Switchfoot was nearby hiking a section of the Long Trail so I was able to get out for a weekend and join him. We spotted a car at Smugglers’ Notch and drove south to the trailhead at Bolton Notch Rd. The trail followed the road for a short distance, including through a tunnel with a great pedestrian alert for cars.
Getting back into the woods, we immediately came across a climbing wall. I only saw a couple of bolts placed so it’s probably a trad crag. I’ll have to do some investigating as to the climbing available in the area since it’s not far from home.
The trail climbed steadily from the road, which is not unexpected considering we were coming up from the Winooski River in the valley. I felt so slow and out of shape but we were actually doing a very respectable 2+ MPH all day. At least, I’m happy with that speed on the Long Trail. This is a newer section of trail following a relocation to a new footbridge across the river and I thought it was great. Of course, I haven’t hiked the old section yet. There’s a shelter on it so I may hike there at some point.
As we kept climbing, the wind got heavier and the clouds got darker. I picked a poor spot for lunch and my hands got too cold so it was a quick meal. Rain threatened but held off.
I was carrying apple cider donuts for thru hikers and I found a few throughout the day. Whenever I’m just a section hiker, I’m so envious of the thru hikers and want to hear all about their treks. Some were happy to talk for a while but others were on a mission and had to move on.
There are a few views along this stretch of trail. We stopped at Harrington’s View for a minute, but it was too open there and the mist was hanging around so I rushed back into the trees before getting wet. Puffer Shelter’s view was completely obscured with clouds so we didn’t hang out there either.
We did cross a few wooded summits – Bolton Mountain at 3725′ and Mount Mayo at 3160′.
The trail was already wet, but it got soggier as we worked our way down and around a beaver pond. I had actually been to this particular beaver pond a week and a half earlier on a staff hike so I knew we were getting close to the shelter.
We got to Taylor Lodge after 13.9 miles, joining one other hiker already in the shelter. There was a piped spring another quarter mile down the Lake Mansfield Trail so I hurried to get water before dark. The pipe was barely trickling, unlike when I had previously seen it, but we were able to jostle some rocks around and get it flowing again. I filtered water and got back to camp right before I needed my headlamp.
In the morning, we decided to take a short detour on the Clara Bow Trail through Nebraska Notch, named after the actress because it’s beautiful but tough. There’s a fun cave to climb through and it’s just mossy and pretty in general.
We were soon back on the Long Trail and heading up Mount Mansfield. My legs were feeling a little sore on the second day. It wasn’t that they hurt, they just didn’t want to lift very high, which the rugged trail required with almost every step.
It was raining lightly and all the hikers coming in the opposite direction said that going over Mount Mansfield’s Forehead was sketchy and there wasn’t any view from the top any way. Since Switchfoot and I had both been on the summit before, we decided to bail at the Needle’s Eye (a surprisingly not very narrow rocky place).
From there, we took the Forehead Bypass and South Link trails, getting into Stowe Mountain Resort ski territory. We crossed the toll road and followed the Haselton Trail, which starts off on the Nosedive, a black diamond ski trail. Switchfoot let loose and ran down the trail, but I thought it was way too steep for that, and with loose rocks too. I was happy to get back into the woods, where the trail was rocky, but at least they were big enough for steps.
We finally popped out at the bottom of the gondola and walked back up the road a bit to where we had parked. It was about 8 miles for the day. As much as I’m envious of thru hikers, I was happy to get home, put on dry clothes, and eat real food.