What could be better than a summer day on the Catamount Trail? Other than a winter day, I’m not sure there is anything better. Last Friday we scouted Section 18 to plan several trail improvements. Section 18 is one of the more rugged sections, and our efforts to make improvements have spanned many years and many projects. This summer we are going to have another go at making this unique section of trail a more enjoyable ski.
Our day started off at the West Hill House, a great Bed & Breakfast tucked into the woods of Warren, VT. Owners Peter and Susan MacLaren have been good friends of the CTA and were willing to help shuttle us to the trailhead so we could hike back to our car. We hopped into their electric car, which had been plugged into their parking lot charging station. Peter explained that installing an EV charging station put the West Hill House within range of several major cities for folks driving a Tesla or similar electric vehicle.
Peter dropped us off at the top of Lincoln Gap, where a parking lot provides access to both the Long Trail and Catamount Trail. We took the trail less traveled and plunged into the woods. From Lincoln Gap, the Catamount Trail zigs and zags through mossy evergreen forest, just above 2,500 feet. Up high the scraggly vegetation had encroached on the trail, so we marked a number of areas to widen.
Next on the to-do list was to scout a possible re-route for a short section of trail that drops steeply to a stream crossing and then laboriously climbs back up. A previous scouting trip had laid out a possible re-route along higher ground, so we took the time to flesh out that new route, which we plan to implement later in the summer. Laying out the new route is a fun process, but there is plenty to take into consideration.
- Will it be accessible and enjoyable to a wide spectrum of skiers?
- Will it damage rare plant communities?
- Is it feasible to build/maintain with our corps of Trail Chiefs and other volunteers?
- Is it a short term patch or long term fix?
- How will it look in the winter, covered with ice and snow?
The list goes on, and we hope that the thoughtful process will lead to a trail that meets a variety of needs and preferences.
Eventually, the trail enters a hardwood-dominant patch of forest, and crosses several streams. The heavy rain in prior days was evident, as these drainages and their surroundings were saturated with water. We’ll be doing work to improve the drainage and thinning the vegetation near crossings to give skiers more options for crossing.
In other areas, like the one pictured above, the trail needs a good old fashioned haircut. Our trail work along this section will include plenty of hiking and lopping. Luckily, these areas were mostly spared from winter storm damage.
Along the way, we found this huge, hollowed out log. It was tempting to climb inside…. until I saw the spiders. As per usual, our day on the Catamount Trail included a number of other wildlife sightings, most notably several encounters with families of Ruffed Grouse. As we encountered these woodland birds, the female would explode onto the trail, vocalizing loudly and feigning a broken wing to lure us, the potential predators, away from her brood. While we were distracted by the female, the chicks would zoom away in the opposite direction. Never a dull moment on the trail!
While bushwhacking for an alternate entrance/exit skid trail, we came across this delightful swimming hole. The pool was about 5 feet deep at the deepest point, with a gorgeous mountain waterfall backdrop. Swimming holes aren’t much good for Catamount Trail skiers, but it was a welcome sight for footsore Catamount Trail hikers!
If you’d like to help us improve Section 18,
email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!