearing trails and hikers should expect to encounter areas of blowdowns from the winter. We will also be operating with very limited field staff this season and will need your help in stewarding the trails.
Here are a few tips for early season hikers:
Primitive camping along the trail can be difficult. Not only can it be hard to find a flat, clear spot for a tent in the rugged terrain of the Green Mountains, but it’s complicated because the rules vary depending on who the land manager is:
Planning a thru-hike or overnight hike? Check out our thru-hiker FAQ.
New COVID-19 Trail EtiquetteOut-of-state visitors are still being asked to self-quarantine for at least 14 days after arriving in Vermont and before engaging in any activities. For more information about health and safety precautions, please visit the Vermont Department of Health.
As with all outdoor recreation activities, hikers should go out only if you’re healthy, have not been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and/or have not recently traveled from a location with a CDC-issued travel advisory. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, and embrace a “Park, Play and Move On” mentality.
If you are heading out on the trail, please follow the updated COVID-19 trail etiquette below:
For more hiking information and recommendations you can talk to GMC’s visitor center staff by calling 802-244-7037 or emailing email@example.com. GMC offers waterproof paper maps and guidebooks for sale on the GMC online store, and digital maps of popular trails in Vermont through the Avenza Maps app, available in the App Store and Google Play. You can also chat with other hikers and see others’ trip reports in GMC’s Facebook Group.
We wish you a happy and safe hiking season!
Reed is a long time resident of Bennington. He moved here with his family in 1979 to begin a science teaching job at Mount Anthony Union High School. He had recently finished a 2 year tour of duty as a education volunteer with the Peace Corps in what was then called Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Prior to that he taught middle school science in White River Junction, Vermont for three years. He spent the school year 2000-2001 teaching at a high school in Oslo, Norway as a Fulbright Exchange Teacher. Upon retiring from MAUHS in 2005, he taught AP Biology and International Baccalaureate Biology at George School in Newtown, PA until retiring from all paid work in June 2011.
Reed has been a member of the Bennington Section of the GMC since about 1991 and served as president of the section from 1996 to 2000. He's been an active participant and leader of numerous trips. He also is a long time member of, and occasional leader for, the Albany Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK). He is also a member of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club, where he is a certified trip leader for hiking, cycling, and paddling. As this suggests, he loves to be outdoors hiking, biking, cross country skiing, and paddling. He has hiked most of the hikes in the area near Bennington many times. His adventures farther afield include 4 days backpacking on the Inca Trail in Peru to Macchu Pichu, 8 days ski touring hut-to-hut in Norway, and most recently a week of cycling in Italy last fall. He is glad that his time in Italy was then, and not now.
His other interests include gardening, beekeeping and woodworking. The woodworking has proven to be a good way to spend “stay at home” time during the pandemic. Gardening is starting to gear up at his partner Kathy's house in Pennsylvania where he's been since the lockdown found him in March. Beekeeping is also happening again after a hiatus of a few years, as two swarms of bees just decided to move into his two empty hives there.
Reed's three adult children now live with their own families, in Westwood, MA , Jericho, VT, and Morrill, ME. He has 5 and 8/9 grandchildren, with the sixth one (a girl) due to arrive on the scene in early June.
Photos below by Kathy Kindness...and the dog is Rosie.
At this writing the Appalachian Trail - Long Trail remains closed to hikers. It has been opened for trail work and maintenance in order to ready the trail for upcoming hikers when the ban is lifted. The Bennington Section is responsible for the trail from Harmon Hill, south of VT Route 9 in Woodford, north to the top of Glastenbury Mountain. We also take care of the Nauheim shelter (Maple Hill, near Route 9) and the Goddard Shelter (Glastenbury Mountain).
Every year the trails must be cleared of blown down trees and branches, the dreaded hobblebush must be trimmed, water bars are cleared so water runs off the trail, blazes are refreshed, and any other problems taken care of. Different crews of volunteers have tackled various sections and side trails while maintaining all the safety guidelines from the Green Mountain Club.
Below are some of the outings that have occurred - there may be some work that has been accidentally omitted, but we thank all volunteers for their work to keep our trails in good condition.
Battery pack under aqua bike bag, display monitor in center of handle bars
In 2019 Hamilton began researching the possibility of our buying bikes with electric pedal-assist capabilities. He found that the least expensive start at around $1700. I thought I preferred to wait until I got old before resorting to an electric-powered bike. Once I was persuaded, though, there was still the negative impact of having two more bikes to store in our garage. We already had as many bikes as kayaks, one less than half a dozen of each.
Consulting Peter Hall of Highlander Bicycle and discovering that we could purchase electric battery packs that Peter could install on our existing bikes… caused a re-orientation in our thinking. Peter ordered the “E-BikeKit” (Electric Bicycle Conversion Kit System) battery packs, $1100 each, and installed them on our hybrid bikes, recommending against having them put on a thin-tired road bike. Hamilton’s bike required more modifications and more time than did mine because of previous modifications that Peter had done for Ham. When Peter unpacked a $5000 bike built with electric assist already installed, he commented to us that our bikes with batteries added were at least as good, at a much lower cost. Later, Hamilton investigated and bought on-line a RAD-bike, which has especially wide tires.
My first ride was from Highlander Bicycle up the hills towards our house and the first hill made me a convert – it was such fun climbing even steep hills with so little effort.
Controls on left (“M” on/off button with power level switch above); monitor at right
The bikes have a monitor screen on the handle bars that shows the level of power, the speed and the distance traveled. The bike’s computer can be set to give various levels of power. Initially, Peter set ours with five levels, five being frighteningly fast unless you are on a steep uphill. Bicycling with our friend Tim Marr who was on a non-electric bike, we found one level too slow and the next up too fast for Tim’s pace. We took our bikes back to Highlander and Peter adjusted them to make nine levels, with less difference between the levels, and level nine equivalent to the previous level five. After each ride, we plug the bikes into their chargers in our garage.
These bikes have let us travel further than we could previously, in trips up to 25 miles, exploring new roads and hills that had made previous routes prohibitive.
by Lorna Cheriton
As PJ Beaumont hands the leadership of trails and shelters maintenance over to Matt Vezina, here’s a profile of a past Co-ordinator of Trails and Shelters for our Bennington Section of the Green Mountain Club.
Hamilton doing trail work in snow, April 2020
Hamilton Topping studied forestry at Paul Smith’s College in upper New York state and, after working as a surveyor, took the New York state civil service exam, passed that and began his career as a forest ranger. He served most of his career in the Catskills region of New York State, living in Tannersville and raising two daughters there. His duties as a law enforcement officer included building trails, fire control, responding to calls of disorderly campers, search and rescue for missing persons, and recovery operations after plane crashes. Much of his work was solitary, with freedom to determine his own schedule and activities, but he was usually accompanied by his dog.
His first dog, Streak, came into his life when he was six years old and had just returned from the doctor after a cousin smashed Hamilton’s finger with a mallet. The puppy, given to him for comfort by his mother, hid under the buffet and the little boy, hurting, also crawled under the buffet with the frightened pup.
As an adult and serial dog-owner, Hamilton owned an Airedale (Hector), a husky (Aspen), and Sam, all large dogs that accompanied Ham in his forest ranger truck. One would not let an assistant into the truck to get the equipment Hamilton had asked him to get; the resourceful assistant resorted to simply opening the door and the dog jumped out to run and join Hamilton, letting the assistant easily obtain the equipment.
Working in the woods, the dogs were sometimes unable to resist chasing porcupines; the resulting removal of quills from the dog’s muzzle was always painful. But, even after enduring removal of a mouthful of quills, one dog stood quivering with indecision on seeing his next porcupine, finally unable to resist chasing it and getting a second mouthful of quills.
During his career as a forest ranger, Hamilton volunteered for numerous forest fires in the western US, serving as leader of a troop of men. Perhaps the most extreme incident occurred when he watched from a distance in horror as a huge tree fell directly on one of his men who had been unable to tell what direction the tree would fall. Rushing over, Hamilton and his men found that the man was uninjured, having fallen where a large rock protected him from certain death.
Later in his career, Hamilton was promoted to captain and accepted a position on Long Island, New York. There he supervised other rangers and, as a law enforcement officer, investigated reports of unauthorized activities such as burning without a permit and issued appropriate tickets. Earlier, in the Catskills, he had needed to approach a noisy and disorderly group of camping bikers. Approaching them alone but with his night stick, he realized the night stick might be turned against him so wisely turned and left the night stick in his truck, and dealt with them unarmed except with the authority of his words.
Always an outdoors man, he enjoyed hiking and canoeing. In his 40s, he took up running, joining an informal club and entering races, including five marathons (New York and London, England among them).
Late in his career, he took a leave of absence from work to through-hike the Appalachian Trail, starting at Springer Mountain in Georgia and hiking half the 2200-mile trail before a serious muscle tear forced him to leave the trail.
Besides running and hiking, Ham took up contra dancing at the urging of a colleague and later English Country dancing in New York City. At a dance weekend in New Jersey, he met Lorna Cheriton; their first dates were hiking, canoeing the Esopus Creek during spring flood, and contra dancing.
Hamilton took early retirement in 1994 after 34 years as a forest ranger. His first goal was completion of his Appalachian Trail hike. He and Lorna traveled to West Virginia and began the second half of the trail, hiking north through forests where hordes of gyspy moth larva, seeking cooling breezes, hung from the trees, nipping the skin of hikers who bumped into the dangling worms. Then through the Pennsylvania section, notorious for rocks standing on edge and making hikers’ feet very sore. After one fall, he lay on the ground, certain he had broken his wrist which would have ended his second attempt of the AT. Another time, a black-faced hornet flew into his forehead and stung, the pain almost making him pass out. One eerie occurrence was the darkening of the sky in mid-day; away from news, he had not known an eclipse was expected and could appreciate the mystery it had been to native Americans.
After standing atop Mount Katahdin in Maine in triumphant completion of the AT, Hamilton accepted an assignment in Guatemala with the Peace Corps to which he had applied before retiring. During his year living in the old colonial city of Antigua, he volunteered with the God’s Child Project, leading teams of American volunteers in building concrete floors in kitchens to protect crawling children from the parasites and infections so rampant in poor people’s dirt floors.
Returning to the US, Hamilton chose Bennington for its proximity to natural forest and because it was close enough to his aging parents for him to help them, without being so close that he would be always at their beck and call. He quickly became involved in the Bennington Section of the GMC, hiking, skiing, paddling, leading outings and doing trail work. Among the trips he led was the yearly and challenging cross-country ski to Heartwellville, until the route became impassible because of blowdowns from a hurricane.
Becoming Co-ordinator of Trails and Shelters for our Bennington Section of the Green Mountain Club, he planned and led spring and other trail maintenance projects. He continues to do trail work, to volunteer as a community member on Restorative Justice panels, has served as deacon and trustee at Second Congregational Church, and uses his 1996 truck to pick up vegetable donations from Mighty Food Farm and deliver them to the Kitchen Cupboard.
Keep up with the happenings around Bennington !
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