Most people, training for the Breast Cancer 3-Day, try to get in shape with a lot of long-distance walking.
I guess I was getting a bit bored with road walks ... and besides, they tell you not to train exclusively on flat, paved terrain. So today I walked around 13 miles (perhaps a bit more) up and over the spine of the Green Mountains from a town north of here to a spot on a road about three miles from our house.
For most of my hike I was on Vermont's legendary Long Trail
, a backcountry "footpath in the wilderness" which runs from Massachusetts to Canada and predates
the establishment of the Appalachian Trail
. The Long Trail passes within a mile or so of my house as it crosses the Winooski River, the lowest spot on the Trail. (The highest spot on the trail, the summit of Mount Mansfield, is 12.2 miles northeast of my house.)
I had Carole drop me off at the Stevensville Road trailhead which allows access to the Long Trail via the 1.5 mile Nebraska Notch trail.
Once on the LT proper I followed the trail to Taylor Lodge, a 12-person log shelter, very popular with occasional hikers since it's easy to get to, where I found a large mass of people camping and having basically no idea how far it was in any given direction to "the views". (I had to pull out my LT map and show them that they had at least
two and a half miles to go to get to the spot they thought they'd take a quick amble over to -- carrying a baby, at that.)
Heading south, I started up the slopes of Bolton Mountain, a much less popular stretch of the LT. (With scenic Mount Mansfield to the north of Nebraska Notch, why head south to the heavily forested and not-quite-as-high Bolton Mountain?) As I headed up, I passed an older couple coming north and then encountered a third hiker resting near the summit at Puffer Shelter. That was it as far as encountering other hikers on Bolton Mountain proper. If I'd been heading north toward Mount Mansfield I'd have encountered dozens.
The trail up Bolton Mountain was, oh, a bit steep in places. The Green Mountain Club had even installed a ladder
at one spot.
Coming down the far side of the mountain wasn't hard, just somewhat boring: a seemingly endless slow descent through pine forest on a trail still somewhat muddy from the previous morning's rains. Not much in the ways of views until I finally got to a point where I could look south and east toward the Bolton Valley Ski Area and Camel's Hump.
Heading on south I came to the spur trail for the Buchanan Shelter, but since I didn't feel a need to use the composting privy and had no real urge to go three tenths of a mile down a side trail just to see what a particular shelter looked like I kept on going. By this point it was well into late afternoon and I had adopted a trudge-forward-at-all-costs attitude. I even wound up skipping the little side trail that led to "Harrington's View", supposedly one of the more scenic spots on that section of the LT. I'll probably regret doing so when some random person sees this entry and posts to tell me what I missed, but I'll live.
I imagine part of the reason I got so single-minded about just plodding on no matter what was that I met no
hikers for several hours. It's boring, hiking with no one to chat with or break up the monotony a bit. Between one p.m., when I left Puffer Shelter, and around five p.m., when I was about a mile past Buchanan Shelter, I saw no one
. I finally passed a solo hiker who asked me how far it was to Buchanan Shelter, and then a short distance later passed three more hikers, all heavily laden, probably also heading for that same shelter to camp for the night before heading onwards. I met a grand total of seven
hikers all day, not counting the small mob around Taylor Lodge back at the beginning of the hike.
My goal was to follow the LT all the way to the river crossing a mile from our house, but at 6 pm, when I finally arrived at a road crossing on Bolton Notch Road, I found that I had a hard decision to make. I was supposed to follow the LT back into the woods for four more miles of backcountry rock-hopping, including a climb back up
a ridge. Then
I'd follow Stage Road south to route 2 and the bridge, and then
I'd walk to our house. That'd be another two and a half hours of walking allowing for the winding route through the woods and up that ridge. Or
I could simply follow Bolton Notch Road south to route 2 and then walk along Route 2 to our house. It'd save about two and a half miles and probably more than an hour walking time. Or I could elect a third option: start walking south on Bolton Notch Road and call Carole, who'd been at her office all day working (yes, on a Sunday), to see if she was heading home yet and if she could come intercept me and take me on home.
I felt bad about bailing on the final leg of the walk but I really
didn't like the sound of going up one more ridge just so I could say I'd done the entire LT between Nebraska Notch and our house. I wound up calling Carole, who was
just about to leave work, and when she found me I was a mile and a half south of the LT/Bolton Notch Road intersection.
I got home around 7 and needless to say, dropped my clothing on the floor and headed for the shower. I was very
pleased, upon inspecting my feet, to see that I had no blisters, although I was
developing a fine set of callouses. A timely application of moleskin on the way up Bolton Mountain had saved my right big toe from what felt like an incipient blister.
All in all, it was a good day and a tiring day. I did thirteen miles in just under ten hours, which really doesn't say much for my miles-per-hour, but on a muddy, rocky, steep trail it was about the best I felt able to do. I know more experienced hikers can zoom at a much faster rate (there are guys who've run
the entire Long Trail in something like five days, carrying next to nothing and being resupplied by friends at pre-designated locations), but I'm making the most of my current
skill and strength level.