Sports

Check out the TAM! Trails for all abilities

EACH FALL THE Trail Around Middlebury is the site of the TAM Trek, which draws racers like this youth last September. But you don’t have to compete to get good exercise on the TAM. Photo by Benjy Renton

Editor’s note: The Trail Around Middlebury, or TAM, was created and in maintained to foster healthy people living in a healthy setting for native wildlife. The trails, stewarded by the Middlebury Area Land Trust (MALT), are a great local place for staying active. Whether you run fast or walk slow, getting out, moving your body and getting fresh air on a regular basis is a terrific regimen for building and maintaining physical and psychological health.
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In this strange new world of distancing, face masks and protecting those we love, it can be challenging to find joy. Laughs and shared experiences with friends are being replaced with those in nature. We’re finding that right now, nature can be a significant source of hope, relaxation, excitement, and happiness. 
The TAM has been a cornerstone of the greater Middlebury community for over 30 years and it has never been as great of an asset as now. MALT staff and volunteers have seen record use of trails since the pandemic began. Life’s interruptions and uncertainties are being balanced by midday walks in the Gorge and sunset frogs peeping on the Jackson Trail. The outpouring of donations and support from our community are paired with words of gratitude:
•  “Thank you to MALT for the amazing trails right near home that make safe and socially distant adventures possible!”
•  “During the COVID-19 quarantine my near-daily hikes, runs, walks, and hustles on the TAM, particularly the stretches near Chipman Hill and Means Woods, have been essential to my survival. Thank you MALT.”
•  “Thank you for all you do! The TAM is our refuge right now.”
•  “I walked the entire trail today! It’s a ‘town treasure,’ especially right now! Thank you MALT!”
In response to this outpouring of gratitude and kindness, we’d like to direct our thanks to someone else: the TAM. The combined effort of the TAM and MALT, the lucky TAM-keepers, has allowed the trail network to persist through floods, droughts, storms, sun, and more to bring us the joy and relief we feel today. Specific examples of this symbiotic relationship lie in the spring gravelling of Wright Park. If you’re a TAM fan, you’ve likely seen the one-mile stretch of newly laid gravel. A combination of mud, fabric, rocks, and heavy lifting can transform a trail from an eroded mess to a multi-use opportunity. 
So, what now? What do we do in this newly adjusted lifestyle? MALT’s official suggestion: exactly what you’ve been doing. Keep walking the trails and identifying trees, relocating red efts (the juvenile Eastern newts), and listening to crows chat high above. Continue maintaining social distance and turning around when there’s no space in the parking lot. Keep respecting the land by picking up trash, using bikes only on bike-designated areas, and leashing your dog on all trails. Continue to let us know how you’re celebrating the TAM!
We give thanks to the land and to all those, including you, who make it possible. An ethic of conservation takes a village. Thank you for being part of ours.
This commentary is by Middlebury Area Land Trust Executive Director Jamie Montague and MALT ECO AmeriCorps volunteer Katherine McCool on behalf of the whole MALT team.

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