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(Host) A hundred years ago, a group of avid outdoorsmen set forth on a monumental task: They would build a hiking trail the length of the Green Mountains, up and over the ridgelines between Quebec and Massachusetts.
It took two decades of backbreaking work to tie the Long Trail together from end to end.
(sound of hiking)
(Host) And today, the vision of those Green Mountain Club founders is one that’s enjoyed by thousands of hikers.
This month, VPR is airing "The Long Trail: Vermont’s Footpath Through History."
We’ll explore a century on the trail, and its influence on the history and culture of Vermont.
We begin in Killington at an intersection of the footpath and the highway, a spot where "end-to-enders" gather for rest and encouragement.
VPR’s Nina Keck reports from the Inn at Long Trail.
(sound of banter near front desk)
(Keck) At this hotel, hiking guests sign in using their trail names:
(Oke OBrien) "Here’s Ten o’clock, Cat, Globetrotter. How did they get these names? You know the stories behind them – each name has a story behind them. Little Red, Tuttles, T-bone – how did they get em?
(Keck) That’s Oke Obrien, a caretaker at Inn at the Long Trail.
(Oke OBrien) "There was a hiker in here last year and his trail name was Not Yet. He was doing the Long Trail last year and the year before he’d done the Appalachian Trail and he said his first day on the trail, someone on the trail had asked him if he had a trail name and he said " Not Yet," and that became his trail name – (Laughs) – so you never know how you’re going to get’ em but they stick."
(Keck) Oke introduces a through hiker named Sunshine who’s relaxing in the inn’s game room.
(Oke-Sunshine) "This is Vermont Public Radio. She just checked in. Yeah I’m doing laundry, clearly. (laughs)
(Keck) Sunshine’s laughing because she’s wearing her rain gear and a pair of crocs. Everything else she owns is in the coin operated washing machine.
(Sunshine) "I started my through hike on Monday June 28th and I’ve been hiking since then, averaging about 18 miles a day and I finally got here at the inn and I’m really excited for my first shower and some clean clothes. (laughs)
(Keck) After a week on the trail, she says taking a zero day – that’s hiker lingo for a day you don’t do any walking is priceless.
(Sunshine) "Taking your hiking boots off is probably the best feeling in the whole entire world. If you’ve ever been on a long hike you know, it’s like instant relief you put up your feet and the blood is flowing. It’s like being born. It’s awsome"
(Keck) Inn at the Long Trail owner, Murray McGrath, says back-to-nature adventurers like Sunshine have been taking their boots off here for over seventy years.
(Murray) " The Inn was actually originally built by the Green Mountain Club back in the ‘30s and they are the stewards of the Long Trail and so hiking has been a part of this inn ever since the beginning."
(Keck) It also helps that the inn is at a key juncture for both Long Trail and Appalachian Trail hikers. The two groups share the same path from Massachusetts to Killington. But just north of the inn the AT turns off to the east toward Maine, while the Long Trail continues north to Canada.
(Murray) Also, which is nice, when the trail used to run right through our parking lot, we were the only draft beer restaurant on the trail. So it was perfect for them (laughs)
(Keck) One climber, who was perched atop Deer Leap, a stunning rock face high above the Inn, quipped that while he couldn’t see the lodge itself yet, he could almost smell the Guinness. An Appalachian Trail hiker from San Diego who made it to the front desk, preferred a local brew.
(Love it or Leave it) "Long Trail Ale, that’s why I came here. (Oke) We’ve got Guinness also. No, that’s too much like syrup.(laughter)
(Patty McGrath) "There’s all sorts of characters who walk in the door as far as hikers.
(Keck) Patty McGrath, who runs the inn with her husband Murray, says sometimes their non-hiking guests are a bit put off by the hikers. But she says a few hours later, she’ll usually end up seeing them all together, laughing and sharing stories in the inn’s Irish pub.
(Patty McGrath) "First impressions with hikers – that can be challenging. They’re a bit of a ragtag looking bunch. They smell to high heaven. But they are the funniest, most diverse group. The variety in age, in social strata, the whole thing is just amazing."
(Keck) The McGraths say after owning the inn thirty years, there are some hikers they’ll never forget.
(Patty and Murray McGrath) "One of the hikers that stood out was port a can Dan. (Murray) "He was a riot. He packed his pack probably five times to head out and would meet another hiker whom he hadn’t seen since Virginia. And the next day he’d be back at his barstool. (laughs) He was hilarious. I said, Dan we’re going to have to call you Backspin because he never left. (laughs)
(Keck) The camaraderie, enthusiasm and sense of community on the trail are intense and the McGraths say visiting hikers bring all those good feelings with them when they stay at the inn.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck at the Inn at the Long Trail in Killington.
(Keck) Alright, Murray, how about a Guiness for me now? (Murray laughs)
(Hiker) It tastes good. I’m starting to smell myself. That’s not a good thing.