by Amy Patenaude
The Long Trail follows the spine of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts state line to the Canadian border. End to end the Long Trail is 272 miles in length. The Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail coincide until north of Pico Peak when the AT leaves the Long Trail and heads towards Hanover, NH.
We found the Long Trail to be a busy place. The Appalachian Trail north bound and south bound thru-hikers are both passing through Vermont in July/August. Nobos started in Georgia in March and Sobos left Kathadin in Mid-June. There are also plenty of Long Trail hikers starting and finishing their end to end adventure.
The Long Trail Guide has broken up the 272 miles of trail from south to north into 12 sections of varying distances.
My friend Liz has returned to Vermont and has settled near Stratton. More than a decade ago she used to live in the northern Vermont and she moved away before completing the southern sections of the Long Trail.
A thru-hiker is a backpacker that continuously hikes from end to end. A section hiker is a hiker that collects the pieces to complete an end to end trail hike in no set amount of time and sometimes in no set order. Last month Liz and I started our section hike of the Long Trail.
I was surprised to learn that you can’t just drive to the MA-VT state line to begin the Long Trail. We dropped a car at the trail crossing on Route 9 outside of Bennington, VT on our way to North Adams, MA. From Route 2 we hiked the AT almost four miles to reach the state line and the southern terminus of the Long Trail.
We hiked a total of 18.2 miles. It was a hot day but not too humid. We crossed up and over hills through green forest. We crossed paths with many thru-hikers but two encounters stand out.
In a sunny open area under a powerline I met two men. “You’re not wearing any clothes.” I said feeling rather astonished. Liz arrived a few second later and we started laughing. These two guys were in their 60’s and they were only wearing backpacks and sandals and their tattoo covered bodies left nothing to our imaginations.
One spoke up and said that hiking naked was legal in Vermont and he began to tell us about hiking naked in Europe. Yikes. These two hikers were the talk of the trail that day and had too many wondering how they could deal with deerflies and thorny bushes.
We also met Pappy, a Korean War Vet in his 80’s who told us he was the oldest person thru-hiking the AT. We learned he soon would be flip flopping up to Kathadin and begin hiking south to take advantage of the good summer weather for the mountains in Maine and New Hampshire.
Before picking up the car in Massachusetts we visited the Bennington Monument. We took the elevator to the top and posed for photos by the statue of General John Stark. On our way back to Liz’s we dropped a car at the trail crossing at the Arlington-Stratton Road.
We started early where we left off at the intersection of Route 9. We hiked 22.6 miles to reach our car spot. The day wasn’t too hot but we finished in the rain. Liz said this was the longest section of trail that she had done while section hiking the Long Trail.
Since we left early when we passed the first shelter we met thru-hikers preparing to hit the trail. I was glad I had a bed to sleep in the previous night.
The first ten miles went by pleasantly. We enjoyed the view from the Glastenbury lookout tower and we really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
We loved the forest and beaver ponds and the trail just kept on going. At the shelters people were calling it a day. With three more miles to go it started to rain and we pressed on. We were soaked and just before getting back to our car we met a couple of thru-hikers that begged for a ride to town. One was having a health issue and was desperate to get out. The four of us wet stinky people piled into our car.
Liz and I were happy to return home to our showers and dry clothes.
A month later, last week, we hit the trail again picking where we left off. The car drop and the drive to the trailhead on the Stratton-Arlington Road was easy since it we were closer now to Liz’s home. A camp group of young boys were just starting out too. It was only 3.8 miles up to reach the fire tower on top of Stratton Mountain. Our hike to get back to the car we dropped would be 17.5 miles.
The tower is no longer used as a fire tower but the former fire watchers, Jeanne and Hugh Joudry, are now the caretakers and trail maintainers. They’ve lived most of their life here. They are wonderful folks that are happy to answer questions. They gladly took our camera and snapped a photo of us in front of their tower. The view from the tower is grand and on a clear day it is a big view of Killington and beyond to the White Mountains. But it was hot and hazy and we couldn’t see too far but we could see Stratton Pond below and as far as Mount Ascutney.
A half dozen AT hikers were resting below the tower and the camp boys were arriving as we were leaving.
At Stratton Pond we sat on the edge of the still water and Liz ate blueberry pie. My mother made her a pie and she packed a piece in her pack. I ate my peanut butter and honey sandwich.
We walked through the Lye Brook Wilderness Area and we appreciated the foot bridges over the roaring brooks.
The weather was hot and humid as it could be. Truthfully we could smell the body order of some of the thru-hikers before they even reached us. That’s life on the trail.
Along the way we took the side paths to Prospect Rock and to Spruce Peak. Prospect Rock’s vista over Downer Glen had a nice view of Mount Equinox. The spur to the top of Spruce Peak wasn’t worth the effort of scrambling up the rocky bump because the vista is nearly no more due to tree growth.
We made it back to the car in time to beat the crowd for supper in Manchester at Cilantro’s. Liz munched tacos and I had a big burrito. Very satisfying and with our bellies full we drove to fetch the car we left behind.
The next morning we were back on the trail early. Liz had a busy day ahead of her and we decided to knock off the last 5.5 miles over Bromley to complete the 3rd section of the Long Trail.
We dropped off our car at Mad Tom Notch in Peru and we returned to where we had finished the day before at Route 11 not far from the Bromley Ski Area.
Light and fast we went. We passed more thru-hikers just breaking camp. There was spur to a ledge with a good view of Stratton Mountain shortly before we the trail turned up Bromley’s ski trail. The workers were cutting the brush along the edge of the trail. We met up with a family from Michigan that was just hiking up the ski area. I’d never seen the top of the ski area without snow.
Five miles felt short and the rolling and often muddy trail led us back to our waiting car. We’ve completed three sections of the Long Trail together, 59.9 miles and only 212.1 miles to go to reach the Canadian border! I can’t wait. But I am going to have to wait.
Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: email@example.com.