Walking the Pinnacle Association's Through Ridgeline White Trail

Excerpts from the Journal of Bob Sartini, a WHPA Trail Steward

I thought it would be fun to hike the entire Ridgeline Trail in one trip. It's really a series of day hikes and I doubt many people do the whole thing as a "thru-hike", but that's the idea anyway. Judy dropped me off at Putney Mountain and the short walk to the top was an easy hike on a cool morning in my shirt and sleeveless fleece. I am a bit surprised by how much I don't know about this trail.

I met Don Taylor at the top with his dog and we discussed where the thru trail goes from there. It turns out the summit is a side trail. There's a yellow-blazed trail that goes due north to the Five Corners, but I wanted to keep on the white dot trail so I had to go down a bit and take the eastbound side trail down to a gravel road that headed north. I met a woman trail runner who confirmed that I would come to the road. Next time I'll take that yellow trail. After a mile or so of road walk (I have no good idea of the miles covered here because not everything is marked with miles on the maps) which could use a few confidence blazes, I continued on a woods road and got to Five Corners. The road walk was nice past woods and typical Vermont homes that all seemed deserted on a work day morning. The trail continues through hard woods on the way to the Pinnacle and a lot was very familiar once I got to the part we often walk from Holden Trailhead. At the Pinnacle at 10:15 and alone for two minutes before a squad of day hikers came to the popular shelter and viewpoint.

Off I went to Paul's Ledges. Usually I take the quick down trail to the trailhead from here but today I plunged through the overgrown trail, worried about ticks and was soon on very well-blazed trail to Paul's Ledges. Partway there I came to a picnic table in an overgrown wide section of trail. Getting closer to Paul's Ledges I came to a junction with the shortcut Moosehead Trail. I stayed on the white dot trail and it was quite clear that everyone going to the Ledges takes the Moosehead because that section of the Hemlock Trail is steep down and up again and looks like it's rarely used although well maintained.

At Paul's Ledges at noon. It turned into a very hot day and the fleece is long gone as is most of my water. A nice woodsy view from here over very Vermont hills. Resting in the shade of the kiosk, I saw a beautiful large red fox with a very big bushy tail that may have been black tipped. The heat was really beating me down at this point but off I went and soon came to the trail section that I help maintain and crossed a small creek. I stopped to filter a liter of water.

Soon I came to the new section of trail. This connecting section is what inspired me to do this small "thru-hike". The old end of the trail has been discontinued and this new piece passed through a stone wall and continues on a maze of woods roads and sap lines down to Bemis Hill Road. 

After the many steep downhill pieces of trail my toes are
pretty ouchy. This has been more rugged than anything in the Colorado Rockies this past July! A short walk on Bemis and I came to the wildlife sanctuary. A bit of confusion here as I didn’t know where the trail continued. Through the sanctuary and over Bemis Mt? Not clear. Then I noticed the new trail continues on the road and goes into the woods then returns again to head to Sleepy Hollow Road.

It's 6:00 PM and I'm wiped out. Across Athens Road I can't seem to find the trail's continuation. The sandpit is confusing so I finally stealth camped in the tree line. Lots of berries here, I hope I'm not in the middle of the bear buffet. I hear a few cars on low-traffic Athens Road and some sheep baa baa baa. Later dogs barking and coyotes howling, but an uneventful night.

From the Ledges

In the morning looking at the map it seemed to me that the trail was going directly up the hill and NOT behind the kiosk. Wrong! So I stuck out my thumb and got a ride directly to my house.

Now a day later I understand that the trail is behind the kiosk.* I plan to go back to Putney Mountain and try it again. I would like to know how many miles the entire trail is.

Trying again. I came back and restarted on Putney Mountain. The cooler weather and being more familiar with the trail brought me to Athens Road 2¾ hours sooner than the previous trip. So I just continued up the proper trail towards Ledges Road. A very steep climb past Creature Rock and more up. I was happy I made such good time earlier. Plugging along in a nice forest walk brought me to the end of the white blazes and a quick blue blaze (old school can lids) into Grafton to end my thru-hike of the White Dot Ridgeline Trail!

Everything is in walking distance!

*NOTE:  Upon reading Bob Sartini’s journal entries, Pinnacle volunteers and trail stewards are assessing what additional trail work and/or signs are necessary in certain places and even, at the Route 35 location, if the kiosk needs to be repositioned!  The Pinnacle Association thanks Bob Sartini for his helpful comments and encourages other hikers to always let us know where there is any trail confusion or need for trail work. Please send your information to [email protected]. Thank you.