Tom Longtin, 1940-2020 by Martha Stitelman
A few years after I moved to Vermont, I was fortunate to meet Tom, who became my friend, next-door neighbor, and outdoor guide (along with the rest of the GMC buddies). Having grown up in Bennington, he knew many of the back roads and trails I was hoping to explore, and helped teach me (usually patiently) the skills I would need to get there by foot, ski or bicycle. His signature technique was to get ahead, just out of earshot, so that I couldn’t argue about the route; but he also could set tracks at an easy angle to follow so that I could catch up. We had many trips that I wouldn’t have thought I could do - until I did. We had a couple where I gave up and came home.
One of our most memorable trips occurred in a particularly icy winter, when a persistent boilerplate crust made skiing miserable. Tom took it as a challenge to go mountain biking on regular unstudded tires, slightly underinflated, until he was skilled at picking routes through the lowest contours in the terrain. One day he, Hubey, Birgir Vigsnes and I set off from the Red Mill entrance on the snowmobile trail to the Burning. Three of us skittered and grumbled on skis along the icy packed trail, while Tom nonchalantly and gracefully pedaled through the trees and around the rocks til we got to the Boiler. As we went across a grassy area the crust broke beneath Tom’s front wheel and he did a dismount over the handlebars; the only time I ever saw him leave his bicycle unexpectedly. A few days later he took me biking across Adams reservoir, not a challenging trip for him, just to show me what it was like.
There was always something interesting to see when out with Tom. We skied by the phone lines, pipes and manholes in the old Bennington watershed, bushwhacked up Bald Mtn to discover that the "Yellow Trail" was really the town boundary line, figured out the best way to snowshoe to Boxcar Rocks, and held our breath when meeting a moose in Medburyville. He might tease us by leading a group twice around “Twice Around Peak”, but didn’t hesitate to pull Margie out when she broke through the ice of a Woodford beaver pond. And he was generous with the various things he’d acquired here and there; the last thing he gave me was a long-handled ice scraper with an added foam handle so I could clean out the crevices in the Harmon Hill rock steps.
Tom’s house too contained many amazing artistic creations. A talented computer graphics artist (https://www.arsmathematica.org/is2003/3dsc/tom_longtin.htm) he created sculptures and puzzles in wood, metal, particleboard and plastic, often involving complex geometrical designs and knots. He was active in Bennington’s art community and has had various sculptures exhibited around town.
I hope sometime we can take a group trip in Tom’s memory (suggestions for destination welcome - where do you remember him best?)
Tom was a team player, so long as he got to say who was on his team. Tom was a US Army soldier in Germany, asked not to reenlist as the Vietnam Conflict ramped up. He lived and worked in Germany, traveled to Australia and Central America, and used drink too much. Tom would share his water and snacks when the trip went longer than advertised. (Which they often did.) Tom told a local couple, “You didn’t have to come on this trip.” when they complained about a ski trip tougher than advertised. (One of them bought new skis after that, tho.) Tom often said he was ’not training wheels’, but would help learning a skill he knew if you were willing to be shown his way. If you wanted to learn your limitation, he was your guide.
He preferred to travel in a loop and to explore ‘all new territory’, yet was always willing to point out historic sites, favorite springs, and interesting trees. He slowed down and ranged closer as he passed 75, but an electric-assist mountain bike extended his range. Too bad he didn’t get to ride it longer. Typically for Tom, the stock motor had straight-cut gears instead of the more expensive helical-cut, so he complained about its noise.
Tom was my hiking buddy, my cycling partner, our cross-country skiing friend, and my inspiration to return to dump-picking and dumpster-diving. He told Martha of a house for sale in his backyard, allowing her to downsize and to become his neighbor for 15 years. We saw him most weekends, so he helped us gather firewood, food, and books and strange objects. He made sculptures from scrap metal, then moved onto puzzles and Bennington Monument models of salvaged material.
We shared books and magazines, where he noted typos and other errors in red pen. Yes, he was critical, yes, he was picky, but he was paying attention.
Thanks for listening,
Hubey Folsom Newfane, VT
We moved to Bennington less than 2 years ago, so didn't know Tom as long as many others, but our lives were enriched by the times we spent together. We marveled at the creations in his house; metal sculptures, intricate puzzles, inlaid hardwood flooring cut from his laser printer and the myriad of machines that he used to construct them. We went on numerous hiking and snowshoeing adventures with Tom - and every trip was truly an adventure. He took us places that were unmarked trails (or bushwhacking) and started to learn how the local areas connected together. Most of the pictures below were from winter 2020.
Tom had created his "Beaver Tail" extension for his pickup truck so that he could easily put on and take off snowshoes, spikes, etc.
It was our good fortune to know Tom.
Ann and Billy Martin
COVID-19 ResponseJune 26 UpdateTrails and Shelters: Shelters and privies on the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in Vermont are open under modified use guidelines. As of June 26, all trails and facilities on the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in Vermont are open.
Backcountry Overnight Sites
The rugged and remote nature of backcountry overnight sites are one of the things that make hiking the Long Trail special. As these sites are remote and rustic, visitors are being asked to be self-sufficient and prepared to minimize the potential for spread of COVID-19. Focus will be on maintaining physical distance between unrelated visitors and to manage, reduce, or eliminate common touch points.
Thank you for being a partner in this endeavor and doing your part to minimize the risk to yourself and others
Visitors to backcountry overnight sites are being asked to adhere to the following guidelines:
Listen to a Podcast about the writings in the Melville Nauheim Shelter Log Book
Thank you to our Log Book readers: Ham, Lorna, Ann, Billy
Click the recording below. (You will have a slight pause while the audio file is downloading.)
Note: In the podcast you will hear a short portion of the song "Happy Wanderer" by Frank Weir, a British orchestra leader. The "Happy Wanderer" was quite popular in both Britian and USA in 1954.
Picture Gallery Below:
The first 3 North Bound shelters on the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail in Vermont
Seth Warner, Congdon, Melville Neuheim, and the Neuheim Work Crew getting ready for the hiking season!
Some scans from the Log Book for your review.
Trails and Shelters: Trails on state and federal lands are open, but caution is still needed: staff and volunteers have not been able to perform the normal levels of spring trail maintenance or assessments. We will be operating with very limited field staff this season and will need your help in stewarding the trails.
To protect public health, shelters and privies on the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail in Vermont are closed. Trail managers are developing guidelines for the safe use of backcountry facilities and hope to open some facilities in a reduced capacity by June 26. If you plan to stay in the backcountry please familiarize yourself with and follow primitive camping guidelines for camping on state and federal land and know what land base you are on. This is especially true for the private land that hosts the trail where primitive camping should be avoided altogether.
The Green Mountain National Forest food storage order geared toward minimizing black bear and human encounters and interactions put in place in July 2019 is still in effect in 2020. What it means for backpacking is you need to either hang your food and other smellable items, or use a bear box (available at a limited number of shleters) or personal bear can, and you need to carry out any and all trash that you create, including food scraps. Learn about the order and bear can options here.
Out-of-state visitors: The state restriction for out-of-state hikers to quarantine for 14-days is lifted for residents of certain counties across New England and New York that have a similar active COVID-19 caseload to Vermont (less than 400 active cases of COVID-19 per one million residents). These residents may enter the state for leisure travel without quarantining.
Hadsel-Mares Camp at Wheeler Pond: On June 15th at 10:00 AM, we will open Hadsel-Mares Camp to new bookings between June 26 and October 31. We plan to open the cabin for late fall and winter rentals on October 15th (subject to change). A one-day “maintenance day” in which the cabin is free of guests will exist between all bookings.
New COVID-19 Camps Policy: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, GMC is taking the following measures to comply with State of Vermont requirements and promote renter safety.
Vermont's 2020 Hiking Season and COVID-19The answer you’ve all been waiting for: Yes, the Long Trail System’s trails will open tomorrow, May 22. However, it’s not as simple as that statement. With both a late snowpack and COVID-19 as dominant concerns this hiking season, we are asking hikers to take a few extra precautions to both protect public health and protect the public resource of our beautiful trails.
Hiking is the ideal outdoor recreational activity for these times since you can get outside for exercise and fresh air while still adhering to social distancing and hygiene guidelines, but let’s be smart about it, and above all, let’s be sensitive to trail conditions and courteous to other hikers itching to get out just as much as we are.
Trail Conditions and Backcountry Facility ClosuresDoes this mean winter conditions are gone? Nope. If you are hiking at higher elevations, there is definitely still snow and ice, with the snow line at anywhere from 2750′ to 3000′ depending on your location. The Mount Mansfield snow stake is showing 41″ of snow still present (versus 15″ for this date in an average year). The snowy treadway is undermined in many places where drainages and streams are running, creating the potential for bad post-holing and the risk of ankle injuries. All of the alpine zones are exposed at this point, but you definitely need microspikes to get there. If you are hiking to these areas, please be prepared for winter conditions (with traction, layers, and experience) or consider staying below the snow line for another couple of weeks.
Does this mean muddy conditions are gone? Also nope. According to GMC field staff, the mud is still pretty significant in a lot of places since the snowline is so low. It depends on the location, but people will see mud at every elevation on the Long Trail System this weekend. If you encounter muddy conditions, please either turn back or be prepared to walk straight through puddles and mud to avoid damaging the surrounding vegetation.
Trails on state and federal lands are open, but caution is still needed: staff and volunteers have not been able to perform the normal levels of spring trail maintenance or assessments. GMC volunteers were delayed in starting their spring trail maintenance due to COVID-19 restrictions and late-season snowpack. They are still working on clearing trails and hikers should expect to encounter areas of blowdowns from the winter. We will also be operating with very limited field staff this season and will need your help in stewarding the trails.
Here are a few tips for early season hikers:
Primitive camping along the trail can be difficult. Not only can it be hard to find a flat, clear spot for a tent in the rugged terrain of the Green Mountains, but it’s complicated because the rules vary depending on who the land manager is:
Planning a thru-hike or overnight hike? Check out our thru-hiker FAQ.
New COVID-19 Trail EtiquetteOut-of-state visitors are still being asked to self-quarantine for at least 14 days after arriving in Vermont and before engaging in any activities. For more information about health and safety precautions, please visit the Vermont Department of Health.
As with all outdoor recreation activities, hikers should go out only if you’re healthy, have not been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and/or have not recently traveled from a location with a CDC-issued travel advisory. Wash or sanitize your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, and embrace a “Park, Play and Move On” mentality.
If you are heading out on the trail, please follow the updated COVID-19 trail etiquette below:
For more hiking information and recommendations you can talk to GMC’s visitor center staff by calling 802-244-7037 or emailing email@example.com. GMC offers waterproof paper maps and guidebooks for sale on the GMC online store, and digital maps of popular trails in Vermont through the Avenza Maps app, available in the App Store and Google Play. You can also chat with other hikers and see others’ trip reports in GMC’s Facebook Group.
We wish you a happy and safe hiking season!
INFORMATION BELOW IS FROM THE MAIN GMC, 25 March 2020
Thank you for your patience as we work with our partners and landowners to protect public health and manage recreation resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Governor Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order for Vermonters, you are encouraged to get outside for exercise and fresh air. We encourage you to spend time outdoors locally with members of you own household and to stay 6’ or more away from anyone you may encounter.
We are in the middle of a health emergency and to avoid the spread of COVID-19, we all must stay home as much as possible. As of April 3, the Long Trail and side trails on state lands are closed by the Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation. The Green Mountain Club doesn’t have the authority to close trails on other lands, but we are asking everyone to please avoid using the Long Trail, Appalachian Trail, side trails, and facilities until the Governor lifts the Stay at Home order.
It is important to know:
I look forward to writing you about upcoming hikes and outings, but until then I thank you in advance for your cooperation. If we all do our part, we can keep the public safe and protect our vulnerable trail resources.
INFORMATION BELOW IS FROM THE MAIN GMC, 25 March 2020
Under Governor Scott’s new “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order for Vermonters, you may be wondering about outdoor activities. During the press conference regarding this order, the governor endorsed getting outside for exercise and fresh air. Please just do this locally (not traveling to the Long Trail or other trail systems), with members of your own household, and stay 6’ or more away from anyone you may encounter. We recommend taking walks right out your door and exploring your neighborhood on any trails, dirt roads, or sidewalks you have available. Trails and parks in other states have been overwhelmed with use and had to close because people were not practicing correct social distancing. If we all enjoy the outdoors locally and responsibly, we may be able to avoid that outcome in Vermont.
This is a constantly changing situation and we are in daily discussions with our land management partners. We will continue to update you here with news when we have it.
INFORMATION BELOW IS FROM THE MAIN GMC, 23 March 2020
Yes, you can still hike! We want you to get out on the trails and your safety is our top priority. We ask that you limit your hikes to local day trips and avoid traveling and congregating in groups. Please continue to maintain social distance of at least 6’ between people even on the trails.
For the safety of all, we ask that hikers do not use any overnight sites, shelters, or privies until further notice. These facilities cannot be sanitized and may contain surfaces for the coronavirus to spread through. We also cannot guarantee a COVID-19 free experience while hiking.
The current conditions are showing that it is mud season on some trails, while it’s still full winter on others, especially up high. Please be prepared for the conditions and be safe. Please consider that any accidents in the woods are dangerous for you and put a strain on first responders and our already overloaded healthcare system. You can reference more safety recommendations from Leave No Trace.
We know that hiking is good for our mental and physical health and can be a source of inspiration in difficult times. The Green Mountain Club is here to help you find your connection to the mountains. Our visitor center staff are taking calls and answering emails. We are working on virtual activities to keep you connected to the hiking community. Reach out using (802) 244-7037 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit our website for GMC related COVID-19 information.
Please be safe when enjoying your outdoor pursuits.
Click here to find information about hiking during Mud Season.
GMC Director’s Report 3/21/20
The GMC board meeting was held remotely via Zoom.
GMC is currently operating in remote mode – the Visitors’ Center is closed, and staff are working from home. All group events have been cancelled through at least April. Hikers are asked to limit themselves to day hikes both to limit group congregation and because shelters and privy maintenance is not yet underway, as well as the usual caution not to hike above 3000’ until the trails dry out in late May, for trail protection.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, plans had been in place for an active field season in our neighborhood with an extended volunteer project to harden trail with rock placement just south of Sucker Pond, and replacement of the Melville Nauheim privy. Now, the options for group work, housing of seasonal staff and volunteers, and deployment of caretakers are all uncertain. We do anticipate increased trail use and anticipate multiple challenges throughout the state.
Fortunately, our budget is balanced and club membership has increased slightly. Staff will be working to maintain operations as best they can as the situation evolves. The status of the Annual Meeting, June 12-14, at Sterling College, Craftsbury, is uncertain. For updates, visit greenmountainclub.org
Keep up with the happenings around Bennington !
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