For several days in August of 1945, about a dozen boys, age 14 or so, were repairing a portion of the Long Trail in southwestern Vermont. The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance walking path and snow-shoeing trail in the United States.
Construction on it started in 1910. It runs from the border of Vermont with Massachusetts mostly north to the Canadian line about 272 miles away. It runs for the most part along the ridgeline of the Green Mountains, traversing major summits including (from south to north) Glastenbury Mountain, Stratton Mountain, Killington Peak, Mount Abraham, Mount Ellen, Camel's Hump, Mount Mansfield and Jay Peak.
I was on the staff of Camp Nagerog, a privately owned boys' camp run by two faculty members of the University of Massachusetts, and was among those boys assigned to repair that portion of the Long Trail for which the camp was responsible. It ran right through part of the campgrounds.
We had the job of cutting back the encroaching underbrush in this wooded area, saving the saplings that approximated 2 or 3 inches in diameter. We trimmed the saplings of their minor branches, and where the trail crossed some running water, we laid the slender logs across the stream. Then we cut more saplings and laid them atop the first layer at about a 90-degree angle.
We repeated this process several times until the wood was above the water level. We had made a corduroy bridge. It was secured by stones and roots along the edges to diminish the likelihood of its being washed away in time.
We boys enjoyed this constructive work, even though at the end of the day our muscles were sore. We were inspired to work to the middle of the afternoon when we all went swimming in the pool previous campers had built by damming up the stream with boulders and small stones. We would find occasional native trout in that pool. We were only allowed to catch and release the trout if we saw them.
Among the several adventures and learning experiences I had that summer was the climb with a group of the campers to the top of Haystack Mountain, a nearby peak. It was a moderate to strenuous climb to the 3,445-foot crest. It was an exhilarating experience to achieve our goal and to see below us two picturesque mountain ponds surrounded by evergreen conifers.
But the most exciting feature of that adventure was finding a scattering of red garnets among the pebbles on the ground there at the top. Most of the boys took a few for keepsakes, but some took hands full. I still have a few of these semi-precious stones. (The monetary value of the garnets is very, very small.)
On Aug. 15 that year, the emperor of Japan decided to cease fighting and plead for peace, ending the Second World War.
There was a pole in the middle of the campground that held a large bell that we rang for mealtimes and other events. With the news of the Japanese surrender, we were allowed to ring the bell continuously for hours. That was exhilarating. Many of us had brothers or other family members in the military service, and we were grateful for their impending return to safety.
It is a pleasant memory to think back to my experiences at Camp Nagerog and the associated experiences with nature on the Long Trail. The Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail are the same for approximately the first 100 miles north of the Massachusetts line. Then they turn east near Rutland and continue in that direction to the Connecticut River, where the Appalachian Trail crosses the river and proceeds into New Hampshire.
About halfway along that route, there is a rustic hotel called the Long Trail Lodge where a hiker may enter the lodge, walk through the lobby and out another door, still on the Long Trail. A part of one wall of the lodge is bare rock with a trickle of water running down into a pool in the lobby. The Long Trail runs through a lodge, through Camp Nagerog and through my memories even to this day.