Glastenbury/West Ridge Loop & Berkshire Hills Cycling

Last July, when Debbie and I took our kids on a backpacking trip around the Glastenbury/West Ridge Loop, we remarked that this would be a great loop to run and that the two of us should return. The 22 mile loop is made of about 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail, 10 miles of the West Ridge Trail, a mile of dirt road, and a mile of paved Rt. 9 back to the trailhead. We returned to Vermont this weekend to tackle the challenge.

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So, with our kids safely at their grandparents house, we got out for a date/mini training camp that started yesterday afternoon and continued today. It’s truly amazing how much physical activity you can fit in when your kids aren’t around. Saturday, I rode to work on my bike early in the morning, drove home after lunch, packed, and then drove two hours with Debbie to Monroe, Massachusetts in the Berkshires. We parked at the picnic area on Rt. 2 where the Deerfield River crosses under the road.

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We did a 22 mile loop up Zoar Road to River Road past Dunbar Brook until we reached Monroe Bridge. We crossed the Deerfield and then rode the incredibly steep Monroe Hill Road climb until we reached Tunnel Road. We took the unpaved road to Steele Brook Road and then back on to pavement on Rowe Road, and then back to Zoar Road. It was a fantastic loop. The dirt sections were even steeper than the paved sections and we had a hairy descent on Steele Brook Road, where things were made even more interesting by the presence of a porcupine in the road.

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Monroe Hill Road is reportedly the 2nd steepest paved climb in New England. I would imagine that the first is the Mt. Washington Auto Road. I waited for Debbie on the climb, so I’m anxious to return with the optimal bicycle and fresh legs. I want to hit it hard the next time I ride in Monroe. It was a blast. The only drawback was waiting for Debbie at the crest of the hill with flies swirling around my head. I love riding with her. After the loop, we backtracked to Shelburne Falls for dinner at Healthy Eats, one of our favorite restaurants. After dinner, we made the hour-long drive to Woodford, Vermont. We parked at the trailhead on Rt. 9 and spent the night in our Volkswagen Eurovan, which was very convenient. The sound of City Stream was lovely. It was a mere 50 meters from the van. Nothing beats the sound of running water when you sleep and then wake.

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We got on the trail shortly after 7:00 A.M. The AT/LT climbs steadily to Goddard Shelter, just below the crest of Glastenbury Mountain, so we did a lot of hiking in the first few hours. We ran when we could, but it was mostly uphill. It started raining as soon as we got on the trail and drizzled all day. We had to wear jackets, hats, and gloves. The higher elevation temperature near the summit of Glastenbury at 3,748 feet was chilly. We stopped briefly at the shelter after 2 hours and 48 minutes before taking the fork on to the West Ridge Trail. We knew that the last 12 miles would be much quicker, and they were. We covered the remaining distance in 2 hours and 40 minutes, running the last few miles on the dirt road/road in under 20 minutes. The West Ridge Trail doesn’t see much traffic at all and it was amazing to see how the arrival of spring was already over growing the trail.

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Despite being up and down with a few decent climbs, including the one up 2,857 foot Bald Mountain, we were able to run a lot of the West Ridge. We had so much fun. Both of us used our UltrAspire packs. I used the Alpha and Debbie used the Titan. We both used our lightweight hiking poles, and they came in handy on the uphill’s. It’s amazing that we covered this distance in 5 hours and 28 minutes. Last year, with the kids, it took us about 17 hours of hiking including all of the breaks. That was spread out over an evening and two full days. We had just as much fun that weekend. For this time around the loop, we pushed it, but not too hard. Debbie has a big race next Saturday at the Wapack and Back on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border in the Monadnock region. We were last on the Wapack Trail in 2014, so more fun to come as May progresses!

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When we got back to the trailhead on Rt. 9, we were surprised to see our friends, Ernie, Nancy, Kerri, and Ben. They had just finished driving back with their second vehicle after hiking the AT/LT north. They have been section hiking the AT throughout New England. It was great to see them and a total coincidence. If we hadn’t run the last two dirt/paved road miles in less than 20 minutes, we wouldn’t have seen them at all. It was a fun reunion.

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This weekend ended with another trip to Healthy Eats, as we worked our way back to Connecticut with another stop in Shelburne Falls. We figured, what the heck. When you find a place you like that makes great food, it doesn’t matter how often you dine there.

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