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, 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.