This post was written by Adam Habel, a Warehouse Associate at Outdoor Gear Exchange and participant in the OGE Long Trail Relay. From June 6-28, small groups of OGE employees and community members passed a flag among them as they complete the entirety of the Long Trail. The relay is a fundraiser for GMC, and OGE has the ambitious goal to raise $25,000, the equivalent of a month’s worth of trail maintenance by the GMC Long Trail Patrol crew. Learn more and donate to OGE’s Relay here.
About the Relay
Outdoor Gear Exchange’s Long Trail Relay is a great opportunity for people throughout the Vermont outdoors community to explore the wilderness in their backyard. It’s also a chance to learn about and develop appreciation for the work that the Green Mountain Club puts in to keep the trails in good shape and accessible to as many people as possible.
The relay involved complex logistical planning to come up with 20 legs, each two to three days in length and spanning anywhere from 5 to 20 miles, with a few day hikes thrown in as well. Each group had to hike up and down various side trails to hand off the Long Trail Relay flag, so as not to miss an inch of the 272-mile trail. This setup made it very accessible for people who don’t have very much backpacking experience or don’t have the time or inclination to go on an extended trip. However, if you had an itch to keep hiking, like I certainly did, you could string sections together to get a longer trail experience.
My First Time on the Long Trail
I ended up hiking four sections, three of which were consecutive, totaling about 60 miles over 5 days. I hiked from VT Route 11 to Route 4 in southern Vermont, and then from Brandon Gap to Middlebury Gap in central Vermont. This was my first time on the Long Trail, and it was an amazing experience! I am from the west, so I am used to focusing away from the trail, on the far away views. However, in Vermont’s “Green Tunnel” you are often focused on the flora and fauna right in front of you, which leads to a uniquely beautiful adventure.
During my time on trail, I saw toads, salamanders, snakes, and some signs that moose had recently been in the area. That is not including the many different birds we could hear singing up in the canopy that I wish I could identify. Since I strung together several different sections, I got to hike with multiple different groups of people, changing daily. This was my favorite part of the experience, as not only did I get to experience new sections of trail every day, but I was also able to get to know a new group of people for each new section. I work in the warehouse at OGE, receiving incoming orders and helping with inventory control, and my co-hikers were people from the sales floor, communications department, and even some folks who work from home, all people I would barely interact with in my day-to-day role. It was really fun to get know what they do on a daily basis and strengthen our workplace community.
Seeing Trail Work Up Close
I also saw firsthand all of the work that GMC has put into the trail over the years, whether it be sections taken out of downed trees allowing us to pass by them, the miles of puncheon walkways, or the many waterbars mitigating erosion on the trail. The Long Trail is rough and rocky, which I found surprisingly difficult while hiking my portion. Every step you have to look out for rocks and roots sticking up, which brings a new challenge that makes sure I’m always paying attention! The rugged terrain of the trail made me all the more grateful for GMC’s careful attention to maintenance, and the skill that goes into it.
I am certainly excited to continue to explore the Long Trail and the many side trails connected to it, especially Mount Mansfield and the Smugglers’ Notch area, and hopefully be a part of more Long Trail Relays in the future! In fact, as I was writing this blog post I decided to get out for one more leg of the OGE relay, hitting up a 7-mile stretch near Johnson as the crew barrels toward the finish line.
Thanks to OGE for pledging their support of GMC with this fun, community-building fundraiser. “[Trail maintenance] is a monumental effort that the Green Mountain Club undertakes each year, and our goal of raising $25,000 will fund one month’s of trail crew time,” said Marc Sherman, OGE Co-founder, in this interview with NBC5. At time of publication, they’ve raised nearly $17,000, which includes commitments from outdoor brands like Darn Tough socks, Nemo equipment, Osprey backpacks, and others.