While this field season is far different from what we had planned, we are certainly grateful to all of you who have helped us through this difficult time by volunteering or donating so that we can continue our work to maintain and protect the 500 miles of the Long Trail System in Vermont. We are so grateful that Vermont has been able to keep the trails open for folks to enjoy.
The field program has been pared down to it’s barest essentials this season. Our focus is on those things which, if neglected for even a season, could suffer long lasting or drastic impact: alpine summits, popular pond sites, and our seventy-something outhouses. This means most trail and construction projects have been paused, but not quite all! Three ADA accessible moldering privies are now being prefabricated at the GMC barn in Waterbury Center for installation later this season at David Logan, Rolston Rest, and Sucker Brook shelters. Nothing—not even a pandemic—can halt our march towards a pit-privy-free trail!
With the shortage of caretakers early this season, GMC field assistants spent much of their time maintaining composting privies. You can see Nigel Bates restarting the composting process at Glen Ellen Lodge that remained in a storage bin over the winter. This included breaking up the frozen core and reintegrating it into the rest of the material, which allowed composting to proceed more quickly. Speeding up the process was necessary to ensure that this will finish by the time another needs to be started. By doing this on a regular basis, we are able to keep the outhouses on the Long Trail System ready for the high level of use they see throughout the hiking season.
It’s not just our field staff who have been busy on the trails—GMC volunteers have also been out all over Vermont doing trail maintenance, carrying bark mulch up to the outhouses (which are used to speed up the composting process), monitoring land corridors, and out in small volunteer work groups to help with special projects.
Deer Leap Rock is a prominent outcrop rising dramatically over Rt. 4 with direct views of Pico Peak and Killington Mountain. The Sherburne Pass Trail (North of Rt. 4) and the Deer Leap Trail comprise the route to Deer Leap Rock, and these two trails see very high numbers of users during the hiking season. This high usage, combined with the steep and direct nature of Vermont’s hiking trails, has resulted in multiple user-created pathways and trail braiding (think: multiple lines of trail all going to the same place) for much of the 1.1 mile route. Braided trails leave hikers unable to discern the correct path and instead choosing the most obvious or easy route. In turn vegetation is damaged, which exposes soil and hastens trail erosion—all things the Green Mountain Club works to prevent on trails.
To mitigate this, two GMC staff worked with 39 middle-school students and their instructors from Putney Student Travel to complete 351 total work hours revegetating braided trail on the way to Deer Leap Rock. They used a three step process of:
- Aerating the compacted soils of the braided trails, (allows water, nutrient filtration)
- Collecting top soil and root networks (contains seeds) and fallen leaves (naturalizes the site)
- Piling logs, branches and pokey things into the braided trail (prevents hiker trampling)
As a result of this revegetation project hikers will find a better-defined treadway along with trailside vegetation, which now has the potential to flourish in future years. This work is essential on high-use trails and the Green Mountain Club is grateful to Putney Student Travel for their efforts on the Long Trail.
Stay tuned for more updates as the summer progresses. In the mean time, we’d love to hear about your experience out on the trail. You can share your stories and photos with us to be featured on our social media pages.