A fun, blustery day on the Long Trail north.

Our team suffers from a certain lack of adventurousness in our training, I would say. We rollerski in approximately three places; every once in a while, we’ll venture out for a longer point-to-point, but this happens literally three or four times a year. If we need to do a long run/hike, we go to Stowe and Mount Mansfield. We do the same running workouts around the ski trails or around the lake every week.

So many times, one of us (or even two of us) have wanted to go somewhere new, but the rest of the team, tired from a long week of training already, has argued that it’s too much of a drive, too much of a hassle. I’ve been on both sides of this argument.

Every once in a while, though, we break out of the mold. Today Lauren and I decided that, goshdarnit, we were going to explore the Long Trail going over Jay Peak. It would have been easier to do with support, and with an extra car to make a point-to-point, but no matter; we were going to go anyway, even if it was just a self-supported out-and-back. We were aiming for 3 to 3 1/2 hours of running and hiking.

And so after a 7 a.m. breakfast at the Outdoor Center – French toast, bacon, yogurt with raspberries and dried fruit on top, cantaloupe, tea – we set out in the silver 4Runner, northbound.

When we arrived at the Long Trail crossing on Route 242, it had turned blustery. I was nervous that it was going to be a long, cold hike. But after only 5 minutes of jogging, we were plenty warm and shed our long-sleeve shirts. I was impressed with the trail – while there were certainly some steep, rocky sections, much of it was a nice, dirt path, and the grade was gradual enough that we were able to run in many places. As we rose higher on the mountain, we were able to look south over Green Mountains.

All of a sudden, the trail entered a giant rockpile with two snowmaking pipes on top. After scrambling over this odd collection of items, we were dumped out onto a ski trail, where we could look East towards Jay as well.

We were immediately pummeled by the wind, but we took a few pictures before putting our long-sleeves back on. I think my favorite part about the landscape was the combination of dying yellow grass and fading wooden snowfence. Many alpine ski trails (ahem Stowe, I’m looking at you) are covered in taller plants which need to be bushwhacked. These trails were just soft, billowy grass. With the gray clouds overhead, I felt like I was in northern Britain or something. Or something.

After appreciating the scenery, we crossed the trail and scrambled along the white-blazed rocks that would lead us to the summit.

The wind up here was even stronger. We felt a bit like we might blow away. Or at the very least, our hats might blow right off of our heads. At the summit, clouds seemed to be flying by and there was barely a view. We hurried down, past the summit lodge and back onto the alpine trails, and began to head down the north side of the mountain.

After the trail went back into the woods for a short period, it popped back onto the ski trail briefly, and this is where our adventure began to get strange. There were two trails heading into the woods. Neither showed any evidence of white blazes. We ventured down the ski trail a bit further, but became convinced that this was the wrong move. The first unblazed trail ended at a small pond 100 feet into the woods. The second, well, it was covered in orange tape and warning signs: ski area boundary.

Then the signs got bizarre.

Huh?

The next sign was special, too:

It’s not just the photo…. 95% of the writing had disappeared from the sign. But as best as we could tell, it said, “This is the place that if people get lost they spend the night outside. Is it worth it?”

I felt a little bit like we were in some horror movie: Long Trail Gone Wrong. To make matters worse, the white blazes were very few and extremely far between. We still weren’t completely sure if we were even on the Long Trail or some other weird side spur. But we continued on down the side of the mountain and eventually made it to a shelter, where we saw some other hikers. We knew we were in the right place.

On our way down, Lauren had really slipped on some wet rock and kind of tore up her leg. We both began to trip more. Oops, it turns out we were both really tired! How did that happen? Well, a long week of training, not quite enough sleep, and yesterday when we were supposed to have the afternoon off after a glycogen depletion workout, I had gone down to Stowe and hiked Mount Mansfield with the rowers. Was this the best idea for recovery? No, and my quads and calves were punishing me for it. But it had been a beautiful day and I had needed to fulfill my spiritual yearning for the mountains. Plus, getting out of Craftsbury, with people I don’t spend every minute of every day with, is always a bonus.

Anyway, we passed the shelter and kept running for a bit, then decided we should probably turn around and head back to the car. In our exhausted state, who knows how long it might take us?

Going back up the mountain, we saw an additional sign that really clarified what was going on with this section of trail:

Right! So all those people getting lost were in the winter! Which would explain why they were so concerned, because getting lost in the winter would be a huge bummer. All of a sudden, things made sense. I even hypothesized that maybe the trail wasn’t blazed because they didn’t want skiers trying to follow it.

Anyway, we eventually hiked back up the section of ski trail (my calves were seriously questioning my instructions at this point) and found a nice older couple to take our picture at the top. We got to enjoy the yellow grassiness one more time before jogging back down to the car, where we more or less collapsed. Neither of us wanted to move any part of our body in the near, or distant, future.

It was a great morning, no matter how tired we felt. I can’t wait to try running that same section from the north side, perhaps when I am less exhausted. In any case, we were thrilled to go somewhere new, somewhere that lived up to and even surpassed our high expectations.

Finally, I swear we didn’t try to coordinate our clothes…. we just accidentally turned out matching!

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