Despite living relatively close to the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the country, Peter and I had never even set foot on Vermont’s Long Trail until we used it to climb Mansfield, Abraham and Ellen on my birthday weekend. This barely scratched the surface of what the Long Trail has to offer, so when friends of ours from Massachusetts asked if we wanted to meet up with them for a section hike, we jumped at the chance. We met Russ and Niki at a race a couple of years ago and stayed in touch but have never done anything together, so we were excited to get to know them better and explore a new trail at the same time!
We met up at the Rt. 4 trailhead just west of Killington, left one car there and drove north to Brandon Gap on Rt. 73. The 20-mile section that we chose to do meanders through gaps and along the flanks of several Green Mountain summits, but never quite gains the ridgeline. As a bonus, this section is also relatively free of rocks and roots, so the easy footing and low elevation gain makes this section very runable. At least, it would have been if it weren’t for THE LEAVES!!!
I don’t think I have ever run for such an extended time in leaves this deep! In most places they were piled up above my ankles, completely covering the rocks, roots and mud pits that could have been easily avoided if only we could see them! Instead of running, we found ourselves resorting to a sliding shuffle, which did nothing to prevent stubbed toes, but did somewhat protect against falling in a hole or twisting an ankle. The noise we made scuffing through the dry leaves was so loud that we had to yell at each other to carry on a conversation!
We also had a little difficulty following the trail at a couple of points where the leaves were the deepest and had to backtrack two or three times to where we last saw a blaze. Thankfully the trail is well-marked!
Is there a trail there????
For the most part our pace was pretty slow since we were trying not to maim ourselves, but we were occasionally treated to leaf-free areas where we could open up our strides a bit.
We didn’t have really any open views along this section, but since the leaves were all on the trail instead of the trees, we could look across the valleys through the bare branches. The Chitten Reservoir was a prominent fixture for most of our run as we ran towards it and then around it.
At one point Niki was quite a ways behind us, and we joked that we could look back across the reservoir and pick her out on the other side.
One thing I like about the Long Trail from what we’ve seen is that it’s really well-maintained and has a lot of bridges, ladders, steps and other fun features.
Large rocks make an easy stream crossing
Another cool thing is that there are shelters WITH toilets at regular intervals, and this little bit of “luxury” was much appreciated!
Our favorite part of the trail was the very end as we descended off the side of the ridge through a beautiful open forest on a mostly smooth and clear trail.
By the time we finished we had sore ankles and beat-up feet, but we loved our first long run on the Long Trail! Next we want to do an end-to-end thru-hike, but that will have to wait until next summer.
Thanks to Niki and Russ for getting us out there and spending the day with us! The only thing better than a new trail is new friends with which to share the trail.