A Green Mountain Club trail crew repairs a section of the Appalachian Trail in Killington. The Thundering Falls boardwalk washed out during Tropical Storm Irene.
"I'd say it's one of the projects we've been most proud of over the last few decades and then it was washed away," said Will Wiquist of the Green Mountain Club.
Workers are now putting up a new handicapped accessible boardwalk that will be bolstered by rock riprap from below. This is just part of a 140-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail the Green Mountain Club manages; woodland paths to mountaintops, stretching from the Massachusetts border to the town of Norwich.
Vermont's Long Trail, which began construction back in 1910, blazed the way for long-distance hiking trails like the Appalachian Trail and later the Pacific Crest Trail.
Benton MacKaye, the AT's founder, visited Vermont back in 1922 and was inspired by the Long Trail, using it as a model to develop his antidote to urban sprawl-- a super trail from Georgia's Springer Mountain all the way to Mt. Katahdin in Maine.
"The club was formed in 1910 and we had nearly completed most of the trail by that point-- we still had some of the northern sections we were working on-- but he came here and learned about our cooperative management structure where we rely on sections to take on responsibility for a section of trail," Wiquist said.
From weekend walkers to through-hikers and those who do it in sections, the AT is more than just a trail.
"It just became almost an addiction. It's so beautiful," said Paul Helminger of Alabama.
Helminger has been hiking the trail in sections since 1986. The 71-year-old says he started off by leading scouting trips in the Smokies, and found he just couldn't stop. He still has Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine left.
"I'm positive-- I'll get as far as I can. I may age out eventually. But is such a beautiful hike. Vermont is just beautiful," Helminger said.
Seventy-five years later, the Appalachian Trail-- Benton Mackaye's vision-- lives on.
"I think he understood that there is sort of a spiritual aspect in getting away from the hustle and bustle of the world and experiencing nature on a trail by yourself or with friends in quiet solitude," Wiquist said.
Weaving through Vermont's forests and mountaintops-- part of the fabric of the Vermont landscape.
"It's a sense of preservation and conservation that we all need to be a little more serious about," Helminger said. "There's just so much development and there's very little left that is pristine and original and the AT is a good representation of that."
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