The Green Mountain State

Last week’s trip to Vermont was long overdue. Debbie and I had been needing a Green Mountain adventure for some time. We passed through VT a few times earlier in the summer, as recently as two weeks ago, but that didn’t satisfy our “fix.” We finally got a chance to explore a bit when we headed north for the 24 Hours of Waterbury Trail Running Race and the Race to the Top of Vermont bike race.

On most trips, one of the first stops after we cross the border is the Putney Co-op. We enjoy being members and enjoy grabbing groceries and lunch when we stop and shop. This time of year, the co-op brings in many local and obscure varieties of apples that we love.

On the way to Waterbury, we took a detour to visit the town of Warren. Adam Whitney and Marilyn Ruseckas are friends from the New England cycling community who are also affiliated with Seven Cycles. The couple own and operate two businesses from their “compound” overlooking the Sugarbush ski area just off of Rt. 100. A visit has been on the to do list for a couple of years. It is a great spot. Adam runs a tree service and Marilyn operates a studio and gallery. She does beautiful paintings that are inspired by the Vermont landscape. Both of them are fabulous cyclists.

Marilyn’s power and athleticism are deceiving, but she is one of the top masters riders in the world, and has been for more than a decade. One of my best overall finishes at the Vermont 50 was at the 2001 edition when I battled with her for more than 25 miles, doggedly hanging on to her wheel every time the trail went uphill. Alas, she dropped me on a late climb and finished two spots in front of me as the first female and 20th place overall!  She is the reigning 50+ world cyclocross champion and she is a past world mountain bike champion, so hanging with her on any ride is an achievement. She went on to win Race to the Top of Vermont MTB hill climb two days after we visited Warren.

North of Warren is Waterbury where Debbie’s race was set for Saturday, but we went a little farther up Rt. 100 to Waterbury Center, to visit Ben Rose and the staff at the Green Mountain Club visitor center. We hadn’t been to the GMC headquarters in a couple of years, so we hadn’t seen the rebuilt barn. It is a fabulously green building with a recently added solar PV electric power system.

The club owns a small array located on the roof, but it only provides a modest amount of power. The club recently struck a power purchase agreement and a solar investment company located three larger ground mounted arrays with trackers. This system provides substantially more power to the club, which it will purchase from the solar power provider at comparable rates as if it was getting all of its power from the local electric power utility.

The building is heated by wood, built from local materials, and very efficient. Some work remains (the offices are in an old section), but this is a huge improvement and dramatic increase in space for the club. Ben gave us a great tour. Sadly, the club is still mourning the tragic death of Dave Blumenthal at the Tour Divide, who was one of the club’s champion volunteers. Blumenthal did much of the woodworking inside the visitors center, including an incredible hand carved wooden relief map of Vermont.

The GMC, which recently celebrated its centennial, does a wonderful job maintaining the Long Trail. Executive Director, Ben Rose, enthusiastically shared the club’s accomplishments from the past 10 years, which he tracks on a small whiteboard outside his office. There is no doubt that with this visitor center, the club is poised for another 100 years of growth.

The visitor center has a lot of new merchandise and as a model green building, is a great education destination. I pushed Ben to market it more, beginning with a new sign to attract more passing traffic from busy Rt. 100. Folks drive by and they are missing out on an awesome resource that isn’t just for hikers.

Our GMC visit was a short one and we were on the road again. We camped at Little River State Park, which was back in Waterbury. We spent two nights there, but with Debbie’s race in between, we didn’t have time to explore. It was just a place to park and sleep. We intend to go back because it was a beautiful location. Our site was in the back section, deep in the woods. The road to the park was rough, but it was worth the drive. We hear that the trail system is wonderful.

Debbie’s race was a success on Saturday. I watched our daughter and crewed for Debbie and our teammates from the Shenipsit Striders. We had a blast. After the second night at Little River, we headed north to Stowe for my race, the Race to the Top of Vermont.

Mt. Mansfield was gorgeous. We had an incredible weather day for Sunday’s epic ride. Debbie did some hiking (her legs were cooked after the 42 miles of running on Saturday) and I warmed up and did the race. After the hill climb, we hung outside the lodge with incredible mountain views all around us. The race was a fundraiser for the Catamount Trail Association, which like the GMC, does great work on the trails in VT. CTA’s focus is cross-country ski trails.

The drive home was straightforward. After two races and two nights in the VW, we were ready to return to CT, so we only made one stop. Debbie was craving a cider donut and Cold Hollow Cider Mill was a good place to visit for a post ultramarathon trail race treat. Our VT “fix” should last us a month or so, but we won’t have to wait that long. The Vermont 50 Mile Ride & Run is right around the corner.

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