Tales from the Trails: Burlington Section Member Daan Zwick

In the March issue of Ridge Lines, we asked for tales about hiking in Vermont’s always changeable and frequently challenging weather. Here’s a story from long-time Burlington Section member Daan Zwick.

In 1940, my second year as caretaker at Taft Lodge, the Heiniger family in Burlington asked if I would take their 9-year-old son, Binny, with me for a couple of weeks as sort of a summer camp experience for him. I agreed, feeling that this would be good for both of us.
It did not start out as well as I had hoped. The weather at the cabin socked in – heavy clouds and pouring rain for three solid days and nights. That meant virtually no other hikers were on the trail, and we were pretty much cabin-bound. Although Binny didn’t complain, by the second day I could tell he was not a happy camper.

On the fourth day, I decided to take action. Rain or no rain, we would hike up to the Chin and along the ridge to the Mansfield Hotel, which then existed at the top of the Toll Road. We had a cold and wet climb up the Long Trail to the junction of the Adam’s Apple. As we ascended the Chin, the sky brightened and the rain ceased. There we entered a whole new world.
We were standing on a tiny island, surrounded by clouds on all sides. Far to the east I could see peaks of New Hampshire’s Presidential Range poking above the clouds, and to the west were the tips of the closer Adirondack High Peaks. Southward, only a tiny tip of Camel’s Hump emerged from the surrounding ocean of cloud. And all above us was the shining sun in a blue sky.

I could see Binny becoming a happy boy again. We spread our damp jackets on the warm rocks to dry and ate our lunch, enjoying our special status.

After that rest, we followed the Long Trail southward down Mansfield’s ridge toward the still invisible hotel, and entered the cool cloud cover again. It wasn’t raining, but the trail was damp and dark, in sharp contrast to what we had just left.

At the hotel, most of the guests were huddled around the big fireplace, bemoaning the miserable weather outside. I tried to convince them that a half-mile stroll would take them to a beautiful sunny world, but nobody would believe me. So the only people to hike back to that magical world were Binny and me.

Share Your Weather Story with Ridge Lines Readers
Most Vermonters who’ve spent any time outdoors have stories about the weather. Have you hiked in mud to your kneecaps? Put your head down and trudged blindly through gale-force winds? Skidded all over an icy mountain? Share your story by sending it to Maeve Kim: PO Box 1086, Jericho Center 05465 or maevulus@surfglobal.net

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