I was finally in my home territory, though I hadn’t been to this area in almost two years. I remembered the Beaver Meadow trail vividly, and drove straight to the trail head with no difficulty. This was going to be good. Of course, I’d forgotten the details of the trail itself. With the humidity threatening to drown me as I left my car, I beat feet to the trail. The first part of it, like so many of the side trails to the Long Trail, was an old logging road, but this one seems to get more use as a cross-country skiing trail than as a summer hiking trail. Much of it was completely swamped, which made progress unpleasant for the first few miles.
Once off the woods road section of the trail, the Beaver Meadow loop trail is still remarkably muddy, which is a shame because there was some phenomenal rock work on the southern side of that trail. Some trail crew had obviously spent a lot of time putting in a ton of stepping stones, much like my trail crew had done near Stratton Pond. Alas, this trail was still quite a mess. Maybe I was just there at the wrong time.
I made my way around the Beaver Meadow Lodge, and then up the Chilcoot Trail, a tremendously steep route up to the ridge, made no easier by the moisture in the air. I powered up the trail, then turned onto the Long Trail for the loop with the Whiteface Trail. I had to stop after a short while, though, pouring sweat and feeling like I was on fire. The view from Hagerman’s Overlook, however, was an even better reason for a break.
Continuing along, I made my way to the Whiteface Trail, then back down to the Beaver Meadow, and back to my car. I had envisioned a solid day of hiking with lots of driving in between quick hikes, but the first leg of the day had taken much longer than expected. I downed more Gatorade and a few Larabars, then started the long drive to the far north.
What seemed like a long time later, I found the trail head for the Forester’s Path up Mount Belvidere. By this point I was almost in Canada, only thirty short trail miles and slightly fewer bird-miles to the border. Belvidere is a glorious mountain, even if it’s less than 3400 feet high. Since nothing nearby is even close to that height (only Jay Peak, about twenty miles north and five hundred feet higher, commands the same amount of space on the horizon), the mountain stands alone and is easily visible from several towns to the south. It’s a long way to get to Belvidere, but it’s well worth the trip.
When I arrived, the trail head parking was blocked by logging equipment, but luckily a local who lived on the road to the trail was mowing his lawn and offered to let me park on the side of his property. Fair enough. I got on the trail and started up the mountain, trying to ignore the humidity. By this point I was used to being completely drenched and slick within minutes of starting to hike. I had switched from my Railriders Bone Flats pants to a pair of soccer shorts a few days earlier, but even with the extra ventilation in those pants, nothing can keep you cool on a day like this.
I got to the summit much faster than I’d anticipated, then wasted the time gained sitting atop the fire tower. Wasted is definitely the wrong word. The views from the mountain, even without the fire tower, are pretty fantastic. With the fifty-foot tower, they quickly became my favorite views in all of Vermont. I’ll have to go back there a few times to make sure, but I’m pretty certain that the three-sixty panorama from the top of that mountain is about as good as it gets in the state. I was in heaven. The breeze atop the tower didn’t hurt, either.
After a while, I realized how much time I’d spent there, and had to get moving. I took the Long Trail north to Tillotson Camp, then the Frank Post Trail back down to my car. On the way down, I startled a moose that was using the trail ahead of me. I never saw him, but judging by the thudding he must have been pretty huge. I followed his fresh hoof prints down the trail for quite a ways, feeling slightly nervous just because of the size of the beast. I love moose, and think they’re a goofy, gentle kind of creature most of the time, but anything that big in the wild should be given a wide girth as far as I’m concerned. After a quarter mile or so, the tracks left the trail and I warily scooted back to the bottom of the trail.
From Belvidere, I made a relatively short drive to Eden Crossing, a very short distance as the crow flies, but many miles by car. I had to do the Babcock Trail, which was a short loop with the Long Trail, but once I parked (after missing the parking area twice), I got a very uneasy feeling about the area. The trail head just didn’t seem like a nice place to be for very long, so I hurried around the loop as quickly as I could, then got back in my car to hit the next trail. There’s not much to say about the Babcock Trail, at least. I wasn’t all that excited by it. Nothing special, nothing bad. Just a walk in the woods.
By this time it was getting pretty late. My next destination was the Davis Neighborhood Path, which went only a mile and a half to a shelter where I planned to stay the night. I was getting tired, anyway, and it took me a while to make my way to Johnson, where the trail started. I drove by the trail, but found there was no parking (though the guidebook says there is), and the area gave me an even worse feeling than the Babcock Trail parking. I decided to skip this trail for now and find some other place to stay for the night.
By this time it was almost 7:30, and I wanted to get to a shelter before dark. Not many options. I’d heard Roundtop Shelter was a nice place, and it was only a mile from a nearby road, so I crossed my fingers and hoped there would be no locals partying there and trashing the place, drove to the trail, and hurried up to the shelter. This turned out to be a good idea.
The Roundtop Shelter was a fine shelter with a good water source and a wonderful sunset view. As I had grown accustomed to, it was just me in the shelter, so I spread out, took up way too much space, and had a relaxed evening meal. Another brutally hot day, over twenty-two miles of hiking, seventy miles of driving, and a late night. I was getting tired of this, but luckily there were only a few days left. The next day– Mansfield!