2019 Long Trail Adventure

Debbie and I returned to Vermont this weekend for one of our one-day running/cycling adventures. We covered 31 point-to-point miles on the Long Trail (LT) and Stratton Pond Trail from Woodford to Manchester Center. That was followed by a 31-mile bike ride on the paved and gravel roads along the Battenkill River back to Woodford.

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We like to do one or two of these multi-sport epics each year. Two weeks ago, we did a “warmup” on the the New England Trail (NET). That trip was a nice lead-in to the Green Mountain run/bike that we did on Saturday. Two years ago, we did a northern Vermont version of this trip that tested our limits. This time, the goal was to get in a sizable workout without destroying ourselves.

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Two weekends ago Debbie’s parents took the kids for a few days so that we could do the NET trip.  This weekend, my parents pitched in to look after them. We are fortunate to get the support from all four grandparents. Despite a long work week, I was feeling pretty good on Friday night, so we seized the opportunity to drive to Vermont. The original plan was to get up early and drive on Saturday morning, but since I was OK, we packed and headed out around 8:00 P.M. We made it to the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail trailhead on Rt. 9 in Woodford around 11:00 P.M. We parked our van, popped the top, and spent the night.

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We got up early on Saturday and drove to Old Rootville Road in Manchester Center. Debbie laid out some trip ideas earlier in the week and we settled on this route over dinner on Friday. The route had a couple of options, including a fortuitous “bail out” that ended up taking. We locked our Seven Cycles Evergreen XX bikes to a tree about 50 feet into the woods at the Old Rootville trailhead parking lot. We also stashed our helmets, and cycling. Then, we drove back to the trailhead in Woodford, and parked the van. We changed into our running gear, and were on the trail a few minutes before 8:00 A.M.

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We headed north on the LT. The first challenge was the long 10-mile climb to the summit of Glastenbury Mountain and took just over three hours. We were last up there in 2016 when we ran the Glastenbury Mountain/West Ride Loop, and then followed that run with some cycling in The Berkshires. We were also on Glastenbury in 2015 when we took the kids on the LT to celebrate our 2005 End-to-End hike. We had a gorgeous day for this adventure and by the time we reached the summit around 11:00 A.M., the fog had burned off and the sun was shining brightly.

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It had been 14 years since we had seen the back side of Glastenbury and our memories had faded. If we had remembered how rocky, rooty, muddy, and treacherous it was; then we might not have programmed such a long run. It was slow going all the way down. There was no smooth trail and it was covered in post-winter debris including branches and blowdown (trees). Weeks of rain had softened the treadway and made it quite slippery. We pushed on past the Kid Gore Shelter and Story Spring Shelter until we reached the Somerset Road crossing. At this junction, we reassessed the original plan, which would keep us on the Long Trail as it tracked northeast over the summits of Little Stratton Mountain and Stratton Mountain. This would have added about 2,000 feet of vertical gain and our total distance would have been around 36 miles.

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We gauged our “legs,” estimated the time it would take, and decided that a more direct route due north on the Stratton Pond Trail would make more sense. The plan chopped off four or five miles and reduced the elevation change significantly. We were making good time, but like two years ago, we didn’t want to ride back in the dark. The decision turned out to be a sensible one. Despite a lot of mud, and hundreds of bog bridges, the Stratton Pond Trail was very “runable.” The four mile stretch of trail from the Somerset Road junction to Stratton Pond was fast, and it got our legs moving again before returning to the Long Trail for six miles.

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The section of LT through the Lye Brook Wilderness brought back some good memories. I told Debbie that I remembered that section as we approached Prospect Rock in 2005. Back then, we spent the night at Stratton Pond Shelter and the mosquitoes were intense. They were so bad, that we got up around 3:00 A.M., packed up, and started hiking. The shelter was sweltering hot and infested. When dawn broke, it was evident that Debbie got the worst of it. Despite using bug headnets, her eyes were nearly swollen shut from all the bites. It was horrible. We figured that since we couldn’t sleep, we should just get up and start walking. Thankfully, this year, it was just gnats that bothered us in the damp Lye Brook area. They were a nuisance, but we could swat them away.

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Another thing I remembered was a wagon wheel that said, “LT North” on it. When we spotted the wheel, I was thrilled that I had remembered this section of our trip. The wagon wheel also signaled that we weren’t far from our destination, Prospect Rock, which at 2,060 feet, offered a nice view of Manchester Center to the west. Once we got there, it was all downhill (for two miles) on the rough/dirt Old Rootville Road. By this point, my legs were pretty hammered and my back was stiff too. I was ready to ride.

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We got to our bikes around 5:30 P.M. after 9.5 hours on the LT. We swapped our shoes and got moving. It rained a bit during the last few hours of our run, and the roads were wet when we started our ride.  The route we took back to Woodford followed the Battenkill River through Sunderland, Arlington, Shaftsbury, and Bennington. We were on some awesome roads. The climb up Maple Hill Road/East Road in Shaftsbury was the hardest part of the route. It was gravel most of the way. Debbie rode well. Her new Evergreen XX is awesome. She is much more confident as the team at Seven Cycles made it custom for her. Her ENVE G27 650B wheels are mated to Donnelly 42 cm tires and they are plush. She loves the bike.

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In Bennington, we rode past the Wicked Creepy Cross course, which is one of my favorites. It just started to get dark as we made our way on to Rt. 9 for the last big climb back to our van. I let Debbie sit in my draft as we pressed on after more than 12 hours of motion. We were hungry and tired, but who would blame us for feeling that way? It felt great to climb off of our bikes. We washed off in City Stream and packed up the gear. We decided to stay put rather than driving. We were both tired and figured we would eat everything we had left in the van, which consisted of powdered Vega, raisins, and a bag of tortilla chips. It was 9:00 P.M. and it didn’t make sense to do anything other than sleep. We popped the top of the van, and read a bit. The sleep was pretty good despite the Rt. 9 traffic. We could hear the stream and that helped. Overnight, it rained heavily.

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We got up shortly after 5:00 A.M. on Sunday when the sun rose, and we left Woodford around 5:30 A.M. We took our time, stopping at a few scenic spots on Rt. 9. It was a lovely morning. We made our way to Northampton and were there by 7:30 A.M. We fueled the van, and then parked in our usual spot downtown. We changed up and went for a one hour out and back ride on the Norwottuck Rail Trail. On the return, we picked up bread and goodies at Hungry Ghost Bread, which opened at 9:00 A.M. We changed up, and walked to Nourish, where we had a fantastic breakfast. I made up for not having eaten much in the previous 24 hours.

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We were back on the road by 10:30 A.M. and made it to Old Lyme, Connecticut by noon, where we reconnected with our kids to start the second half of Memorial Day Weekend. The second half of the weekend was just as fun as the first, but noticeably less muddy and I had all the food I wanted. Debbie and I have had some great trips and we are always looking forward to the next adventure. We both recognize that we are fortunate that we have each other as partners.

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