I barely had any time at home after the ALDHA Gathering before setting out the next morning with Yvonne to meet Nancy near Bennington for an overnight hiking trip on the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail to Glastenbury Mountain. The drive through Brattleboro and across Route 9 brought us by recently repaired damage from Hurricane Irene, as well as an array of varied foliage. The rains of the previous weeks seemed to have dulled some colors, but brightened others. Since much of the hiking in the next day would be through dense hardwood forest, I was happy to see at least some color in the leaves.
|Nancy and Yvonne, spacey and grumpy.|
It’s been over four years since I climbed up to Glastenbury Mountain on the Long Trail, which is kind of an amazing number for me. I remembered the trail so well that it couldn’t have been that long, but indeed it had. And apparently I didn’t remember the trail too well, since the hike was much more relaxing, much less steep than I’d remembered. And that was just fine. Nancy, Yvonne, and I cruised up the trail, barely breaking a sweat in the crisp, autumn air.
|No views here, but plenty to see.|
As if the easier hiking and gorgeous day weren’t enough to remind me how much I love Vermont, while I sat for a quick snack, a handful of Green Mountain Club trail crewmembers came upon us after doing some work at the Melville-Nauheim Shelter. As I saw them walk down the trail, I realized that I knew five of the six of them from my days as the Group Outreach coordinator at the Club. One had even hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, although I hadn’t seen her much on the trail. Regardless, the feeling of an unexpected meeting with old friends is hard to beat. We chatted for a while, then parted ways to continue the hike. I was so happy to have seen these folks– a few of whom I hadn’t seen in several years.
|Glastenbury Mountain fire tower lit up just before sunrise.|
The hike into the Glastenbury Wilderness continued to be easy, passing several overnight hikers coming out of the woods from their Columbus Day weekend. Luckily for us, our work schedules are all irregular, so rather than sharing the normal long weekend with hundreds of other hikers, we had a relatively quiet walk in the woods.
|Stratton Mountain and the Somerset Reservoir at sunrise.|
Goddard Shelter is one of my favorites on the Long Trail, even though I’ve never stayed there. It’s so close to the summit of Glastenbury Mountain that it would be foolish not to hike back and forth to the fire tower on the peak for sunset and sunrise, which is exactly what we did. We had the shelter to ourselves, and our one neighbor was a silent hiker camped deep in the forest near the fire tower, so it was a perfect evening. We watched the sun set in the distance, casting shadows on the large handful of summits that I recognized and could name: Greylock, Equinox, Stratton, Bromley, Snow, Harmon Hill. We also looked down on the next day’s route, the West Ridge, entirely visible from the fire tower. The mountains all around, while so much easier to hike than those in the northern half of the state, looked much more imposing than I’d remembered them. Stratton and Bromley, especially, looked like behemoths amidst the dense forests.
|Green tunnel? Sounds good to me.|
With the days growing shorter, it was a much simpler task to watch the sunset and then wake up for sunrise. 7:45 PM bedtime, 6:00 AM wake up. No problem! The views were gorgeous for sunrise, again, and then we launched into the second part of our trip. I’d never seen the West Ridge trail, but I expected a boring, uneventful walk back to the car. The map shows no features on the 8-mile trail from Goddard Shelter to Bald Mountain. Technically, this was mostly true. There were no major views, no major peaks, no terribly interesting landmarks, but the trail was very relaxing and pretty. It continued through a lush hardwood forest, with bright colors and easy grades the whole way. The autumn colors and the crunch of dead leaves underfoot could have made the dullest section of trail into a paradise, and that’s what we had all the way to Bald Mountain (which isn’t bald at all, and hasn’t been for quite some time).
|Hobblebush never looked so good.|
Ending our trip for the weekend was a two-mile roadwalk, but when taken with the other eighteen miles of loop trail it was quite alright. After all, there are very few places in Vermont where you can make any kind of backpacking loop, so a little bit of road is a worthwhile sacrifice. We were back to our cars by early afternoon, exhausted and ready for our long weekend to be over. It’s been a good long while since I’ve hiked in southern vermont, but this experience is reminding me just how much I can’t wait to get back. Next up, Stratton Mountain (although I’m not sure exactly when).