Welcome to my Blog

This is the first time I have ever blogged so mistakes will likely be the order of the day! This past winter I committed myself to hiking the Vermont Long Trail (LT) in a series of day and overnight hikes over the course of hopefully no more than two summers. I have decided to create a blog to document my adventures and to provide a chance for any photos I take to be viewed by anyone interested in hiking in general or the LT specifically. I am a novice hiker whose prior experience basically consists of earning the hiking merit badge as a 12 year old. My father and I took five 10-mile hikes and one 20-mile hike as a part of earning the badge in 1974. Since that time I have hiked occasionally but never seriously. I was a long distance runner for many years and am in better than typical shape though in recent years my focus has been on weight lifting more than on endurance activity. I expect the trek to be challenging but manageable.

Monday, November 24, 2008

11-23-2008 New Boston Trail Day Hike

On Sunday, November 23, 2008 I took a short day hike to try out my new ice spikes. They work well. I arrive at the New Boston Trailhead (1,940 ft above sea level) at 9:30 am. It was sunny and 20 degrees with a couple of inches of snow on the ground. The hike up follows a snow mobile trail for about 0.6 miles and then veers north up to the David Logan Shelter (2,640 ft). This is the same shelter that I had to run to in a hail storm when out on the Long Trail in September.

I did not wear my spikes up the trail and therefore I did not make good time even though the trail was not that slippery or steep. I wore the spikes down and was able to move at my traditional pace. I got back to the car around 11:15 am covering 2.0 miles.

I then drove over to Aiken State Forest and the Bald Mountain Trail. This is the trail that I almost got stuck on overnight because it got dark on me and I couldn't find my way down. I wanted to reclimb it and figure out what I had done wrong before. This time I missed the turn off of the woods road that leads up the mountain and I kept hiking down the woods road. The path was pleasant and so, when I realized I'd missed my turn, I decided to just keep going. I turned around and hiked back arriving at my car at 1:30 pm covering about 2 1/2 miles.

I guess this particular trail is not going to cooperate with me - I'll have to try one more time someday.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lake Mansfield, Nebraska Notch and Clara Bow Trails Day Hike

On Friday, November 7, 2008 I took a day of vacation in order to complete a day hike. I chose to hike two trails that I hiked last year with Charlie Castelli and students from Vermont Tech as well as a third trail I hadn't hiked before.

The day was unseasonably warm, in the upper 50's, and overcast. It had drizzled the night before, making the trails damp but not soggy. I began at the Lake Mansfield Trail Trailhead (1,140 ft. above sea level). The trailhead starts at the picturesque Lake Mansfield Trout Camp and I take a picture of the lake and the spillway from the lake before I take off on the hike. It is 11:00 am when I start.

The trail is quite nice and ascends gradually 1.6 miles to Taylor Lodge. Along the way I see a number of interesting rock formations and numerous small streams. The trail steepens as I climb into Nebraska Notch but there is no ice and the footing is solid. Near the top I round a curve and come to a beautiful cascade of water falling some 100+ feet. The two pictures above show the top and the bottom of the cascade. I was unable to frame the entire drop in one photo.

A few hundred yards further up I come to a beaver pond complete with a perfectly constructed beaver dam. This beaver must have gotten his architechtural engineering degree from Vermont Tech as his pond and palace are well constructed. Another two minutes of uphill hiking and I come to Taylor Lodge (Built 1978, sleeps 15, 1,860 ft) named after the founder of the Green Mountain Club James P. Taylor.

From the Lodge I hike north on the Long Trail 0.4 miles to the LT intersection with the Nebraska Notch Trail. The trail offers a gradual 1.5 mile descent out of the Notch to the western side of the range. Thus, by hiking these two trails together I go from the eastern side of the range to the western side in a short and not too steep 3.5 mile hike.

At the Nebraska Notch Trailhead (1,400 ft) I reverse direction and climb back up to the Long Trail. From there I head south 0.3 miles to the LT intersection with the Clara Bow Trail. The Clara Bow offers an 0.4 mile alternative route back to Taylor Lodge. The guidebook and the trail markers indicate that it is a rugged trail. Completing it requires that I navigigate over some large boulders and drop drown into a ravine that leads to a cave where I must use a 10-12 foot wooden ladder to climb out.
The pictures above show the blue blazes telling me where to hike and the picture to the left shows the cave/crevice I climb through to get to the other side of the rock formation.

I arrive back at Taylor Lodge no worse for the wear and take an unarked side trail leading about a tenth of a mile to a pleasant overlook of the Nebraska Valley below. Something tells me the state of Nebraska doesn't have many views like this.

My hike back down to the car is uneventful and I arrive at 3:00 pm having hiked 8.2 miles in four hours. I unlock the car and reach back to remove my back pack. It is only then I realize that I left my pack back up at the Lodge...Crap! Now I have to hike 3.2 miles up and back to get my pack. I practically jog the trail covering the 1.6 miles up in 37 minutes and the 1.6 miles back down in 35 minutes. Thus I have now hiked over 11 miles in just over 5 hours. Live and learn - I'll not be leaving my pack behind again!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Jerusalem Trail and Hedgehog Brook Trail Day Hike

On Sunday, November 2, 2008 I went out for a day hike of just under 10.0 miles. I arrive at my first trailhead (1,640 ft above sea level), the Jerusalem Trail at 9:30 am on a cool day. The sky is blue, the wind is slight, and the temperature is about 29 degrees. I hiked this trail last year with Charlie Castelli. In fact, this was the trail where I decided I should try to do the entire Long Trail. I am hiking it again because I want to be able to say I did every trail within two hiking seasons. I start out with a t-shirt covered by a long sleeve t-shirt, and over that a fleece vest. Within a few hundred yards I pause to take off the vest.

I climb steadily and the temperature drops as I ascend Stark Mountain. I see increasing amounts of snow and ice but the trail is not any more difficult than last time I hiked it. About 1.5 miles in, and 1,000 feet up the trail becomes icy and the snow at times is about six inches deep. At one point I have to throw my hiking poles up ahaead of me and climb a steep area that is covered in ice. The picture of this section is to the right. I hold on to small evergreen trees and pull myself up. On the descent I know I will have to sit down and slide.

I make good time and arrive at the LT, 2.4 miles away, by 11:00 am. By 11:30 I am at Glen Ellen Shelter (built 1933, sleeps 8, 3,430 ft.).
The shelter is quite nice and has a commanding view to the east of the Green Mountains. The picture to the right captures me taking the shot and a reflection of the view east from the ridge. The J - Trail starts from the west so I have climbed to the top of the Green Mountain ridgeline and partly down the east side.

I put my vest back on as I begin the trek down and back to my car. It is not as slippery as I had feared going down on the icy trail would be, but I do sit down in several spots numbing my cheeks as I slide down two tricky sections. I arrive back at the car by 12:30 so I decide to hike another trail before calling it a day.

I arrive at the Hedgehog Brook Trail (1,160 ft.)to begin my second hike at 1:30 pm. the first thing I notice is that the east side of the mountains have less snow and ice than the west side. The temperature is a few degrees warmer and I start this hike without my vest. I quickly drop down into a very pretty valley and have to cross what I assume is Hedgehog Brook.

The stream is running fast due to melting snow from above and I cross the brook on a series of stones that are spaced far enough apart (as the picture to the left shows)I wonder if I will slip and get wet...I don't. I walk through the valley for about thirty minutes and cross the brook several times along the way.

At the 30 minute point I begin the steady ascent up towards the summit of Burnt Rock Mountain. The higher I go the more ice I come across and, near the LT, the going gets just as slick and icy as my earlier hike on the West side of the range. I manage without any falls but once again use the trees in spots to pull myself up the incline.

I reach the LT ((2,800 ft) 2.0 miles away from the trailhead and begin my descent. Once again I must sit and slide down a few rougher sections but, on the whole, the going is smooth. I arrive back at my car at 3:35 pm and call home. Kim tells me I need to get home fast as one of the college's buildings is on fire and blazing out of control. I arrive back in Randolph to discover that our Business Enterprise Center/Business Incubator is a total loss.

For the remainder of the hiking season I will need to bring my snowshoes with me in case I hit substatial snow or ice.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Frost, Maple Ridge, Wampahoofus, Butler Lodge Trails Day Hike

On Sunday, October 26, 2008 I had a chance to slip out for a day hike. I chose to go north this time and drove up to Mt. Mansfield, the tallest mountain in Vermont and a peak that the Long Trail passes over. I had heard that the trails leading up to the peak are rugged and steep. It rained all day yesterday so I hesitated before deciding to attempt this as I suspected wet rocks might make the going even more precarious. But it was a beautiful sunny day with no clouds and the temperature steadily rising towards 60 degrees so I decided, what the heck?

The trails I took head up the west side of the mountain towards what is known as the forehead. The entire mountain, when viewed from afar, looks like one of those Easter Island Statues that has fallen over, complete with exagerated forehead, long face, and a prounounced chin. I'll get a picture from afar some time and post it. In addition to the Long Trail there are 32 side trails heading up this mountain that I will need to cross off before I can claim to have done all of the side trails to the long trail. Many of them are very short, but I will have been all over this mountain by the time I finish them all.

I start out at 10:45 am from just east of Underhill Center, VT. on the Butler Lodge Trailhead (1,400 ft above sea level). I stroll along the fast flowing Stephensville Brook that is swollen from yesterday's rains. In short order I find I have to cross this stream. All of the stepping stones are covered by the high water and I wind up stepping onto a large boulder, planting my hiking staffs in the center of the stream and swing across using the staffs for support. I make it without getting wet - Sucess! After 0.2 tenths of a mile I arrive at the Frost Trail trailhead. I turn north and follow this trail and I immediately begin to climb steadily. About 70% of the rocks I step on are wet and slippery from last night's rain, but I am hopeful that the higher I go, the thinner the tree coverage abd the drier the trail will be due to today's sun. After a short distance I come up to a large eight foot tall boulder that catches my attention. It has an abrupt edge that makes it look like it was carved square.

As I begin to move above the treeline the rocks become drier and less slippery. The ascent is still steep hoever and ther are a few ledges that a fall from would spell trouble. I pass several vistas but take just one picture as I know I will be going higher and more views will come. I arrive at the intersection with the Maple Ridge Trail having hiked 1.2 miles in one hour and decide to descend to its trailhead. I hike down steeply for about 20 minutes covering about 0.4 miles. The going is slick and I fall once and slip several times. I actually discover that coming back up the steep trail is much faster, and safer, than descending.

The climb up Maple Ridge is the steepest I have ever done. The incline is intense and enough spots are wet and slippery that I become nervous. At one point there is a wall of rock in front of me that is about 10-12 feet high. this wall has a diagonal ridge that runs up it and provide about two inches of ledge. I scale the rock by inching my way up the ledge and then flopping myself over the lip once I have only about three feet to go. The picture to the right shows the trail, note how the blue blaze disapears over the edge, and the continuation of the trail below.

Of course the hard work pays off with some excellent views, the shot to the right is the forehead portion of Mt. Mansfield and the shot of long cliff is the southern descent from the mountain.
I am now almost two hours into the hike and realize I must wait to scale to the Forehead on another day. I'm actually relieved not to attempt the climb - I'll make sure I come back when it's been sunny for several days in a row. I'm not scared to do it...but I am anxious. I arrive at the intersection of the Maple Ridge Trail with the Wapahoofus Trail. This trail is described as a rugged trail in my guidebook and I earlier passed a hiker who told me, with yesterday's rain, that particular trail will be miserable.

Just before I get to the trail I pass three college girls and one guy. They tell me they just came up the Wampahoofus Trail and it was not that bad - so I bite. As soon as I turn south on the trail I come to a huge rock formation with a cavern that goes right through it. I can't get through with my pack on so I remove it and carry it with me. There are several spots where I must throw my hiking staffs down to the bottom of a ledge and then lower myself down to them, but in all honesty, I think the Maple Ridge trail was a greater challenge. After 0.8 miles I arrive at Butler Lodge, take a short break, and begin my descent down Butler Lodge trail to my car. On the way down, as I am precariously focusing on not slipping down the descent, a jogger - that's right, a trail runner - passes me running downhill. If that isn't a broken ankle or dental surgery waiting to happen I don't know what is. I arrive at the car at 3:05 pm so this has been a 4 hour hike and I have only covered a total of about 5.3 miles and climbed about 2,500 feet.

Epilogue - As I write this it is two days after the hike and I still have residual soreness in my shoulders, back and arms from the climbing. My legs and feet have the standard amount of soreness that I usually have after going on a hike of twice this length. Four of the thirty-two Mt. Mansfield trails have been hiked - twenty-eight to go!