Vermont Long Trail: Section 1

This trail is an ass kicker. I loved it but I would not recommend it to everyone by a long shot. If you are used to hiking out west on beautiful clear trails with a maximum 10% grade, switchbacks and constant views and that’s what you love, this is not the trail for you. If you love hiking in the Adirondacks and in Vermont where you just walk straight up a mountain, through fallen trees and shrubbery, walking up streams, enjoying thick forest and foggy days, this is the trail for you. By the end of section 1 my mom was taking all of the pills in our first aid kit. When we started the trail I had no knee braces. When  finished the trail I was wearing one on each knee and switching them back and forth to maximize support. The Vermont Long Trail is also called the Mud Trail. When you get to a “stream crossing” and you don’t see the trail on the other side, it’s because the stream is the trail. There are entire sections of the trail that are slick rock and ladders, and there are moments where you are having to do actual rock climbing with a pack on. If you love Vermont, love a challenge, and want to work hard for your views this is the trail for you. If you want to enjoy every minute of your hike and be basked in the breathtaking grandeur of nature’s scenery as you stroll casually through the mountains, this is not the trail for you. I won’t even mention the bugs. This is not John Muir and Ed Abbey, this is the OG Badasses: Thoreau, Emerson and Frost. Especially Frost.  This is the oldest long trail in the country: A Footpath Through the Wilderness.

Section 1: 0- Southern Terminus to 86.5-Clarendon Gorge: The entire first section overlaps with the Appalachian Trail. We were fortunate to be on the trail early enough that the main bubble of AT hikers had not arrived, but there were still more people than we were used to on long trails. This is also the lowest elevation section, even on ski mountains the trail doesn’t always summit.

Trail Day 1 (June 18) : Pine Cobble Approach Trail to Seth Warner Shelter (~2 miles on Long Trail)VLT Day 1

 

Trail Day 2 (June 19): Seth Warner Shelter to Melville Neuheim Shelter (13.1 m)

VLT Day 2

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One of the pros of the rain was all of the red efts. This is what I mean by loving Vermont hiking, red efts have always been an integral part of hiking for me as someone who grew up in the Adirondacks and Vermont.
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This is the trail! I switched to hiking in tevas for the second part of the day because we were wading through water all afternoon.
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Fungus!
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I appreciate the thought behind putting stairs in but when it’s raining that rock is real slippery. This is the way down to Rt 9. That .5 miles takes about an hour on a dry day. Then you have to do the same thing going up on the other side. A lot of AT hikers we had been traveling with just got out at Rt 9 to take a 0. LT hikers didn’t.
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We were lucky to get space in the shelter. In the 8 man shelter we ended up with 9 people. (Shout out to the Swiss Family Robinson). Here is our delicious dinner: Pasta with Pesto Alfredo

Trail Day 3 (June 20): M.N. Shelter to Kid Gore Shelter (12 m)

VLT Day 3

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My brother identified this as “Spitting Gold Dragon” or, in latin Esophagus Aurum Draconis. He is incorrect. I have been informed by my father that it is in fact Clintonia Borealis.

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We were treated to our first real view of the trail at the Glastenbury Mountain Fire Tower (3748′).
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At the Goddard Shelter, where we stopped for lunch, there were at least 6 AT hikers who were all planning on going to Story Spring Shelter for the night and were also talking about a bear that had been sleeping inside the shelter. As a result we opted to stay at Kid Gore, and were very pleased with the view and the company (Swiss Family Robinson plus Bangles minus bears). We found out later that that night the bear had entered the campsite at Story Spring. A camper with an Ursack had left their food bag on the ground and another had improperly hung their food. The bear got both food bags, and did not leave when they yelled at it. It went back to the same shelter every other night for over a week. PEOPLE HANG YOUR FOOD PROPERLY ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU KNOW THERE’S BEAR ACTIVITY (see How Not to Hang a Bear Bag). Ursacks are not bear safe! Unfortunately that bear is probably no longer among the living.
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Before hanging a textbook bear bag we enjoyed a little peanut satay with a view for dinner.

Trail Day 4 (June 21): Kid Gore Shelter to Stratton Pond (14.6 m)

VLT Day 4

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Enjoyed a lovely sunrise from my sleeping bag.
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An early morning beaver pond which we enjoyed with the Swiss Family Robinson. Not pictured: knee deep mud on the trail as we hopped from rock to rock.

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Lady slippers may be the ugliest orchid in the world.IMG_7523

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The view from the Stratton Fire Tower. We didn’t go near the actual ski slopes but the view was nice.
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At Stratton Pond we opted not to stay in the shelter. It was designed for 20 people, well over our wilderness social limits, cost $5 and was really far from water. We found a tent platform on the edge of the pond, 100 feet from the spring, and enjoyed our night immensely…except for the bugs.

Trail Day 5 (June 22): Stratton Pond to Bromley Shelter (12.1 m)

VLT Day 5

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WHAT IS THIS BLAZE?

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                                                   The day of sassy signs near Prospect Rock

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Bromley Shelter was one of my favorites because of the covered section in front of the actual shelter for cooking and socializing (and drying clothes as you can see).

Trail Day 6 (June 23): Bromley Shelter to Big Branch Shelter (15.1 m)

VLT Day 6

 

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Me myself and I
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I call this one “Mother in Repose”
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All the pics above are from the summit of Bromley. We hiked up Run Around. We did a bad thing, which was sitting on the chairlifts. Everyone does it, and ignores the signs saying “Lift May Move at Any Time” but when we were at Sugarbush the chairlift started moving! We watched it go for two minutes and then stop. If we’d been on that we would’ve been trapped halfway up a ski slope. The pics are awesome and it’s great to basically have a couch on top of a mountain…but exercise caution.
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I think I was a little sweaty…I started attracting butterflies.
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#nofilter
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Every trail has a number. I think the PCT was Tr. No. 2000. Pretty cool to be on Tr. No. 1. First long trail in the country.
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Vermont is known for its wooden bridges, usually covered but this one was pretty sweet.

Trail Day 7 (June 24): Big Branch Shelter to Clarendon Gorge (15.1 m)

VLT Day 7

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This was the White Rocks area, approaching it I couldn’t figure out why “cairns” was marked on the map….until we got there. We did our part and contributed to the crazy cairns. Up to this point this was my favorite day on the trail in terms of the trail itself. It was so different and the trail was covered with springy pine needles. But my knee was becoming a problem. I’ve always had problems with my right knee (I mentioned I grew up in the Adirondacks and Vermont, Lyme Disease is part of the package) but I could barely walk on my left leg. I realized later that a piece of the heel of my left sneaker had come off and it was changing my stride. It’s the only thing I can think of that made my left knee go first.IMG_7593IMG_7596IMG_7598IMG_7607

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I felt like Alice in Wonderland. While cool, these are invasive.

The plan was that when we got to Clarendon Gorge my aunt would meet us there and resupply. My mom had been having issues with both knees all week (likely caused by her hiking boots, more on that later), and by the time we got to the parking lot I literally couldn’t walk. The entire way down the trail to the gorge I was using my poles as crutches and not bending my left knee at all. My aunt didn’t hesitate, after handing us each a beer (which went great with the ibuprofen I had just popped) and giving our hiking buddy Half Blind a seltzer she took us to her house for some R&R and much needed new shoes for both of us.

3 thoughts on “Vermont Long Trail: Section 1

    1. I actually started mid June (the 18th). Definitely on the early end which was nice in terms of less traffic on the AT, cooler weather and fewer bugs (which is why we picked that start date) but it was definitely the height of rainy weather.

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