Dorset (3770') and Stratton (3940') for 87/88 of NE 100

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Feb 28, 2012
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New Boston, NH
- Tower Road trailhead, logging road to old fire tower herd path
- Separate herd path down to logging road further up
- Herd path to Dorset summit
- Back down via herd path and logging roads
- Total: 6.6mi, 2300' gain
- GPS track / photos:

- AT North, from Stratton-Arlington Road, to the summit and back
- Total: 6.9mi, 1765' gain
- GPS track / photos:

This is a good pair to do in one day. You could throw Equinox in there as a bonus, but it would be a long day. These two are short and sweet, and separated by a 50-minute drive -- enough to stretch and rest the legs, and fit in a lunch if you wanted to.

I'd done Equinox the day before, had a nice meal in Manchester, VT, then drove to the Dorset trailhead to hopefully spend the night, car-camp style. I drove to the top of Tower Road (in Dorset, VT) where the trail supposedly starts. It was dark, though, so I couldn't quite make out the grassy parking area others had described. I drove up a logging road from Tower Road a short ways (maybe .25 mile), then came upon a clearing where some logging had been done. I decided to park here - no one around, and it seemed fine.

This is one of the things I've really enjoyed about hitting the NE 100 peaks: the ability to check out new areas of New England I've never been to, and be a nomad of sorts. I've car-camped more than a few times, and actually enjoy it. It's not the most comfortable bed, but it's neat to set up at a dark trailhead or clearing. I couldn't look up into a bright, moonlit starry sky this time due to cloud cover, but the feel was all there.

I headed up the logging road, which travels along a stream bed that still shows real signs of Irene damage from years earlier. In a couple places, it crossed paths with the logging road; the power of water in these cases is awesome.

I soon came to a decrepit, fallen cabin, which must have been quite the place when it was standing tall. A small animal skull still kept watch over the doorway -- or what was left of it, anyway.

The logging road goes quite a way, until it reaches a T junction, where I turned right to continue along what seemed like another former logging/access road. Up a ways, a small cairn marked a herd path that climbed up to an old fire tower base (no top), so I took that. I knew this wasn't the top, though.

I continued down another herd path, and met up with the same logging road I had been on. This junction is where the famed doorknob tree stands. It's for real. Only in Vermont, I guess?

I continued straight, crossing the logging road and making my way gradually up to the Dorset summit. The sign, canister, and an old metal pitcher were attached to a tree. I wrote a brief entry in the log, and leafed through past entries. They went back to at least 2012. The log included a laminated tribute to Wendy Theberge, the founder and force behind, which has been a huge help to me and so many other NE 100 questers, and indeed hundreds and probably thousands of others who have been exploring the higher summits of New England. She's sorely missed.

I made my way down, uneventfully, back to my car camp. Since I had driven up the logging road a bit, I figured I'd walk down to the top of Tower Road and back to my car, to settle the tiny bit of unease I had with starting up the logging road a bit.


Satisfied and energized at having completed #87, I got in the car and started my way to the Stratton trailhead, about 45 minutes southeast. I didn't need to rush too much, as I knew this would be an easy and quick hike that would fit well into the afternoon. Stratton is higher than Dorset, but the trailhead lies at a much higher elevation.

I've loved driving around the whole area of southern Vermont. It's quintessential farmland, with a rural, small-town quality you can't quite get anywhere else. So much lush green everywhere, with lots of fields, and tiny town centers here and there. Familiar names from NH, like Manchester, Brookline, and Londonderry; but also totally foreign ones, like Jamaica -- yeah, there's a Jamaica, Vermont! (turns out there's a Peru, Vermont, too; didn't get there this time)

I decided on the Appalachian Trail ascent up Stratton Mountain. The trailhead lies along Stratton-Arlington Road, with ample parking and a nice kiosk. It wasn't long at all before I saw some thru hikers. This section is not only part of the AT, but also the Long Trail, which travels between the entire height of the state of Vermont. I would see about 10 obvious thru AT/LT hikers that day, with their big packs, and some with colorful, if ratty, clothes and accessories. Part of me wishes I would take on such a challenge, but at this point in my life, I'd rather devote time to seeing and doing more.

The Stratton summit has a watch tower you can climb up into - 62 steps. No views at all today, but I went up anyway. With the cool weather, it was nice that the tower is enclosed at the top, even if I couldn't see anything.

I encountered one younger thru hiker, early 20s maybe, making his way south. I asked if he wanted any energy bars or the like, since I knew I had extra. He politely declined, saying he would usually accept but his mom had just sent him 15 pounds (!) of food. Hopefully that'll keep him for a good week or so.

Hiked down to the car, and made my way north. I made a reservation earlier in the day to stay overnight at the Homestyle Hostel in downtown Ludlow, which would put me just 50 minutes away from the Killington area, where I'd finish out the fourth and final Vermont peak (Mendon) with my friend Jeremy the next day.

Great state, great hiking. Get out there if you've not already!