GMC Section Presidents recently received this note of gratitude from Tim Ashe, Vermont State Senator and President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Volunteer work on the trail often goes unnoticed so we loved hearing such positive feedback and wanted to share it with you here.
Each day during this current crisis I’ve been taking a few minutes to express gratitude to someone or a group of people whose work often goes under-appreciated but whose efforts are essential to make Vermont the amazing place it is to live. Today, I want to thank you for your efforts as Section Presidents for the GMC. I finished the Long Trail this November, and cannot overstate how powerful the experience was. It replenished my soul, though it wrecked the soles of some running sneakers! My connection to Vermont has become much richer than it already was. And I know that sight unseen, the trails and the whole experience are possible through the efforts of [GMC], but also people like you and many other volunteers.
Below is the post I put on Facebook when I finished. If you want to see the photos that accompanied the post you can [go to this link].
Mostly, I just want to say thank you.
[In November] I completed an over-a-few-years, north-to-south Long Trail journey. Approaching the sign marking the southern terminus, I couldn’t help thinking there’s nothing like stepping on thousands of roots to know where you’ve planted yours.
I don’t quite know why I headed to North Troy a few Septembers ago to start down the 270+ mile path. Maybe it was a bit of jealousy of those who’d done it, a bit of competitive spirit. Maybe I’d tired of the familiar repeat hikes. Whatever it was, I found myself early one morning, after a hike in from Journey’s End Road (a northward-bound bias I suppose), standing at the U.S.-Canada border cut in peak foliage. Twelve miles later, by the time I reached VT 242, I’d made a commitment to myself to make it to the Massachusetts border.
And when I did, the word that flooded my mind was gratitude.
Gratitude for the public officials and private landowners who, for more than a century, slowly pieced together and improved the Long Trail. The trail’s existence should not be taken for granted. It reflects a common belief passed on from one Vermont generation to the next in the power of protecting and experiencing nature.
Gratitude for the volunteers who keep the trail in good shape. One raw day I passed a dozen or so volunteers surveying a major blowdown across a hundred-yard stretch of trail near the Middlebury Snow Bowl. While I’m fortunate to still be able to scale larger obstacles, volunteers like them will find a way to make the trail enjoyable for others who can’t.
Gratitude for the members of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. I passed several crews rebuilding or repairing sections of the trail, sometimes a great distance from roads. I feel the VYCC is a quintessential Vermont experience and I’m more committed than ever to finding ways to allow even more young Vermonters to participate.
Selfishly, gratitude for the friends who picked me up at trailheads and got me back to my car. One perk of being in the Legislature is knowing people the length of the state, and it sure came in handy! Vincent Illuzzi, Andrew Pond, Dave Sharpe, Christopher Bray, Cheryl Hooker, Jim Harrison, Kathleen James, John Murphy, Dick Sears, Paula Routly, and my parents all saved me along the way (at least once!).
A friend asked me to summarize the experience. I told him it was like a brain bath. For more than a hundred hours, birdsong and leaves rustling and chipmunks chirping instead of cell phone ringtones. Grouse, turkeys, and deer instead of texts and emails. Brooks and streams to carefully cross instead of intersections.
While I accumulated many personal memories along the way, the most powerful imprint the trail left me with is not to take public resources like the Long Trail for granted. Like our state and national parks, the Trail is a miracle of persistence and problem-solving. Thousands of public officials and volunteers, hundreds of landowners, dozens of nonprofit and community organizations, throughout more than a century, have made a continuous commitment to preserve and improve the Long Trail. It’s in our collective hands now. Let’s be no less committed to its future.