Total Miles: 138.1
Gap. Saddle. Pass. Col. Notch. Call them what you will, but the reality is the same regardless. Reaching one typically heralds a road crossing and the end of a descent but it’s the climb back up waiting on the other side that usually catches your attention. Beginning today, those gaps will start coming faster and more furiously as the trail edges into the higher peaks of Vermont.
Very little about hiking in the Northeast is subtle. Directness of the route is prized more than almost any other quality, trail erosion and sustainability be damned. Not surprisingly then, at almost no time is the Long Trail actually flat. Instead, it is constantly rising and falling, whether it be tens, hundreds, or thousands of feet. Just like lungs that are never static, always exhaling or inhaling, or the inevitability of ocean waves crashing against the shore, so too is the dynamic inevitability of the Long Trail’s rugged ups and downs.
I have this fascination with seasonality, and in particular, with seeing things outside of the season in which they come to life. High on that list is experiencing ski areas without their usual winter garb. The last time I’d had the opportunity was traversing the entirety of Monarch Pass ski area while hiking the Continental Divide Trail last year.
Today, we emerged from the forest to arrive at the top of a chairlift at the Middlebury Snow Bowl ski area. Chairs hung as if frozen in time, ornaments of steel dangling in mid-air. Divorced from the cold and snow, they seem out of place, like seeing a jack-o-lantern in the spring. The magic of its usual time and place lost, they seem all but forgotten until their seasonal cue to step out of the wings and back onto center stage. Seeing the lifts and trails in their cyclical state of neglect made me wonder how many other things in life suffer the same fate, escaping our attention until we have a need or desire to focus our gaze upon them again.
Down among the trails we went before reaching our next gap—Middlebury Gap—and the inevitable ascent that lie waiting across two lanes of blacktop. With shirts soaked through with sweat, thanks to evaporation that stood no chance against the torrid humidity of a Northeast summer, up we went to our final destination for the day. Dangling our feet from the front of Boyce shelter, we decided to stay in the shelter rather than a tent for the first time on this hike. Minutes later, as the skies opened to unleash an unexpected tantrum of pelting rain, the decision suddenly felt like just the right one.