I have three main criteria when looking for new places to get outdoors and fish, hike, bike, etc.: Don't be too far away, have prospects of a decent workout, and little chances of seeing other people.
I scour the Internet for trails, streams, ponds and woodlands I haven't visited before, and it is easy to find plenty of places to go.
I'm not sure how I stumbled across the website for Slate Valley Trails a couple of months ago, but I was surprised I hadn't heard of the organization before.
I spend a lot of time in western Vermont, went to college there and still fish, bike, hike and have hunted a bit over there, and knew of some of the offerings included in the organization's network of trails. But there were a lot of interesting prospects listed that I had never heard of.
With snow coming Saturday afternoon, I decided to take a run over to Poultney, Vermont, on Saturday morning to enjoy what might be the last snowshoe-less hike of the season at the Endless Brook Trails. Poultney is the first town east of Washington County.
The system is one of several that non-profit Slate Valley Trails oversees that is open to both mountain bikers and hikers. The Endless Brook trails are a well-designed mass of single-tracks through woods, across a couple of streams and up a mountain. As such, they offer an easy walk through the woods, since mountain bike trails generally aren't that steep. Still, I logged about 700 feet of elevation gain overall, with a number of ups and downs.
There are five different trails accessed from a trailhead off Endless Brook Road, connecting to a nice overlook that has views of Lake St. Catherine and mountains to the west. The day was a bit gray and cloudy, but at the right time of year, I would be the vista is outstanding.
The trails can be a bit difficult to follow, as switchbacks overlap, and trails that are colored on the trailmap don't have corresponding color markers. All of the markers are white and green with "SVT" on them. But there are signs at intersections to keep you headed in the right direction.
(The temptation to cut across woods in switchbacks can be a problem, I did so once and wound up jumping to a different trail and going a half-mile or so out of my way. So be careful.)
In all, I put in just over 6 miles wandering around the property on Saturday, and beat the snow home. I saw just two other people on what was a nice December morning, both mountain bikers who were barrelling down the mountain.
If you are an avid mountain biker, this trip is particularly worth the drive over from our region. The Slate Valley Trails website lists the other hikes, bike paths and other opportunities in the region, and there are plenty to choose from. I have hiked one of them, Haystack Mountain in Pawlet, Vermont, a few times, and it is a nice workout with great views.
-- Don Lehman