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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My First Hike

On Sunday I took my first official hike on the trail. Last fall I went on 4-5 hikes with Charlie Castelli and a few willing college students from Vermont Tech. Those Hikes are what gave me the bug to hike the full trail.

I wanted to get out with my pack 3/4 loaded and hike for several miles to check my stamina. Two things were working against me today. First, when I woke up it had been raining off and on for a while and didn't look very promising. Second, on Friday I walked too much in my dress shoes and developed a quarter-sized blister in the middle of my left foot. About 8:00 am I decided the weather was breaking up and the day might turn out fine.

For my first hike I chose a circular route that totaled 7.0 miles and included a climb to the top of Green Mountain. On the drive down I discovered I had not brought a hiking staff. Luckily, I passed a Dick's Sporting Goods Store in Rutland and was able to purchase a matched pair. I arrived at the trail head at 11:15 am. The temperature was cool enough (@50 degrees) to wear a lightweight long sleeve shirt. My hike started at the intersection of USFS 10 and the Long Trail about 3 miles east of Danby. The above photo shows Big Black Brook at the trail head. This spot is 1500 feet above sea level.

The hike started well. I trekked north on the LT towards Little Rock Pond. The trail is well-traveled and marked. The route was slightly uphill but not too strenuous. After about a half mile I found out what the LT Guidebook meant when it said you will "travel over numerous puncheon". Puncheon are small stones (1-20 lbs) that you step on or around depending on how wet the trail is. They slow you down as you must be careful not to twist an ankle or bruise a foot. Even so I made better time than the guidebook suggested.

At 1.7 miles I came to a 100 yard spur leading to the Lula Tye Shelter (built in 1962 and sleeps 8). It was a primitive shelter and did not look very comfortable.

3/10ths of a mile past the shelter I came to Little Rock Pond - quite a picturesque site. The LT follows the East shoreline of the pond and I followed this route. I quickly came to a nice primitive campground area just a few yards off the trail to the east. The pond is good size and it is a full 3/4 mile to hike around it. at the north end of the pond the LT continues north while the Pond Loop Trail continues on the far side of the Pond. I followed the Loop until I had fully circled the Pond and returned to the LT at the south end. I then reversed direction and went back up the west side of the pond to the Green Mountain Trail. Although brief, there are several steep sections on the west side of the pond and I fell twice trying to navigate them with a backpack on. The Beaver Dam in the picture appears to be what keeps the pond full.

The Loop Trail intersects with one end of the Green Mountain Trail and I went back to this spot near the north end of the pond to climb Green Mountain. The climb to the top of Green Mountain covered 9/10ths of a mile and was strenuous. The Pond was at 1,854 feet and Green Mountain's peak is at 2,509 ft.

Near the top of the mountain I came across a granite ridge line that was quite interesting. It ran for 50 yards or so and looked like it was a man-made feature. I probably could have hike up it but chose to stay on the trail. On the peak I had several chances to take short spurs and see an impressive view of the valley below and peaks beyond. As I neared the summit the sun broke through the clouds for the first time all day. It stayed out for 30-45 minutes and only went away once I had dropped back down below the tree line. It felt reinvigorating. I needed reinvigoration as my blister concern had resurfaced and I was feeling the effects of the climb.

The decent was painful as I discovered my hiking boots were a 1/2 size too small and my toes kept being pressed forward each step of the way down into the toe of the boot. That combined with the blister made what would have been a beautiful section of the trail a bit less enjoyable. I arrived back at my starting point at 4:10 pm. I covered 7.0 miles in 4 hours and 55 minutes. I covered two side trails and 2.5 miles of the LT. It was a good first trip and I believe I have the conditioning to handle an overnighter as soon as my work and family schedule will allow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Outfitting for the LT

I began preparing for my effort to hike the LT by acquiring the gear I needed to accomplish the trek. In recent years significant advances have been made in hiking gear. most notably, the weight of gear has dropped drastically. My wife purchased me a Camelbak backpack that holds 2 liters of water.

I purchased a mummy bag that is lightweight (3.5 lbs.) and good to 20 degrees F. I also purchased a lightweight self-inflating sleep pad (2 lbs) and a solo tent from Eureka (3.5 lbs.). This should handle my sleeping needs.

Several years ago I saw an advertisement in a newspaper for a family who was selling their son's backpacking stuff. For $25 I bought about $300 worth of stuff. I still use the backpack, a large exterior frame pack, the first aid kit, the ground cover, and the Leatherman multi-use pliers.

Finally, I purchased a Katydin Hiker Water Purification system (1 lb). I've been told by more than one LT hiker that the water is pure enough on the trail to not need filtering but I'm not willing to gamble.

For clothing I have a pair of Columbia hiking boots that are in good shape. I'll start with them and see if my feet pay a price for not buying new boots. I bought a pair of high end Pategonia hiking socks that are thick and well-cushioned. I bought a lightweight pair of hiking pants with the zip-off legs allowing them to be worn as shorts as well. These came from the discount rack at Dick's Sporting Goods so we'll see how they hold up. I also bought a rather expensive pair of Under Armor seamless boxers ($19) in the hopes that they will cut down on the instances of chafing. For shirts, I have dozens so I couldn't justify buying anything special. I also have several wind jacket-type pullovers for golf and I will bring one on every trip - The weather in Vermont is unpredictable at best. One year snow was recorded in every single month of the year!

For orientation I have a trusty compass and I have purchased both a LT reference book and a waterproof map.

That's about all of the stuff I have accumulated for the adventure. I plan to eat cold meals and not pack any cooking utensils to keep the weight down. My greatest concern is my ability to hold up under the weight of a pack so I hope to keep the total weight as close to 25 or 30 pounds as possible. Neither one of my sons has volunteered to be my Sherpa so I expect I'll have to tote all of my gear myself.

The Long Trail

The Vermont Long Trail is a 272 mile footpath (with 185 miles of side trails) that navigates from Massachusetts to the Canadian border. The trail follows the main ridgeline of the Green Mountains and climbs Vermont's highest peaks. The LT was built between 1910 and 1930 by the Green Mountain Club and is the oldest long distance hiking trail in the US. As I hike the trail I will provide my own descriptions (and photos) of my experience coupled with trail descriptions and information taken from a variety of sources. Thus, I make the disclaimer now that I will sometimes use the work of others to describe my own experience when it fits. Mileage and other factual information will generally be obtained from the LONG TRAIL GUIDE published by the Green Mountian Club and available for $18.95 by calling the Club at (802) 244-7037. I hope you enjoy this blog and would love to hear from you if you wish to write. So,...let's break a leg!