I started at Joe's Pond, in the nice little lake community of West Danville; the pond is a nice small lake with an intricate shoreline and several small islands. Joe's Pond is purportedly "the largest body of water called a 'pond' in Vermont". I guess every town needs a claim to fame. The trailhead parking is directly across from a very interesting old general store; you walk in the door, and face the junction of the store, bakery, post office corner, and living quarters access. Which way to turn???
The LVRT follows the northeastern shore of Joe's Pond, and then turns westward and heads into Walden. There are some nice lakefront houses and cabins along the trail, and some very lovely views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Once you cross into Walden, you are in predominantly spruce forest without much sense of civilization. The rail trail has long straight sections west of West Danville, which contrasts greatly with the undulating northward and southward bends of the line as it climbs out of Danville Center.
The highlight of this trip -- before I got shot at -- came as I approached a swampy section of woodland. I noticed what I thought was a squirrel in the brush, nervously chitting at me and flicking its tail to warn me away. I'd stopped for a snack and juice break, and hadn't given the squirrel any consideration. But then it occurred to me that the deep woods was an odd place for a squirrel, since there are no oaks or beeches here. When I brought my binocs up to my eyes, I discovered that it was not a squirrel annoyed by my presence, but rather a Spruce Grouse... or more precisely, a pair of Spruce Grouse! I've been in Spruce Grouse habitat many times before, and I know them from their photos on the posters mounted by the Fish and Wildlife Service (there's a $500 fine for shooting one, in Vermont), but I'd never actually seen one. And here were two! Of course they both flew off into the woods as soon as I got my camera powered up and turned to take their photograph. Ah, but what a thrill.
After the grouses, I continued for another mile or so along the trail. I was just approaching one road crossing and was using my binocs to see what the sign another quarter mile or so was alerting me to, when BANG!! BANG!! BANG!!! Jeeze!!! That was close! But fortunately I was not actually being shot at... the hunter was target practicing on the other side of the railroad berm. Nonetheless, that was enough for me, and I did an about face and decided now was a good time to start the 4 mile hike back to my car!
CHECKLIST FOR WALDEN: