Two Events Sum Up Summer In Vermont
The Ranger and Vermont Overland Trail
Summertime in Vermont has quite a few things going for it. Warm, sunny days revolve around cool, breezy nights; for the rare heat wave, lakes and rivers abound. Vermont’s farm-to-table culinary spirit is practically designed for outdoor barbecues, pizza-oven parties, and pop-up beer gardens. As for activities, the options are endless: there is top-tier road and mountain biking, sensational trail running, and as much prime hiking terrain as your heart could desire.
Two annual summer events perfectly combine the adventurous athletics for which Vermont is so well-suited with the state’s welcoming culture of outdoor festivities: The Ranger, a weekend of riding, running and fun-having to support the Four Town Area in central Vermont, and Vermont Overland’s ‘Overland Trail,’ the trail running component of a race series that includes cycling and 4×4 events. Though both events take place in early summer and have already passed for 2022, they show in a nutshell all the adventure, culture and community that Vermont has to offer. Plus it’s never too early to start filling out next summer’s event calendar!
(Also, although registration is likely full, the Overland gravel bike race will take place in late August 2022 and provides an atmosphere that spectators can enjoy almost as much as the cyclists themselves.)
Having the right location is, as anyone who’s planned events of any scale will tell you, crucial for crafting a memorable experience. For The Ranger, however, location doesn’t just mean a beautiful setting—it is also the soul and the story behind the weekend of riding, running and festivities. First conceived by a group of residents of the quaint, rural town of Tunbridge as a way to preserve and support their pastoral lifestyle and landscape, ‘The Ranger’ celebrates all the things that make central Vermont special. This includes the picturesque villages founded by royal charter in the 1760’s (complete with centuries-old farmhouses and churches), the hundreds of miles of hard-packed gravel roads and obsolete ‘class-IV’ backroads which make up the bulk of both riding and running routes and, of course, the locally brewed beer for which Vermont is famous. With bike routes ranging from 2,000 to 7,500 feet of elevation gain, the Ranger rides aren’t for the faint of heart (although there are family and no-drop rides for those who just want to enjoy the scenery). But since so much elevation also means countless stunning vistas, most riders will agree that the courses are worth the work.
Back at Ranger base camp on the Tunbridge Fair Grounds, spectators, and riders and runners who have returned from their gravel adventures, can enjoy the foamy, hoppy offerings from Tunbridge’s own Brocklebank Brewing and Upper Pass Beer as well as the reliably delicious brews from Lawson’s Finest Liquids; for food, this year’s event featured locally sourced barbecue from Brownville Butcher and Pantry, classic Vermont dishes from the North Tunbridge Country Store and an assortment of other equally local goodies.
Like the Ranger, both Vermont Overland’s running component and its riding event celebrate the vast network of disused dirt roads that crisscross the mountains surrounding the former Ascutney Mountain Resort. The Overland Trail is a new addition to Vermont Overland’s family of outdoor events. The whole enterprise began in 2009 with the gravel bike race that quickly became one of the most popular events of its kind in the country, in part because of the unique hardpack surface which predominates on Vermont’s back roads. Years of weather and use have aged the soil and stone of these often centuries-old thoroughfares into what Overland founder Peter Vollers calls ‘Vermont pavé.’ But it’s not just the surfaces that make the Overland races special: as the name implies, both the 50+ mile bike and the 15.5 mile run allow racers to cover serious ground, and take in the lush green of the surrounding hills and well taking on the climbs and drops of the course itself.
Once across the finish line, sweat and mud-soaked Overlanders can get hosed off and fueled back up with Maple Creemees from Untapped (a Vermont-based, maple-centric athletic fuel maker), more delicious Vermont fare from Brownsville Butcher and Pantry, and of course a selection of your favorite Vermont brews. For many, the best part of the Overland experience comes after the racing, when friends can relax with good food and drink and swap stories from the course.
But for both The Ranger and the Overland, the Vermont experience isn’t confined to race day. Both events offer camping the night before the race. This means that the races themselves each become only a part of a weekend of community-wide celebration, where it’s easy and encouraged to make new friends and enjoy the company of old ones.
And this is what both the Vermont Overland races and The Ranger are all about: welcoming riders and runners new and old into the magic of old New England forests and fields, and sharing in the joy of racing along ancient roads, watching the trees and the streams and the cows flow past. Even if you don’t get a chance to hop in one of these perfectly Vermont events, don’t let this little state’s big summer adventures pass you by.