Middlebury College Special Collections & Archives and a 1927 Long Trail Pioneer

Cara Nelson at Middlebury Colleges exhit with her Grandmother Catherine RobbinsMiddlebury College’s Special Collections & Archives department contacted me in the middle of September 2015. They were researching a project to exhibit remarkable women in leadership roles in the college’s history as a marketing strategy to ring in the College’s first woman president, Laurie L. Patton. They stumbled across an inspiring article in their publication “The College on the Hill” where my grandmother was personified as a “Long Trail Pioneer”. They marveled to learn more about Catherine Emma Robbins, class of ‘23 and searched Google. They soon discovered my website and blog and contacted me via email.

I spent a week excitedly scanning and writing details of my grandmother’s historical 1927 journey as one of the Three Musketeers and first women to hike Vermont’s Long Trail for the Colleges archives. Then something came to mind and I stampeded to my basement storage selves to find my treasured Long Trail storage boxes. This is where I keep all my Long Trail documentation, not just on the Three Musketeers, but media coverage and information on my 70th anniversary hike of the Three Musketeers.

Here I found my 1990-‘96 micro-tape recordings of my grandmother, telling in her own words, personal detailed recollections of her hike. This sent goose bumps throughout my body as the excitement of the hike came to life. It was wonderful hearing her voice. I’ve since asked my husband, Jonathan to help me digitalize these recordings to preserve and make them available online. This will make for another interesting project.

My grandmother’s scrapbook is an amazing documentation of her 300-mile hike on Vermont’s Long Trail in 1927. I scanned multi-pages of her scrapbook and guidebook (with her personal notes) for the College’s collection. What a fun project and personal time to reminisce with lot of smiles on my face.

This past week while I was at the College’s library for a meeting, I was able to see the banner the college designed from the content I sent, to honor the inauguration of the new president. I felt very honored and full of pride.

Astonished by her epic Long Trail hike, Middlebury College called her a “literal trailblazer”. They told me she was chosen as one of eight women to represent Middle College women alumni as outstanding woman leaders because of her “spiritedness” and participation in the Outing Club made her historical outside adventure an amazing representation of her athletic days at Middlebury College. After all her lifetime career was a physical education teacher.

To go along with this, is A blog post on the College’s Special Collections website.

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