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, July 7, 2008

Bucklin Trail - Shrewsbury Peak Trail Day Hike

On Friday, July, 4th I decided to spend the day taking a long day hike.
I begin at the Bucklin Trailhead (1,786 ft above sea level) at 9:50 am on a beautiful day with a forecast high temperature of 72 degrees. The trail begins in a valley and stays level for about 2.1 miles before climbing sharply up Killington mountain.
Along the way I hike parallel to Brewers Brook, a mid-size stream. The guide book indicates I will have to wade the stream but when I arrive at the crossing I instead find a newer looking bridge designed for cross country skiers to cross. At several more points along the trail I come close to the waters edge and enjoy the sound of "water music" as I hike.

At 2.0 miles I come to a fork in the trail. Cross country skiers are to go left, while hikers are to go right. The trail is not marked for this so I am lucky to have a guide book with me or I would have chosen wrong. As soon as I make the turn I begin the long climb (1.4 miles of climbing) up Killington. I reach the Long Trail after about 45 minutes of climbing and the elevation at the intersection of Bucklin and the LT is 3,770 feet. This picture shows the Bucklin Trail as it comes up to the LT. I turn south on the LT and continue to climb up Killington. After just a few minutes I come to Cooper Lodge (built in 1939 by the CCC, sleeps 12). At 3,850 feet, it is the highest shelter on the LT. It is also the first one I've seen that had stone walls. I guess stone construction entitles one to be called a lodge rather than a shelter. From there I decide to climb two trails that lead to the top of Killington. The first ends up on a slightly lower mountain crest than the last. But I get a good laugh as I pass the composting toilet built for the Lodge as a name plate tells me I am staring at the infamous "Cooper Pooper". I spare you the picture. The view is a northern view from the first trail I climb. This trail was steep but not too difficult, lasting perhaps .1 miles each direction. The second trail is longer, about .25 miles each way, and gets me to the summit of Killington (4,235 feet, one of the highest in VT). I have to pull myself up some of the rock faces in front of me as I climb this steep ascent. The view is of forests all around. At the top I meet a young couple who have ridden the Gondola up to the top. They have me take their picture for them and politely decline when I suggest that they take my day pack and hike down the mountain while I use their gondola pass to ride down. After scrambling back down the mountain top, at times having to sit down on one rock and jump down to the next level, I return to Cooper Lodge. From there I must go 1.5 miles south on the Long Trail to intersect with the Shrewsbury Peak Trail. If you've followed my blog before, you may recall that when I hiked the Shrewsbury peak trail, I missed a turn and failed to cover about 2.2 miles of the trail. Today I will cover that section of the trail but it requires a 1.6 mile each way detour along the LT. I refer to this 3.2 mile trek as my punishment for missing a turn on an earlier hike. I descend to the Shrewsbury Peak Trail intersection (3,500 ft) and turn east to follow the side trail. The trail is less travelled than most of the trails I have hiked so far, but in no time I come to a group of five hikers who have stopped to refill their water bottles at an inviting location. Three of them are young boys and the other two seem like scout leaders. I say hello to the five but press on to finish my climb down Killington and up Shrewsbury. I drop 600 more feet to 2,900 feet before beginning my climb up the north side of Shrewsbury. At 3,700 ft, I connect with the Black Swamp Trail and now know the error I made on my earlier hike. The trail is hardly marked and I suspect that many make the same mistake I did.

At this point I realize I am now over half way finished with my hike. I've climbed Killington and Shrewsbury so far. Now I must retrace my steps and descend the Shrew, reclimb Mr. Kill, and then descend it once more on the Becklin Trail. Fun! Fun! On the way down I pass the five hikers. At this point the two leaders are wearing their packs on their backs and each one is carrying the pack of one of the 10-12 year-olds up the mountain. I get the impression that the one remaining pack is being traded off between the three young boys. I try to help the leaders by making a comment that "real men carry their own pack" but I see the boys are having none of my wit and move on.
I stop for water at the location where I saw the five refill their water supply and pump water for myself. The climb down Shrew and up Kill are actually pleasant. The descent down the Bucklin side of Killington, however, is hard on the feet and knees and I am glad when the trail levels off following the 1.4 mile descent. I reach the car at 5:50 pm. I have hiked 15.5 miles in just over 8 hours. Given that I have climbed, and descended, three mountains (Killington twice) with a total of about 4,200 feet of climbing and another 4,200 feet of descending, I feel very good about my 2 mile per hour pace.

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