A Century on the Trails around Rutland
Happy Centennial, Killington Section!
General Contact: Will Wiquist or Megan Duni
Media Contact: Will Wiquist or Megan Duni
Phone: (802) 244-7037
On Oct. 4, 1911, Green Mountain Club founder James P. Taylor stood before 25 Rutland County residents and invited them to become part of a great adventure: to help build the nation’s first long-distance hiking trail, which would run along the wild summits of Vermont’s highest peaks — the trail we know today as the Long Trail.
Those 1911 attendees, organized by prominent Rutland citizen Margaret Clement, responded eagerly. They soon formed the Killington Section of the Green Mountain Club and by 1913 had helped blaze the Long Trail from Killington Peak north to Smugglers Notch.
As we rebound and recover from Irene, it is plain to see that the community-oriented spirit in Rutland County lives on. Already, area volunteers have come together to help the community recover from the storm, and they will help lead the way in efforts to repair the Long Trail, which saw significant damage in the region. Rutland County residents helped build Vermont’s hiking legacy through other instrumental efforts, as well. When the Green Mountain Club was born in 1910, M.E. Wheeler of Rutland (owner of Killington Peak) stepped forward with the club’s very first donation of $100.
Rutland County citizen Mortimer Proctor of the Vermont Marble Company was another Long Trail enthusiast from the start. He had been given Pico Peak as a 21st birthday present in 1910. Proctor later paid to build the club’s legendary Long Trail Lodge atop Pico’s Sherburne Pass.
The Lodge — the club’s meeting place and home — incorporated the mossy boulders and white birch wood of the mountain pass into its rustic design. When the Long Trail was finally completed in 1931, the celebration was held at The Lodge. Though the lodge later burned down, Rutland County remained the club’s home from 1917 to 1978.
One hundred years after that fundamental Rutland organizational meeting, the Long Trail has become a precious Vermont resource and the Killington Section, now 250 members strong, is as instrumental as ever in the accomplishments of the club. Today, the region is also home to the club’s trail management partners, the U.S. Forest Service, and a brewery boasting the same name as Vermont’s most famous trail.
Every day I witness the tremendous effort it takes to make tomorrow’s trails and hikes possible. It is the club’s volunteers doing the heavy lifting — literally and figuratively that makes the Vermont hiking experience possible, and free. They toil tirelessly: For every white blaze painted on a Killington red spruce, another blaze fades on a Jay Peak maple. There is something special about the Long Trail that inspires dedication and sacrifice from so many.
The trail brings us out in all kinds of weather for all kinds of reasons. It brought us together in 1935 to defeat the Green Mountain Parkway, a 250-mile-long mountaintop highway that would have destroyed what Mortimer Proctor called the Long Trail’s “charm of solitude.” And from the 1980s onward we have worked collectively to protect permanently Vermont’s hiking resources for future generations.
Why do volunteers work so hard to guard Vermont’s mountains? For many, it continues to be the quiet mountaintop breezes, the escape from our day-to-day world, the exhilaration of a splendid view, the sense of accomplishment from besting a tough trail. For club supporters, it’s also a common mission to maintain Vermont’s trails and protect ever-diminishing wild places so future generations can find their own “charm of solitude.”
The Long Trail and the club’s volunteers who make it possible are one of Vermont’s proudest living legacies. This is the legacy that inspired the establishment of America’s other great long-distance trails, including the Appalachian Trail and the 40,000-plus miles of our National Trail System. This is the legacy that has helped maintain the way of life we enjoy in Vermont, through recreation and our natural surroundings, and has made the Green Mountain State a worldwide destination.
The Green Mountain Club — and thus the Long Trail and its network of side trails — would not have survived this long without the leadership and dedication of Rutland County’s Killington Section. Not only do they maintain the stretch of trail from Wallingford to just north of Willard Gap, this chapter provided the leadership early on and throughout the club’s existence, bringing us to the point where we can boast 10,000 members and long-term security for almost the entire trail. Thank you to the Rutland region for helping the Green Mountain Club and Vermont hiking succeed and prosper. Happy 100th anniversary to the Killington Section, and congratulations to a community that epitomizes the hard-working do-it-yourself characteristics of Vermont’s people.
See the commemorative centennial hike of the Rutland Section on Facebook!
From Allison Henry, GMC board member and leader of the commemorative hike:
"Despite our incessant chatter on this hike and my status of relative newcomer to the area, during this trip I took plenty of time to reflect on all the changes that have taken place in Vermont, both the Green Mountain Club as a whole and our local Sections. Not just the past 100 years, but ten years or even five years. It has come up at almost every Board meeting for who knows how long...there are so many changes in communication, demographics of folks using the Trail, and the rise of social media. Sometimes it feels like there is a chasm between “old” and “new,” not always correlating with age but also gear, philosophy toward technology and the Internet on AND off the trail, and approach to hiking (ultralight, anyone?). I hope that in the next five, ten, and 100 years the Green Mountain Club will continue its mission to make the Vermont mountains play a larger role in our lives. I hope that the Main Club and our individual Sections will continue scheduling activities for folks of all ages and abilities, so that everyone can enjoy the Trail in some way regardless of age, hiking philosophy, or whether or not one regularly updates Facebook from the Trail. As an individual hiker and proud member of the Green Mountain Club, I hope to lead by example with enthusiastic support of the GMC's mission, casually educating others about outdoor safety and ethics, and being open to new ways of doing things while still respecting the history of the Trail and its community. "