New Year’s Eve at Bolton, by Larry Dean
Among the ten sections of the Green Mountain Club there exists no finer tradition than the annual New Year’s Party of the Burlington Section. While the rest of the country are tooting horns and swinging in a packed dance hall, the Burlingtonians quietly roll up blankets and set out for Bolton Lodge late on the last day of the year.
Ordinarily the best skiing for the Burlington Section centers about this Lodge – miles of cross-country trails and a cabin that can be comfortably heated even in severe weather. Lack of snow provided the principal departure from the annual routine this year: ice-creeping was the order of the night rather than skiing. By nine-thirty on New Year’s Eve, sixteen had arrived at the Lodge after doing three and a half miles of pack-juggling up the Trail.
Normally a group of hikers who have tramped that distance are ready to have taps sounded at least by ten, but the New Year’s spirit triumphs even on the Trail. The last hours of 1940 were spent hilariously in salting down tall tales of hikes and hiking, an intimate reading by Professor Buchanan of one hiker’s experiences on the Trail, and in stowing away a sack of shell peanuts that someone had brought along. Every Yankee has to keep his hands or jaws busy on such an occasion, and in the absence of enough whittling to go around, the peanuts did the trick. Then as the minute hand of Professor Buchanan’s watch crept up on midnight, the 1940 calendar was ceremoniously brought out and its traditional burning took place as Indian yells and whoops reverberated through the rafters.
The bedding down a half hour later brought out some serious accommodation problems. Bolton Lodge was built to take care of a dozen. There were sixteen of us. With a little jackknifing, the bunks were made to suffice for fourteen, and two others compromised by stretching out on the floor and benches.
Ten more club followers drifted in the next day bringing the roster to twenty-six and making as fine a lounging and hike company as any lodge ever entertained.
Sitting on one of the lodge bunks, with my feet dangling over the edge, New Year’s Day, I turned over the thought that this group surely exemplifies true out-right democracy, all ages and professions mingling together in complete enjoyment, each mindful and anxious to help the other enjoy the day – such an atmosphere made the Long Trail possible.
Late New Year’s afternoon as the group picked their icy way home, the clouds lifted letting the slant rays of the sun filter through. Along the arena of frost-encrusted, fir-covered slopes, the sun cast a ribbon-like streak of gold, and where the slopes were untouched by the ribbon, a sheen of pink and purple was reflected – the perfect benediction to a grand party and for a new year.
Work to renovate this historic building will begin this spring, and will include a new roof, stabilizing the exterior stucco and stone walls, new windows and doors, and replacement wood tables and benches. If you would like to learn more about the story of the lodge, check out this Burlington Free Press article “History Space: The Cabins of Bolton Valley”.