We still had a problem for how we were going to do the Long Trail. Our decision to not backpack was going to make this nearly impossible. One day could be done as a day hike, but the final 20 miles had no road crossing. It would be possible to get to the trail from a side trail, but it was a mile hike in, straight up, and made one day tolerable, but the other day a grueling 14 miles on mountain trail. I know that young thru-hikers would scoff at this "low" mileage, but we aren't setting any speed records, we just want to do it and enjoy it. Marie was seriously thinking about letting me hike it alone, while she spotted me with the car. I would have done this as a last resort, but I really wanted to share the experience with her.
Friday night I had lain awake thinking about how to make this work. We also had a time constraint, because Marie had to be home no later than Thursday. I mentally re-shuffled gear, tried to remember weights of individual items, agonized over things I considered essential. Saturday morning when we awoke I told Marie I had figured out how to do it, if she would agree. I decided that if I carried both sleeping bags, the tent and the mats, my clothes, and a few other things, she would only have to carry the food and her clothes. Despite how I thought I'd already left a bunch of usual items at home, I pared the list down even farther. I reminded myself numerous times that this would be for two nights and 2.5 days, not nearly as "serious" as two weeks on the trail. I had brought a scale with me, but we didn't want to strike camp and test the theory, then have to set everything back up. So I convinced Marie it would work, and she agreed.
So, this, our first day on the Long Trail, we were still hiking with just day packs. We decided that was good because it looked like this day was going to be as hard as the first day on the Finger Lakes Trail. It began with a 1200-foot climb straight up from Middlebury Gap to the top of Mount Worth. This was a long climb, but the grades were better, without as many angled rocks. At the top we learned that the trail goes through the Snowbowl Ski Area, also part of Middlebury College.
The view north.
You can see that we are right at the top, 3224 feet. The view west.
This was only the first mountain of the day. We immediately started back down 1200 feet to Sucker Brook.
I showed you a moose track one of the times I was able to post while on the hike, and someone asked what the moose poop looks like. Here you go. It's pellets, fairly large, about an inch long and 3/4 inch diameter. We saw truckloads, but never the moose. (We have seen moose in Minnesota, and also New York.)
I just liked the textures of this fungus and the bark.
As we've seen both in the Catskills and here, there were lots of Painted Trilliums. However, the ones we saw here had universally dark leaves. I don't know if this is something about soil chemistry, a cold spring, or some genetic variation. It sure made the blooms stand out.
Meanwhile, we began climbing again, up Gillespie Peak. I have to admit, I'd felt a little intimidated by the Green Mountains- probably for a couple of reasons. One, I'd never really been there before. Two, the way they just appear out of the lower altitudes makes them look huge. But when I was studying details on the map, trying to figure out how to make the revised hike work, I realized they weren't as high as we'd been in the Catskills. This would be our highest point of the day at 3366 feet.
Although the trail was not a "walk in the park," this trail has a long history of good care. It claims to be the oldest hiking trail in the country. In this picture, I'm making my way down Gillespie, and although steep, you can see the steps. There is a serious amount of rock work that's been done. Rock steps, rock water bars, and stones flanking stream crossings are the norm, providing stable footing and good drainage.
After Gillespie, the trail took several more ups and downs, although none of them so severe, then climbed to Cape Lookoff Mountain. There was no sign, but we think this is the view from that peak (looking west).
Our next peak was to be one called Mount Horrid. How's that for a name. We already knew that we wouldn't have a view from it. The side trail to the cliffs are closed most of the summer months to protect peregrine falcon nesting habitat. But from below, at the road where we ended the day's hike, there was a turnout to view the cliffs. Here's what we were just on top of, before descending to Brandon Gap.
Mileage for the day 10.1 miles. We felt as if we'd worked hard for our dinner, but we weren't nearly as tired and beat up as we'd been that first day of this trip.
Stay tuned for how the final 20 miles worked out!
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