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"Town Bagging” With Dot Myer (11/01)

When Dot Myer finished “bagging” (i.e., hiking) the 111 highest peaks in the northeast, she looked for a new challenge. She calls it “town bagging."

When I heard about Vermont's 251 Club for people who visited Vermont's 251 towns, I thought I could do this on my bicycle. Eight years and 4078 biking miles later, I have done it.

I began in the fall of 1994 by riding to all towns in Chittenden County. The only requirements were to find the center of each town and stop briefly. That was the easy part. I live in South Burlington.

The next year I started on overnight trips to more distant points. My first trip happened on the hottest day of the year. Sitting on the steps of a store in Addison, I looked so nearly heat-struck that strangers offered me a drink of water.

In Vermont's highest town, Woodford, I stayed three nights in a youth hostel. Each day, even though I rode in a different direction seeking out towns, it was always downhill in the morning and uphill at night ' not ideal conditions. Route 9 had heavy traffic, shoulders that ended suddenly on steep downhills, and was the worst road I encountered.

Staying in bed and breakfasts was a change from Long Trail shelters but they did have one drawback ' delicious and elaborate breakfasts made for late starts in the morning. In one B & B I stored my bike in a barn overnight. In the morning the barn door was locked and the owners still asleep. Eventually they woke up and I got my bike, but I skipped breakfast that day.

I missed the town of Glastenbury twice. The center of town was not toward the mountain as I expected but rather off Route 7. I knew this but I missed the turnoff both on the way down and again on the way back. I had to make a third trip to the area near Bennington just to do this town.

Hiking the Long Trail is one way to discover Vermont. Visiting towns is another. I found many contrasts. Some towns were “touristy”, others deserted. Somerset had a reservoir but no residents. In Somerset I also found an abandoned school house which was one of the original one-room schools in the town.

In the next two years I covered northwestern and southeastern Vermont. I swam in a swimming hole behind an old school in Montgomery which has since been torn down. St. Albans was a a long day trip. I remember eating ice cream with my hosts in Alburg on a porch until the bats drove us inside.

I made three trips to the Northeast Kingdom. Having my friend Lindy Millington ride with me and spending several nights in Olga Vrana's cabin in Newark made these trips especially enjoyable. On a short cut to East Haven and other towns in that area we walked our bikes through the remains of an old county road which was impassable even for bike riders. We also walked our bikes down a hill in Kirby that was so long, rough, and steep we wore our hands out holding the brakes.

I remember hearing loons when I stayed at Brighton State Park, and running out of food at Maidstone with no near-by store. A friendly camper with a car saved us.

Finding the town of Lewis, which is in the Champion Lands and has no year-round residents, was an adventure. The 251 Club gave me my directions. When we arrived, we found the road closed. After searching out a longer route, we finally reached the “center” of the town, which is a lake. We decided to try the closed road on our return. We encountered a bear and discovered why the road was closed ' it had a big washout which we carried our bikes around.

This summer I made my final trip to several towns in central Vermont. It was a wonderful finish. I had perfect weather, few really big hills, and few rough roads. On July 15, I coasted down into Washington, my 251st town.

About Dot Myer

Dot Myer started her hiking career as a member of the UVM Outing Club. After she graduated from UVM in 1955, she continued hiking and joined the Green Mountain Club in 1956.

She completed the Long Trail in 1965 and finished climbing the northeast's 111 highest peaks by 1974. Having completed the peaks once, however, she and Ralph Gibbs (former Burlington Section member) decided they wanted to hike them in winter.

In an understatement typical of Dot, she says, “this took several winters.” In 1985, she was the sixth person, and first woman, to complete the high peaks in winter (records kept by the AMC).

An active member of the Burlington Section, Dot served as outings chair for many years, president of the section for two years, and is currently membership chair. While she has spent many hours working on trails and shelters in Vermont, her love of hiking has taken her to Alaska, Norway, Switzerland, western US, and Canada.

Dot's current challenge? “I am working on the Appalachian Trail, a little each year. I hope to finish it in the next two or three years."