When you ask Andrew Nuquist what it is that keeps him continuing to volunteer with the Green Mountain Club a full 50 years after discovering the club in 1970, he jokes that it’s a bit of an addiction of sorts. But really, his answer is simple: “I care about Vermont, and I care about nature. Vermont is my home, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy being out in the woods. I care about making sure we preserve this experience. So, the Green Mountain Club is one of many organizations that do this, but for me it’s the most fun.”
Andrew and his wife Reidun moved to Montpelier in 1970 — Andrew had grown up here and spent 15 years away in Missouri, Ohio, and Boston before the return. “Certainly by 1971, we were involved with GMC, we were going on trips and leading trips.” In the half-century that followed, Andrew and Reidun threw themselves into volunteer leadership of the club. They have led volunteer trail work parties, recreational events (400+); served on committees including trail management, and as Andrew recalls, “I’ve been elected to quite a few offices” — president of the Montpelier section, secretary, vice-president and President of the GMC Board of Directors. “You can be as involved as you want to be — there’s something for everyone.”
Volunteers at GMC are held to high standards: Andrew recalls cutting some new trail on Camel’s Hump under the supervision of the late Dave Hardy. Andrew spent hours chopping away at the earth with a hazel hoe to level out a new trail. Upon inspection, Dave thanked Andrew for the work and demonstrated how the angle needed to be adjusted for better drainage and erosion control. Andrew made the adjustments, which Dave approved. When Dave identified the next portion that needed cutting, Andrew said, “’I quit!’ And that’s the thing about volunteers — they’re allowed to quit. That understanding and balance between the professional trail crews and volunteers is extremely valuable and important,” Andrew observes. He took that experience learning from a professional trail builder and implements it when training volunteers himself.
Volunteerism has run deep through every phase and element of the club since well before Andrew got involved. For many years, executive secretary Minerva Hinchey was the only full-time employee, though by the time Andrew joined, the club also employed an executive director, Harry Peet. As GMC grew, its headquarters moved to an office in Rutland in 1970, to Montpelier in 1977, and finally to today’s campus in Waterbury Center. The depth of volunteer contributions never waned. During the moves, “volunteers carried all the club’s belongings up the stairs [to the new headquarters], just as we cut the trees and build the shelters,” recalls Andrew.
Andrew doesn’t seek recognition or keep tally of his hundreds of accomplishments, of course. “The overall goal is just to contribute to the positive momentum of the club. If anything I do has contributed to that, the specifics pale in comparison.” But, when prodded for one example, he fondly recalls forging a partnership with the Lake Champlain Committee in 1988, leading a multi-day canoe trip co-sponsored by GMC. That trip motivated LCC to establish a long-distance paddling route with overnight sites and publish an accompanying guidebook.
Andrew and his beloved late wife Reidun — herself a loyalist to GMC and known for her artfully written histories of the club and the mountains — together chaired and planned the club’s 75th anniversary celebration and annual meeting at Bolton Valley Lodge in 1985.
Another proud tenure: Andrew was appointed co-chair of the Second Century Campaign with Joe Frank, which raised $5.25 million dollars for club and trail projects between 2005 and 2007.
“When I joined in 1970 and looked back at the last 60 years, the Green Mountain Club seemed so well established. But by the time we celebrated the 100th anniversary in 2010, it was surprising to realize how long I’d been volunteering. I’d been feeding my Green Mountain Club addiction for 40 percent of the club’s existence. I’d been on the Board of Directors for one-fifth of its history.”
Even after half a century of dedication Andrew continues to leave his mark, though at 85 he’s often more comfortable taking an observatory role. He was reelected to the Board of Directors in 2021 after taking a break to grieve the passing of his wife in 2018. After 2018, Andrew continued to adopt a mile of the Long Trail from the Winooski Bridge to River Road that he and Reidun had previously adopted together. This past summer, his son Jon joined him on one of his several outings clipping back brush and thorns.
Andrew hopes new members and volunteers realize that “volunteering with GMC is fun, it’s important, and the volunteers are appreciated, above all else. There’s something for everybody, and there’s always need for new volunteers.”
“The Long Trail is a gift to the future,” he muses. And it is there for our future enjoyment thanks to decades of service and leadership by Andrew and so many others.
This post was written by Chloe Miller, GMC communications manager. It appeared in the Winter 2021 edition of the Long Trail News under the headline “A Half Century of Volunteerism: Andrew Nuquist.”