This post was written by Jocelyn Hebert, Long Trail News Editor, and previously appeared in the Long Trail News.
People often ask how I became involved with the Green Mountain Club. I always pause momentarily because my connection to the Vermont Mountains started when I was very young—before I could truly understand it—but I became connected with GMC much later in life.
A faded color photograph of my family on the summit of Camel’s Hump taken in 1974 captures what must have been my first hike. My father points into the distance, most likely at our house in the rolling green landscape for my brother Kyle. My other brother and I face the camera for my mother, the family photographer. We were six, seven, and eight years old; I was the youngest.
I am sure our family hiked together more, but my next memory is of a hike up Camel’s Hump with the GMC’s Montpelier Section. Details are fuzzy, but I recall a newspaper ad for the hike, meeting at Montpelier High School to carpool to the trailhead, wearing blue cotton soccer shorts and burgundy striped tube socks, and being about fourteen. I didn’t fully understand who I was hiking with, or what the Green Mountain Club did.
A westward adventure in my twenties with Kyle, who was on his way to grad school in Alaska, exposed me to big mountains. We backpacked in Grand Teton National Park for a few days and learned a lot—especially that we had a lot to learn about backpacking. I wanted to learn more, but I really didn’t until I joined a group of central Vermont hiking enthusiasts in my thirties. Their mission was to explore a different peak on the Long Trail weekly between early June and late September.
With each excursion, my appreciation of GMC’s work increased. A friend loves to exclaim, “Mother Nature provides!” every time he approaches a stone staircase on the trail—a fantastic, if indirect, compliment to the Long Trail Patrol. And well-deserved. I have often stopped to imagine the time, energy and skill that must have gone into building features like stone staircases—to make them functional, yet blend into the landscape. Mother Nature would be pleased.
My interest in day hiking expanded to thru-hiking when another friend told me he had recently finished a Long Trail section hike. I became so intrigued by the idea of walking the length of Vermont that in 2006 I told my family I was going to thru-hike the Long Trail!
That Christmas, as is tradition, my family gathered by the fireplace in our formal living room to open gifts. Inside a package signed, “Love, Kyle, Suzanne, Zach, and Niko,” was a membership packet from the Green Mountain Club, a shiny new waterproof Long Trail Map and the Long Trail Guide.
After more than thirty years of hiking Vermont’s trails, I was a Green Mountain Club member!
I flipped through my new guidebook and pored over the map that afternoon. And in 2007 I did complete a thru-hike. In 2010 I walked the trail again to raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease and in memory of my late father, who had struggled with it for more than a decade. When I finished that hike I stopped at the GMC Visitor Center and dropped off a thick journal detailing my adventure. The post and beam building was beautiful, spacious and had a fragrance of wood, reminiscent of the trail.
That spring I found myself working at the visitor center, helping people plan hiking adventures. Five years later I still work in that beautiful spacious building, new wonderful friends from the GMC hiking community stream regularly into my life, and I better understand how the Green Mountain Range has kept its natural beauty.
I was slow to realize that there would be no Long Trail to hike without the Green Mountain Club. I sometimes ask myself why it didn’t occur to me to become a member sooner. And I thank Kyle, who had the foresight to give me the gift of GMC membership that Christmas morning. It changed my perspective, and my life.
You, too, can give the gift of GMC membership this holiday season and connect the special hiker in your life to Vermont’s trails.