Enjoy autumn’s reds, oranges, and golds amid two deep-forest ponds on this two-night, 22-mile loop in southern Vermont. From the gate on Old Rootville Road (1), climb 1,000 feet in 1.5 miles up the dirt road toward Prospect Rock (2) and take the 150-foot spur for a western view of 3,850-foot Mt. Equinox. Continue up the road (now the Appalachian Trail/Long Trail) to a bridge over a tributary of Bourn Brook, and leave the AT by turning sharply right (south) onto the Branch Pond Trail (3). At mile 2.8, reach Douglas Shelter (4). Crash here if you got a late start, or continue south another 2.9 miles through moose-crossed bogs (look for hand-size hoofprints) to 48-acre Bourn Pond (5). Head south along the western shore to join the Lye Brook Trail (6) and turn east. At 7.5 miles, reach an area flattened by a microburst (“See This,” next page) (7). The jumble of fallen trees and tricky water crossings—some are impassable after spring runoff—make for slow progress to Stratton Pond (8), which emerges beyond the storm wreckage. Bear left onto the North Shore Trail (9) and camp .2 mile later in the tent site; listen for loon calls and look for brook trout snapping at bugs atop the water.
Next day, leave your stuff in camp, pick up the southbound AT/LT at the southeast corner of the pond, and truck 3.3 miles to the fire tower atop 3,875-foot Stratton Mountain (10). The four-state view includes the Green Mountains to the north, the White Mountains to the northeast, the Berkshires in the south, and the Adirondacks to the west. Inspired? You’re not the only one (“Locals Know,” next page). Retrace your steps back to Stratton Pond (11) for the second night.
On your final morning, follow the AT/LT north into upland forest. At mile 17, take a footbridge over the Winhall River (12), which is skinny and more mossy rock than water in the fall. After one last view from Prospect Rock 3.6 miles later, descend Old Rootville Road to your car.
Get there From the ranger station in Manchester, go .6 mile west on VT 30/11. Bear left at the fork, then left on Old Rootville Rd. Park at the gate.
Permits $6/night per person paid to the Green Mountain Club caretaker at the Stratton Pond sites.
Gear up Eastern Mountain Sports, 263 Depot Street, Manchester, VT; (802) 366-8082; ems.com
Map Vermont’s Long Trail Waterproof Hiking Map 4th Edition ($10, greenmountainclub.org)
Key Skill : Cooking with Fire
Campfires are legal in designated fire pits at tent sites and shelters along the Appalachian and Long Trails. Leave the stove at home and perfect your campfire chef skills with this basic primer on three essential cooking methods.
Rock platform Gather a few flat rocks and, in the fire pit, build two six-inch-tall towers separated by a four-inch channel. Make sure the pot sits on the platform without wobbling. Build the fire and push coals into the channel; keep flames low to prevent scorching. Best for: Stews, soups, and pasta dishes.
Dutch oven Place the pot on a three-inch-thick bed of coals, and use a rock or stout slab of bark to shovel hot coals on top of its lid. Rake coals up along the edges of the pot for higher heat. Best for: baking biscuits, cinnamon rolls, and pot pies.
Foil pouch Coat a 12-by-12-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil with a few drops of oil or butter (to prevent sticking). Place your food directly in the center of the foil square. Wrap the foil loosely around your dinner, but ensure it’s sealed (to trap steam and prevent leaks). Place the pouch on the edge of the coals and turn it at least once. Best for: steaming veggies, meat-and-veggie meals, delicate fish, and recipes that require little or no liquid.
See This: The Effects of a Microburst
These intense downdrafts, with winds that top 100 mph, last only minutes, but that’s all it takes to turn 2.5 square miles of forest into a giant pile of pick-up sticks. In 2006, a microburst leveled the trees on a short section of the Lye Brook Trail between Bourn Pond and Stratton Pond. The destruction also breeds rejuvenation: Wild raspberries (ripe in July) and other early succession shrubs took root within a year. The weather phenomenon occurs year-round, but is rare in winter.
In the early 20th century, two men separately summited Stratton Mountain and saw the future of long-distance trails. In 1909, five years before the now-famous fire tower was erected, James P. Taylor envisioned a “long trail” that would link the peaks of Vermont’s Green Mountains, from the Massachusetts border to the Canadian border. Twelve years later, Benton MacKaye gazed out from Stratton and hatched a plan to establish a path along the entire length of the Appalachian Mountains, from Georgia to Maine. Taylor, an instructor at Vermont Academy, organized a crew of 23, and dubbed the trail builders the Green Mountain Club. The final section of the Long Trail (at the Canadian border) was completed in 1930. The Appalachian Trail’s completion was not so precisely documented. But, in 1948, Earl Shaffer—a self-employed antiques purveyor from York, Pennsylvania—became the first person to thru-hike the entire AT. He traveled northbound and completed the trek in 124 days.
On The Menu
On the road
Lunches 1 & 2
Cheese bagel, trail mix, apple
Stratton Steak and ’Taters
Breakfasts 2 & 3
Oatmeal with blueberries
Noodle bowl, granola bar, and Colby Jack cheese
Stratton Steak and ’Taters
Eat like a mountain man.
1 pound boneless rib steak, -inch thick, packed frozen
2 tablespoons steak sauce (optional)
2 carrots, thickly sliced
2 potatoes, cubed
Prepare a foil pouch for the potatoes and carrots (see Key Skill) and place on coals; cook for an hour, turning once. Meanwhile, cut steak into bite-size chunks, drizzle with steak sauce, and seal in foil. Cook for about 10 minutes, depending on heat. Serves two.
A veggie and pasta medley
1 6-ounce pouch tuna
8 ounces spinach and cheese tortellini
1/2 cup broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup cauliflower, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
Boil tortellini for five minutes. Add the broccoli and cauliflower and simmer another five minutes. Meanwhile, split the butter and the tuna between two bowls. Drain the noodles/veggies, divide, and stir. Serves two.
The Grocery List (Aisle # in Nearest Store Below)
[ ] broccoli (produce)
[ ] cauliflower (produce)
[ ] blueberries (produce)
[ ] carrots (produce)
[ ] apples (produce)
[ ] potatoes (produce)
[ ] steak (back)
[ ] cheese bagels (back)
[ ] tuna pouch (2)
[ ] spinach and cheese tortellini (3)
[ ] noodle bowl (3)
[ ] maple candy (8)
[ ] oatmeal (8)
[ ] granola bar (14)
[ ] Colby Jack cheese (15)
[ ] trail mix (15)
PackSteak sauce, butter
Order a glass of wine and the duck with peppercorn sauce at Bistro Henry, or get BBQ anything on “Slo Smoke Sunday.” 1942 Depot St., Manchester Center, VT; (802) 362-4982; bistrohenry.com
NEAREST GROCERY STORE
64 Equinox Terrace, Manchester, VT