The Trail Blazers

When James P. Taylor began daydreaming about creating a trail from Canada to Massachusetts in the early 1900s he had no idea that someone would hike his Long Trail through Vermont, unsupported, in under six days. Or that there would be a line of others trying to set fastest known times or ‘FKTs’—both supported and unsupported.

This past summer saw two people consecutively break the unsupported Long Trail FKTs (see p. 6 for our interview with one) and countless others stumble along at their own pace.

RASTA volunteers at work on new mountain bike trails near Rochester. Photo by Mike McDonnell

Today, Taylor is something of a hero to Long Trail hikers.

Less well-known, but perhaps equally loved, are some of the other trail blazers around Vermont.

Take Dave Blumenthal. Blumenthal thru-hiked the Long Trail, was a board member of the Green Mountain Club and created the 3D relief map of the trail that’s on display at the GMC’s headquarters in Waterbury.

Blumenthal was all about maps. Along with David Tremblay, he pored over maps as he envisioned a trail, much like Taylor had, but one that would take riders the length of Vermont: the XVT.

A serious bikepacker, Blumenthal, 37, was riding a dirt road on the 2,745- mile Tour Divide race, which traverses the Continental Divide, when he was hit by a pickup truck in 2010.

But the XVT did come to life, and now David Tremblay, Daniel Jordan, Kristopher Dennan and others have mapped a new, less arduous route for bikepackers that traverse the state.

On September 27, they’ve planned a grand depart, a group start from Montpelier to ride the Super 8, a figure 8 of ancient roads, trails and gravel routes through some of the most beautiful parts of Vermont.

This month also sees the 20th anniversary of CRAG-VT and the very first Vermont Climbing Festival, organized by vertical trail blazers Kris Fiore (profiled on page 27) and others in the climbing community. Thanks to their work, and that of CRAG-VT, Vermont has more climbing routes than ever.

And 2019 also marks the 25th anniversary of what is, perhaps, the state’s most famous “new” trail system, Kingdom Trails. In 1994, a group of local landowners and business people agreed to work together to create a mountain bike trail system across more than 50 privately-owned land parcels. Back then,

RASTA volunteers at work on new mountain bike trails near Rochester. Photo by Mike McDonnell

Burke was a sleepy town. Today, more than 150,000 riders come to ride the trails each year.

Not far from Kingdom Trails, John Magill and his wife Laurie Saligman saw the potential for another trail system when they bought 1,100 acres of forest land and created the Victory Hill Sector Trails, which became home to Circum- Burke and a number of other events. That all came to an abrupt end this past spring. The story of how Act 250 is impacting this and other trails is on p. 9.

Elsewhere, commercial trail build- ers are seeing more success. This month Stratton Mountain Resort opens its first lift-served bike park, joining Suicide Six, which opened last year, Bolton Val- ley, Cochran’s and a number of other ski areas which recently opened or revived mountain bike trails.

And thanks to volunteers around the state and various chapters of the Ver- mont Mountain Bike Association, more than 15 new trail projects are underway. “What people don’t realize is that nearly every inch of trail is built by volunteers, people who pick up a shovel and pick-axe on trail days,” says VMBA executive director Tom Stuessy. According to VMBA, there are more than 825 miles of single- track in Vermont.

Some volunteers have trails named for them—Knight Slayer and Kitchel recognize two of Kingdom Trails’ early pioneers, Knight Ide and Dave Kitchel. But for the most part, Vermont’s thousands of trail builders are anonymous.

They are the people we should thank, revere and support as much as Long Trail founder, James P. Taylor.

And, by the way, have you renewed your trail organization membership?

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