Experiencing East Mountain

It was the mid 1950s, and the United States and The Soviet Union were in the middle of the Cold War. The race was on, both nations stockpiling enough firepower to wipe out most major cities, vaporized in a discharge of enormous mushroom clouds. The ensuing radiation would take care of the rest. According to those in the know, if a nuclear bomb was dropped, the result would be an obliterating flash of light, brighter than a thousand suns.

Paranoia gripped the nation, and preventative measures were taken by the government. Vermont’s desolate Northeast Kingdom became one chosen location to detect and be an early warning against the end of the world.

The United States Air Force chose East Mountain, a 3,438 foot sprawling ridge line surrounded by some of the most remote wilderness in all of Vermont, to be the site of a radar base. Construction started in 1954, and by 1956 and 21 million dollars later, the North Concord Air Force Station was functional. The base was designed to provide early warning signs and protection from nuclear fall out, as well as sending information to Strategic Air Command Bases.

About 174 men lived in the base in a village of tin and steel Quonset Huts known as the administration section, situated on a mid mountain plateau surrounded by almost impenetrable bogs. Their job was to guard the radar ears, which resided in massive steel and tin towers on the summit of East Mountain – constantly straining to hear the first whines from Soviet bombers coming from the skies above. The giant buildings were topped with large inflatable white domes that protected the radars. The government spared no expense protecting the United States from a possible soviet attack. People were urged to build bomb shelters in their basements, school kids were taught to hide under their desks in case of a nuclear blast, and almost every town had a fallout shelter.

The Quonset village offered amenities such as a store, bowling alley and theater, barber shop and mess hall. But the wilds of Vermont were a tough place to live, especially in the winters, when snow drifts could often reach the edge of the roofs. Sometimes, the air boys would be stuck on the mountaintop when the mountain road became impassible, and would have to wait out the storm up there. Some enlisted men dreaded serving their time in Vermont because of this, but it was the city boys who hated it especially – many who served from the Chicago area. A mural of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive once covered an entire wall of the mess hall in an effort to make the men feel more at home (but that mural can’t be anywhere near detected today). The base also provided a bus that drove to Saint Johnsbury every night, for a little stress relief and therapeutic contact with civilization, so the men could see a movie and hit the bars.

At first, there was only one way to access the base, a dirt road that traveled through tough mountain valleys and up steep slopes to the base, a 9.3 mile drive. In the winters when the snow drifts gained mass, army personnel would have to phone the base from the bottom of the mountain to let them know they were on their way up, because the road was so narrow it only offered room for one vehicle traveling one way at a time, and if you ran into someone else, well, good luck.

Later, a paved road was constructed from East Haven on the mountain’s western slope, offering another approach. Though the base was a cold functioning monument to man’s urge to destroy itself and the trembling hands of fear, it also offered a boost to the area’s economy as well as social impacts to area towns. In 1962, the base’s name was changed to the Lyndonville Air Force Base.

But the functional life of the East Mountain Radar Base was brief, as expensive costs to keep it running were adding up, and advancing technology made it obsolete before construction was even completely finished. It officially closed in 1963. Since then, it’s became the idol of local legends. Strange stories of death, UFOs and unknown characters skulking behind rusting ruins and evergreen forests slowly began to haunt the place.

The weirdness started before the base even closed. In 1961, a strange object – which many speculate was a UFO – was identified in the skies above East Mountain, which the military reported as lasting for around 18 minutes. A few hours later, Barney and Betty Hill were allegedly abducted by a UFO near Franconia Notch, New Hampshire, which lead some to believe there is a connection between the two coincidental events.

In 1965, Ed Sawyer of East Burke bought the property from the government for $41, 500, and what a purchase it was. The base was in pristine and authentic condition at the time, and he loved it. Sawyer made money by selling surplus equipment and scrap metal. He moved into one of the Quonset Huts and also ran a woodworking shop there. In 1969, a group of snowmobiliers rode onto the property without permission. As they were traversing the lengthy access road, one of them hit a chain slung across the road as a makeshift gate, and was decapitated.

Not long after, trespassers and vandals discovered the base, and started making trips up into the vast wilds of the mountains hoping for an adventure. Sawyer installed several gates going up the roads to deter people from coming up, but he would numerously find several padlocks had been pried off and ruined. Sawyer had to replace about 35 padlocks a year. He would eventually result in shooting at trespassers to protect himself when menacing visitors became destructive and violent. He had even been threatened before.

Not only would they loot and steal everything from wiring and original furniture, but they destroyed the buildings. There was even an account where he woke up one night to a bunch of snowmobilers who were able to ride over the roof of his building because the snow drifts were so high!

The constant influx of vandalism and weather took its toll on the radar base, which has since further deteriorated and taking on a forlorn, haunting appearance underneath bounding hills and silent forests.

The property was put on the market, and remained unsold for many years, until recently when Matthew Rubin purchased it, who envisioned building a wind farm on the site, and anyone who has been on East Mountain would understand why. But after years of attempting to get permits from the state, he postponed the project indefinitely. The property has since been added to Vermont’s list of hazardous places, for massive soil contamination from oil and other motor fluids.

Around 1990, another person met their own mortality on East Mountain, when they fell from one of the radar towers and was killed. To add to the radar base’s already mysterious reputation, it’s been said that the rotting ruins have also been home to hobo camps and a hideout for the Hells’ Angels at one point.

Today, the radar base, known variously as East Haven, East Mountain, Lyndonville and Concord, sits abandoned in a nebulous haze that hangs over the kingdom forests, the incongruous ruins littering the mountain top – the eerie silence is occasionally broken by the winds and the scraping sounds of rusted metal. A disconcerting and questionably regressive riddle to the end of one apocalyptic dream, and the uncertainty of what the future will bring.

The Quonset Village, Circa 1961-62

The Quonset Village, Circa 1961-62

The radar towers on the summit

The radar towers on the summit

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Historical Images via The Air Defense Radar Veterans’ Association – photos from the 1960s

The East Mountain Radar Base - satellite view

The East Mountain Radar Base – satellite view. The Quonset living area is in the lower left corner, and the radar towers are in the upper right, to give you a sense of scale.

The East Mountain Radar Base was one of the most unique places I have ever gotten the chance to explore, and that adventure started even before we arrived there.

We approached our destination from the small town of Victory underneath the bravado of September skies and rambling mountains. Victory has one of my favorite names for a town in Vermont – it’s one of the few place names in the state that derives from an idea rather than a person or place. A suggestion for the cool name may date back to 1780, when settlers across New England were caught up in a general sentiment of Victory after the tides were beginning to turn against the British, especially after the French had decided to join the American cause.

It’s stand out name is kind of ironically fitting for it’s it’s admittedly stand out culture as a place of uninviting destitution, the power of it’s isolation is irrefutable. Victory can truly claim that it’s a “back road” town, because there are no state routes or paved roads – only unkempt dirt roads that are rutted into a landscape of hills with mangy looking forests partially scarred by ugly logging activity and expansive bogs with heavy moose traffic. The town is remote, even for Vermont’s idea of the term. It has none of the things that many towns have to formulate an identity; it has no post office, general store, gas station, school, police station, fire department or churches. Instead, a cluster of trailers in various states of upkeep huddled together at the bottom of a steep hill is the closest thing the community has to a village center, an area called “Gallup Mills”, which are what VTran’s green reflective way finding signs direct you to as opposed to Victory.

It does have a town hall though – in a restored one room schoolhouse, which apparently sees far more fueding amongst the 62 people that live in Victory than actual productive town business affairs.  I’ll take a quote from a Seven Days article that according to Victory resident Donna Bacchiochi, sums up the town; “You see how lonely it is, how out of the way it is? The reason we moved here is we aren’t social. People in Victory are like that. They don’t visit each other, they don’t kibitz, they don’t do anything like that. It’s vicious.”

In 1963, Victory made local and national news by becoming the last town in the state to get electricity, and that was pretty much owed to the by then defunct radar base being nearby. With millions spent running power up the mountains to the base, Victory took advantage of a fortuitous situation and made connections down to the valley from the existing grid.

Traveling off into the hills of Victory, we made our way up Radar Road which was built parallel to the bouldery banks of The Moose River and underneath fallen trees that hung over the road, as our tires jarred into pothole washouts. As I’m writing this, I can’t think of accurate words to describe the sense of isolation we felt up in the mountains of East Haven. Miles away from anywhere, no cell phone service, no sounds of the familiar world to ground you and give you a sense of place.

Eventually, we came across a weedy clearing in a sea of Green forest, the formidable forms of the Quonset Huts with their rusted steel facades and broken glass skulking behind the fading colors of early autumn. We had reached the former living area of the base – the sentinel forms of the radar towers high above us could be seen on a steep ridge where congested softwood forests climbed out of the swamps. Many of the huts had been razed already, leaving cement slab foundations choked with weeds. One of them was dismantled and given to the Caledonia County Snowmobile Club, where it was re-assembled. The remaining buildings were low profile, almost completely obscured by the forest that was slowly reclaiming what it once had.

A walk through the buildings was a sentient experience over broken glass, soggy and exposed insulation, a storied compendium of generations of graffiti, and evidence of human habitation, arson and partying.

Administration Section – Fall, 2014

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The Motor Pool.

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Every building on the base was fueled and heated by it’s own enormous oil tank, which also result in the heavy soil pollution there today. The tank pictured here was probably more towards the mess hall – but the new property owners have since moved it to block the road just beyond the administration section, to prevent people from driving up to the towers on the summit now. The only way up is via a 2 hour hike, or if you have 2 wheels.

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We didn't know this at the time, but the cumbersome Formica board leaning inside one of those busted bathroom stalls is the former control board interface for the radar computers up on the top of the mountain. The unexposed side still had it's typography, button slots and scones where light bulbs were. It has since been removed.

We didn’t know this at the time, but the cumbersome Formica board leaning inside one of those busted bathroom stalls is the former control board interface for the radar computers up on the top of the mountain. The unexposed side still had it’s typography, button slots and sconces where light bulbs were. It has since been removed.

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Return to Radar Mountain – Mothers Day Weekend 2016

On mothers day weekend, I met up with a few friends and we ventured up to radar mountain. It was 72 degrees – perfect for a road trip – and I really needed to get out of the house. Although, a late start ensured that we got up on the mountain just an hour or so before sunset, but that didn’t stop us from having a little fun.We got a campfire going and my friend hooked up his record player to some period-accurate loud speakers, and played era appropriate music from the 50s, when the base would have been in operation. Between the outstanding sound range the music carried thanks to the mountains, and the eerie quiet and darkness of the base at night, it was an awesome experience.

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Among the stranger things that we have found inside an abandoned location, my friend said that one of his more uncomfortable finds happened here in the asbestos dusted mess hall – when he found a pair of contact lenses on the gritty floor tiles a few years back.

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“Horse Man”

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Furnace. When the building caught fire, the asbestos did what asbestos does, and prevented the hazard from spreading, but in the process, it was also left horribly exposed, making the building a hazard of different proportions.

Furnace. When the building caught fire, the asbestos did what asbestos does, and prevented the hazard from spreading, but in the process, it was also left horribly exposed, making the building a hazard of different proportions.

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What I found really interesting about the construction of the administration area, was that because it was literally built over a mountain swamp, some of the terrain had to be leveled to accommodate the foundations, but that terra-forming was only done around the sites that they were working on, leaving the rest of the area more or less as they found it, as evidenced here by the swampy stand of birches (there are a lot of birches up there) next to a more leveled cinder block construction. I speculate that if this base were to be constructed today, the entire property would just be flattened.

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We know that all sorts of people come up here for various reasons that one would want to come up to a defunct radar base far from the concept of society and law. Plenty of them have firearms. But in this case, these strangers were inside of the building as they were shooting up the walls. My camera lens was staring at bullet exit holes.

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The former gymnasium and theater building. I had never seen it before without all the leaves on the trees. This structure arguably had the largest of all the fuel needs for the administration area, and probably the most asbestos contamination. So big that the gym had it’s own furnace and power plant wing build behind it. Today, the swamp behind the gym is an impenetrable, scrubby and foul area that is burdened by plenty of oil contamination after the base closed.

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Behind the gymnasium, you can still trace the tennis courts. Remarkably well. Though the base has been defunct for 53 years now, it’s paved extremities like the road itself, and this tennis court, have held up very well over the intervening years all things considered. Though, the paved surface is breaking out in isolated subterranean build ups that make rounded protrusions and bumps through the tarmac. Parts of surviving property delineating chain link fence were even still standing.

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The old guard shack, which is slumping a bit more as the years go by. Radar Road's 1960's pave job still holds up better than many of Vermont's roads that VTrans dubs as "usable".

The old guard shack, which is slumping a bit more as the years go by. Radar Road’s 1960’s pave job still holds up better than many of Vermont’s roads that VTrans dubs as “usable”.

The radar base was already proving to be a creepy area to explore. The compelling silence up there was occasionally met with auditory hallucinations – we would jump at the sound of what we thought were other people lurking somewhere nearby, or the oncoming roar of a motor of a passing vehicle, only to be greeted by nothing but our own fears and the self imposed things that crawled into our heads.

From the administration section, we climbed back in the car and drove up the remaining stretch of Radar Road, and were immediatly met with the most imposing road I’ve ever traveled on. The forest literally was swallowing the road – the cracked paved surface immediately pitched upwards on a grueling steep grade that kept on climbing – the growth was so thick that tree branches came in through our open windows and began to smack us in our faces, until we were forced to roll up the windows. The road was only wide “enough” for one car, and that was even far fetched. There was no place to pull over, no place to turn around. If another car was coming in the opposite direction, especially around one of the many blind hairpin turns that also happen to travel uphill, you would be screwed. One of you would have to give. At this point, the orange glow of my friend’s low fuel light illuminated on the dashboard, giving us another reminder of just how far away we were. If we ran out of gas up here, it would be a very long walk back to civilization.

But the drive to the top was exhilarating – the intoxicating scent of Spruce and Balsam trees blew in the winds and filled the car. Soon, the trees became stunted and the horizon began to open up from the dark forests, and the shapes of hazy blue mountains with their knife sharp ridge lines began to undulate in the horizon. All of the sudden, we were underneath the imposing steel skeletons of the radar towers. We had made it.

Summit Radar Towers – Fall 2014

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Radar Road as it flattens out on the summit. From up there, you can see New Hampshire’s Presidential Range.

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Almost immediately, we were greeted with a good reminder at just how dangerous this place was. Several of the floors in the steel towers were rusted through, some with holes, and others with entire sections that actually swayed and bended with each passing step. Mysterious liquids of various colors rested in odorless pools on the floors and dark spaces, as the wind howled outside and rattled the walls. Rust was everywhere, and the possibility of Tetanus discomforting.

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It wouldn’t be an adventure if we didn’t find a Bud Light can along the way, which seems to be the drink of choice for people who frequent these types of locations.

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This 5 story tower is the tallest structure on the base, and was never actually completed. It was halted before radar equipment was ever installed because the base was decommissioned.

This 5 story tower is the tallest structure on the base, and was never actually completed. It was halted before radar equipment was ever installed because the base was decommissioned.

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The best part about the visit here was no doubt the magnificent 360 panorama of the Northeast Kingdom and New Hampshire from the top of the tallest radar tower, but getting there was a game of nerves. Climbing up the already questionable structures reverberating with the groans of rusting tin moving in the wind, and up a rusted ladder coated in a layer of mysterious slime that gave you no traction. If you slipped, you plummeted several feet down towards a hard concrete floor into pools of fluids obscuring soggy insulation and rusted objects. But once on top of the tower, as you gaze into unbroken wilderness as far as you can see, and you bask in the profound silence, it’s completely worth it.

At the summit, there were visible campsites made on the slopes beneath the towers. I couldn’t help but think about how amazing it would be to camp up here in the deep, underneath the constellation light. I’m sure it would be a spectacular experience, perhaps even unsettling. As we were leaving, another car came up the road and parked, before a group of teenagers climbed out holding quite a few packs of Twisted Tea. I guess other people are taken by the strange allure of this place as well – and it draws characters of all kinds.

Proving this point, on the way back down the road, we met up with another vehicle, its roof and grill lights flashing, and it was barreling up the road. Thinking it was the police, we found a place to pull over. As the car passed us, we clearly read the words” Zombie Apocalypse Survival Vehicle” written on the sides in police-esque decals, the car soon sped out of sight as it headed towards the mountaintop.

Sometimes, the pursuit of life can bring you to some incredible places.

Update as of August 2015

A while after I had published this post, I was amused when I saw an inbox message on the blog’s Facebook page from the owner of the “Zombie Apocalypse Survival Vehicle”, which pretty much started out with the line “Hey! I’m the guy with the car!” As it turns out, he’s also one of the members of the East Mountain Preservation Group and might just be the person who is most intimate with the place. He practically lives up there, spending his free time examining it’s ruins and doing some urban archaeology to figure out how the base functioned, and the stories behind the things I saw on my trek up the mountain. So, we struck up a casual social media friendship, which transitioned into a real time friendship, which lead to us planning a radar trip together.

He picked me up in the affor-referenced Zombie Apocalypse Survival Vehicle, and we made a special trek up to the kingdom, to explore the base on the 52nd anniversary of it becoming defunct. He gave me a much more detailed tour of the place, showing me things that I had walked right by or took no notice too. One of my favorites was the collection of old cars that had been junked in a swamp that ringed the administration section. When the base was abandoned, the army trashed the place, heaping their junk and cars into the woods, and dumping lots of excess waste, such as oil and fuel tanks, into the soil. The faint acrid stench of contamination still permeates in the swamps today. Following well packed super highways made by what seem to be countless passing Moose, we were able to find the rusting remains of the vehicles. We also found an old switchboard that once controlled radar and ventilation equipment, switchboards that once served the telephones and their lead cased wires, and several old wells now contaminated with iron that stained the water a stagnant red.

But the most surprising find was what we refer to as “The Boulders”; a very literal moniker we bestowed on a man made road block just beyond the Quonset Huts. Logging equipment was used to dig a trench through the road, and then to drop four gigantic boulders into it, to prevent anyone with a vehicle from driving up the remaining two miles to the radar towers on the summit.

By far the coolest part of the trip was when we were able to get the power running in some of the buildings, after a great deal of rigging and assistance, I heard the eerie yet rewarding sound of a light that hasn’t flickered or hummed in 52 years, come to life. Not a bad way to spend an anniversary.

As it stands as I write this in 2016, the radar base and all visible surrounding property was purchased by a logging company out of Washington State. From what I was told – the company doesn’t plan on being as friendly to recreational land use as the prior landowners were. To get some tax breaks on all those acres of forest, they have to allow some, so they’re focusing on moose hunting permits. But from what I heard, all 4 gates up Radar Road will most likely be closed more than they’re open from now on, so logging and quarrying crews can do their thing without the constant interruptions of over sized trucks with out of state plates coming up the road, which surprisingly carries the traffic volume of a suburban neighborhood than a logging road in the middle of the kingdom. But, only time will tell.

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44 Comments on “Experiencing East Mountain

  1. Fantastic story. I can understand the paranormal feelings. Reading this and trying to imagine it in it’s functional times was interesting. I would like to see this myself firsthand. Nice job.

  2. Thanks a bunch for bringing us this intriguing and historically significant place. I bet it was a blast scoping it out. But I gotta say, the US military are the biggest litter bugs on Earth. You’ve documented this place as well as anyone can, now they need to clean it up.

    • Nah, visit military dumps in the former Soviet Union if you want to truly see waste. The Soviets never threw away anything. No one was willing to take responsibility should it be decided that it was needed at a latter date. Ships, aircraft and military vehicles litter their abandoned military bases.

  3. I visited this place around 1988 when I was a student at nearby Lyndon State College. You definitely captured the creepy feelings that I had all those years ago. I’m amazed that it is still accessible.

    • I was a student at Lyndon myself. I’ve been wanting to visit since my freshman year in 2007 – but only got around to it this year. Really glad I got to see the place before it was either razed or vandalized beyond recognition. The gate is normally closed, I had at least 4 trips prior to this where I had to turn around.

  4. Great documentation of the base. What day were you up there? I’m guessing it was about two weeks ago by the looks and the fact the gates were open. That car you passed was my friend’s Forester. I was probably not too far behind him in my truck. Camping up there is pretty awesome (although I’ve never stood the entire night because I live close, my friends have), and we’ve volunteered a lot of time cleaning up the facility. Unfortunately every weekend there’s more trash and more graffiti from college kids who just don’t care.

    If you ever see the Zombie Response Vehicle, or the Black Mesa Tactical Operation Vehicle (my truck, clearly marked, looks military) up there, feel free to stop and chat.

    Be sure to check out the Lyndonville Air Force Station Preservation Group on Facebook, we’re currently working on a website.

    https://www.facebook.com/LAFSPG

    • Thanks Chris! I was up there last Sunday, I may have possibly seen you up there, if you saw a guy skulking around in a cap holding a camera – that was me.

      I noticed a lot of graffiti had been painted over – was that you guys? It’s nice that you guys care about the place – sadly, people can be so disrespectful and careless, ruining something for everyone. I saw campsites towards the summit – and thought at how cool, and most likely creepy, it would be to camp out up there. I have a few friends who have visited the place at night and they all recalled how unsettling it was.

      I’ll remember that vehicle – if I ever run into you guys again, I’d love to stop and say hello. Thanks for the comment.

      • Yeah, it was my and a couple of friends that painted over the grafitti and removed several bags of trash and beer bottles. We only painted over the recent stuff from the past year, because the amount that place got trashed in such a short time was unbelievable. Between the time we went camping, and two weeks afterwards on a return trip where we noticed the solar array was destroyed and everything tagged, the gates got locked. We planned the initial cleanup in hoped of keeping the gates open, but it was too late. They stood that was for several weeks, and we had to deal with that issue during both cleanup weekends. The first cleanup we were there for about 5 hours picking up trash, and the next weekend we went up and spent 15 hours over the course of two days painting, and went through about 12-14 gallons of paint. The gates got unlocked shortly thereafter, and within a couple days, some asshat sprayed his name in a bunch of places. Between last weekend and Friday, there’s been a lot of tagging again, and more beer bottles and vandalism. These kids just don’t care that the gates are going to get locked again, and that they’re ruining it for everyone else. And by the type of grafitti that we keep finding, it’s obviously out-of-state college kids.

      • We’ve camped at the top, behind the FPS-27, in that little secluded spot. It’s absolutely perfect, the wind is reduced and it gives you a spot to park your car near by. By chance, were you in a red Forester?

      • Thanks for the tip. I was actually considering camping up there this fall, if plans come together that is. I was in the large Black 4 door Chevy truck, we passed you near the Quonset Village.

  5. Well me and my friends have been trying to clean it up. We painted over the very disgusting graffiti. We also took out 9 bags of garbage. The only problem is stupid college and High School kids go up there and ruin it. We went back up there recently and found where he had cleaned up the graffiti had been tagged over all again. It is very frustrating because it is a beautiful place for people to explore and ignorant people ruin it. If this keeps happening I am afraid the gates will be locked for good and no one will get to appreciate the beautiful views and awesome experiences.

    • I agree Stephanie, it’s a shame how certain people just don’t care and can ruin something great for everyone. I heard a few years ago there was an arson attempt or something up there – where one of the Quonset huts caught fire. That could have been devastating. I’m always in awe how people don’t seem to think before acting…this is exactly why I don’t always give out the locations of the places I explore, to try and protect them from fates like this.

    • I’d say you could definitely do it up towards the summit. Anything really below the Quonset Village area is pretty choppy…Thanks for the kind words Paul!

  6. east haven is where i was born and grew up. Thank you guys for attempting to clean up these wonderful pieces of history. This place is very dear to my heart and I have many memories of this place.Thank you for the history and I love the pics of the view.

  7. The Soulia Boy were were there back in the 80s and let me tell yah…it’s quite a hike up there. We lived down below in East Haven. Way back every summer we used to here the Hell’s Angels and their bikes go up there. Really probably wasn’t a good place to go when we were young. However; when we were in our teens, the place had to be explored. It was a long, winding, and erie road hike. Qwansin huts were awesome, like stepping into another world. Then when we were at the towers, you just could not get enough. Only problem was we always felt like someone was watching us up there…was a strange and exciting experience. I would love to bring my boys up there someday…if the opportunity is still there.

  8. Around five years ago I took a friend who has since passed away from cancer up to the radar base..He had not been there since the 50’s. He was stationed there in the AirForce. The trip up meant alot to him as it did to me. Hearing some stories from him about the base was pretty cool especially because I have been up there many times simply for the fun of it. Its a very spooky place and very interesting at the same time.

  9. You are an absolutely gripping writer Mr Chad. I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles. I love it that you are adventurous, following your dream and still being awesome. Thanks so much. You’re an inspiration. 🙂

    • Thank you for this fantastic article about the “Radar Station”.I went up with my parents and brothers about 1962-3. I remember a couple that charged a fee to go into the towers and out buildings. This experience left lasting memories. I always wanted to go back and this has “done it” for me thank you again

  10. Hi Chad. Excellent piece. I’m planning a respectful ‘leave no trace’ trip there. How far is the gate from the towers? If it turns out to be locked up, I’m wondering how long the hike would be on foot. Thanks.
    -Kane

    • Hi Kane,

      Thanks for the compliment. I like your idea – sadly, the vandalism up there has destroyed so much, these places are vanishing at an alarming rate.

      It’s quite the hike – and even then, I just undersold it. The gate is at the very beginning of the road, at the Victory Town Offices. From there, it’s a 9 mile hike, one way, with a gradual rise in elevation all the way up. The Quonset Village is midway, I’d say about 7 miles, while the towers on the summit are 2 miles from there, but that’s the steepest leg of the journey, with some twists and turns.

      If a 9 mile hike, or mountain bike ride is appealing, I’d suggest it. It’s pretty spectacular. But, there may be a chance the gate is open…I heard they open the property up for Moose season. Remember, it’s also a 9 mile hike back down.

  11. Fantastic. Thanks for the quick reply, and keep those great articles coming. The Fort Blunder one was great as well. 🙂

    -Kane

    • Thanks Kane!

      Hopefully much more to come. Good luck with your hike! Feel free to tell me how you make out.

  12. I grew up in the area and used to visit the base regularly as a teen. There used to be a 1950s wingback Cadillac parked next to the roll up door by the service garage, but I see that is gone now. In the pictures the place looks like it really hasn’t changed much in 20 years. Ole Ed Sawyer was an odd eccentric fella. Some of the timeline in the article seems off to me. The decapitation of snowmobiler was much later than the article presents. Ed got sued over that as the cable was strung in such a way as to be more of a trap than a road closure device. Another interesting point the article started to make, but then didn’t follow through with was why the soil is contaminated. I used to know some of the men stationed up there and they always said that when the base was closed they took all the jeeps and equipment they had up there and dug a big hole, drove them in and buried them along with the radar equipment. The old officer quarters in East Haven are still inhabited.

    • Thanks for commenting Brad and clarifying further. How was the base when you visited? I would have loved to photograph that old Cadillac. I was halfway hoping to find an old army vehicle of some kind up that way. From others I’ve talked too, it’s gotten worse over the years, but this being my only trip there, I can’t really make a comparison of my own. Sometimes, my research can only go so far. I was able to dig up a few different articles and 1969 was the date mentioned in all of them – so I just went with what had already been printed. Do you know the actual date? If so, I can update the blog entry. I do my best to write about these places accurately as possible – and always stating when something is speculation or hearsay as opposed to fact. I suspected flippant and haste actions for soil contamination, but didn’t dig up anything that went into specific detail, literally or research wise! Do you know the rough spot where they buried the equipment? This is fascinating. I actually met one of the gentleman who is in charge of a group who wants to preserve the base, he was the one driving the Zombie Survival Car haha.

      • Chris, would you be interested in possibly meeting up this year at the base? I’m sure you could point out some things that I’m unaware of.

      • Of course. I’m sure the rest of the guys want to plan another camping trip up there in the near future also. Topside snow should be gone in a month or two depending on how much it actually warms up.

      • Sounds great. I’ve been in the throes of terrible cabin fever lately. Feel free to contact me on Facebook or something.

  13. Me and a few friends went up on March 21st. Off course by snowmachine. Spectacular view if you pick the right day. Wee make it a point to go every year, this year the gate has been unlocked, it is hard to image what it would be like to be stuck there enlisted, the wind is like a knife in the winter, the snow is impressive portions.. and the moose that live there are tough, if you bump into them, be prepared to turn around and descent. They refuse to jump shoulder deep for you! Intriguing and creepy all in one.
    Best wishes to all adventures great and small.

  14. Brings back memories. I was stationed there 1957 to 1959. Lived offbase in Concord and had to drive in every day. The way it worked was that cars could travel in only one direction at a time on the access road from the bottom to the Quonsets. So you called in from the bottom…if there was a car on the way down, you had to wait until it arrived. The main gate kept track. Usually worked pretty well, but if you did meet another car, one of you had to back up quite a way to one of the cutouts. Of course this was before the new road was built. Anyway, don’t get me started on driving on this road…in the winter, sometimes it was nearly impassable. The road to Topside was closed to private vehicles after the first snow and we went up by govt vehicles if possible, but used a big Sno-Cat during bad storms!

  15. If you are interested in hearing about our adventure up there 1971, there were 2 of us couples living up there at opposite ends of the barracks quonset hut along with our 8 children, altogether plus Ed Sawyer , his wife and son and another single man who owned Toad Hall, next mountain over. We had made arrangements with Ed to live there and we were going to establish a boarding school for delinquent adjudicated children. (all of us teachers) We moved out there in August of 71. Our youngest daughter had her first birthday there. No electricity, no water (hauled from down in East Haven except for bathroom water gotten from the beaver pond) no heat. We had propane frig and stove. Heated with wood. 1/2 inch ice on the inside of the quonset huts that winter. The school age children (2 of ours and Ed’s boy) went down the mountain in the International Harvester truck or the snowmobile for school. We lasted as long as we could but ed really essentially was not interested in the school concept, just liked having some free labor. We left halfway through the winter back to Michigan. I have pictures of the place back then to of the kids playing in the compound, birthdays and baths in the kitchen sink. What a memory. We were offered positions at Lyndonville College but decided against that and to return home. Now our youngest is a resident of Vermont again , in Montpelier. Good to see the pictures. I read where somebody had gotten the electricity back up again, but I hardly think that possible as Ed had stripped the entire base of the copper. He paid somewhere in the neighborhood of 70,000 for it and made that back many times over in salvage.

    • Carol, I run the LAFS Preservation group and we’re always looking for stories & pictures. I have some questions and I’ll send you a message on Facebook.

      • Keep me informed Chris! This is a perpetual research project and fondness for me.

  16. Hi Chad…..Loved your article. My husband and I was up at East Mountain and was able to explore the base and buildings. When we continued up we found the road closed off by an large oil drum. There was no way to get any further by car. Could you tell me how far it is from that point to the Summit? We meet others that were going to hike the rest of the way but we didn’t dare and were not prepared to. At that point you can look off to your left and see the two buildings at the summit.
    Thanks Shirlee

    • Hi, thanks for commenting! You can still trek up to the summit from the big oil drum, but it has to be on foot, and it will take about 2 hours, one way (so 4 round trip). And that also depends on how good you feel about leaving your car parked down at the admin area. Your call! A few commenters have told me that the new property owners want to tear down the base sometime soon-ish, so if you go, I’d plan it sooner than later!

  17. has anyone ever camped overnight there? I was thinking about doing it so I could try to get some star shots under the old radar buildings

    • I’ve camped out at the base before, it’s an eerily cool experience. Everything descends into an almost unreal silence after dark. You can definitely get some terrific star shots from the summit!

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