The run begins in a wildflower meadow next to a stonewall lined dirt road in Eden. Yes, Eden is the actual name of this town in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. It is a feast of beauty, a garden of eye-candy, especially on a summer day. Sparsely populated sprawling open farm land, ridge lines of beech, yellow birch, and enormous stands of sugar maples, and mountain ranges to both the east and the west. It’s also a mecca for mountain biking, alpine and nordic skiing, hiking, really excellent beer, and trail running. So, your basic standard fare perfect Vermont playground.
Lewie watches, already panting as Camelbak straps and shoelaces are adjusted. It’s beyond hot already — humid, oppressive, sweltering, your run of the mill climate crisis Hades kind of action. In other words, a great day to knock off Catamount Trail Section 27. As our first bit of luck would have it, the trail markers lead us almost immediately toward a shady stand of birch and maples. And also voracious deer flies.
In July the pastures are fenced for cows, horses, alpacas, and goats, and since the trail is intended for winter use, I spend much of the day’s run re-figuring my route on the fly in a vain attempt to follow the CT while also respecting all those No Trespassing signs. This involves much flailing about, deerfly swatting, and map unfolding and refolding. Occasionally I get to actually run on a trail, but today those moments are rare.
A truly epic swamp crossing fail takes a chunk out of my energy stores I wasn’t counting on, leaving me drained, frustrated, and already mentally taxed. I’ve wasted half an hour only to bail out and re-find the last pre-swamp CT marker back where I started. I need to pace myself and keep my wits about me. More map gymnastics ensue.
A kind woman on the campus of Sterling College confirms where I am on my now deerfly blood-encrusted and sweaty map and helps me puzzle out an alternate route near Craftsbury Common where I’ve been retracing steps, looping, figure 8-ing, swearing (quietly so as not to draw attention), and dehydrating for awhile now. She brings Lewie a bowl of water and listens politely as I tell her about my weird quest to run the Catamount Trail from Massachusetts to Canada. Funny how sometimes when I tell people what I’m doing it sounds really cool, and other times it sounds like my sanity is debatable. Both are true, perhaps.
A hundred million detours around more fenced pastures, down paved roads, through intersections, and backyards (oops, sorry about that) and exactly no Catamount Trail later, Lewie and I sprawl under a tree near the south end of Little Hosmer Pond watching the unloading and launching of kayaks by regular people who have normal thoughts such as, Wow. I’m noticing it’s a million degrees out there. This is a good day to paddle about on some nice cool water and maybe take a swim. I look at Lewie and wonder which of us is nuttier. Me, for driving this insanity bus, or him for continuing to climb aboard.