Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Finishing the Long Trail (part 2)

Continued from part 1 of my Long Trail ramblings...

Day 5/June 16: USFS 10 to route 103, 14.5 (?) miles [mileage note: this is an estimate based on conflicting numbers from different sources, including 2 different numbers on the same Long Trail map, the LT guidebook, and the trail signs]

My shin felt fine in the morning, so I kept it wrapped with the Ace bandage and Mom drove us back to where we had gotten in the car the previous day.  We made a plan to try an easy day, in 2 parts, with Mom meeting us in the middle to see how I was doing.  And we would take it from there.

Another fine day for a walk in the Vermont woods:

The trail started so beautifully that I had to double-check that we were actually on the Long Trail...

It eventually went back to its normal rocky/wet ways, but it was a nice welcome to the morning.

Soon we were at Little Rock Pond, with several of Dad's signs to greet us:

Pretty little pond:

The trail climbed gradually toward White Rocks Mountain.  We took it easy and my leg felt fine.

A little Bridge Barre:

At the high point of the trail, we came upon this odd collection of cairns.  People were going a little crazy with the rock sculptures.  Very cool.

Lemmings and a rock bridge?

Further along, we found another set of cairns at the intersection with the side trail to a view point:

This is getting a little ridiculous.  We approve.

The view to the west:

Mom and Renee met us up here on their hike to the overlook.  My shin was doing great, so we greeted them and continued on down the hill.  John found a nice set of rocks to hop across a moving brook, then there was a nice downhill run on a mostly smooth trail.  Sweet.

We crossed over route 140 and John chatted with a guy who had been doing trail work in this next section. Thank you sir!

It was a pleasant climb up Bear Mountain with a snack stop on a rock partway up.  I was wishing we didn't have to skip the next section over Killington but couldn't figure out a way to make up that many miles in 3 days without an obvious pickup/drop off parking spot in the middle of it.  Oh well, just enjoy this lovely morning and figure it out later.

Toad tried to hide in plain sight and didn't move a muscle:

Lovely woods.  We were having just a marvelous day and the trails made me happy.

Looking out toward the airport south of Rutland:

I had just been thinking how nice it was to finally have dry feet all day when we came upon a huge puddle.  My bad.  There were multiple ways over or around it, so I got a pass for jumping the gun.

Mom and Renee met us at the bottom of Clarendon Gorge, Renee got to run around and happily greet us, then John got a brilliant idea for this photo:

River raging:

Renee was not excited about the bouncy bridge but she gamely followed us across:

I had been trying (again) to finish a day of hiking at the Inn at Long Trail, but we had to drive around to it (again).  At least we would be starting the next day at the trailhead down the road, that was something.  And my shin was doing great, that was the important news.

The Inn itself was wonderful!  We loved our fireplace suite, the cozy bar in the evening, and especially the breakfast.  The whole trip was worth it just for that.

Day 6/June 17: Route 4/Sherburne Pass to Brandon Gap, 19.9 miles

Time to tackle a long section in the middle of nowhere with few benchmarks along the way.  These 20 miles look benign on the map, but on the Long Trail that usually means you can roam along for hours not knowing where you are or how far you still have to go.

First, a fond farewell to the Inn:

The day started in the clouds but soon cleared up into sunshine.  After a mile we also said goodbye to the Appalachian Trail as it took off to the east toward New Hampshire.  It's been fun!

We moved well up and down a couple small hills and past a shelter.  John can never resist a little trail work when an opportunity pops up:

Walking in the sunshine:

Another caption contest entry (i.e. I'm at a loss for words):

We caught several glimpses of the reservoir to the west but never a full-on view of it:

We heard thunder for a while and then it started raining.  No gentle lead-up, it was an immediate downpour. We hustled to put on our jackets and hoped it would be a short one.  At the turn-off to David Logan shelter we debated going down to it but decided we didn't really need to go out of our way to stand under a roof.  So we continued on and the rain did stop.  Yay!  Jacket off.

John forecasted a second shower based on the thunder still behind us, and he was right.  Jacket on.  When that was done I asked if there would be another one?  No, he suspected it was over.  And he was right.  Not sure how my husband suddenly turned into a meteorologist but I wasn't arguing.  Jacket off.

The trail went a long, long way along the side of a hill.  Down, up, down over a little stream, up over a little rise.  Occasionally there was a view of the valley to the east and we could see sunshine down there.  Well that's just teasing us.

We crossed a bridge over a little stream and I thought it was funny that folks had carried materials all the way up here just to build something over a waterway that looked very similar to all the ones we had been rock-hopping up to that point.  Then we crossed a bridge over a big creek and I was thankful they had built that one (and apologized for my previous remark).

Finally we came to the intersection with Chittenden Brook Trail, only 2.3 downhill miles to go.  And they were the most excellent miles of the whole trail.  Smooth, wide trail that we could actually run and run and keep on running.

One of the many bridges down the hill - I thought it was hysterical that they included warning markers on the sides, like after all the little obstacles we had encountered, someone thought they needed to make sure no one ran into these.  I learned later that this is also a cross-country ski trail, well OK, I'll give you that then.

The Great Cliffs of Mount Horrid!

And one more shot of the beautiful trail (I probably needed a break from actual running, more than I was used to lately):

Day 7/June 18: Middlebury Gap to Brandon Gap, 9.9 miles

We spent a nice night at Blueberry Hill Inn, after a long drive to pick up the truck and some pizza for supper.  It rained off and on, nothing major.  We staged the truck at Brandon Gap before breakfast, then Mom dropped us off on her way back home.  Thank you Mom, we had a wonderful week with you!

(and sorry the photo is a little blurry)

Starting up the hill through the ski slopes of Middlebury Snow Bowl.  It rained lightly for a while and then thankfully stopped.

That's a butt-load of moose poop...

Enjoying a snack in the pretty woods.  On a related note, pop tarts from Trader Joe's are awesome hiking food.

Not even John's dedication to moving things off the trail is a match for this bad boy:

More pretty moss and trees on the way up to Mount Horrid:

The climb down to Brandon Gap was rocky, slippery, and slow, but we had plenty of time on this short day so no worries.  Happy to be done and connected back to our previous stopping point of Middlebury Gap!  Now just Killington Peak remains...

Day 8/June 19: Route 4/Sherburne Pass to route 103, ~17.8 miles

Originally we had planned to return home after 7 days (we were also planning to be finished after 7 days, ah well), but John suggested that we were already here, nothing was calling us urgently back to Albany, and the weather forecast was looking good for the next day. So we did a little "coffee shop time" in Rutland, slept overnight at the trailhead, and stayed one more day to tackle our final section of the Long Trail.

Let's do this thing!

John started out from route 103, taking on the bigger climb for the day.  Thank you sweetheart!

I drove around to the trailhead below the Inn at Long Trail (I can't seem to manage to finish there, but I sure can start a day from there).  Lovely morning sunshine!

It really was a beautiful day, up a few miles to the top of Killington Peak.  And a view, a view, finally an amazing view!

Look who I found  :)

I made my way down along a bit of a traverse with a few tree hop-overs, then down a trail with a few rock hops and found Gov. Clement shelter:

I knew there was a road detour in place after the 2011 floods, but even before I reached that point I had some navigational difficulty.  Firstly I didn't see any sign of a trail past the shelter, so I continued down the dirt road I had come in on.  It swung around back to an arrow pointing up the trail... to the shelter.  So I did the short up-and back to make sure I covered the whole trail.  Signage could be a bit better here.

The 2nd error was my fault - I continued again up the road for a ways but didn't see any blazes and finally turned around to return to the same spot.  Third time's a charm - finally I spotted the other little arrow pointing toward the creek and the ford I was expecting.  A fine waste of a few minutes, good training or something.

Fording the cool creek went well and soon I was traipsing off through the woods on a pretty trail.  The road detour also went well and I ran most of it.  Just 4 miles left!

I had some Glee! music in my ears now and that helped me with a good cadence and an inspired pace.

Some climbing in the woods, running down the other side, across a couple fields including some unavoidable marshy spots...

A bridge over a partly-missing rock wall... I'm sure this used to be useful.

A nice view back toward the airport - almost done!

Luckily I wasn't on any time goal, because the last downhill was steep and bouldery.

John was waiting at the end - yay!

Celebratory picture:

Celebratory drinks:

Final tally - I don't know but it was a long way and several years.  Thank you to Mom and Dad for all the great help in completing this quest and to Kip for his company in the first half (2007 and 2009).  Thank you to all the volunteers who make the Long Trail the beautiful challenge that it is.  We won't forget it!

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