This weekend’s adventure: Visit the campus of the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps in Richmond to hike the trails, explore the farmstand and learn a bit of state conservation history.
What to know: When Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) was established in 1985, it modeled its programming after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, which hired young Vermonters to build ski resorts, state parks and hiking trails.
Today, VYCC is a non-profit organization that fosters a love of the environment in young people by giving them paying jobs on trail crews and on farms.
The VYCC land at its Thomas L. Hark Leadership campus in Richmond is open to the public year-round for hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and hunting.
My experience: This winter, I drove past the VYCC campus on U.S. Route 2 in Richmond at least a dozen times on my way to Bolton Valley Ski Resort. Though the historic West Monitor Barn — red-painted and topped with a weathervane — is eye-catching against the rolling green hills, I hadn’t found a reason to stop until this past weekend.
In search of an easy Easter morning hike, I came across a blog post by the Green Mountain Club recommending the best trails for springtime recreation.
The 3-mile trail network at VYCC is one of four in northern Vermont recommended by the Club for mud season because it is located on a low-elevation, south-facing slope.
When I arrived with family on Sunday morning, our car was the only one in the parking lot and the campus was enveloped in New England’s quintessential springtime weather — a slight chill and subtle breeze, thick clouds that gave way to afternoon sun.
The hike: We began our hike to the right of the West Monitor Barn where a narrow trail quickly ascends 300 feet through a series of sharp switchbacks. At the top of the climb, look out to the south for a view through the trees of Cochran’s Ski Area.
Except for the quick climb at the beginning, the rest of the 3-mile loop is fairly flat, making it accessible for all abilities. The trail will take hikers up and down many stone steps and across several bridges made by VYCC trail crews.
Though we came across a few small mud patches, we trekked right through them. Skirting around the edges only widens the trail and could disrupt the land’s vegetation. Look out for circular, bright green trail markers to help you stay on the path.
Near the loop’s end, the trail delivers hikers to a wide-open field, which still at elevation provides a beautiful view of the Green Mountains. You’ll spot the distinct peak of Camel’s Hump and the distant trundle of cars on Interstate 89.
The barn: Originally a horse farm when it opened in 1851, the West Monitor Barn has since gone through a number of changes and restorations.
In 1871, the farm supported more than 175 dairy cows and continued to operate as a dairy producer until the 1980s, according to the VYCC website. Richmond residents, the Richmond Land Trust and federal grants restored and conserved the barn and its surrounding acres.
Today, the barn operates as an event venue.
The farmstand: After your hike, stop at the farmstand for produce grown by VYCC members on the land you just explored.
During the growing season, the farmstand is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is stocked with organic vegetables, herbs and flowers, as well as eggs and frozen prepared foods.
If you live nearby, you could consider purchasing a VYCC farm share. A variety of share levels at different price points are offered. All purchases from the farm stand support VYCC’s Health Care Share program, which works to increase food security for Vermonters.