Photo contributed

Saturday morning in January, lots of snow on the ground, time to do the Triple Town Trail XC Ski Tour. Tax season is gearing up, but I’ve got a few hours before heading into the office for the afternoon. I decide to see if I can ski the Town Link Trail, the Pease Mountain Trail and the Plouffe Lane Trail before sitting at my desk for the rest of the day.

From East Charlotte I head to the West Village, turn south on Greenbush for a couple of miles, until I see the blue and white Town Link Trail sign at the entrance of Common Way, the Cohousing driveway, where I turn in. After about a quarter of a mile I see the signs for the Town Link Trial parking lot and turn left into a wide-open parking lot that is clearly marked for trail parking. Since there is fresh snow on the ground, I put my skis on right outside the car and then ski east along Common Way a few hundred yards before seeing the signs for the actual trail that heads into the woods.

There is a well-worn path in the snow from other walkers and skiers but no one in sight at this early hour. The trail is very flat and meanders through the woods before coming to an open meadow. A goat bleats in the distance as I move along quickly in the ski tracks that have already been set. The sun comes out from behind Mt. Philo when I cross a small bridge over a stream and pass by a viewing bench on the side of the trail. I continue southeast for a mile or so through beautiful open meadows, by the Charlotte Berry Farm and the Little League fields, a frozen pond and another viewing bench. I pass many ski tracks branching off onto side trails through the woods, and I wonder where they go and who is enjoying them. Circling around the pond, the trail ascends gradually, and I can hear the hum of Route 7 traffic ahead of me.

I come out of the woods and am glad to see the incredible underpass going right under the highway. Just enough snow has blown into the ends of the underpass that I am able to ski right through it without taking off my skis. The underpass has been beautifully landscaped and empties me directly onto the Melissa and Trevor Mack section of the Town Link Trail. The sun has risen further and gleams off the snow-covered vines of the Charlotte Vineyard and the Adirondacks off to the west. Seven-tenths of a mile after the underpass the trail ends at State Park Road. Looking east I see Mt. Philo looming above me and look forward to the day the trail will take us all the way there. But for today I need to turn around and ski the two miles back to my car, now with a nice tail wind and the sun on my back. I stop for a nice chat with another skier as I approach Cohousing and then arrive back at my car after a little over an hour, out and back, four miles, but only 177 feet of elevation gain. One trail done, feeling good, still early.

Driving back to the West Village I refill my travel mug at the Old Brick, then head east on Church Hill Road to the Charlotte Central School parking lot. I park on the east side of the Quonset hut, put my skis on and set off toward my next objective, Pease Mountain. Waving to a few early-morning skaters on the skating rink, I ski up the gradual rise to the southwest corner of the soccer fields, where there is a trail map kiosk just before the trail enters the woods.

The Pease Mountain trail climbs quickly as it winds its way through the woods. The trail is quite trampled, perhaps by dozens of school children. I’m out of breath as I finish ascending the switchback section of the trail and take a short rest at a car-size boulder with long views to the north. I contemplate the harrowing ski back down that section on my return trip, but then move on as the trail flattens out. Coming to the intersection of the lower red loop, I decide go north first, so I take a right. The trail is well marked with red blazes, and the path through the snow is well worn with foot tracks, but no ski tracks. There are a few rough spots on skis, but I am able to make good progress continuing uphill, and half way around the red loop I come to the intersection that branches off toward the upper yellow loop. At this point a sign on the trail indicates that I am entering the University of Vermont Pease Mountain Natural Area.

The trail is still well worn and well marked, and I shortly reach the upper loop, marked with yellow blazes. Going right again, the trail circles around the north side of the mountain as I climb toward the summit. Somehow I miss the spur trail to the actual summit as I start my ride down around the south side of the mountain. The summit spur has a great view to the north, but I decide not to turn back as I’m gliding nicely down the mountain at this point. After coming all the way around to the intersection again, I take a right to descend the southern side of the red loop and after several minutes cross over a small wooden bridge. The downhill skiing is fairly gradual with nothing particularly difficult. I stop to talk with a couple of groups of dog walkers heading up the mountain, before reaching the last intersection, well marked with signs saying “Exit” and “Exit to Parking,” where I turn right again toward the final descent down the switchbacks. Somehow I make it down without falling, but I would recommend using your own discretion and perhaps walking a few of the steep sections. I return to my car in well under an hour round trip, two and half miles and 556 feet of elevation gain. Two down, getting tired, but glad I made it down safely.

My last objective is the Plouffe Lane Trail, back in my own neck of the woods. From CCS, I head east on the Charlotte-Hinesburg Road, take a left on Spear Street, going north for one mile to Carpenter Road. Driving a quarter mile east, I see the sun lighting up the south face of Camel’s Hump, before turning left onto Plouffe Lane. The snow-covered road passes open meadows, a couple of horses in their paddock and a small solar farm before reaching the entrance to the trail parking lot. The snow at the entrance looks fairly deep, and my Prius rides fairly low, so I decide to drive home and ski from there. An SUV could possibly drive in, but unless the parking lot is plowed, it might be best to ski in or wait until spring.

The Plouffe Lane Trail starts with a steep but straight downhill, with a nice runout at the bottom of the hill. It proceeds on flat terrain around the base of the old town landfill that was capped and landscaped many years ago. The only evidence of the landfill’s history are a few PVC vents at the top of the hill, a massive old riveted iron pipe protruding from the earth, and a rusty old steam shovel covered in vines. Past the meadow, the trail heads up into the woods, traversing a hillside that looks over the partially frozen La Platte River. The trail, worn with many foot and ski tracks and well marked with light blue blazes, winds through the woods before coming out to another sunlit meadow. At the northern border of the meadow the trail enters the woods again where it continues for a third of a mile before reentering the northwest corner of the meadow. Back in the meadow, I am greeted by my neighbors, Garr and Bonnie, who are walking with their newborn baby, Lolita, and their two dogs. It’s a fairly short trail, and I arrive back home after a little more than half an hour, 1.8 miles, and 187 feet of elevation gain.

It’s been a great morning outing, about three and a quarter total hours, two and a half hours of XC skiing for 8.3 miles, with 920 feet of elevation gain, and only 14 miles of driving (less than half a gallon of gas). And all in the town where I live! Time to get back to the office.