This post was written by Cindy Griffith, GMC Barnes Camp Volunteer Coordinator.
The Green Mountain Club partners with Smugglers’ Notch State Park, Stowe Mountain Resort, and Lamoille County Planning Commission to manage, maintain, and operate the historic Barnes Camp Visitor Center as a gateway to Smugglers’ Notch, Mount Mansfield State Forest, and the Long Trail. We couldn’t do it without the GMC volunteers who staff Barnes Camp on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Memorial Day weekend through the fall.
Many visitors arrive at Barnes Camp and ask, “Where is Smugglers’ Notch and what can I do?” It’s the volunteers who help guide them to an adventure suiting each individual or group. Some visitors want to walk on flat ground, some want the biggest and most spectacular hike we can think of, and some just want to stop and stretch their legs along their driving tour.
Without the Barnes Camp volunteers, visitors would miss out on the many things Smugglers’ Notch has to offer. They frequently are not aware of hike options or the Auto Toll Road or the Gondola rides up Mt. Mansfield until they speak with a volunteer. Even as folks stop just to rest from their drive, volunteers explain they are only steps away from a boardwalk providing one of the most beautiful views of Smugglers’ Notch. After their short walk down the boardwalk, they come back excited about the views of the Notch, the frogs, ducks, and beavers in the marsh, and thankful that volunteers were there to recommended it.
On beautiful Vermont days, volunteers may speak to 300 people per day at Barnes Camp! They spoke to and assisted over 10,000 visitors in 2018. The pace can be busy, energizing, interesting, and always tons of fun. Volunteers meet people from all around the world. About 40% of the visitors are Canadians who love Vermont trails almost as much as we do. A typical day in the life of a Barnes Camp volunteer may go as follows:
8:00 AM – Time to open for business at the Barnes Camp Visitor Center in Smugglers’ Notch. Cars with hikers are starting to accumulate at the trailhead parking lot across the road from Barnes Camp. End-to-end hikers are being dropped off to start yet another section of the Long Trail.
8:30 AM – Doors are open and the “Open Visitor Center” sign is out by the roadside. It is a beautiful day, so volunteers are outside by the main hiker kiosk starting to speak to hikers.
LT thru-hikers start to show up at Barnes Camp seeking information, conversation, and a moment of respite to take their packs off.
10:00 AM – Families meet up with thru-hikers for resupplies or to pick up their loved ones and bring them into town for a day off.
The questions start coming from the visitors to Barnes Camp:
- Where is the trailhead?
- How hard is the hike to Mt. Mansfield?
- Have you ever hiked the Long Trail?
- Is the Long Trail as hard as I’ve heard?
- Where is the boardwalk we’ve heard about?
- Is there a short hike?
12:00 PM – Noon is the shift change for Barnes Camp volunteers. We hand over the “keys” to the next volunteer(s). Some volunteers like to stay the entire day at Barnes Camp so they can see the hikers leave in the morning and return to Barnes Camp in the afternoon.
1:30 PM – Hikers who started out in the morning are returning to Barnes Camp expressing their excitement about the success of their own personals challenges.
2:30 PM – Three little girls run up to a volunteer smiling and saying, “We did it, we did it, we made it to the top of Mt. Mansfield!” The girls, ages 9 – 13, are beaming right along with their parents. Their happy response is based on a morning volunteer telling the girls they could do it.
Many hikers who left in the morning for Mt. Mansfield are now returning with excitement and voice appreciation for the hikes volunteers recommended.
3:30 PM – A crew of GMC field staff stop by before making their way to Mt. Mansfield where they will live much of the summer.
4:00 PM – Volunteer shifts end at Barnes Camp. It is time to close the doors, bring in signs, and lock up. Even at 4:00 PM, there are still many people wandering into the area around Barnes Camp.
How can you get involved?
Barnes Camp is always looking for volunteers. Most of our volunteers come back year after year, loving their time at Barnes Camp. If you love people, love to talk about Vermont, and are willing to help visitors figure out what to do, you might consider volunteering at Barnes Camp. Volunteers share 4-hour shifts so they may come on duty at 8 AM or 12 PM. Presently, we are open Friday – Sunday (and some holidays), from Memorial Day Weekend to Columbus Day. No experience is necessary and we take any hours you can give! Barnes Camp organizers provide all the information you need to volunteer and you can team up with seasoned volunteers to learn the ropes.
Volunteering, in general, is what helps all aspects of the work the Green Mountain Club does. If you have thought about helping out GMC in some way, volunteering at Barnes Camp may be of interest to you. We would love to have you! In addition to the satisfaction and enjoyment of helping orient visitors to the Smugglers’ Notch area, volunteering at Barnes Camp comes with material perks. Volunteers who work specific amounts of hours are eligible for free GMC membership, free passes to VT State Parks, gondola rides at Stowe Resort, rental of Barnes Camp, and much more!
If you are interested in joining us, please contact Rob Rives, GMC’s Education and Volunteer Coordinator, at [email protected].