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Remembering Early Shelter Caretakers (4/06)

Daan is a life-long member of GMC and the Burlington Section. He was caretaker at Taylor Lodge in 1938, at Taft Lodge from 1939 to 1941 and at Butler Lodge around 1990. Daan also served as summit caretaker on Mount Mansfield for many years.

Although I am far away, and do not know if I will ever return to Burlington Section turf, I have been interested in reading the history of the Long Trail shelters in the latest issues of Ridge Lines. I feel that no record of the shelters would be complete without a mention of the many contributions of Larry Dean. He took on the responsibility for repair and maintenance of Taft, Butler, Taylor and Bolton Lodges, doing a lot of the actual labor himself. He was also good at organizing work parties from Section volunteers and from Burlington’s Boy Scout Troop #1, of which he was scoutmaster for 52 years.

In 1938, when I was 15, Larry asked me if I’d like to be caretaker at Taylor Lodge. There were some misgivings about having such a young person in such a responsible job, but my parents gave permission and I became the first caretaker at Taylor. The next year I got promoted to Taft Lodge, and Rod Rice succeeded me at Taylor. He was a local Burlington boy also and we two started the tradition of local boys as caretakers.

Larry also recruited caretakers for all four shelters. At first, only Taft Lodge had a caretaker. Early caretakers were usually college students or teachers. Judge Cowles’ two sons were there for so many years that the Judge built the Laura Cowles Trail up from the Underhill side of the mountain as a shortcut so he could visit his sons at Taft.

I believe Butler Lodge got its first caretaker in 1938. A couple of Long Island school teachers named Lenett hiked the full Long Trail and then wrote Larry asking if they could stay there as caretakers next summer. After Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, caretaking was suspended at all Burlington Section shelters.

Taft Lodge provided the most amenities, including big cotton-filled mattresses and warm woolen blankets. At the end of every hiking season, the caretaker had to carry all the mattresses and blankets over to the Mount Mansfield Hotel for storage, so the mice wouldn’t nest in them. The original Taft Lodge also had a huge cast-iron wood burning kitchen range complete with cooking and warming ovens and a hot-water tank. When astonished hikers asked (as they always did) how they ever got the thing up there, Larry would always give Roy Buchanan’s answer: “We found the stove here and built the cabin around it”.