Tag Archives: Vermont

Running on the Appalachian Trail

If you are someone who loves the outdoors you have probably heard of the Appalachian Trail. The trail runs from Maine to Georgia. I had heard of the trail and read about the trail, but I had never stepped foot on the trail. That was about to change.

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I was so excited when we planned a trip and we were able to find a place to camp that was located right along the Appalachian Trail I was so excited to get a chance to explore this legendary trail. As it turned out our campsite was literally on the Appalachian Trail. There was a blaze on a tree at the entrance to our site.

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There was a time when I would have hiked on the trail and loved every second of it. But now as my outdoorsiness has evolved to include trail running I was super excited to have an opportunity to run on this trail. I did do some hiking on the Appalachian Trail especially to get some initial exploring in before I set out for any running and that was a great experience in its own right. But still going for a run on the AT was the one must do on my list of activities while we were camping.

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Trail running is in some ways a double edge sword for me. No matter what pace you are moving at during a run you are going faster than you would be if you were hiking so you inevitably cannot soak it in for every mile that is spent on the trail quite like you can if you are on a hike. I think your senses just can’t process all that amazing nature quite the same as you move through it at a running pace. It’s a slightly different experience. The other side of the coin is that when I am running I can explore at least twice as much as I could if I were hiking because of the faster pace. So I get to see and experience more but maybe perhaps not experience it at quite as deep a level. This is especially true for me as a photographer as I am constantly seeking ways to incorporate my photography and increasingly videography into my trail running. But I also se and photograph things I would never see without the running.

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Before I went for a run I scouted out a little part of it as it left our campground in either direction. I determined to first run the trail leaving our campsite from near the entrance. I chose that direction because what I had seen was relatively flat if not slightly downhill. My goal was to run 10 miles, 5 out 5 back. As I started out the trail was just as I had anticipated it was flat or downhill for the first two miles. It was the start of a perfect run. Near the end of the first two miles you run down a very nice boardwalk that is a part of a trail that leads to a waterfall just a short ways away. (We would later return to that waterfall during our trip. Part of the discovery during running I mention.)

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After crossing a road and then entering the woods the trail began to go up. The AT went up and up and up. I am not a strong climber and I do not like climbing, but I would not relent and I continued to climb. That section of climbing went on for at least one and a half miles. Nothing but going up. That climb so completely drained me that when I reached what seemed to be the top, as the other side started to appear to go down, I decided I would call it good enough here at just 3.5 of my 5 mile goal. I wasn’t too disappointed as I know climbs wreck me and it was a tough climb. Not just steep but twists and turns and rocks and roots.

I turned around and descended the mountain I had just climbed. I recorded the decent with my GoPro. I love descents. I like to run them fast if at all possible. This descent took a lot longer than I expected. That is because it was a lot more difficult than I realized it would be even though I had just climbed it. For me climbing is more about strength and exertion and just powering through it. However on the decent it is about being as agile as I can as I watch the terrain ahead of me and try to place my feet accordingly. The unforgiving Appalachian Trail was making that very difficult for me. I was trying to go fast but there were so many rocks and roots and trees and twists and turns and edges to watch. It was above my skill level to run down that trail as fast as I would have liked. AS I reached the bottom I took a moment to appreciate how difficult that section of trail was. How it repelled me and turned me away and sent me back home and taught me a thing or two even on the parts of my running that I felt are my strong suit.

My next adventure on the AT I left the campground in the opposite direction on a trail that I expected would begin with a bit of climbing and I was not wrong about that. There was a significant amount of climbing to start off. One reason I wanted to explore this section of trail is because I knew that I could use this part of the Appalachian Trail to check out another area we planned to hike later, Dear Leap. I wanted to see how difficult it would be to get to Dear Leap from our campsite. The answer, very difficult.

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Once again I started out with a goal of 10 miles. I powered up the climbing in the beginning. Eventually I arrived at the intersection of the AT and the Dear Leap trail. I turned on my GoPro thinking this will be cool to record the run out to Dear Leap and show what the view is like. I started running up the trail. Up being the operative word. There was much more up than I had anticipated. I was very quickly hiking at a relatively slow pace up that climb because it was longer and steeper than I had anticipated and in my excitement I had started out to fast.

I ran out to the scenic view at Dear Leap took a panoramic video of it that hopefully turned out ok. Then I headed back the way I had come. I expected to rejoin the AT where I had left it but instead ended up staying on the Dear Leap Mountain Path and reconnecting with the AT farther along. I eventually came to this nice long gradual downhill. I think it was one of the most runnable sections I experienced on the AT and it came at the perfect time for me. I was getting tired and this section lifted my spirits and helped me recover physically as well. Eventually I crossed a road and ended up getting on the Long Trail and going out on the part of the long trail we should have hiked if we wanted to hike Pico Peak instead of doing it accidently earlier in the weak.

As it turns out time was moving faster than I was and as it got to be the time I would have expected I would run for to get to the half way point in a 10 mile run I was at mile 4 instead of mile 5. I decided that I should turn around anyway. I didn’t want to be gone to long and make my wife worry. Also, I was tired. The way back was not too bad. Going up that nice long descending runnable part wasn’t too much fun, but at least the path was relatively smooth. Instead of going on the Dear Leap Mountain Path I stayed on the AT to hopefully same time and energy. As I got close to camp I began descending the climb that began this adventure I was exhausted. The rocky outcroppings and boulders sticking out of the ground were tormenting me. I couldn’t go at much of a decent pace at all. It was one of the least fun descents I had ever had. But I powered through it and got back to camp all in one piece.

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I have done a fair amount of trail running and run on a variety of different types of trails. So far in my experience the Appalachian Trail is the toughest trail I have ever run on. I am impressed by all the through hikers that take it on. I am even more amazed by those that have attempted and those who have succeeded at Fastest Known Time attempts on the Appalachian Trail. It has to be brutal. I cannot even imagine. I ran a total of 15 miles on two different days at it kicked my ass. But I would go back and run it some more in a heart beat.

Camping in Vermont

One of my favorite things to do is get out in nature and go camping someplace I have never been. This summer my wife and I decided to go to Vermont and camp with one of our dogs. We decided to camp at Gifford Woods State Park. We had narrowed the choice down to two different locations. I decided I wanted to check out Gifford Woods.
One of the main reasons I wanted to camp at Gifford woods was because it was literally right on the Appalachian Trail and that would allow me easy access to explore this legendary trail that I had previously never had the opportunity to check out. I wasted no time doing so. As soon as we arrived and unpacked the first thing I wanted us to do was go see where the Appalachian Trail met the campground and explore a little bit of the trail. As soon as we headed out we quickly learned that not only did the Appalachian trail run through our campground it literally lead right past our campsite. I thought I had spotted trail blazes on trees as we approached our campsite, but I didn’t know what they were for. We saw so many hikers pass by on the Appalachian Trail while we relaxed at our campsite, probably between a half-dozen and a dozen hikers every day. And that was just at the times we were actually at our campsite which was not most of the time, most days. It was quite impressive to see all the hikers.
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Kent Pond was just a short walk from our campsite. We visited several times.
We had purchased an AMC hikers guide to Vermont and marked off many different hikes we were interested in possibly doing while we were on our trip. There was one hike that we were excited to try out because it was right nearby our campground. We wanted to hike the Deer Leap Overlook hike. It was a relatively short, relatively easy hike with reportedly great views of the area. We followed the directions in the guide-book and parked at the noted parking location and started up the trail head we saw right in front of us. However, we missed one important detail. The trail head we wanted to be going up was across the road from where we had parked. We wouldn’t realize this for quite a while. Once we had been hiking long enough that we were sure we were likely not on the right path we decided to check to see what info we could find on out our phones. We discovered that we were not on Dear Leap but on the Sherburne Pass up to Pico Peak. The next decision was do we keep hiking up or head back down. We didn’t really have a good idea of how long or how far we had gone up or how much farther or longer it would take to reach the top. We didn’t really want to do all that hiking up a mountain without any reward of a nice view. We decided to continue up the mountain taking periodic breaks to reassess the situation and determine if we wanted to kep going and look at maps on our hones to get a sense of how close to the summit we were. We did eventually reach the summit and were rewarded with some nice views. The moral of that story is, if you want to climb a mountain but your wife might not accidental climb the wrong trail because you are both to stubborn to quite once you are out there. My wife said that she would not have wanted to climb the mountain if that was what we had set out to do. We would not have done it. But after having done it she was happy that she had done it and she felt good about having done it.
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The view from Pico Peak
In contrast to the mountain we climbed we also hiked around a short 1 mile trail at what must have been one of the flattest tracts of land in all of Vermont. There was essentially no elevation change on the trail. It was quite a nice relaxing little hike. This was on the Robert Frost Trail. All along the trail were posted Robert Frost poems to read as you relaxed and enjoyed the scenery which included a beautiful stream, some woodland, and even a more open field like area.
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Robert Frost Trail.
After a nice casual stroll at the Robert Frost Trail we decided to venture on to a more difficult trail. We really wanted to go see what kind of views we could find overlooking some beautiful scenery. So we headed out to a section of the Long Trail noted in the guidebook as Sunset Ledge. This trail definitely had some challenging sections. It was a good workout. After hiking up for what seemed like longer than we should have been we were beginning to worry that we had gone astray again. Fortunately another hiker was headed towards us and when we inquired she said that we were close and that the view is great. She was not wrong. After a little more hiking we arrive at a nice overlook. We sat and enjoyed the view and took some photographs. We relaxed and just enjoyed being out in nature.
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Sunset Ledge
One thing that definitely has to be taken into account is that even when you are looking at a guide-book that gives you ratings of how difficult a trail is to hike with rating from easy to difficult you have to be mindful that the guide is essentially all relative. That means that a lot of the hikes are rated relative to the other hikes in the area and when you are in Vermont many of the hikes are mountainous or require a lot of elevation gain or are very long hikes. So a short hike that is rated as easy might still have over 400 ft of elevation which is not necessarily a lot of elevation gain but it feels like a lot more when you are covering that elevation in 1 mile. So the perceived effort of the hike, how you feel during the climbing of the hike can feel harder than one might expect from a hike that is rated as easy or easy/moderate. Also another consideration is the decent. It sounds simple enough to think that the climbing might be easy but coming back down will be easier. This may very well be true but it might also be the opposite. The exertion might feel like it is lessened but it still might be difficult depending on how steep the trail is and what the terrain is like. Going down a large rock surface can pose bigger challenges than going up it for example.
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One of my favorite features of the scenery that just happened to be purely chance and not part of the planning was this stream that flowed across the Appalachian Trail right near our camp. It was just a short walk away. I saw that spot probably more times than anywhere else. I stopped and took photos of it multiple times. It is really cool to me when you find these neet little hidden gems that are not predominant features of the landscape or well-known marked scenic spots and you can just check them out and enjoy it.
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I also got some running in while out camping and didn’t even have to travel to do it. It is a great feeling to be able to wake up put on your clothes and run off onto a trail without having to drive anywhere. I never did get up as early as I wanted for ay of the runs I went out on. I also never quite got the distance in that I wanted. As I learned quickly out on my runs the AT is no joke and you should not underestimate it. But I did enjoy my time running there and I took some videos and photos while I was running.
When we were in the early planning stages of our trip and had decided to camp at Gifford Woods in Killington, VT we started to check into things and see what else might be going on in the time frame we would be there. I was thinking that I would like to find a trail race to run. As it turned out there was a race going on that same week. The Under Armour Mountain Running Series was at Killington Mountain just a short drive from where we were staying. It seemd like the perfect opportunity. The event featured 5k, 10k, 25k, and 50k distances. The 25k was the only distance that really interested me. However, the cut off time was 4.5 hours and that was the amount time it took me to finish my last 25k that I thought would likely be comparable, so I wasn’t even sure I would be able to finish it if I ran. Also, as the time approached I was not in the healthiest place physically. I also wasn’t sure that I wanted the anxiety and worry that can come with having a race looming hanging over my head on what was supposed to be a fun trip with my wife. I decided not to run the race, but we did go and watch the event and cheered runners on and I took many, many photographs of people crushing their races. It was really fun to sit back and watch and enjoy the event as a spectator. I was definitely glad I chose that route. I was still able to get a goo amount of running in and enjoy the rest of the trip as well as take in a cool event. Win, win, win.
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Under Armour Mountain Running Series, Killington, VT.
Then in the evening we found purely by chance what I think was the perfect way to round out and finish off our vacation. While at the running event we saw signs for a free outdoor concert at the same location later that night. So we went back that night and sat out on the side of a mountain listening to music and enjoying being outside. It was the perfect relaxing way to end a trip.

 

Photographing UA Mountain Running VT

My wife and I love to go camping. We planned a trip to camp in the mountains of Vermont this summer. We ended up choosing a campground near Killington, Vermont. Out of pure coincidence it turned out there was a race event happening in Killington during the same time frame that we would be camping. The Under Amour Mountain Running Series Killington, Vermont was the Saturday before we went home. I contemplated registering to run one of the races while we were on vacation but as fate would have it I would end up deciding not to race in the event for a variety of reasons and I am happy with that decision.
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I have been running for a while now and as I have gotten more invested in the sport my wife has become more invested as well. I think we both are at the point where we are just as happy going to watch a running event as we are to be running in an event. I enjoy it even more when I have a camera with me. Showing up to watch the Under Armour Mountain Running Series event in Killington, Vermont with my wife, my dog, and my camera was just about as perfect of a vacation activity as it gets for me.
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We arrived at the event to see the 5k runners take off as we were getting out of our car. We were in place to watch, cheer, and photograph the event in time to watch the 10k participants begin their race. We figured out where we wanted to watch the 5k runners finish from just in time to see the top two runners approaching us in a blazing fast time of 19 minutes, which we couldn’t believe after the announcer had reported that the winner from last year had finished in 30 minutes.
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We watched as the 5k runners crested the hill where we were standing and turned towards the finish. We were ready just in time for me to get some ok photographs of the race leaders and then watch them to the finish line. As the 5k rnners were finishing we turned to see the lead 10k runner begin descending the mountain in the other direction from where we had positioned ourselves. We positioned ourselves at the perfect spot. It was the confluence of the 10k course and the 5k course as they approached the finish line. The 5k runners approaching up over a hill from one direction and the 10k runners decending towards us from another direction. It was a lot of action to take in. I was honestly surprised there were no incidents of a 10k runner careening down the mountain at high-speed colliding with a 5k runner who had been slowed down by their ascent merging at just the wrong time. Thankfully that scenario did not unfold before us.
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After most of the 5k and 10k runners had passed us by we moved to a new location to watch the 25k and 50k runners. We had estimated how long we thought it would be until the first finishers of the 25k race would be getting done. We hiked up the trail for what turned out to be about a mile. We sat along the trail waiting for the runners to arrive. Soon enough the race leaders appeared on the trail kicking up dust behind them. We sat along the trail and cheered on the runners. Brynn, our dog barked to help encourage them. We were able to watch many of the 25k runners pass by on their way to finish the race. We stayed long enough to see some of the first finishers of the 50k race as well. Some of the runners were cruising to the finish, some of the runners were struggling. We tried to encourage them all along the way. Some of the runners we got to cheer multiple times as a few were unfortunate enough to miss a segment of the course and have to head back out on the trail to complete the areas they missed. So they got to run bonus miles.
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I love watching races unfolds and capturing images of runners giving their all along the course. My photographs are no glamour shots they are photographs of runners giving their all and busting their buts. My wife is super supportive and encouraging as she cheers on the runners and I hope they get the same feeling from my presence on the course taking photographs and then again when they see the photographs from the race they just busted their ass for. Runners don’t always like seeing me out on the courese because I have a hbbit of being at some of the hardest segments of the course. Areas where they might not be at their best. Areas wher ethey might be struggling. Areas where they might feel weak. Most people think these don’t make the best photographs. I think they are the perfect photographs because it shows them concuring the hardest parts and it is proof of what they can do.
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I love hearing my wife call out words of encouragement to the runners. It reminds me why I love this crazy sport so much. It’s about the people. The people who support us and cheer us, the people who are out there to watch us, the other runners we share time with on the course.
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Check out my first album of photographs of several to come from the race here on Facebook at Kyle Reynolds/KRNaturalPhoto. The photographs are essentially unedited so the great the good, the blurry, and the out of focus photographs are all in there. I want them all to be available to the runners for them to enjoy.
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If you like the work you see here please consider supporting me here on Patreon at KRNaturalPhoto for as little as $1 a month. Thank you.
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