Day 1 – Lake Champlain to Weybridge Hill

Nature’s first green is gold….*

The Champlain Valley.

October 1, 2019

Well, the first day turned out to be quite all right. I arrived early at the rendezvous location, the Weybridge Hill Church, unloaded my bike and began packing my backpack with the necessities that I would need for the three legs of the days tour. John Derick arrived in his pickup and greeted me with a friendly salutation. Seeing the bike, he assumed that I was the one that he was to meet for shuttling me and my bike to Chimney Point, the eastern end of the Champlain Bridge, my starting point. Katherine from the Middlebury Area Land Trust recruited John to give me the ride and also joined us for a send off. She knew that John was the one to bring me up to speed with the Trails Around Middlebury and the organization’s initiative in establishing the North Country Trail in Vermont. As it turns out, he was the perfect person for me to meet on my first day. I have had the privilege to meet exceptional people who dedicate themselves to a cause or project for good and put their heart, soul, sweat and tears into it, but never before, have I met someone as exceptional as John and his work on the TAM. In the relatively short time that it took to travel in reverse direction, the route that I was to take, I learned so much about the TAM, and John’s advocacy and down to earth (literally) trail work for the North Country Trail.

The Champlain Bridge in the distance.

After a whirlwind of stories between us on first meeting, John parted as I secured my pack straps to begin my slog along Route 125 to Town Line Road. Just as John drove away, rain drops began to fall and I thought, “Ugh, here we go. This could suck.” However, the wall of rain on the radar that was threatening from the west never overcame me while traveling on my bike across the valley toward Snake Mountain. She spitted and lashed me with wind driven sprinkles of rain, just bothersome enough to remind me that I was alive. The leaves above me dashed and rattled about, stubbornly hanging on. For once, the wind was with me as I sailed along the graveled road, often careening a high speed for me. This was going well.

Straight through the valley with no traffic.

In the distance, Snake Mountain rose above the valley, capped with low hanging clouds. Today, there is not likely to be a view from the summit as there was when I was their the last. Also not likely to be many people, being a rainy Tuesday morning. Town Line Road rises slowly up to meet the base of Snake and Ts into Mountain Road. Lickety spit, I was at the trailhead in fifty-eight minutes from starting, way ahead of my goal. I chained my bike to the iron gate and ascended the wooded trail. The well worn corridor once served as a carriage road to bring visitors to the Grand View Hotel that long ago sat on top of the majestic view point looking west across the valley back to the lake and the Adirondacks beyond. Today I will pass up the summit and take the trail down to the east side trailhead on Snake Mountain Road.

The bicycle is the most efficient human powered vehicle.

During my reconnaissance a couple of weeks ago I did not descend to the east side of the mountain so this was a new experience for me. I will say that the experience was a highlight of the day. Descending the trail revealed wetland complexes and wooded sections with a yellow golden glow that permeated my brain through my hippocampus stimulating memories of past autumn hikes. This has always been an important time of year for me with many profound memories including the birth of my super bonus kid, Abigail Autumn. She is recently enrolled at the University of Vermont. Alas, I digress. This often happens on long distant tours.

Chinooker’d, the unofficial beer of the NCT Vermont.

Once on the east side trailhead on Snake Mountain Road, I changed into my running clothing. It was unusually mild outside, so running shorts and a lightweight top was all that I needed. I stashed my pack in the weeds and began the road run to pick up the Trail to Prunier Road in Weybridge. Feeling light and unfettered without the pack and gear, I had a fantastic run through the farm lanes and connecting trails around Monument Farms Dairy, finally climbing up to Weybridge Hill and back to my car. Whew!! What an awesome tour, finishing way ahead of my anticipated schedule at 12:07 pm.

Oh, what a nice run!

With time to kill, I took a leisurely drive back to the Snake Mountain Trailheads to pick up my pack and bike, cruising at a crawl with the windows down, continuing to enjoy the splendor and comfort of this warm autumn afternoon. How lucky was I to have dodged the rain. I was dry all day except for the perspiration from the exertion of the day. Arriving at the Waybury Inn around 2:00pm, hours before I anticipated, I took a bath and enjoyed a deep REM session on the comfortable bed.

Ah, the changing Sumac.

Thankfully I did so because I was able to rally and enjoy a fine meeting and conversation on the patio with David Sabatini, a board member of the Moosalamoo Association who has volunteered to give me a ride on day 4. Dave is very enthusiastic about the North Country Trail and the connection to the Long Trail through the Moosalamoo Recreation Area of the Green Mountain National Forest. This is the section of trail that I most look forward to doing along the Oak Ridge Trail and Moosalomoo Mountain Trail on Thursday. Tomorrow, Wednesday, I will be hiking the Trails Around Middlebury picking up where I left off in Weybridge today. It will be raining for sure, so I will be employing my new Patagonia rain jacket for it’s maiden hike.

A remote wetland complex on Snake Mountain.

I have discovered that Vermont has stepped up and is taking the initiative for the NCT Vermont connection and running with it. With the Middlebury Area Land Trust and the Moosalamoo Association as stewards, this will undoubtedly be a success. Knowing that John and David and those that follow have embraced the trail and already established some amazing segments that are worthy and meet the requirements for being included into the formidable network of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Lest I not forget the uniquely generous quality of Vermont landowners that provide pubic access for trails, including Peter James his family at Monument Dairy Farms.

Monument Farms Dairy.

It imbues in me a feeling of humble pride to be among the trail community of Vermont, thinking that “Yeh, we do this here.” Tomorrow I will traverse the TAM and then bike from the Middlebury Recreation Center, back to the Waybury Inn. That is an 11 mile hike/walk and a 6 mile bike ride. Rain, rain, go away. Come again, another day….

I’ll keep you posted.

*Robert Frost – from Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

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