Monday, October 17, 2011

#72 Stratton Mountain, Vermont via Appalachian and Long Trail

New England Hundred Highest #72, Stratton Mountain Vermont via Appalachian and Long Trail October 16, 2011. 

Distance: 7.4 miles RT
Elevation gain:  about 1900 feet
Time: 4 hours

Location of trailhead: 1376 Stratton Arlington Rd, Stratton, VT

Lessons learned:  1. If you have ankle gators, wear them.  2. Always check to see if its hunting season before going out on a fall hike.

Autumn in Vermont!  This weekend we decided to head to Vermont which if you live in Stratham New Hampshire, is at least a two and a half hour drive (one way).  I looked at the NE 100 Highest List and picked the Vermont peak that would require the shortest driving time. 

This was to be my last peak bagging of the season. I'll admit it was more than travel distance that led me to choose Stratton Mountain.  With the days shorter and cooler, I looked for a hike that required less time than our usual 8 hiking hours.  And, I was looking for maximum enjoyment with minimal effort; the fall weather has made me lazy!

The trail we took is both the Appalachian trail and the Long trail.  Stratton Mountain played a significant part in the creation of the Appalachian and Long trails.  The website recalls, "James P. Taylor was lodged in a forester’s tent along the slopes of Stratton Mountain when he began to envision a trail linking the summits of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Benton MacKaye climbed a tree at the summit of Stratton, “felt as it atop the world, with a sort of planetary feeling”  and began planning a footpath that would preserve the Appalachian peaks, Keeping them forever accessible to hikers and outdoor enthusiasts." 

Still feeling lazy, we slept in and got a late start.  By 10 a.m. we had crossed into Vermont and were headed up Route 9 West.  About five miles beyond West Brattleboro we started to see the damage Hurricane Irene bestowed upon the area - and the repairs: washed out roads, new bridges, recently installed rock walls and banks on the river.  Our car's GPS tried to send us on a shortcut but that road was closed.  Many side roads were closed as well, or just recently reopened.  Routes 9 and 100 although wartorn, were clear. As we turned left onto Stratton Arlington Road however, we noticed the sign that indicated the road no longer went all the way to Arlington.   We wondered exactly where the road closure was and whether or not we could drive all the way to the trailhead.  We could as we soon found out.

We drove by a group of hunters headed down a dirt road. Hunting season?  I thought it was too early and we didn't bring any orange clothing.  I looked down at my shirt - bright red. It will have to do.

About 6.8 miles after turning off Route 100 we parked in the well marked Stratton Mountain AT/LT parking lot on the right.  It was 11:00 a.m. when we started our hike. 

The trail was magnificent, a dream trail for the mellow hiker: clear with gradual rise.  The first half mile, however, was plagued with wide mud puddles which slowed us down a bit.  Fortunately most hikers were hopping over them, rather than hiking on the vegetation. 

Path is wide and easy to follow with bog bridges like this one over the stream leading out of the beaver pond.
The trail books indicate remnants of a farm: a rock wall and orchard -  on this path.  I found the wall but could not find the orchard.  Leaves were orange and yellow, many on the ground.  After about 30 min we came upon a dirt road, probably the road the hunters were heading up when we drove by. 

The trail crosses this road, well marked.
After crossing the road, the pitch of the trail rose more consistently but was never steep. I kept thinking, "1900' elevation gain? There must be a steep coming up somewhere!"  It never did.  The muddy areas disappeared and we spent a good mile in forest with no view or distinguishing geography, just trail and trees. 

The day was clear and cool and quite windy.  My new boots got leaves and stems and other odd debri in them and I had to stop twice to clean them out.  I started thinking about my ankle gators, which I had noticed as I was walking out the door that morning.  I deliberately left them behind, too lazy to bring them and have to put them on.

There is an overlook on this hike, a narrow short path that allows for a southwesterly view of the reservoir- very beautiful.  This would have been a good place to stop and rest, if we had to stop and rest but at this point we still had not broken our usual hiking sweat! But we took a few photos before headed out toward the summit.

We did stop for lunch on the trail but not here, though this spot would have been perfect.
We passed a spring with a sign indicating the water had not been tested. Further up the trail without fanfare, we arrived at the wooded summit.

The summit was sunny and windy, so windy that I could only walk halfway up the fire tower. 

Above the trees are beautiful views of Mt. Equinox and the reservoir.  After climbing back down, we thumbed through the register and found a southbound AT thru-hiker had signed in five days before. 

The wind was whipping up there so we took a few photos and headed back down the trail.
The register.

Sunny windy day on an easy trail.

Sunny windy day on an easy trail.

Since much of the trail is flat or easy grade and well maintained, we made excellent time down to the car, reaching it at 3:15. 

We changed out of our boots and headed back to Brattleboro to find some hot mulled cider.   We bought the cider, cider donuts and maple cream and headed for home.  We were back by 6:00 p.m.

This was so much fun I think we will saving hiking the Vermont peaks for autumn.  Wearing orange of course!

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