This post was written by Isaac Alexandre-Leach, GMC’s Field Supervisor.
Stick a fork in it, the 2020 Field Season is done!
Needless to say, this field season was an unusual one, but I’m not going to focus on all the ways this was a challenging year. Ultimately, we were lucky to be working at all, let alone working on the Long Trail and with any semblance of normalcy. Instead I’ll highlight some of the things the GMC Field Staff still managed to accomplish over the past six months.
Once small crews of outdoor workers were given the green light after spring COVID-19 restrictions, we brought on as large of a staff as we could safely manage. First, returners Nigel Bates and Rosalie Sharp came on as Field Assistants. Then a core group of returning staff arrived, quarantining at our staff housing before beginning work as all-purpose caretakers. Come fall, we were finally able to bring on a few new hires to our caretaker staff!
Eventually we settled into the season with 12 caretakers in the field. Even with reduced staffing, unusual schedules, and new housing these staff stepped up to the challenge of tending to the most vulnerable aspects of the Long Trail: alpine summits, busy pond sites, critical trail work, and privy maintenance.
At summits, ponds, and overnight sites our caretakers welcomed huge numbers of new hikers to the Green Mountains while educating them on responsible trail use. The mission of the Green Mountain Club is “to make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people…” and that was front of mind all season as it sometimes appeared that all “the people” had indeed taken to the woods as other summer activities were restricted. These high use levels were a constant challenge but also meant that GMC’s field presence this season was possibly more impactful than ever before.
We did not run any trail crews this season, but with many reassigned Long Trail Patrol and Construction Crew members on staff we still found chances to complete several much-needed trail repairs. New turnpike was installed on the LT south of Rt. 108, as well as just north of the Hut Clearing on Camel’s Hump. The southern pond caretakers repaired the puncheon bridge over the Stratton Pond outlet and officially opened the Lye Brook Trail reroute. Michael Dillon, a Mansfield Caretaker and erstwhile Construction Crew Lead, took on several projects including re-leveling the Taft porch and replacing the Twin Brooks Privy roof. He also spearheaded restoring Taft Lodge’s windows – with the help of Burlington Section volunteers – in time for the shelter’s 100th anniversary celebration in September.
As usual, one of our first priorities of the season was managing waste along the trail, and this season saw 18 batches completed at our 20 batch-bin composting outhouses. The effort continued towards ridding the LT system of unsustainable pit privies, as we installed three new accessible moldering privies. The outhouses were prefabricated by field assistant Rosalie Sharp, then built by staff at Rolston Rest, David Logan, and Sucker Brook shelters. Packing in lumber and materials for all three projects relied on considerable help from volunteers who were invaluable on these and many other projects throughout the season. Thank you to everyone who lent a shoulder to the cause!
A big thank you also to all the GMC members who made this season possible. And finally, thank you to all the members of the hiking public who chipped in by picking up litter, helping us protect fragile alpine vegetation, and journeying with us through this unique season on the trails!