This post was written by Mollie Flanigan, GMC’s Land Stewardship Coordinator.
“The Long Green Tunnel.” Anyone who has logged miles on the Long Trail or Appalachian Trail quickly understands this oft-used phrase from the extended stretches of footpath that wind through the shady, unbroken canopy. These stretches of forest provide a beauty and intimacy all their own, but breaking into a sunlit hillside meadow with a long valley view can be a special moment and one that many hikers find to be the reward for an uphill climb.
The land around the Long Trail (LT) and Appalachian Trail (AT) has evolved over the decades. When first built, the trails threaded through stretches of active agricultural fields, affording hikers sweeping views and a connection with the local community. As land use patterns changed in the late 20th century, many hill top agricultural fields were abandoned and the ever-eager northern hardwood forests began to retake the hilltops. As a result, the character of the trails, especially the AT between Killington and Norwich, changed. The hiking community realized what was being lost, and land managers at the Green Mountain Club (GMC), Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF), and stalwart volunteers worked off and on to keep a handful of fields open.
Today, these land managers work together to keep two dozen fields open with the goals of providing views for hikers, maintaining the agricultural character of the region, suppressing invasive species, and providing meadow environments for wildlife. Some fields are still hayed by local farmers who have Special Use Permits with the National Park Service, while others are mowed by GMC and GMNF.
This fall, GMC’s Long Trail Patrol will head out with an RTV, mower, and brush saws to reclaim the former agricultural field of Arms Hill in Pomfret and mow Upper Lewis Field in Woodstock and Merrill Hill in Pomfret. Armed with power tools, the crew will cut down woody invasive species, trim back saplings, and brush hog the fields, all to help keep remnants of the bucolic landscape in place.
The crew will be working the last week of September and the first week of October. Hike up to say “Hi” and marvel at the rich history of human and natural forces that have shaped the landscape in the Upper Valley of Vermont.