Nature had gone beautifully awry as I hiked a stretch of the Long Trail through southern Vermont. The mountains named for their saturation of a single hue-green-weren't that color at all. Green Mountain National Forest had exploded into flaming shades of red, orange, and yellow. It was the peak of fall foliage season, and the kaleidoscopic splendor was all that I'd hoped for.
Atop 3,936-foot Stratton Mountain, I climbed the observation tower and lingered over a 360-degree autumn panorama that took in Somerset Reservoir and Mt. Greylock to the south, the Taconic Range to the west, Mt. Ascutney to the northeast, and Mt. Monadnock to the southeast. The leg of the Long Trail I was traveling, from Arlington-West Wardsboro Road to VT 11/30, is a 16-mile hike (one way) that, aside from a few panoramic vistas, is entirely in the woods. At the height of the fall foliage season, it feels like you're walking across a painter's palette. But enjoy the autumn colors while you can-they disappear all too quickly, and the Green Mountains recover their namesake hue in spring.
To hike south to north, leave one vehicle in the parking lot on VT 11/30, 6 miles east of Manchester Center. Then drive to the parking area on Arlington-West Wardsboro Road, 13.3 miles east of VT 7 in Arlington.
September to early October.
Map and Guide to the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire/Vermont (Appalachian Trail Conference, 304-535-6331; www.atconf.org; $16.95).
Green Mountain National Forest Supervisor, (802) 747-6700. Green Mountain Club, (802) 244-7037.