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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Stratton Pond Trail - Branch Pond Trail Day Hike

On Saturday, July 19, I took my first non-solo hike of the season. My oldest son Jon went with me. We planned a 12 mile day hike so that he could carry a pack and determine if it would work for him on an overnight hike. We went camping the night before on Kelley Stand Road with Kim and Beau, my wife and younger son.

At 8:00 am on Saturday, Beau dropped Jon and I off at the parking area where the trail head is. Unfortunately, Jon and I buzz off onto the first trail we see thinking it is the Stratton Pond Trail. After about 1/2 mile the trail narrows to where it is hardly discernable at all. We decide to push on. In another 15-20 minutes the trail is non-existant. During this early foray, we come across a pretty pond most likely created by a Beaver. The top photo captures this tranguil spot.

Consulting our map, we determined that the real trail had to be east of us so we set off cross country in that direction. Along the way we stumbled, fumbled, and mumbled through a number of patches of thick woods, marshland that we sunk into up to our ankles, and the occasional old game trail or forgotten woods road. We found the Stratton Pond Trail at about 10:30 am having spent over 90 minutes finding our way to the right route. My greatest concern was that Jon would not enjoy the hike and therefore would not want to do an overnighter later on. The woods crossing did nothing to help on that front.

The Stratton Pond Trail provides a relatively flat, low-land route to Stratton Pond that does not climb Stratton Mountain on the way. Once on the trail, the hiking was fast and smooth.

At 3.6 miles we come to the very nice Stratton Pond Shelter (Built 1999, sleeps 20), where we take pictures of each other. That's me and not Captain Morgan in case you can't tell the difference. after a quick break to wring the water out of my socks we cover the short .1 mile to Stratton Pond. At Stratton Pond, the largest body of water on the Long Trail, we meet a family that is taking a break. We stop to say hello and they ask us what route we came by. We tell them of our woods adventure and they say that two previous hikers had just come through that had the same experience we did. I think perhaps the Forest Service should put some warning signs up at the incorrect trailhead because it difinitely looks like the trail and we were not the only ones fooled by it.

We follow the LT on the east side of the pond and soon leave the LT to follow the North Shore Trail around Stratton Pond. It rained a bit last night so the trail is muddy in spots and somewhat difficult to navigate. in order to complete the side trails in this section we hike all the way around the pond back to our starting point. The circumference of the pond is 1.5 miles. Then we have to back track 6/10s of a mile to get to the Lye Brook Trail that takes us west to Bourn Pond.

At the Lye Brook Trail junction we turn west for what is supposed to be a flat 2.0 mile hike to Bourn Pond. A sign at the trailhead, however, warns us that the area is not well-marked and that we should be prepared to have fun and go wild. After a short .5 mile hike we come to what appears to be the end of the trail. We study our situation for a few moments, then reverse our direction and turn south on what turns out to be a cross-country ski trail. after a few minutes on this trail we return to the dead end.

It really isn't a dead end. It is simply that the trail leads straight into a forboding looking pond complete with numerous downed trees. We debate what should be done and ultimately decide that we must wade the pond. Jon leads off and, after about 10 steps must crouch down to where his torso almost touches the water in order to cross under a branch.
I chuckle at his effort, forgetting for a moment that the old man must do it too. Once under the tree, I take the lead and wade about 15 yards through dark water that winds up being just shy of waist deep. Jon, packing his $1,200 camera, follows with his back pack raised over his head. This picture shows a portion of what we waded. It is taken from the exit point of the water.

We stop for a few minutes to wring out our socks and drain our shoes. When we start again we know we still have about 7 miles to go and we worry about wet feet and blisters. Soon we realize, however, that our hiking shoes and hiking socks have done their job and our feet will be fine. We cover the one mile to Bourn Pond quickly, passing another father/son on the way east to Stratton Pond. We explain that they will have no choice but to wade the pool as we did, but I think they kept going without believing we where being serious.

Just south of Bourn Pond, which is barely visible through the trees, we come to the Lye Brook Trail Junction with Branch Pond Tail and we turn south to follow Branch Pond Trail about 4.5 miles back to Kelley Stand Road. We make good time on this section, even though we are tired from our day's efforts.

We arrive at Kelley Stand Road about 15 minutes before Beau is scheduled to pick us up (4:00 pm). Rather than sit and wait we turn west and start hiking the road toward our camp. If Beau doesn't come, it is a 4.5 mile hike back to camp. We've covered about 13 miles, waded on pond and hiked cross country though the woods for 1.5 hours. At precisely 4:00 pm, Beau rounds a curve in the car and picks us up. Overall, this was a challenging introduction to hiking Vermont for Jon and he held up very well.

No comments: