VYCC in the news: via VT Digger, “Green Mountain Club plans complete overhaul of popular Camel’s Hump hiking trail”

May 4, 2022 | 

VT Digger published this article by Emma Cotton on May 3, 2022.

It reads:

A trail to the summit of one of Vermont’s most iconic mountains is scheduled for a major renovation starting this summer.

Heavy rain associated with climate change and a pandemic-linked bump in foot traffic have scoured and widened the century-old Burrows Trail. Starting outside of Huntington Village, the path leads 2.1 miles before it intersects with the Long Trail, which runs to the summit of Camel’s Hump at 4,083 feet.

“It’s just being loved to death,” said Keegan Tierney, director of field programs at the Green Mountain Club, the organization that maintains the Long Trail, which runs the entire length of the state.

Over the last year, the Green Mountain Club and staff at the state Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation agreed: It’s time to upgrade one of the most popular trails in the state. Annually, the Green Mountain Club estimates the Burrows Trail sees between 20,000 and 60,000 hikers.

The trail is widening, partly because hikers often step off the trail to circumnavigate muddy sections and let other hikers pass, tamping down foliage and eroding the trail’s shoulders.

“It’s getting extremely wide, and with the widening impacts comes more chance for soil erosion,” Tierney said. “Because the trail runs straight up and down the mountain, every time it rains, it basically becomes a streambed and carries a lot of the soil and trail structure down the mountain.”

In Vermont, average yearly precipitation has increased 21% since 1900 and has become more variable in the last decade, according to the Vermont Climate Assessment, a study that gauges the impacts of climate change on the state. Both Tierney and Kathryn Wrigley, forest recreation specialist with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, say they’ve seen the impacts of climate change on trails all around Vermont.

On the flip side, he said, the northern part of the state has experienced drought conditions during two out of the last three summers.

“We’ve had places on the trail where water sources are drying up that don’t normally dry out,” he said. “Hikers are having to look for alternative ways to get water when they’re on long-distance hikes.”

Upgrades to the Burrows Trail will help water disperse, rather than repetitively carving into the same sections of soil, Wrigley said.

For example, crews might build water bars — lines of stones that run across the trail — to guide water away from the trail and into the forest, where it can seep more slowly into the soil. Hikers are likely to see some stone steps that help with mud. On the flatter sections, crews may build turnpikes — sections of rocks covered with mineral soil — that direct water away from the trail and keep hikers away from the trail’s edges.

In total, the project will cost around $750,000. Of that, the Green Mountain Club has secured $460,000 in grants from the state, and plans to raise the rest of the money over the next few years.

That’s a substantial sum for trail work, according to Wrigley. It’s rare for a trail to be completely rebuilt in a single project — typically, trails are upgraded section by section, depending on the need.

“This is sort of a first-of-its-kind attempt at this scale of a project, which is why it’s so exciting,” she said.

Hikers will be able to traverse the trail during construction, though Tierney said a few minutes of patience may be required if hikers encounter a project area.

Throughout 70 weeks spread over three summers, members of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, NorthWoods Stewardship Center and hopefully others, according to Tierney, will complete the sizable amount of manual labor the project requires.

In the end, Tierney said, trail regulars will likely notice the upgrades, but “the average hiker might not know that there’s been an intense amount of work on that trail, because it’ll still look pretty natural and pretty rugged.”