Sunday, June 17, 2012

Walking Monroe's Skyline

There are many beautiful places in Vermont, and many of them can be found on Vermont's iconic Long Trail. Sarah and I had the opportunity to see some of these beautiful places when we thru-hiked the LT in 2001.  Since hiking many other places, including  the John Muir Trail in the High Sierra and The Appalachian Trail from GA to Va and then CT to VT, we decided to settle here in Vermont to be closer to the beautiful places we found in Vermont.

One such place that has captured our imaginations is the Monroe Skyline and this is where we found ourselves one recent day. Spanning about 12 miles, the Skyline runs from Lincoln Gap (at Lincoln Gap Road) to Appalachian Gap (at Vermont-17). The Skyline is flanked by Mt. Abe and Mad River Glen as its shoulders, with Mt. Ellen, Nancy Hanks Peak, and Mt. Ira Allen between the two. Once you climb one shoulder, you stay high up on the ride for the majority of your day - a nice place to be, for sure.

With a good hiking friend to leave a car at each gap and an early start, anyone well prepared can accomplish this well-known ridge. Both Mt.Abe and Mad River Glen (to Stark's Nest) are fun hikes on their own, and you will most likely meet many great people on both mountains; but you can find the ridge all to yourself when linking this gap-to-gap hike. On this recent day, we did just that: We met some new friends at Mt. Abe, including a Long Trail thru-hiker, and then found the ridge run all to ourselves.

The first landmark when hiking north from Lincoln Gap is Battell shelter, only 1.8 miles in from Lincoln Gap Road. This is often one of our favorite weekday overnight stays on the LT, where we can pack to leave after work, hike up to Battell and spend the night, then wake early in the morning summit Abe, and descend back to home in time for work!

Often when we get to the top of Abe, when this is our destination, we look to the north and remember that wonderful ridge line: the Monroe Skyline. We are always tempted to keep going. Finally, on this recent day, more than ten years after our thru-hike, we got to keep going North! It's such a great feeling to head out with you backpack, your good shoes, and a day's worth of supplies for a long walk in the mountains.

This trip over Monroe Skyline was originally intended to be a two-day trip, with a quick hike in to spend the night at our favorite Battell shelter, followed by a day of hiking. It's a wonderful feeling to wake up in the woods and know you have a good long walk ahead of you. Alas, this two-day plan was stopped by the weather - a series of particularly strong storms, represented to us as red and purple blotches on the radar headed right for our destination Skyline. We turned around and called off the overnight portion after driving through large hail on the highway! Which was just as good: We made it to a friend's party, slept soundly in our own beds, ate a hearty breakfast, and headed out into a beautiful morning to hike! Our decision was validated when we met a thru-hiker moving south on top of Mt. Abe - he had watched last night from Stark's Nest as a monster thunder cloud seemed barreled down right on the summit. Evidence of this direct hit was littered all over the trail up to Abe in the form of leaves, small branches, and other debris strewn about. I'm sure we would have been fine; we have weathered many severe storms in the woods and mountains. Still, it is one thing to find yourself in a storm on a trip: You hunker down at camp with a good book or game and cook dinner in your vestibule. It's actually quite exciting! But to walk out directly into a storm seemed like a poor decision. And it all worked out - we still got in a great hike! Here are some pictures from our day hike along the Skyline Trail:

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