Last week, GMC officially wrapped up the 2021 field season, and most of our paid seasonal staff packed out of the backcountry. As we wind down the large-scale trail and shelter projects of this busier-than-ever season, we have to thank the hundreds of volunteers who contributed to dozens of different initiatives to keep the Long Trail, its side trails, the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, and the Northeast Kingdom Trails in tip-top condition this season. Welcome to GMC’s very own Volunteer Appreciation Week!
Volunteerism has been at the core of the Green Mountain Club for over a century, and we are grateful to each and every one of the 1,000-plus individuals who donate their time and skills each year. GMC’s volunteer opportunities are varied, from assisting hikers and visitors to bushwhacking along property boundaries to lugging heavy pressure-treated lumber through rugged trail. Below, explore just a handful of stories and reflections from some of GMC’s incredible volunteers.
- Andy Wood, Corridor Monitor
- Pam Piper, Hedgehog Brook Trail Adopter
- Anna Vann, Barnes Camp Volunteer
- Sterling College Orientation Group
- Brattleboro Section Volunteers – Trail Maintenance
This year, the volunteer program was supported by Lorne Currier, Volunteer & Education Coordinator; John Plummer, VHCB AmeriCorps Outreach and Field Coordinator; and Miriam Akervall, Volunteer Program Assistant.
We’ll be sharing a new volunteer appreciation spotlight every day this week, so check back to learn more about different programs. If you are interested in volunteering with GMC, visit our volunteer opportunities webpage or submit an application.
Andy Wood, Corridor Monitor
“I’ve always loved and appreciated the land where I recreate, but around my 30th birthday I had an aha! moment. I realized that all the trails and land that I enjoy are there because somebody fought for its protection and somebody volunteered their free time to make it that way. I figured it was time for me to be that somebody, too,” says 33-year-old Andy Wood. Andy started volunteering as a GMC Corridor Monitor in 2018, and now walks the boundary lines of three different land tracts that surround the Long Trail near Johnson, VT.
Each spring and fall, Andy spends a lengthy day following property boundaries with a map and compass, bushwhacking and exploring. His duties are to ensure conservation restrictions are being upheld, report on land features and wildlife, and keeping an eye out for any encroachments. “I rarely see anyone else out there, so I usually glimpse a fair bit of wildlife and just enjoy my time out in the woods.”
Most recently, Andy took over monitoring the Codding Hollow parcel, the latest acquisition in GMC’s long-term land protection campaign, and an effort that had been in the works for more than 30 years. “As a corridor monitor, you’re playing a small role in ensuring that the terms of the land use agreements are upheld in perpetuity,” says Andy. “It’s humbling to know that my work is part of a much bigger mission to maintain the experience of hiking the Long Trail and to protect the lands and waters around it for generations to come.”
Pam Piper, Hedgehog Brook Trail Adopter
When Pam Piper first inquired about maintaining trails near her Warren condo, she was disappointed to learn that all side trails had been adopted. That didn’t slow her involvement with the Green Mountain Club’s Montpelier Section, and she received good news shortly after.
“I got an email in March that Hedgehog Brook Trail had opened up. I said, ‘Of course!’ I got myself a trail!” recalls Pam. The retiree and her husband, Bill, had been searching for volunteer opportunities that wouldn’t hinder their traveling, and routine trail maintenance appealed to the outdoorsy couple.
The two-mile side trail connects to the Long Trail, just shy of Burnt Rock Mountain. Not only did Pam learn about surface water control, trail blazes and blowdown removal, alongside GMC staff, but she realized such efforts could be group projects. She contacted her nearby friends and even recruited five others to help replace the trailhead register box and sign. “It’s fun getting other people involved. Everyone who’s gone out has been ambitious, and it’s nice to see the enthusiasm about maintaining a trail,” she says.
Pam is one of about 230 individuals and families who make up the long-running network of trail and shelter adopters. These volunteers work in conjunction with GMC sections, volunteer groups, and paid staff to conduct routine trail maintenance at least three times per year; this includes clearing downed trees, clipping overgrowth, unclogging drains, and other tasks that keep the trails in good shape.
Pam says the fun will continue. “I like that we’re making the trail easier for others to go up and have a good time,” she says.
Anna Vann, Barnes Camp Volunteer
In summer 2020, Anna Vann didn’t have a whole lot to do. Like many folks still stunted by an enduring stay-at-home order, she looked to the outdoors for connection.
Anna soon grew from a “once-a-season hiker” to an avid trail explorer and found her way to the Green Mountain Club’s website. “I looked to see if there were any hiking opportunities I could get involved with. I have a lot of respect for those hauling 40-pound bags of mulch, but I felt my skills were better fitted to volunteer at Barnes Camp,” says the Essex Junction resident.
Since then, Anna has volunteered more than 65 hours at Barnes Camp, the visitors center at Smuggler’s Notch. She greets Long Trail End-to-Enders, provides visitors with hike recommendations, and answers questions about nearby resources. Anna is one of 24 GMC volunteers you’ll meet at Barnes Camp; together, they served more than 6,000 visitors and logged 619 hours at the Stowe location.
The self-proclaimed extravert says that while volunteering has been a much-needed social outlet during the pandemic, she’s also learned a lot while representing GMC. “The more I’ve done this job, the easier it’s been to connect with people because I’m exposed to so many different types of folks. Even being out there in bad weather to help people has left an impression.”
Anna, a part-time snowboard instructor at Stowe Mountain Resort, had an advantage volunteering in an area she’s already familiar with, but says she still gets questions that throw her off.
“Often, people want to know where they are, what part of Vermont they’re in, and what there is to do. One visitor had asked if they had hiked close to Canada, and I had to explain that Canada is 60 miles away,” she chuckles. “I don’t always have the answers, but I do the best I can to help.”
As the hiking season winds down and Anna looks toward winter, she knows she’ll be back again to help next year. “I get so much credit for volunteering, but it gives me a lot of fulfillment and happiness to help out at Barnes Camp. I guess that’s why I’m there so much!”
Sterling College Orientation Groups
Volunteerism and hands-on work are core to the Sterling College philosophy — “Working hands. Working minds.” As a certified work college, students incorporate hands-on work into all aspects of their learning. Since 2018, Sterling has incorporated trail work with the Green Mountain Club into the first-year orientation program as a way to introduce students to the community-oriented work ethic and lifestyle of the college.
This year, four different groups each did one day of trail work as a book-end to a four-day backpacking expedition. For example, one group, led by Sterling College Outdoor Education faculty Anne Morse, spent a full day doing “brush-ins” on the Long Trail on Jay Peak, complementing the intensive staircase work the Long Trail Patrol did there this summer.
Brush-ins are a trail maintenance practice used when hikers have repeatedly walked off the designated treadway, creating social trails. To build a brush-in, trail workers create big, ugly and pokey piles of fallen branches, leaves, rocks, and other organic matter, strategically placed to close off social trails and encourage hiker traffic back onto the desired treadway. Keeping hikers on the designated path reduces vegetation damage, soil loosening and resultant erosion of the trail edge, and allows social trails to revegetate to their natural state.
Says Anne, “This is a great experience for our students, who come into the expedition with a range of background and experience levels. Some of them have hiked before, but have never thought about the work that goes into building and maintaining a trail. It’s very empowering to show them that they can swing a tool, carry heavy branches, and transform a widened and disorganized section of trail into a very clearly defined footpath.”
Brattleboro Section Volunteers
Bonnie Haug-Cramp and 10 others start at the Rt-11/30 trail crossing in Manchester. She coordinates the agenda for these Brattleboro Section volunteers while project leader James Mitchell reviews safety practices and identifies task leaders for the day. The team then disperses into the woods around the William B. Douglas Shelter.
The Brattleboro Section is one of 14 volunteer groups that help the Green Mountain Club upkeep trails and infrastructure. That June day, the volunteers outfitted the Douglas spring with a new pipe; replace rotted puncheon; update the Douglas Shelter with staining, signage, and steps; clear blowdowns; clip overgrowth; and paint blazes.
“We really wanted to focus in on that area. It needed attention,” explains Bonnie, the section’s current president. “The planning was shared so everyone came prepared. We got a load done. Folks were really up for it!”
And while it was only the section’s second workday of the 2021 season, the team is so accustomed to working together that it didn’t take long to fall into a groove, says Bonnie, who has been a Brattleboro Section member for 35 years.
“A lot of it is ritual based on a long history of folks getting together to do this work,” she explains. She notes that with the pandemic, attendance has jumped. “That’s been really cool: to meet new people, to have them come back, and to have them become members.”
Bonnie, 61, first met Brattleboro Section members at age 24 while hiking in Vermont. Now Williamsville, VT residents, both she and her husband Robert continue their long-time involvement with GMC. “These are my friends. This is what’s fun to do,” says Bonnie. “Hiking is our primary vacation of choice, and it’s hard to see my life without it.”
Bonnie stresses that it’s the team effort that really upkeeps the trails. “The culture of our crew is stewardship of the trail and being really geeky about that. We have a good time doing it.”