Cross Rivendell Run
37 Miles – 9:55
Vershire, VT to Mt. Cube, NH
Long Trail Runners Club
I drove up to the quintessential farmhouse in Post Mills, VT at around 7:45 AM. Michael Hall and the rest of his Burlington running club had assembled inside the home of a stranger. The man, named Andy, is the unofficial caretaker of the Cross Rivendell Trail. Runners stood around his table while he pointed out every section of the trail, with a viable description and some trouble spots. Runners marked their maps, listened hard while I took in the scene. Andy’s wife gathered firewood from their wood shed and continued her morning chores. I immediately picked up that she may not have been too comfortable with all of these strangers in her home.. and in turn, I felt uncomfortable in being there. She asked runners to move out of the way so she could retrieve her breakfast biscuits from the warm stove. And then, assumably as quickly as we all showed up… we disappeared.
We drove to the center of Post Mills where we parked our cars along the long fence bordering the towns athletic fields. A picturesque New England town.. typical Vermont, quaint, quiet… almost magical. And as light snow continued to fall we drove to Fairlee, along dirt roads with mud so deep it’d swallow your car. We fishtailed left and right, we hit bumps and potholes as we climbed ever higher. The entire way from town to the start was all up hill as Mike told us of the nice long down hill section we were to experience. Once in the lot just below Flagpole Hill, we all gathered while it snowed to beat the band. The wind whipped flakes across our face.. yes… typical New England Spring weather. It was 80 degrees just two days ago.. now it’s cold as hell and snowing. Runners were in all kinds of apparel, most with their arms crossed, crunching their bodies in and trying to stay warm.
After a group photo we headed off down the trail. Some folks were ready, others were behind. I settled into the middle behind a woman whose name I thought was Francis. She was wearing a brand new pair of trail running shoes. I assured her they wouldn’t be so new after today. I asked if she by chance washed her shoes to which she replied, “No.. but some of these folks do.. ask them.” I began to look at peoples feet to which I saw a good mix of dirty shoes and clean shoes. I thought about how I washed my shoes. After a long dirty run, I put them on the ground and sprayed them with the hose, just enough to get the mud off. But as I looked around.. I realized that some of these folks washed their shoes like they might wash their car…. or perhaps it was just in my head. It was easy to pick up on the pace and I zoomed to the head of the line with Greg and Justin. This would be our crew for the day.
Snow continued to fall along the Vermont Landscape. I was wearing my fleece lined tights, a last minute decision to bring them proved smart. My buff was in the wash at home and I was missing it as the cold wind and snow slid down my back. No gloves, Greg yelled from behind “Sherpa do you need gloves?!” I said no as I thought about it. If I had had my own, they’d all ready be off given my sweating. We bounded up and down a variety of little hills while running mostly downhill. Snow covered the landscape and began to let up. Funny, When I left home this morning it was 40 degrees and a clear blue day on the seacoast. This was misery, yet beautiful. I felt like it was the very first snow of the season. The one you don’t mind when the snow falls silently to the ground and coats the landscape to create that perfect picture of serene. Then.. we came across this little humdinger…
As the snow let up the temperatures continued to rise and with that as did the clouds. We knew it was going to be a gorgeous day, as any day outside truly is. As we ran along we came the first of many gorgeous pasture vistas.
I followed along as Greg made his way up one of the many climbs wed experience as the day went along. Having lived in Alaska, Wyoming and various other western locales, his climbing is impeccable. I followed while I watched his leg muscles flex and contract. He motored up hills like that of a man possessed. Smiling and laughing all the way, telling stories and sharing with us his love for his family.
By now we had met up with Mike 2 or 3 times, having refilled our bottles and grabbing some food. Mike is healing from a knee injury so opted to run support for us all today. About 12 miles into the run we had put about 35-40 minutes on the group of runners behind us. Greg was telling us how New England doesn’t offer the same running as out west, but the history here is enough to make him fall in love. For instance, this long rock wall, likely assembled 100 years ago by a farmer and his oxen.
And then there are the sleepy Vermont towns that bring into light the rural allure of the state. We ran through a few of these towns, along farm roads and in through pastures. Quiet towns where you assume no one is awake hell no one is even home. And if they are, they sit in a rocking chair with a book in hand, watching the minutes go by on a dreary Saturday morning.
Andy had warned us about a logged out section that would be hard for us to follow. Greg seemed worried and asked Mike questions about it’s location do which he replied, “Dude, you’re with a blood hound in a red hat, you’ll find the way no problem.” As we approached the logged section I picked my head up and saw the blue blazes through the woods. There was only one spot where I couldn’t find a blaze, so I allowed my instincts to take over, we stayed on track, never got lost and came out of it in one piece. The worst part was having to navigate all the logging slash. And then we came to a hillside which had been completely stripped. We took out the map, I oriented ourselves and told Greg and Justin the trail would be to our left and up.. We traversed the hillside and indeed found it.
We followed the trail out across two streams and along side a pasture. I stopped to take a photo when I heard a rumbling and felt the ground shake. As I looked up, I saw a herd of horses galloping across the land. It was such a powerful and beautiful moment.. that I saved for myself.
From here we climbed to the top of Bald Hill, one of the bigger climbs on the route. The sun was out now and the clouds were breaking up, turning into the beautifully clear day I had when I left home. From the top of the Hill we were awarded with magnificent views of the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Mounts Moosilaukee and Cannon were glistening with a fresh coat of snow. It was shorts weather here now, I stopped to take some of those “over-posed” pictures we had been chuckling about for a few miles.
Back in the woods as we headed down towards Lake Morey, we ran across these wind chimes in the woods. We could see no houses near by though it was obvious that these were the creations of children, out in the woods, playing (imagine that) and allowing the wind to catch their dreams.
After Lake Morey we ran through the busy little town of Fairlee. As we passed the Wippi Dip, we dared to make a bet. Lets buy the biggest ice cream they have and see who throws up first. It never happened, but I loved the idea knowing I could hold it down. It was hot on the paved roads of Fairlee, the sun finally beating down on us and all the clouds having dissipated. We crossed the Connecticut River and headed over into New Hampshire.
In New Hampshire the trail was pretty damn hard to follow. Immediately in Orford there were very few blue blazes but thankfully Greg and Mike had scoped the trail out ahead of time and knew that we needed to go behind the Rivendell Academy. From here, some well marked trail until we get dumped off on some back town roads… where the blazes disappear again and it’s your best guessing game on where to go. We managed to find our way to the top of Sunday Hill.. where we saw more magnificent views of Mount Moosilaukee.
As we wound down the miles and grew ever closer to Mount Cube and the finish, I grew ever more impressed with Justin. Before today, his longest run was 18 miles. Yet here he was today, by now far along in the pain department, sore blistered feet, trashed quads and losing his mind. I shot this photo of him running along a wooded lot with Mount Cube in the background. This was after we discovered we were 4 miles out… after we told him it was only 2. His face was priceless.
On Baker road we met up with Mike one more time. We refilled our bottles, got some food and grabbed the extra layers. It was getting cold again and we knew it would be cold up high. We have to climb 1600′ in the next 2 miles to the top of Cube and the end of the trail. Mike had done a great service to us all day, for which we are truly grateful. After hearing the tales of the Quebecers who were lost for 4 hours on the logged sections back miles and miles ago, we turned and began to climb Mount Cube.
Justin was wrecked for sure, realizing now that he was going to be late getting home. A true ultra-runner, showing his unfortunate selfish tendencies, he soldiered on determined to reach the terminus. Salt was encrusted on his face, his eyes totally blood shot, his legs sore and burnt out, his feet blistered and likely bruised.. yet he smiled joyfully as he stuffed his face with cookies.
We were in New Hampshire for sure. The closer to the Granite State we got, the more rugged the trail became. Rocks and roots covered everything and while this would normally be no big deal, today it was a little troublesome. As we grew ever more tired along the way, it was tougher to raise your feet over roots and place your feet perfectly on the rocks. For some reason, being the masochist that I am.. I loved it all.
And then there was the top, Greg and I waited for Justin to catch up so the three of us could end our run together. From up high we looked west across the landscaped we had just covered. Sunday Hill rose brilliantly from the valley floor the horizon stretched forever and we even saw the curvature of the earth beneath our feet. We saw the Long Trail, Camels Hump and Mansfield in the distance and everything in between. This truly was the perfect award for the perfect day of running. 35 miles in… we had to just descend 2 more back to the car.
Huge kudos to Justin, who sat in silence with a huge grin as he looked across the western horizon. As we shook his hand and congratulated him, he thanked us for our help. He said it with a huge smile and such relief in his voice. I loved being a part of it. From 18 miles to 37… proof once again that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.. and that Human Potential is unlimited.