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High Speed 

Vermont’s ridgeline runners step it up

Trail running along Vermont’s highest ridgelines is like dancing through a scenic minefield of roots, rocks, puddles and fallen trees. It’s an experience that is at once peaceful and exhilarating — but also a bit dangerous. And when you dare look up from the trail before you, the views can be extraordinary.

With a solid pair of trail-running shoes, a couple of friends and a bottle of water, Bristol resident and seasoned trail runner Vicki Beaudoin, 39, doesn’t think twice about running along the rooftop of Vermont. “It’s not so much the uphills that push me, but the challenge of maintaining the presence of mind needed to keep myself from tripping along the trail,” she says. “Often my head is — or wants to be — somewhere else, so I really love how it makes me focus on nothing more than the trail right in front of me.”

Beaudoin often starts her ridge runs at one of Vermont’s many road-accessible high points along the Green Mountain spine — such as Middlebury Gap or Hazen’s Notch. She runs either along the ridge and back or in one direction, bound for another road-accessible gap or notch. When Beaudoin is feeling especially motivated, she’ll do a loop from the bottom of a mountain by running up it, along a ridge for several miles and then back down.

With Vermont’s extensive networks of trails at all elevations, the options are endless. Still, running up any mountain is no small feat. Beaudoin, needless to say, is in great shape.

An avid skier, gardener, outdoor guide and innkeeper who spends most of her time with her husband, Craig Augustinsky, and her 2-year-old daughter, Seneca, Beaudoin heads for Vermont’s higher ridgelines as often as she can. Her favorite route in Vermont is the rugged and scenic 12-mile stretch of the Long Trail along the Monroe Skyline, between the Appalachian and Lincoln gaps.

“I spend a lot of time up there in the winter … but it’s a totally different beast in the summer,” Beaudoin says. “There always seems to be a beautiful breeze that keeps me cool and bug free … and I really enjoy the freedom of running without being chased by bugs!”

While she can point to highlights, such as running with spiderwebs trailing from her arms and legs or being engulfed by thick cloud banks, what stands out most for Beaudoin is the experience of sharing her running adventures with friends.

“It is so simple for us. One phone call, we meet up, and together we are off,” she says. “We don’t really even talk much. Just hearing ourselves breathing — or panting — seems to be enough. It is such a beautiful environment up there.”

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