Updated: 04/04/2005
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Excerpts from
The Long Trail Guide Book 1921
These delightful excerpts give one a real feel for what hiking must have been like in the early 1900s, without the benefit of nylon, Gortex, polar fleece and dehydrated foods!

Click on book for excerpts »
History of the Long Trail

The history of the Green Mountain Club is the history of the Long Trail. The LT is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States. Conceived by James P. Taylor (1872-1949) as he waited for the mist to clear from Stratton Mountain, the LT took its first step from dream to reality at a gathering of twenty-three people on March 11, 1910, in Burlington when the Green Mountain Club was formed.

The Green Mountains had been largely unappreciated and unused for recreation until Taylor promised that the new organization would "make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people."

Work began in the Camel's Hump and Mount Mansfield areas and by the end of 1912 a path was cleared from Sterling Pond to Camel's Hump. In the first decade of the Club, members built 209 miles of trail and provided forty-four overnight facilities, fourteen of which were raised by the GMC.

In 1930, the final link of the Trail was cut to Canada. The Club celebrated its twenty-first birthday with a party and the lighting of flares from mountaintop to mountaintop along the spine of the Green Mountains.

With the Trail completed, the Club continued to expand its network of shelters. In 1931 the Club's board of trustees authorized formation of a salaried Long Trail Patrol led by Roy O. Buchanan. Each summer, Buchanan and groups of students worked on trail maintenance, construction of new shelters, and repairs to existing ones.

During most of its history the GMC has chosen not to become involved in national conservation issues, concentrating its energy on preserving the wilderness character of the Long Trail. In the mid-1930s, however, when a scenic highway, called the Green Mountain Parkway, was proposed for the length of the Green Mountain Range, the Club mounted energetic opposition. Vermonters ultimately rejected the idea in a statewide referendum. In 1958 when the U. S. Air Force dropped its plan to erect a missile communications facility on the Chin of Mount Mansfield, it was in part due to GMC opposition.

Shelter construction and reconstruction accelerated between 1950 and 1960. Between 1966 and 1975, responding to heavy trail traffic, the Club launched a variety of initiatives, including removal of dumps at shelters and promotion of a "carry-in, carry-out " policy, dissemination of information on responsible trail and camping practices, stationing of caretakers at the most popular shelters and ranger-naturalists (now summit caretakers) on the summits of Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump, where they taught hikers to respect the rare, fragile alpine ecosystems. Perhaps the largest endeavor for the Green Mountain Club in recent years was the initiation of the Long Trail Protection Campaign in 1986.

In 1992, the Club bought the former 1836 May Farm on Route 100, a popular tourist avenue into the Green Mountains, in Waterbury Center. After renting space for many years, first in Rutland, then in downtown Montpelier, the GMC was at last its own landlord . In addition to administrative offices, the headquarters houses the GMC's information and education services.

In 1971, the Vermont Legislature passed a resolution, recognizing the Club as "the founder, sponsor, defender, and protector" of the Long Trail System and delegating to it responsibility for developing policies and programs for "the preservation, maintenance, and proper use of hiking trails for the benefit of the people of Vermont." Although different generations of GMCers have faced different challenges--from pioneer trail blazing to environmental concerns and land acquisition--the Club's main responsibility remains the same today as it was in 1910: to maintain and protect the Long Trail for all Vermonters, now and in the future.


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