Since I’m back in Massachusetts and in between longer, more complex trips I’m trying to take on some adventures closer to home this summer. Including trying to section hike the Long Trail in Vermont.
The Long Trail goes the length of the state starting and ending either on the Massachusetts or Canadian Border. In 2015 I hiked the first 105 miles from North Adams, MA to where it splits with the Appalachian Trail near Killington. Again in 2016 while hiking the entirety of the AT I walked these same 105 miles. So instead of walking the whole trail again I figure I just pick off different sections when I get a chance. Plus, as a little side project, I’m trying to climb all 67 of New England’s 4000 foot peaks and the LT goes over all of Vermont’s.
This week QB and I had a few days off so we drove up from Lynn to Lincoln Gap Tuesday evening and slept in the car right at the trailhead. Over the winter I picked up an Outback and converted the back of it into something of an RV. I really just took 2 full size memory foam mattress toppers, doubled them up, and cut them to fit in the back of the car with the seats down. Now I have a rolling bedroom with excellent gas mileage and all wheel drive. It’s perfect for sleeping at trailhead parking lots and it’s super cozy.
Montclair Glen Lodge
This morning, right after crawling out of the hatchback of my bedroom, I saw two old time Long Trail hikers taking a break about a hundred feet away at Lincoln Gap. The first thing they did was ask QB if an empty plastic water bottle on the ground belonged to her. Yeah buddy, we drove all the way up here, walked over to the trail, threw some trash on the ground, then went to sleep in our car. The other guy then asked us if we heard the weather report, supposed to be rain later. Then he told us about the black flies, complained to his buddy about almost getting struck by lightning one time, whined about some blowdowns and complained about something else but I stopped listening. I thanked him for the bad news and QB and I got out of there as soon as we could, walking north from Lincoln Gap towards Canada.
A few miles into the day and we were on top of Mt Abraham and then a little later on top of Mt Ellen, both 4000+ feet. We also walked by the summits of a few ski resorts; Sugarbush and Mad River Glen(ski it if you can). A day hiker directed us off trail towards the ruins of a plane crash from the 70’s. It was just a pile of scrap metal but I guess when it happened the pilot rescued himself by walking down the trail to the road to get help. The trail itself today was slow going, rocky with steep climbs and drops. In the afternoon it rained some making those rocks slippery and slowing us down. It was exactly how I remembered hiking in Vermont. “I guess that’s why they call it VerMUD” I said to QB over and over. We got to one section where a sign warned us, “the next 5 miles could take 4-5 hours” it didn’t take us quite that long but it sure was some slow walking.
In the evening we got to the Montclair Glen Lodge(this was a good sized shelter enclosed on all 4 sides and was equipped with a ‘bearricade’). At the shelter we met Nate and Mountain Goat. Both of these guys are on their first thru hike and cruising north on the Long Trail.
What a day! And not really in a good way. I mean it wasn’t all bad it just kinda rained all day.
When we left the lodge this morning we were only a few miles shy of Camel’s Hump. This is Vermont’s second highest peak and has a large rocky exposed summit. Once we got above tree line the rocks were slippery in the rain and the winds were whipping. QB and I toyed with the idea of taking the safer ‘bad weather’ route that skirts the summit. Re-routing was just a fleeting thought and we would miss the excitement of being on top of the ‘Hump’ in some gnarly weather. Plus we’re trying to complete the 4000 footers, skipping the summit defeats the purpose.
We got up and over Camel’s Hump and dropped way down to a valley containing the mighty Winooski River. After crossing the river we spent the rest of the day climbing higher and higher while walking through the long green tunnel. Even though I’d only been out here a couple days I felt as if I was months into a thru hike. I stunk, I was soaking wet, I was tired, I was physically uncomfortable and we had miles to go before laying down for the night. It was great!
It drizzled all afternoon and everything was wet, now I know why they call it ‘VerMud’(QB’s heard that stupid joke enough over the last few days). We got to a lean to shelter around 6:30 right when the heavy stuff was starting to come down and decided to press on. What’s another 3 miles in the pouring rain?
Once we got to Taylor lodge(a huge shelter) we changed out of our wet clothes and ate warm bowls of macaroni and cheese with bacon bits. Comfort food doing just what it’s supposed to do.
Smuggler’s Notch rt 108
While eating breakfast we caught up with Nate who also stayed at Taylor Lodge last night. This kid is crushing the LT and when he finishes in a couple days he’ll probably have done it under 2 weeks. From Taylor lodge there was only a few miles to the top of Mt Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Getting there, however, was tricky and when we left the shelter it still felt like we were walking through a cloud. The top of Mansfield is this huge, rocky ridge line and once we were up top the sky cleared up and we had some sweet views. It really was a great day up there.
We took our time getting down and in the early afternoon made it to rt 108 or Smuggler’s Notch. After a couple minutes of walking with our thumbs out, this woman Elyse pulled over and drove us into the town of Stowe where we ate some lunch and the girl at the cafe gave me a free cookie for dancing. From Stowe we quickly got a ride another 10 miles to the Cabot Cheese store in Waterbury where I tried about 20 different samples of cheese. We put our thumbs out there and got picked up by the first car that saw us. The driver, Rob, had a Cohos Trail sticker on the back and come to find out he holds the FKT record for the 165 mile trail in northern NH. Rob, an Ultrarunner, told us about a bunch of cool stuff he’s been up to like running the 90 mile Cross Vermont Bike Trail and preparing for the Vermont 100. He also works for the GMC(Green Mountain Club) that maintains the Long Trail and decided to drive us about an hour all the way back to our car. Thanks Rob!
It was a great little trip and hopefully I’ll get a chance to finish the Long Trail soon.