Longtrail 100 BlogBy Steve Zind
Back in 1995, the Long Trail provided me with my first home and my first job in Vermont. Inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Anne LaBastille’s Woodswoman and by the notion of a “Footpath in the Wilderness”, I had come to Vermont for its woods. I figured that working for the Green Mountain Club as a caretaker at one of the Long Trail shelters would give me a chance to spend serious time in the woods and see how enamored I really was with them. Maybe I was just smitten by romantic notions that would fizzle when the bugs, the sweat, and the lack of a shower got to me.
The experiment went well. I found that I really did love the woods; bugs and sweat included. I also found much else – delightful swimming holes, small towns, and, most of all, Vermonters. On one of my first weekends at Butler Lodge, my new ‘home’ on the southern slopes of Mt Mansfield, a day-hiking couple from Jericho invited me to spend my days off at their home, an offer that not only addressed the sweat and shower issue but also helped me feel welcome in a place where I knew hardly anyone. Other locals brought little presents when their outings took them near Butler Lodge – a fresh loaf of bread, a piece of fruit, a bottle of beer or wine. Other, less tangible but just as welcome presents came in the form of news, stories, and observations along the trail.
Having to share ‘my’ home in the woods with everyone who stopped by for a break or overnight meant that I talked to plenty of people that summer, through-hikers as well as locals. I met people with names like “Mad Mountain Mama” and “TV” (short for Trail Vulture), people on personal quests, on long-distance honeymoon hikes, and people who simply loved the woods and felt, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, that "in these woods, we return to reason and faith". And I came to appreciate and love this state where so many people, from countless volunteers to the governor, work to maintain and protect Vermont's ‘footpath in the wilderness’.
Though I am now a city dweller, the Long Trail is still close to my heart and central to what Vermont means to me.
Many thanks to the Green Mountain Club for giving me the opportunity to come to know Vermont from the vantage point of the Long Trail.
Kerstin Lange, South Burlington
VPR is marking the 100th anniversary of The Long Trail with a month-long series of reports and essays. Through this series, we'll explore the history and future of The Long Trail and introduce listeners to the people who built, maintain and hike it today.