This post was written by Jocelyn Hebert, Long Trail News Editor.
Some of us need more time to process our thoughts than others to give a careful reply to a question.
When GMC Field Supervisor Ilana Copel heard I was planning to hike the Frost Trail on Mount Mansfield to photograph the hard-working Long Trail Patrol, she asked if I would be willing to bring them a speed square. If you are unfamiliar with this tool, it’s triangular-shaped, used to make measurements on lumber and as a guide for making 45- and 90-degree cuts. It weighs about 10 ounces. “Sure, no problem!”
I thought I noticed Ilana giving me a sizing-up-sort-of-look before continuing: “Oh, they also need a sledgehammer…” “Um, yeah…sure…I can bring that too.” That was the part where I needed more time to give a careful reply. I tried hard to not look weak or unwilling but Ilana must have detected a micro expression and kindly offered an alternative: “You can just leave it in the parking area and someone can hike down and get it.”
My mind was trying to catch up with what it would mean for me, the second oldest member of the GMC staff, to haul a sledgehammer up the Frost Trail. I lifted the sledge by the handle assessing its weight. Not too bad. Thoughts swirled in my mind: There is noooo way I’m hiking up to meet the Long Trail Patrol and telling them that I left a sledgehammer in the parking lot. I don’t care how old or out of shape I am. “Yes! I’ll do it.”
I tucked the square into my pack, threw the sledge over my shoulder and off I went to hike the 1.4 mile, moderately difficult (according to our Mt. Mansfield pocket map) trail.
After signing the register, I headed into the woods. I balanced the sledgehammer on my right shoulder. When I noticed a slight ache starting, I shifted it to my left. Right, left, right, left. I stopped to set it on the ground and rest. I began to wonder if there was a better, less awkward way to carry it but since I had a small pack, came up with no plausible solution. Left, right, left, right.
My admiration for the Long Trail Patrol grew as I huffed up the mountain. I thought about the field staff I had seen laden with all sorts of heavy tools, not just a sledgehammer. (I recently saw an image of a field staff member carrying not one, but two bear boxes on his back!)
With no sign of the Patrol on the trail, irrational thoughts settled in: Did I somehow manage to miss them and walk by? Am I going to have to carry this thing back too? No. Ilana said they were close to the top of the trail. Soon I heard voices. I stopped, wiped the sweat from my face so I didn’t look so pathetic, then continued.
A woman was just off trail in the woods to my right. “Hello,” I said. It was one of the crew members, Clara, quarrying rocks. I walked a bit further and saw Leo sitting in the path chiseling a wooden step, then Sam, also chiseling away, then Isaac and the LTP Leader Sean working together to set a ladder.
When I pulled out the square and handed over the sledgehammer, I had to smile at their enthusiasm for having the proper tools to continue working. You would think I had just given them trail magic!
As I rambled along Rock Garden and down Butler Lodge Trail with a lighter step, I felt good knowing that I did my part that day to keep our young, vibrant field staff working to improve the trail system.
Lesson learned: You are never too young, or old to support the Trail.