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1998-2007

Reflections on Rebuilding Butler Lodge (10/00)

LEO LEACH

As I stood there and stared at one of the notched logs, I wondered who carved it and what they were thinking at the time. I wondered what they would think about the job we're doing today.

The reconstruction of Butler Lodge on the west side of Mt. Mansfield this summer culminated several years of careful planning. Following a very successful airlift of logs to the site on June 17, we began work in earnest the following day. We plan to have the shelter ready for next year's hiking season.

We first built tent platforms for the on-site workers, then dismantled the interior of the shelter and removed windows. By July 7 we had completed the cribbing that would support the roof and had moved the last lifting log into place. The next day we put the last lag bolts into the elaborate bracing. At 1 p.m., we were ready to raise the roof.

After putting some tension on the logs with the screw jacks, we cut the door and window casings. We each, Jeff, Scott, Mike, Matt, and myself, took our turn at using the “saws-all”. We made a game of it. The roof stood free.

Rotating the screw jacks from the front cribs to the back, we raised the roof 10 feet in the front and 8 feet in the back. The aura of excitement was almost too much. We were all proud of our accomplishment. We worked hard and well together and had a lot of fun in the process.

After we took the weight of the roof off the walls, the walls were no longer being held in place. It took two weeks to remove the old walls and the old foundation. The sill logs were rotten beyond belief. The rocks used to support the lodge were small and unstable. The floor boards were difficult to pull up without damaging them, but we were successful. Both the tongue and groove, and the two by six sub-floor, were salvaged.

Throughout the whole process, we moved thousands of pounds of rock for the new foundation and stairs from the ledges behind the shelter. That was weeks of continuous rock moving.

Volunteer support has been wonderful. The core group of workers didn't seem to want to leave. I think our unspoken motto was “I've got a job to do.”

What truly amazed me was how well we all worked together. I felt a spirit of community present that I havenít felt anywhere else in my life's journey. It’s a feeling I first experienced in '94 when I worked on the construction of Roundtop Shelter with the Laraway section. That was my introduction to shelter work. It’s this spirit that keeps me involved.

We had a few irate hikers, unhappy because the site was off-limits both for their safety and ours. The other side of the story is the phone call I received from a section hike leader who was aware of the reconstruction and the trail closures. He called to ask for information.

The new foundation took three weeks to complete. By the end of August the last courses of logs were placed and the roof lowered. Members from the Laraway Section were busy installing the new privy August 26th.

The whole operation has been quite impressive, as you all know. I, personally, am getting tired. Last week when Scott [Christiansen] and I were on our way up, and I told him how I was tiring, he reminded me it will only be a few more weeks.

On September 2nd members of the Taylor family gathered at the site to celebrate their father's 60th birthday. The Taylor family and their friends gave a major donation to the project in honor of their father, James C. Taylor. A plaque was presented in his honor by the GMC. (The family in not related to GMC founder, James Taylor.) A second plaque was dedicated to the new lodge to commemorate its rebuilding. Volunteers and GMC staff members Bob Lincoln, Dave Hardy, and Pete Ketcham were present.

The Burlington Section is planning an opening day celebration in the spring.