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 14, 2008

Killington Mountain - Stage 5 - Overnight Hike

On Friday, July 11, 2008, I began the fifth stage of the Long Trail Challenge, a 24 mile trek featuring the longest ascent to date - Killington. I begin at 8:45 am at VT Route 140 (1,300 ft above sea level)and head north. I immediately encounter a new site on the trail - stone walls. These walls are numerous and marked property boundaries when Vermont was mostly farm and field and not forest as it is today. The walls are simply piles of stone thrown in place. There is no "professional" fitting of the stones as you see along the state roads and byways of Kentucky. I soon begin my first ascent of the hike, Bear Mountain (2,262 ft). At the top there is a limited view but more striking than the view is the granite ledge on the crest of the hill. The climb has been a good warm up for the hike and I am already wondering how ready I am for this stage. I am carrying a different pack than I usually do and, even though it is newer and nicer, I soon discover that I have grown used to my older pack and wish I were carrying it instead. My older pack has an external frame and this one has an internal frame. So far on all of my hikes I have not come across anyone else using an external frame pack, but I like it.

I descend Bear Mountain a short way and arrive at Patch Hollow. This is a comfortable, rather flat area, where the trail is shared by cross country skiers whose winter trails frequently intersect the LT. It used to be the site of an old homestead in the early 1900's. At 3.6 miles I arrive at Minerva Hinchey Shelter (built in 1969, renovated 2006, sleeps eight, 1,530 ft). I pause long enough to take a picture and push on.
In fairly short order, at 5.5 miles, I arrive at a westerly view overlooking the Rutland Regional Airport. The airport looks out of place from the forest as the town of Rutland can't be seen from the trail. I begin a descent that drops me 600 feet over seven tenths of a mile to arrive at beautiful Clarendon George. There is a nice camping area here that I will try to come back to some other time with Kim. I have to cross a suspension bridge that is 40-50 feet above the Gorge and looks to be in sad shape. It is wobbly and I wonder how much longer it will last before it needs to be replaced. At the north end of the 30 yard bridge is a plaque commemorating a hiker who became lost here in the 1970's and was never found. Strange, because Vermont Route 103 is only a few hundred yards north of the bridge. He must have drowned in the Gorge.

I cross Vt. 103 and traverse a small pasture, climbing ladders to get over the barbed-wire fences. In the field I see an interesting flower that I continue to see for the next few miles. It appears to like sunlight. I reenter the woods and climb a boulder-filled ravine that is some of the most difficult climbing I have encountered on the trail. There are rock ledges on either side of the ravine and the ravine itself is about thirty feet wide. The climb is at about a 45 degree angle - for each step of horizontal movement I take one step of vertical climb. It takes about 30 minutes to make the climb and I stop numerous times along the way. I'm in pretty good shape however, because I drop my bandanna on the way up and, when I realize it, I look back and can see it about 50 feet down. Instead of leaving it, I still have the energy to climb down and get it, then haul myself back up.
At the top, I begin a short descent and, at 7.3 miles, I arrive at Clarendon Shelter (built 1952, sleeps 12, 1,350 ft). This is the nicest overall shelter I have seen, largely because it actually has a yard around it that someone maintains. There is even a flower basket with flowers in full bloom. A few hundred feet east of the shelter is a nice brook that I hike to in order to fill my water pack. At the shelter I meet three people, one is a volunteer who is out repainting the white trail blazes that mark the trail, one is a young man in his twenties who goes by the trail name "Bad Idea", and one is a young woman, also in her twenties, who is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail by herself. She is from Charlottesville, VA and her trail name is "Certain". She is the first female I have seen hiking on her own without a dog to protect her. I stay at the shelter long enough to eat a bagel and a banana and head back out.

From the shelter I climb up Beacon Hill, probably named for an airport beacon that is located on top of the hill and then drop down through a Maple sugar bush and through another private pasture. When I get to Kieffer Road I turn left on the road and follow it about 150 feet to where the trail re-enters the woods. I don't like hiking on roads because I always get concerned that I will miss where the trail turns back into the woods. No problem here, however. In short order I arrive at Cold River and cross a bridge over the brook at 10.4 miles.
At 11.0 miles I cross Gould Brook. The Volunteer at the last shelter warned me that this crossing is tough in high water and that I should expect to get wet, but the crossing is really no tougher than any other I've had so far.

At 12. 0 miles I'm starting to think that I will not make it as far today as I had planned as I'm feeling run down and low on energy. I round a curve in the trail and stumble upon some trail magic! The Trail Fairy, a person who goes by the name of The Mad Hatter, has set up a lawn chair, a cooler full of sodas, and a Tupperware full of packages of peanut butter crackers. A note says that I should have a seat a celebrate with a soda before I go on. I don't argue with the note and sit down for two cans of Mountain Dew and a package of crackers. This is just what I need to motivate me to push on until dusk! I hope the Trail Ferry crops up again sometime.

I soon pass through a wooded clearing with scattered pines and a number of stone walls. This is the site of the extinct Haley Farm that in 1920 was described in a Long Trail book as providing "good beds and board; telephone". At 13.1 miles I reach Governor Clement Shelter (built 1929, sleeps 10, 1,850 ft) where I pause to change out my shoes and leave, forgetting to take a picture. Upon leaving this shelter, I commit myself to climbing Killington tonight. The Mountain Dew and crackers help as I slab uphill for miles and miles. I hike continuously uphill from mile 12.0 until mile 17.5 when I reach Cooper Lodge. I pictured this lodge in my last post so instead I provide a picture of the famous composting toilet in the middle of the woods, the Cooper Pooper, and a shot of where I set up my tent for the night. There were three tent platforms at the lodge and I pitched my tent on the middle one. I thought sleeping on the wood would be uncomfortable but after 17.5 miles I found it just fine. There was no support beam in the center of the platform so the wood gave a bit under my weight, sort of like the mattress in my dorm when I was an undergraduate. The tent pictured is not mine as I broke camp before I took the shot.

For dinner I eat a Banana and decide to fore go the Tuna as I am tired but not terribly hungry. I cramp a bit as I try to get to sleep but the night is pleasant and I decide not to use my rain fly. Therefore, I see all the stars above me as I camp at the highest shelter on the LT (3,850 ft). The temperature drops down to about 50 degrees which I find to be perfect for my worn out body. The next morning the person in the tent next to me tells me I spent my first hour of sleep moaning in pain as my legs cramped. I apologize as I do not recall it happening. I break camp about 6:00 am, pump some fresh water from a nearby piped spring, and eat a bagel as I begin my descent of Killington. I only have about 6.5 miles to go today so I decide to take it easy and stroll. I descend Killington about 1,000 feet and cross over to Pico Mountain. Fortunately, the climb up Pico is not substantial as I work my way around the peak instead of to the top.
At about 21.5 miles I begin a steep descent along switchbacks that leads me down to a spur leading .1 mile to Churchill Scott Shelter (built 2002, sleeps eight, 2,560 ft). While the shelter itself is fine it is not in a very pleasant location, in my opinion, and I am glad I am not spending a night there. From the shelter I continue to drop down to Vt Route 4.
I cross a bridge over a brook and emerge from the woods at Route 4 at 10:00 am. I have hiked about 24.3 miles, ascended about 4,600 feet and descended about 4,000 feet. I continue to get stronger at hiking, but still find it very challenging, especially on my feet. As my Dad would say, "Them dogs were barking at the end of the hike". My final picture is of a berried bush I passed on Friday. It looked good enough to eat and I believe there were some blueberry and raspberry bushes growing in with this plant. Of course, I chose not to taste them - can anyone give the bush a name?

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