The first thing that should be noted is that the hike was actually around 10.5 miles, and not the 14.5 miles advertised. This is because the distance for the Skyline Trail, linking Worcester Mountain and Mt. Hunger is around 5 miles (5.4 by the signs and 4.9 by the new Mansfield / Worcester Range waterproof map), and not 9.2 miles as stated in the Day Hiker’s Guide to Vermont, 4th edition, 2002, which the trip organizer was relying on when writing up the description. The description in that guide of the Middlesex Trail is also a little deficient for anyone doing the same loop we did and heading down Middlesex Trail without having first gone up it. So, for future hikers reading this: when you reach the woods road coming down from Mt. Hunger, turn right. The Guide book description going up the trail says it turns west from the woods road, but saying it turned left (and hence on the return would turn right) would have been more useful. Also, very soon after the (mangled) iron gate, look carefully for a poorly marked turn off the road to the short trail section that leads back to the parking area. Fortunately our combined sketchy memories of the trail were enough to keep us from making wrong turns or missing the correct ones.
We met at the Richmond Park and Ride on I-89 at 8:00 AM, and took two cars (Wes rode with David) to the trailhead for the Middlesex Trail, where we left Darryl’s car and proceeded in David’s to the trailhead for the Worcester Mountain Trail. It was sunny but cool as we started out at about 9:10 AM. We made pretty steady progress to the rocky summit of Worcester Mountain, passing and repassing the only other two other hikers we encountered. At the summit we stopped for a snack and looked south at the various peaks we would be going over later that day. It was still sunny, but hazy.
The trail from Worcester Mountain to the Hogback Trail junction was not very lightly traveled, and we met a guy with a chainsaw from the Vermont state trail crew doing maintenance. He was travelling in the same direction as we were, so after we passed him we encountered some blowdowns, but nothing very hard to get around. The trail doesn’t have a lot of net elevation change over this span, but it has a lot of smaller ups and downs. We took a lunch break around 12:30 just before reaching the Hogback Trail junction, and from there we proceeded along the ridge toward Hunger Mountain.
The weather was getting cloudier by this time, so while we could see views of Mt. Mansfield, Stowe, and Waterbury Reservoir, they were pretty indistinct. Again, the trail appears on the map to be pretty level through here, but it has a lot of smaller ups and downs. At the summit of Mt. Hunger we saw a few other hikers. By this time the clouds had thickened up and descended and threads of clouds were blowing across the ridge.
After a short break we headed down the Middlesex Trail It is very steep with lots of bare rock in many places, and even a questionable looking rope to hang onto while descending a particularly steep bit. From the junction with the White Rocks trail it became much easier, and after navigating to and from the woods road (see above comments on the guide book description) we made it back to the car at about 3:50 PM.
Participants Darryl Smith, Wes Volk, Trip leader: David Hathaway