Mar 12 2010

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Celebrating the Long Trail

Posted at 10:52 am under Blog Post

Last night I went to the DoubleTree Hotel in South Burlington to join 300 other people celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Long Trail.  The evening was full of laughs, tales of incredible dedication, and deep reverence for the mountains that so many of us hold dear.  300 people in a single room – it was enough of a crowd to scratch the itch of my agoraphobia.  But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

On March 11, 1910 a fellow named James P. Taylor gathered together two dozen Vermonters at a hotel in downtown Burlington to charter the Green Mountain Club.  They created the club in order to build a long-distance trail that would “make the mountains play a larger part in the life of the people.”  A couple months later, Clarence Cowles and Craig O. Burt cut a three-mile section of trail from Mt. Mansfield to Nebraska Notch, and the Long Trail was born.  It took twenty years and hundreds of volunteers, but eventually the Long Trail spanned the entire length of Vermont, from Massachusetts to the Canadian border.  That was no mean feat.

I was fortunate enough to hike the Long Trail end-to-end back in 1995.  To this day that experience remains one of the highlights of my life.  As anyone who has thru-hiked will tell you, several weeks on the trail does something to you that all the day-to-day aggravations of modern living can’t touch.  It’s a life-changing experience to say the least.  I wrote at length about it in a book that I first published back in ’99, and I still stand by those words.

“Mountain saints” is what Taylor called those who built the Long Trail and I feel much the same way about them.  Even if there were no LT, I would still wander through the Green Mountains, making them my own.  But it’s so much easier to do that because of those who cut the trail, those who have maintained it, and those who have worked so tirelessly to preserve it.  Thank you mountain saints!

The Green Mountain Club, now almost 10,000 strong, is still hard at work building shelters, improving trail, and securing the corridor through which the trail passes.  I’m no joiner – far from it – but the GMC is one of the few organizations to which I proudly belong.  Maybe someday I’ll do something that will help perpetuate the LT.  In the meantime, I will hike that trail keeping in mind all those who have made it possible.

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