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.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Glastenbury Mountain - The Second Leg

It is Memorial Day weekend and I'm off to complete the second overnight leg of the Long Trail(LT). The LT still follows the Appalachian Trail(AT) throughout this hike. On Friday, May 23, I am dropped off by Kim at Vt. Route 9 and the LT (where I finished my last overnight hike) at 10:20am. The day is overcast and there is a chance of scattered showers. The temperature is in the 50's.
As soon as I enter the woods, I come to the William D. MacArthur bridge built across the City Stream (picture of stream above, 1,360 ft. above sea level). I follow the stream west a short ways and then turn north to begin a steady climb to Split Rock (1,900 ft.), a 20 foot diameter boulder that has broken in half and I pass between the two halves.
After 1.6 miles I come to Melville Nauheim Shelter (Built 1977, sleeps 8, 2,300 ft.). I continue to climb as I head for Glastenbury Mountain. According to my guidebook, the first half of the hike should be the hardest.

At 3.2 miles, after a gradual descent, I come to Hell Hollow Brook Bridge (2,350 ft.), an inviting brook that does not at all live up to it's name. From the bridge, I begin another climb to Porcupine Lookout (2,815 ft.) with a pleasant view to the West. At 5.5 miles, I reach the wooded summit of Little Pond Mountain and shortly thereafter come to the Little Pond Lookout (3,060 ft.), complete with a camping area and fire pit, but I have "miles to go before I sleep".

I go west around the summit and descend gradually until I reach Glastenbury Lookout (7.8 miles, 2,920 ft.) which gives me a view of the mountain I will climb shortly. I climb an unnamed summit (3,150 ft.), continue along a ridge, and then climb steadily up to Goddard Shelter (Built 2005, sleeps 12, 3,560 ft.) with a Southern View towards Mt. Greylock. I have trekked 10.3 miles at this point which was my goal for day one and I decide to take a beak and eat dinner. I had a bowl of cereal for breakfast before I left home, and have eaten a Granola Bar along the trail. Now it is time to feast. I have a container of McDonald's Hot Mustard (the ones they give with their Chicken Nuggets) and a 2 ounce tin of Tuna. I mix the two and eat it on 10 crackers. It is quite "gourmet". The wind is blowing hard up here. My guess is 30-40 miles per hour and the shelter is open to the wind. There is no way I'm sleeping up here with the temperature in the low 40's. I zip on my pant extensions - I've been wearing them as shorts all day, and put on my windbreaker as it is getting quite cold.As I rise to go pump some fresh water from a small spring just south of the shelter I spy a large Hare. It stays still as I get within about 15 feet and take a picture. The flash startles her and she hops away. I continue to rest after pumping water but after 45 minutes at the shelter I'm ready to push on and find a place to camp. I've seen several great spots on the way up and figure I'll find more on the way down the other side. I figure that every 100 feet I descend will raise the temperature by about 1 degree and help to get me out of the wind.

I climb north to the summit of Glastenbury Mountain (3,748 ft.) where there is a fire tower that reaches above the treeline. I didn't come all this way not to climb the tower so I shed my pack and start up. It is probably 60-70 feet to the top and the further I climb the harder the wind blows. At the top, I'm not sure I've made a good decision as I can feel to tower swaying in the wind. I try to take comfort in knowing that the tower has been there for years and had seen much stronger winds, but I still take a picture in each direction and get out of there as fast as I can. The guide book tells me that from this perch I can see more wild forest than from anywhere else on the trail. The first picture, to the east, shows Mt. Snow, a ski area. The next is Mt. Equinox and Stratton Mtn. (which I will climb next hike) to the north. To the west is the Taconic range, and finally, the last picture shows the Berkshires to the south. Back on the ground I notice moose poop everywhere. There is clearly a family living here on the mountaintop. Some of it is quite fresh and I must amend my earlier description. It is much darker and sweeter than the dry stuff I tried before. If I ever run out of regular food I'll be okay.

From the tower I begin a gradual descent in search of a place to camp. This side of the mountain faces the prevailing winds and there are downed trees everywhere. I worry that setting up camp in this area will be a gamble that a tree doesn't fall on me during the night. I keep chugging downward, taking comfort that the further down I go the warmer the night will be. My next landmark is Big Rock and every time I come to a large boulder I figure that is it. Finally I come to one that's at least 20 feet in diameter and I figure I'm there. I've come 13.9 miles and it's only 1/2 mile to Kid Gore Shelter and so far I've seen no place to set up camp. To top it off, it is starting to sprinkle and I don't want to set my tent up in the rain so I figure I'll try out a shelter tonight.

As I take the short spur to Kid Gore (Log Shelter built in 1971, sleeps 8, 2,800 ft.) the rain starts to fall harder and I step up into the shelter just as it starts to rain hard. There is a father, Bobby, and his daughter, Carter (Junior at Wesleyan, majoring in Theater) already there. They are up from New Jersey for a two-week hike around southern Vermont. They started in Williamstown, MA and will end in Rutland, VT. They have cooked cornbread for dinner and are starting to settle in for the night. They welcome me in and give me the left side of the cabin. I eat another Granola Bar before climbing into my sleeping bag to read. I have come 14.4 miles today with a full pack and am ready to rest. It is about 7:00 pm as I break out my 1880 book of grade schools poems for memorization. I'm too tired to read anything more than the 4th grade expectations, but there is one that I like. It goes:

'Tis a rule of the land that, when travelers meet,
In highway or byway, in alley or street,
On foot or in wagon, by day or by night,
Each favor the other and turn to the right.

I'm tired and drift off by 8:30 pm. The night is much more comfortable than I had thought it would be sleeping on a thin pad on a wooden bunk, and I get a reasonable amount of sleep before getting up at about 7:30 am. I eat a bagel, say goodbye to Bobby and Carter and head north at 8:00 am.

Within two minutes of leaving the shelter I come to a closed hut, Caughnawaga Shelter, built in 1931 and about to collapse. At this point I can't seem to find where the trail branches off. The LT is marked with white rectangular blazes painted on trees and rocks. When you see two blazes, one above the other, it means the trail is about to take a turn. At the entrance to the shelter is a double blaze but I can't seem to find the turn. Finally, I walk straight north into the woods about 100 ft. and turn to the east to hike a circle around the hut in the hopes of crossing the trail. It takes only 50 yards of hiking to find it and I'm on my way.

I climb gradually while I hike west around an unnamed summit (3,412 ft.) and pass a Vista to the West named Lydia's Rest (a very pleasant site most probably named after my sister). I then descend to a beaver pond and refill my water supply at one of the two branches of South Alder Brook (2,600 ft.). I actually ran out of water during this decent
but chose to pass up three or four possible refill places because the water looked a bit stagnant(picture is of the refill site). After refilling my water, I fish my trail mix out of my pack and munch on it for about 20 minutes while continuing to climb down.

After a couple more Beaver Ponds, I climb a small hill to Story Spring shelter (built in 1963, sleeps 8, 2,810 ft.). I've hiked 4.8 miles so far today and it has been a pleasant hike. The guide book warns that the next part of the trail is a "rugged climb". It should say a "rugged but short" climb as I manage to make the climb in no more than 10 minutes. The rest of the hike is a gradual descent and I come to a very well built bridge crossing Black Brook (2,220 ft.) and leaving me with less than a mile to go.
I arrive at my destination at the intersection of the Stratton-Arlington Rd. and the LT at 12:30 pm. I've covered 22.8 miles, over 4 miles further than last time. I've climbed approximately 3,578 ft. and descended about 2,618 ft.
My legs must be working themselves into shape because I feel a lot better than at the end of my last overnighter even though I covered a greater distance and climbed up and down more. Who knows, I may be able to jog this trail before it over.

Kim asked me to take a few pictures of the fauna for her to try to identify. I took three shots of small plants and I end this post with those. Let's see if anyone can identify them?

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Sherbourne Pass Trail - Day Hike

Saturday, May 18th was commencement day for Vermont Tech so I was unable to do an overnight hike this time. I choose instead to do a long day hike on Sunday. My hope is to cover side-trails of the LT during these day-hikes. There is supposed to be about 175 miles of side trails. I select a trail that starts about 45 minutes from my house in the town of Killington, VT (Yes, that's the famous ski mountain). I park at Kent Pond and start out on the Appalachian Trail - South at 9:30 am.
The trail starts on the roadways of Gifford Woods State Park at an altitude of 1,580 ft. and climbs steadily to a junction with the Sherburne Pass Trail (2,440 ft.). Within five minutes of starting the hike I come across a 2 1/2 foot snake that I believe is a common Garter snake. I soon pass Ben's Balcony where I take the opening picture of Killington Mountain complete with snow still present in Mid-May. The weather today is about 50 degrees and partly cloudy. I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt and carrying just my water-pack with me as I suspect this will be an easy hike.

At the Junction I turn South on the Sherburne Pass Trail and descend for 1/2 mile to Rt. 4 (2,150 ft). I cross Route 4 and begin the long and steady climb up Pico Mountain.
This trail is the historic route of the LT but is now bypassed by the LT in favor of a more westwardly route. I expected the climb to be very steep as Pico's peak is at 3,957 ft, but instead found the trail to be consistently uphill but not overly strenuous, at least until I arrive at Pico Camp shelter (don't know when it was built - looks like it sleeps 8-10). Behind the shelter is Pico Link, a trail providing a trek to the summit of Pico Mountain. The trail is very steep and demanding. Fortunately it is only .4 miles long.

Along the way I cross several ski trails and run into a porcupine who is not sure he wants to get out of my way. He slowly waddles off into the woods and I am unable to get a good picture of him. Above left is a photo taken from 3/4 up the mountain of the valley to the north. The granite outcrop that is visible in the center right of the photo is Deer Leap, a ledge I will climb later today. This shot also shows where my trek north will lead to and the amount of mountain climbing that remains before I reach Canada. Above right is a photo of Killington from the Pico Peak.

The above photos show another view of Killington (left) with proof that I'm on top of Pico Peak. The photo on the right shows the Pico ski lift but also captures another shot of the Dear Leap ledge. At 3,957 feet I suspect that the temperature has dropped by at least 10 degrees. I'm in shorts and a t-shirt stepping over occasional patches of snow. There are only five mountains in VT that exceed 4,000 feet so I suspect Pico is the sixth tallest peak in VT.

I scramble back down to Pico Camp shelter and turn south in order to finish the Shelburne Pass Trail. In 1/2 mile I reach the intersection of the trail with the LT and take a picture of the sign at the trailhead. It's now 12:30 pm and I've been hiking non-stop for 3 hours. Time to descend Pico. The trip back goes much faster than the trip up and I get back to Rt. 4 in one hour and fifteen minutes. I rest for five and consult my maps. I have a decision to make. I can simply return to my car and call it a day, or I can push on and take another trail that leads to Deer Leap. I am feeling pretty good but the weather is looking iffy. I choose to press on to Deer Leap. I cross Rt. 4 and climb back up to the AT/Sherburne Pass intersection. I bear west and start climbing through a Birch forest to the Overlook Spur.. The spur is .2 miles but it seems longer. I arrive at a dramatic outcrop of granite and climb it to look back at Pico Peak. This photo is from just below the peak so that you can see the stone outcrop of Deer Leap ledge and Pico Peak that I climbed earlier. I backtrack on the spur and continue west towards an intersection with the AT in Willard Gap. As I start west it begins to rain softly. I gamble that the rain will not pick up and continue in a direction away from my car. I foolishly have not brought a jacket with me. The descent to Willard Gap is tough and includes one spot where I must climb down a short wooden ladder. My legs are screaming and it's starting to drizzle harder. The main problem with rain (except that it is cold)is that it makes the rocks slippery and a fall is much more likely, so I have to focus more and go more slowly. At the bottom of the ravine I turn and climb to the top of Deer Leap Mountain (@2,700ft.) By the time I reach the intersection with the LT I am actually getting a little worried about the rest of the hike. I'm sure there are pictures worth taking but I am not really focused on that - just beating the rain. At the AT intersection I turn North to follow the trail for 1.0 mile until I return to the Sherburne Pass/AT intersection. From here I backtrack 1.4 miles down to my car, arriving just before 4:30 pm. The rain never gets so hard that it effects my hike much and my hands are only a bit numb from the chilly weather. My legs are worn out, though.

I have traveled 12.4 miles in 7.0 hours with no more than 30 minutes of stopping time. I have climbed approximately 3,407 ft and, because this was a round trip hike, descended 3,407 ft making this the steepest hike yet with the most mileage covered in one day. I am glad to be driving home as the rain picks up.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The First Leg

On Friday, May 9, 2008 at 9:50 am I start the long trek north. The starting point is in North Adams, MA on the Appalachian Trail at the edge of the Berkshire Mountains. The above photo shows Sherman Brook I follow as I leave the town of North Adams (Remember, you can click on a picture to see a larger view). This point is at an elevation 660 feet. The second picture is of the house that sits at the trail entrance.

The first few miles are generally uphill and at times strenuous. There are several rock slides that I have to clamour over as I ascend (picture below). 4.1 miles later I arrive at the Vermont State Line. I am now at 2,330 feet above sea level so I have climbed 1,670 feet over the 4.1 miles.

The southern terminus of the Long Trail is on the Appalachian Trail and they remain as one trail for 75 miles until the AT takes an easterly route into New Hampshire while the LT continues north.
Here is the evidence that I am starting at the southernmost point of the trail. If you click on the picture you can read the Trail description.

From here I descend to a small brook, climb to the east side of a low ridge before climbing again to Seth Warner Shelter (built 1965, sleeps eight). At this point I met my first person on the trail. He was in his late sixties and came in from Brownsville, Texas. He through-hiked the AT in 1996 and, since then, comes up each summer to hike and work on trail maintenance crews in Vermont. He seemed to enjoy his privacy so I did not stay long at the shelter.

As of the shelter I had hiked 6.7 miles and was rather worn but determined to push on to the 10 mile point before setting up camp. My backpack weighs about 45 pounds and I am new enough at this to feel every ounce. I ate cereal for breakfast before the hike and an apple on the way up to the shelter. I climb again until I reach the peak height of this trek, 3,025 feet before beginning a gradual descent. Three miles north of the shelter is Roaring Branch Brook and I decide to push on to there, refill my water supply, and find a place to camp for the night.
This picture shows Roaring Brook where I pumped my first water. I bought a Katadyn Hiker Pro Microfilter to filter water with. It was easy to use and in less than two minutes I had filled up my Camelbak water reservoir. I am now at 9.7 miles and ready to camp for the night. I load back up and go north about 50 yards when I come upon a perfect spot to camp for the night.

The location overlooks an old Beaver Pond that is the source of Roaring Branch Brook and it has been camped at before. I set up my tent - a solo Eureka Spitfire tent and put the rain fly on as the weather looks threatening. The day has been cool - high 50's - and the forecast is for showers in the evening. As I unpack my sleeping gear I discover my first possible catastrophe. I had not screwed the lid back on my water pack tight enough and about 3/4 of it has leaked into my pack. I keep my sleeping bag in the lowest compartment on my backpack so I figure it is soaked and I will have spend the night in rainy, 40 degree weather, in a wet sleeping bag. Fortunately, the waterproof stuff sack did its job and my bag is dry as a bone.

I walk back to the brook and re-pump water. Worrying about rain and wanting to keep animals away from my food, I wrap my backpack in a waterproof cover and hang it from a low branch at my campsite. One should not keep food in your tent as it may attract unwanted animals during the night. It should always be suspended above the ground. You should also not eat at your campsite as the smell may attract animals throughout the night. Accordingly, I eat my dinner down at the brook. For dinner I have a 2 ounce can of Albacore Tuna topped with honey mustard and a banana. It is a feast and I enjoy every bite. By now, it is 6:30 pm and I am tired and go ahead and crawl into my tent. I brought along a lightweight book printed in 1880 containing verses that grade-school kids were supposed to memorize. It was a book that had belonged to one of Kim's distant relatives - James Calderhead. I read the poems for the first three grades and only find one worthy of remembering:

Once a task is begun,
Never give up until it's done,
Be the labor great or small,
Do it well or not at all.

Back home when I recited it to Kim, she immediately remembered it as a poem her great-grandmother used to say.

Once I settle into the tent I start to get a few leg cramps. I am concerned that I might not have drank enough water so I bring the water pack into the tent with me. Wouldn't you know I once again hadn't screwed the lid on tight enough. My guess is that about 1 cup of water leaks into the tent - what a dummy! The night is chilly and my sleeping bag, rated to 20 degrees sufficed, but I don't think I want to try to use it in 20 degree weather. No rain came and I enjoy the sounds of birds, frogs, insects and the brook as I try to get used to a harder bed than my one back home. I have a lightweight self-inflating mattress that is about 1/2 inch thick when inflated. It helps but it is surely not a Sealy Posturpedic. All in all I have a pleasant night, get plenty of sleep, hear no large animals, and get up at 6:45 am to break camp.

I ate a bagel for breakfast, brushed my teeth, and broke camp by 7:30. The map indicates that today's hike will be less strenuous than yesterday's and so it is. I began by climbing to the top of Consultation Peak (2,810 ft)and descending to the Sucker Pond Outlet Brook (2,180 ft). Along the way I see four fresh piles of moose poop, but no moose. Perhaps you have seen the bags of chocolate candy sold as a novelty item in stores as Moose Poop Candy. The real stuff is similar in shape and size (a little larger than Malted Milk Balls) but a much lighter brown. It also doesn't taste as sweet - I drank most of my water supply after that! So, I stop at the outlet brook to refill my water supply (picture at left).

Sucker Pond itself is a interesting sight. In addition to a large Beaver den on the pond, I cross the Beaver dam that created the pond.
The trail crosses about five feet lower than the dam so I am able to look at the pond from eye level without squatting down. This picture shows the Den from below the dam.

A short distance from the pond I come upon the stone foundation remains of an 1800's tavern. It's hard to believe that a business could survive in this remote location at this elevation. I understand that in 1900 Vermont was 80% cleared cropland and 20% forest. In 2000, it is 80% forest and 20% cleared cropland. I always think of this irony when I listen to so many Vermonters whine about change and economic development and listen to them argue that it is important that we keep Vermont the way it has always been for the generations to come. If their argument is sound, we sure have a lot of forests to cut down - we'd better get to work!

Within a mile of the tavern remains I came upon a wonderful stream (Stamford Stream) and follow it downstream for about 1/2 mile before continuing North on the trail. The stream looks to be navigable in higher water, but you better be comfortable with rapids.

Just North of the stream I came to Congdon Shelter (built 1967, modified 1994 - sleeps eight with bunks).
This is a nicer shelter than the other ones I've seen and it has a nicely elevated and inviting-looking stone fire pit as you can see in the picture. It is also right on the trail. The other shelters have all required a several hundred yard trail spur to get to.

Now begins my final climb on this leg of the journey. It is a steady climb to the summit of Harmon Hill (2,325 ft). This spot offers a picturesque view of the town of Bennington. The tall obelisk visible in the top right of the photo is a memorial to the Battle of Bennington, an American victory in the Revolutionary War over the British. Our leader in battle was none other than Benedict Arnold, later found guilty of treason. At this point he was a hero in the eyes of patriots.

From Harmon Hill I begin my descent down to Rt. 9. The descent is gradual at first as I move from 2325 feet to my destination at 1360 ft. But just as I am feeling worn out from two days of humping it, the bottom falls out of the trail. I spend 45 minutes slowly navigating steep and extensive rock staircases. I have to constantly remind myself to focus on each step because a fall here would be painful and a bit dangerous. About 200 yards from the bottom I pass a young couple beginning the ascent. The young lady is bouncing ahead with a lightweight pack and a smile on her face. The young man is carrying a pack that is at least 50% larger than mine with a tent, two sleeping bags, and two sleeping pads strapped to it. He's climbed about 150 yards and has already set the pack off to the side to rest. I smile at him and tell him the view at the top is worth it, but that he's got every bit of a 1/2 mile climb to go. He looks at me with an expression saying "no way". I laugh and tell him to save some energy or his girlfriend will be disappointed.

At the end of this trek my legs are shaky and my upper back is sore, but I feel very good about my first overnight hike. I have climbed approximately 3,150 feet and descended approximately 2,450 feet over the roughly 18.6 mile trek.