Congdon Shelter, 2012
Congdon Shelter, 2012

This open-front frame cabin, with bunks for 8, was built by the LT Patrol in 1967. It was named for Herbert Wheaton Congdon, a Long Trail pioneer, trail builder and mapmaker, and was the gift of the Congdon family. A small brook east of the shelter furnishes water, and overflow campsites are located on the ridge west of the LT above the outhouse. It was originally built as a cabin and converted to an open shelter after 1985. In 1985 there was a Primitive Camping Area 0.8 mile north of the shelter which had been abandoned by 1996. [GB 24th Edition 1996] This camp was built between July 31 and August 11, 1967. Its construction was headed up by Roy Buchanan & Jack Harrington.

In the summer of 1981, I was caretaker at Congdon Camp, southernmost caretaker site on the Long Trail. I maintained 14 miles of trail, south to Seth Warner Shelter and north to Melville Nauheim Shelter. I was 17.

I was paid a lump sum of maybe $500. for the whole summer. I also got to pocket whatever fees I collected from people who stayed at the shelter, which I believe was $1.50 per person per night. But not many people stayed there, so I didn’t make too much, and ended up eating a lot of generic mac and cheese. I also collected returnable cans for money. Caretakers at more popular sites didn’t get a lump sum. They did fine just pocketing overnight fees. Clearly these folks could afford a more diverse diet.

It was lonely at times. Congdon was no Stratton or Camel’s Hump. Often it was just me, the porcupines, and the woodpecker that liked to knock on the side of the cabin at 5 AM. I read books, swatted insects, picked berries, and explored the woods. Harmon Hill, with its view to the west, was my favorite spot.

Some people did come through, I met plenty of AT through hikers, who were, of course, not used to paying an overnight fee. One night I had a whole camp group of fairly well-behaved kids huddled in the cabin to escape the rain. I slept under the table and made a personal record $20.

Sometimes I’d meet up with the caretaker from Goddard Shelter at route 9 and play chess. My major excitement was a weekly trek into cosmopolitan Bennington on my bicycle. I’d load up on Kurt Vonnegut books at the library and cheap carbohydrates at the A&P.

Back then, Congdon was a four walled cabin with a wood stove. It has since been converted to a lean-to. I believe they were having trouble with some guy living there through the winter.”

I learned a lot and grew as a person at Congdon Camp that summer. it was a challenging rite of passage that I would recommend to anyone.

[Robert A. Woodward, 7/10/1998]

Herbert Wheaton Congdon
Herbert Wheaton Congdon

This shelter, which is really a nice, closed camp, was a gift to the GMC from the Congdon Family in memory of Herbert Wheaton Congdon (1876-1965). Mr. Congdon was an active member and trustee for many years. He made many of the early maps of the LT and was contributing author to the book “Footpath in the Wilderness.” He wrote interestingly of the wildfire on the trail. Praise be, one of the delights of our trail is the absence of danger from anything but our own carelessness. His keen feeling for the trail was unmistakable. Leisureliness. taking time to see and hear thoughtfully and intelligently, studying to be quiet, opens new vistas that lead to serenity. All at once the quiet of the wilderness comes alive, the silence is filled with undertones, the sounds of wild things unafraid and undisturbed. There is an exaltation to be felt on rocky peaks with far views of forest-dad hills and peaceful valleys that is emphasized by the busy chickadees hunting bugs on the balsams close by, the fragrance of the hot earth, the sound of a brook far below. Suddenly one feels the importance of the exquisite perfection of a tiny fern, the flash of a tanager or the contemplative assurance of a thrush’s song. These things gave us a sense of permanence, a glimpse into a serene world that was passed through the biting sculpture of time and has learned to endure hardship, still knowing happiness and being able to transmit it to us.

Sept. 18, 1967
Dear Mr. Attenborough:

I had the great pleasure of spending a night last week with my son Stephen in the new Congdon Shelter. This is a lovely little camp! I am more pleased than I can say that the GMC has recognized my husband’s active interest and service to the LT by giving his name to such a delightful new shelter. I am sure that many people will enjoy it in the years to come.
Nothing could be a more suitable memorial to aHerbert Wheaton Congdon than this. I do want to thank all those who had any share in the location of the site, and the actual building of the camp. Will you please convey my appreciation to them.

With deep gratitude and all good wishes for the future of the GMC, I am
Sincerely, Helen W. Congdon

Caretaker Impostor Invades Congdon Camp
In early August an individual moved into Congdon Camp and began collecting overnight use fees from unsuspecting hikers. The impostor, an unsavory character who only spoke to ask for fees, made overnight visitors feel very uncomfortable which left a bad impression of the GMC and its Caretaker Program. Legitimate southern Caretakers soon encountered problems collecting fees from hikers who mysteriously resented the Caretaker program. Southern Field Assistant Ray Auger was able to obtain the name and address of the impostor and the USFS with the Vermont State Police quickly solved the problem. The impostor was arrested on an outstanding warrant.

 Long Trail News, November 1986.