The Long Trail was originally conceived by schoolteacher James P. Taylor in 1909 “to make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people.” Soon after, Taylor and some prominent citizens formed the GMC to establish and manage the trail. By 1930, the trail officially stretched from border to border, and the GMC had published eight editions of the Long Trail Guide. Ever since, the club has vigilantly maintained the path, relocating parts from valley bottoms to mountain peaks, building shelters, educating the public, and keeping the myriad side trails in tip-top shape.
I leave the work party just south of Maine Junction, where the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail merge. Green Mountaineers possess a fierce sense of pride for Vermont’s gift to hikers and even refused to rename it to the suggested “Green Mountain Trail” when the longer AT outdid the LT by some 1,800 miles. The Long Trail existed first, GMCers retorted, insisting that it was still the longest trail in the state and that the Appalachian Trail was merely a side footpath. I had hiked the AT/LT overlap portion 4 years previously, so I decide to finish up my Long Trail adventure by taking some of the side trails that loop back to the LT. Less traveled but no less beautiful than the Long Trail proper, the Old Job, Branch Pond, and Stratton Pond Trails ease along streams and lakes instead of climbing rugged ridgelines.
After 3 = weeks of southbound hiking, the trees in the mountains are nearly bare, but in the valleys, the birches and maples blaze. My hike with Autumn is done.
I consider what waits—work, bills, a computer—and my body doesn’t want to submit. I’ve gotten into the rhythm of the trail, and want to keep going for another 1,000 miles. But I don’t have time to disappear into the woods again. Fortunately, the Long Trail will be there, its short stretches waiting for those with calendars and commitments, and its longer sections available to those who have the time to return to the simple life.
Charlie Wood has three long trails under his belt—the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the original Long Trail.