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Would You Believe?

There Was Once Electricity at Butler Lodge (8/06)

In the October ’05 and January ’06 issues of Ridge Lines, we shared some of the history of the Burlington Section’s Long Trail lodges and shelters. These stories triggered a lot of memories. Here is Rod Rice’s story of bringing power to Butler Lodge.

Rod is a long-time member of the Green Mountain Club and was caretaker at Butler Lodge in the summers of 1940 and 1941.

As Rod got ready
to head up the mountain for his second summer at Butler Lodge, he found himself eyeing an old single-cylinder lawnmower engine and thinking, “That could be used to power a generator!” Rod and a friend lugged the engine up the steep Butler Lodge Trail, along with a six-volt car battery and a generator from a 1928 Dodge Victory convertible that had passed several years sitting in a barn belonging to Clem Holden’s dad. Rod still has the pack frame he used on that memorable hike, and it still has the marks made by the acid leaking from the battery.

Over the next few days, Rod rigged up the generator and lawnmower engine on a board that he placed just outside the Lodge. He ran wires into the Lodge through a gap between the logs and hooked the wires to the battery. (Those wires were visible for decades, until the recent reconstruction of Butler Lodge.) Finally, Rod added a headlight from a Model A Ford, which he rigged up over his bunk.

Rod didn’t run the generator if there were a lot of hikers staying overnight at Butler Lodge. He wanted them to enjoy a true wilderness experience. But on the nights when he was alone, he really enjoyed being able to lie in his bunk with the luxury of excellent reading light. He also came to like the steady, familiar, friendly chugging noise of the old generator.

Rod and his friends stayed at Butler Lodge in all seasons of the year, hiking or snowshoeing up from Stevensville Road in Underhill. In the thirties and forties, Long Trail lodges were equipped with good stoves, bucksaws for felling trees, and axes for cutting kindling. Everyone knew how to find and cut dead wood for fires and how to use woodstoves. But as more and more homes got oil-burning furnaces, fewer hikers knew how to burn wood safely. (Rod recalled that one group staying over at Taylor Lodge started their fire in the oven section of the big stove instead of the firebox. Of course, there was no chimney leading out of the oven. The hikers just couldn’t figure out why the fire was so smoky.) Rod misses the old wood stoves. “The experience now just doesn’t match that great feeling of hiking up and knowing that there could be a warm fire in just a little while”.