After months of planning and a wild three weeks of work, the Outdoor Orientation Service Trip season has come to a close! Starting on August 21st and ending on September 9th, the Green Mountain Club led 16 volunteer service projects, providing 150 participants from 9 different Outdoor Orientation Programs an opportunity to perform trail work on the Long Trail and Northeast Kingdom trail systems. Whether they were building bog-bridges or carrying bark mulch to composting privies, each Outdoor Orientation trip gains a strengthened connection between fellow trip members, an increased sense of environmental stewardship and a greater understanding of the efforts which go into protecting and maintaining the Long Trail.
Finishing this season with close to 1,000 volunteer hours, thank you to the GMC Volunteers and Staff for assisting in leadership and to the Outdoor Orientation Programs and their first-year students who chose to start their college experience by volunteering on the Long Trail. Let’s take a look at what everyone accomplished:
Yale FOOT persevered through a muddy, wet, and thunder-filled day installing puncheon on the Long Trail within the Lye Brook Wilderness. This is the second year in a row in which FOOT’s trail work has been accompanied by intense rain. Despite the weather, this group contributed to trail construction efforts which will protect trail vegetation and improve the hiking experience through a particularly muddy section of trail.
Tufts Wilderness Orientation (TWO) sent two trail work trips to Vermont for the 2019 season. One trip constructed scree walls and installed stringing on the Sunset Ridge Trail. The Sunset Ridge Trail is a popular trail for ascending Mt. Mansfield and shows impacts of trail braiding above treeline. TWO’s work helped to preserve alpine plant species and to guide trail users in the alpine zone.
The other TWO trail work trip performed deferred trail maintenance on the Long Trail as it passes through the Breadloaf Wilderness Area. Beginning at Boyce Shelter and ending at Little Hans Peak, TWO brushed back very overgrown sections of trail and cleaned drainage structures which were overflowing with organic debris. This section of trail is now passable and appropriately maintained to Wilderness Area standards.
Harvard First-Year Outdoor Program (FOP) contributed two days of service to the Stratton Pond Re-alignment Project. Cutting new trail tread is rigorous work, and the 20 students from Harvard’s First-Year Outdoor Program were a welcome push for the GMC Long Trail Patrol which was on their fourth week at Stratton Pond. Harvard FOP moved the project forward significantly, contributing to an important trail stewardship project which will have a positive impact on the hiker experience and the natural resources of Stratton Pond.
For the second year in a row, Sterling College welcomed over 45 first-year students with an intensive course titled “A Sense Of Place.” Kicked off with a 4-day backpacking trip, this course also includes a full day of volunteer service on Vermont’s Long Trail. The Long Trail north of Rt. 15 has seen significant improvements as a result of Sterling College’s volunteerism and the GMC is thrilled about the potential for work projects in the future.
Sterling College at Hill Property
Before the GMC could transfer the property known as the “Hill Property” to the Long Trail State Forest for permanent protection we had to clean up the remains of a defunct camp which were found on the property. Roughly 1/3 mile into the woods off of Rt. 118, the “Hill Camp” was a pile of styrofoam, metal roofing, rubbish bags, and a cast-iron woodstove. Persevering through a violent thunderstorm, Sterling College students disassembled the 1,200lb mound of trash, loaded it onto tarps or into trash bags, and hauled it through the forest for proper disposal. This project would have taken GMC Staff multiple days yet was completed by the students in less than 5 hours with smiles all around.
Sterling College at Forrester’s Trail
The Forrester’s Trail is a side trail to the Long Trail beginning at the end of Tillotson Rd. in Lowell, VT, and climbing up to the Long Trail below Mt. Belvidere. Overgrown by spruce trees near the top and featuring a cluster of rugged blowdowns, the Forrester’s Trail was ripe for a Sterling College trail maintenance trip. Students used a crosscut saw to remove blowdowns, clipped back overgrown brush, and cleaned drainages that were full from organic material.
Sterling College at Journey’s End
Journey’s End Camp is home to the only remaining pit privy north of Emily Proctor Shelter. GMC is finally equipped to convert the pit privy into a molderer. This requires a lot of lumber and building supplies, and it’s thanks to Sterling College that we were able to transport that material quickly and efficiently. GMC will be partnering with Sterling College later in the fall to build the moldering privy.
Sterling College at Corliss Camp
Corliss Camp is a lovely 4-sided camp on the Long Trail north of Laraway Mountain. After receiving a report of a leaky roof causing hikers to get wet while sleeping, the GMC made plans to fully replace the roof. Sterling College carried in the 12′ long roofing panels, the GMC’s Laraway Section installed the new roof, and Sterling College helped out again by carrying out the old asphalt shingles.
Sterling College at Hazen’s Notch
The Long Trail from Hazen’s Notch south to Haystack Mountain is now in better shape because of the efforts of Sterling College. Clipping overgrown vegetation and cleaning trail drainages are important maintenance tasks on the Long Trail and are a great way for students to get an introduction to the basics of trail work.
Williams College has been a reliable staple in providing a Williams Outdoor Orientation for Living as First-Years (WOOLF) Trail Crew to the southern portion of the Long Trail System. In 2019, WOOLF contributed two full days of work to the Stratton Pond Re-Alignment Project, providing students with a deep appreciation for the hard work and labor that goes into making a brand new trail. GMC had the pleasure of working with Nigel and SJ, the two leaders of the 2019 trip who were present as first-years on the 2018 work trip. We’re already looking forward to WOOLF 2020.
The Long Trail crossing at Middlebury Gap is only a 25-minute drive from the center of Middlebury College. Even closer, the Bread Loaf School of English campus is a tantalizing 5 minutes from the Long Trail crossing. With the Joseph Battell Wilderness to the south and the Breadloaf Wilderness to the north, the GMC provided these nine students with an intimate introduction to the 37,000 acres of Federal Wilderness Area directly in their backyard. The 2018 MiddView Trail Crew worked in the Breadloaf Wilderness, addressing trail maintenance which had been heavily deferred for many years. This work crew specifically made improvements to the heavily overgrown trail between Mt. Grant and Cooley Glen Shelter and to the many drainages of the Clark Brook Trail.
Do you have a group you’d like to get involved with Long Trail service projects? Please contact our Outreach & Field Coordinator. If you’d like to volunteer on your own, check out our opportunities here.