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, October 27, 2008
On Sunday, October 26, 2008 I had a chance to slip out for a day hike. I chose to go north this time and drove up to Mt. Mansfield, the tallest mountain in Vermont and a peak that the Long Trail passes over. I had heard that the trails leading up to the peak are rugged and steep. It rained all day yesterday so I hesitated before deciding to attempt this as I suspected wet rocks might make the going even more precarious. But it was a beautiful sunny day with no clouds and the temperature steadily rising towards 60 degrees so I decided, what the heck?
The trails I took head up the west side of the mountain towards what is known as the forehead. The entire mountain, when viewed from afar, looks like one of those Easter Island Statues that has fallen over, complete with exagerated forehead, long face, and a prounounced chin. I'll get a picture from afar some time and post it. In addition to the Long Trail there are 32 side trails heading up this mountain that I will need to cross off before I can claim to have done all of the side trails to the long trail. Many of them are very short, but I will have been all over this mountain by the time I finish them all.
I start out at 10:45 am from just east of Underhill Center, VT. on the Butler Lodge Trailhead (1,400 ft above sea level). I stroll along the fast flowing Stephensville Brook that is swollen from yesterday's rains. In short order I find I have to cross this stream. All of the stepping stones are covered by the high water and I wind up stepping onto a large boulder, planting my hiking staffs in the center of the stream and swing across using the staffs for support. I make it without getting wet - Sucess! After 0.2 tenths of a mile I arrive at the Frost Trail trailhead. I turn north and follow this trail and I immediately begin to climb steadily. About 70% of the rocks I step on are wet and slippery from last night's rain, but I am hopeful that the higher I go, the thinner the tree coverage abd the drier the trail will be due to today's sun. After a short distance I come up to a large eight foot tall boulder that catches my attention. It has an abrupt edge that makes it look like it was carved square.
As I begin to move above the treeline the rocks become drier and less slippery. The ascent is still steep hoever and ther are a few ledges that a fall from would spell trouble. I pass several vistas but take just one picture as I know I will be going higher and more views will come. I arrive at the intersection with the Maple Ridge Trail having hiked 1.2 miles in one hour and decide to descend to its trailhead. I hike down steeply for about 20 minutes covering about 0.4 miles. The going is slick and I fall once and slip several times. I actually discover that coming back up the steep trail is much faster, and safer, than descending.
The climb up Maple Ridge is the steepest I have ever done. The incline is intense and enough spots are wet and slippery that I become nervous. At one point there is a wall of rock in front of me that is about 10-12 feet high. this wall has a diagonal ridge that runs up it and provide about two inches of ledge. I scale the rock by inching my way up the ledge and then flopping myself over the lip once I have only about three feet to go. The picture to the right shows the trail, note how the blue blaze disapears over the edge, and the continuation of the trail below.
Of course the hard work pays off with some excellent views, the shot to the right is the forehead portion of Mt. Mansfield and the shot of long cliff is the southern descent from the mountain.
I am now almost two hours into the hike and realize I must wait to scale to the Forehead on another day. I'm actually relieved not to attempt the climb - I'll make sure I come back when it's been sunny for several days in a row. I'm not scared to do it...but I am anxious. I arrive at the intersection of the Maple Ridge Trail with the Wapahoofus Trail. This trail is described as a rugged trail in my guidebook and I earlier passed a hiker who told me, with yesterday's rain, that particular trail will be miserable.
Just before I get to the trail I pass three college girls and one guy. They tell me they just came up the Wampahoofus Trail and it was not that bad - so I bite. As soon as I turn south on the trail I come to a huge rock formation with a cavern that goes right through it. I can't get through with my pack on so I remove it and carry it with me. There are several spots where I must throw my hiking staffs down to the bottom of a ledge and then lower myself down to them, but in all honesty, I think the Maple Ridge trail was a greater challenge. After 0.8 miles I arrive at Butler Lodge, take a short break, and begin my descent down Butler Lodge trail to my car. On the way down, as I am precariously focusing on not slipping down the descent, a jogger - that's right, a trail runner - passes me running downhill. If that isn't a broken ankle or dental surgery waiting to happen I don't know what is. I arrive at the car at 3:05 pm so this has been a 4 hour hike and I have only covered a total of about 5.3 miles and climbed about 2,500 feet.
Epilogue - As I write this it is two days after the hike and I still have residual soreness in my shoulders, back and arms from the climbing. My legs and feet have the standard amount of soreness that I usually have after going on a hike of twice this length. Four of the thirty-two Mt. Mansfield trails have been hiked - twenty-eight to go!
Monday, October 20, 2008
On Sunday, October 18, 2008 I was able to slip out for a day hike. I arrive at the trailhead of Cooley Glen Trail on a beautiful cloudless day of 40 degrees at 11:30 am. This 6.5 mile up and back side trail climbs Mount Cleveland from its western side. The trailhead is at 1,520 feet above sea level.
The trail follows a very pretty stream called the New Haven River. It was flowing about twice as strong as most of the streams I've hiked along, so I guess that qualifies it as a river. After 0.4 miles I cross a bridge to the north side of the stream. I pause and put on my jacket and gloves as it is cool and getting cooler as I start the ascent.
In short order I am removing my jacket and gloves as I start to sweat from the climb. In addition to the main stream, I cross several small tributaries along the way. I make the 3.25 ascent rapidly given that I climb to 3,130 feet and I reach Cooley Glen Shelter at about 1:00 pm. The climb down goes rapidly and I arrive at my vehicle at 2:00 pm having covered 6.5 miles in 2.5 hours - a very respectable pace given the leaves covering the trail.
I then drive about 20 minutes to the Trailhead of the Battell Trail, a 4.0 mile up and back trail that leads to the Battell Shelter just 600 ft from the summit of Mt. Abraham. The trail looks steep on the map but I decide I can handle a 2.0 mile climb. I start out at 2:30 pm. There are few flat sections on this trail and I am hoping as I climb that I am moving at about 1.5 miles per hour. There are no rivers or roads along the way that are marked on the map so I can't tell how fast I'm progressing. I stop briefly several times to wipe away the sweat from my eyes even though the temperature hovers around 40 degrees. Just when I figure I have 30 minutes more to go, I round a turn and there is the long trail. I have climbed 2.0 miles in one hour and 3 minutes! The climb down goes slowly compared to the last trail as the route is steep and leaves have fallen everywhere. I actually slip and fall at one point but my hiking staff helps break the fall and it is more of a tumble - wounding only my pride. I make it back to the car in 50 minutes and so it is just shy of 4:30 as I head for home. I have climbed from 1,473 feet to 3,249 feet and back over 4.0 miles in less than 2.0 hours.
Today's hikes total over 10 miles and have been fast and fun!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
On Sunday, October 12, 2008, my work schedule and the weather cooperated and allowed me to take what will probably be my last overnight hike of the year. I start at Lincoln Gap (2,424 ft. above sea level) at 11:10 am under beatifully clear skies and 50 degrees. I immediately began a steep climb up Mount Abraham. After 1.8 miles I arrive at Battell Shelter (built 1967, sleeps eight, 3,240 ft.) As I approach the peak (4,006 ft.) I must scramble up several rock ledges that would be much more difficult if they were wet and slippery. Along the way I pass about 20 hikers as it is a holiday weekend and many want to climb Mt. Abraham.
The view from the top is awesome and I take four pictures. To the west I capture the Adirondacks of New York, to the north the Green Mountains, to the east the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and to the south towards Killington Mountain. Mt. Abraham is one of the five mountains in VT that exceed 4,000 ft and boasts alpine vegitation at its summit, one of only three alpine mountains in Vermont.
I descend steeply from the summit, cross a sag, and ascend Little Abe to Lincoln Peak (3,975 ft.) The view east is dramatic and I take a pictures here as well.
I descend to the Castle Rock chairlift where I take a photo to the east and then begin the climb up Mt. Ellen. I climb to Cutts Peak after 5.9 miles, then descend sharply and climb again to the wooded summit of Mount Ellen which is tied with Camel's Hump as the third highest peak in Vt at 4,083 ft.
Just past the summit I arrive at the Sugarbush North Summit Chairlift and take a picture to the east. I follow a ski trail for a few hundred feet before reentering the woods and descending steeply.
I wind back and forth down the ridge and pass several limited lookouts. I continue to descend and reach the LT intersection with the Jerusalem Trail (a trail I hiked last year with my motivation for hiking, Charlie Castelli, who, by the way, finished hiking both the LT and all of the side trails this summer).
Just past the intersection I come to Orvis Lookout (3,430 ft) and take a westerly photo that shows the Champlain Valley, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks further west.
I now climb steadily to the peak of General Stark Mountain (3,662 ft) continue along a ridge and reach Stark's Nest, the warming hut for the Mad River Glen Ski Slope. At this location I meet several other day hikers, I ask them if there is a water source at the shelter I plan to spend the night at. They tell me that it is not likely. Fortunately it has been cool today and I have not sweated as much as usual. I've only consumed about half my water supply but would like to be able to drink up tonight. I cross my fingers and press ahead. I begin a steep descent and cross into Camel's Hump State Park. At one point the drop is so steep I must climb down a ladder that proves to be easy in spite of wearing a 40 pound pack on my back.
After 9.7 miles I arrive at my goal for the day, the Theron Dean shelter (built 1966, sleeps 5, 3,320 ft) I have to take my pack off and hand it up over a five foot rock and then scale the rock to get to the shelter that is just off the trail. The shelter is a bit dissapointing - small and leaning - but luckily I am the only one there. Thirty feet in front of the shelter is a great view and I sit and eat my dinner (trail mix and a banana) looking out over the Mad River Valley. I take two pictures as the daylight wanes. I find one small trickle of water near the shelter, but it looks clean and I pump enough to fill my pack and allow me to drink all I want as night approaches. I bed down at 6:30 pm and spend a comfortable night snuggled in my sleeping bag. My guess is that the temperature dropped into the upper 30's but I was plenty warm.I get up at 7:00 am to break camp having had only one small foot cramp during the night. Twelve and a half hours in the sack leaves me feeling pretty good as I pack up. I eat a blueberry bagel and drink a can of Mountain Dew. I packed in the can with the hope that it would give me an extra burst of energy. I move out onto the LT at 7:40 am. The morning has broken warmer than yesterday but it is still in the low 60's by my estimate. I take an alternate route called Dean's Pass through a cave that leads back up to the shelter. The squeeze is tight so I leave my pack on the trail while I work my way through the small opening. I pass back by the shelter and return to the LT and put on my pack.
Today's hike will be about six miles consisting of a steep decline of about 1,000 feet followed by a steep climb of about 750 feet and ending with a descent of about 1,600 ft. As I start the descent, I work my way down a ledge that looks dramatic when I turn back, look up and take this photo. The descent continues to be steep as I work my way down to Highway 17 at Appalachian Gap or "App Gap" as it is commonly called (2,377 ft). Once again I climb down a ladder in order to descend a particularly steep rock face.
I cross the highway and begin the slog up Baby Stark Mountain (2,863 ft) passing a spur that leads to another lookout over the Mad River Valley. I drop to a brook and check my water supply. I decide that I have enough water to get me through the hike and forego pumping more. I now climb Molly Stark Mountain (2,967 ft). I assume that General Stark, Baby Stark, and Molly Stark were at one time a family and so I feel I have summited a "family of mountains" on this trip. Who knows, maybe even Mt. Ellen is related to the Starks in some way.
Just past the peak of Molly Stark I come to Molly Stark's Balcony which offers my final vista of this hike, a northeastern view of the Worcester Range. I continue to descend and arrive at the Birch Glen Shelter at the intersection of the LT with Beane Trail(built 1930, renovated in 1999, sleeps 12 with a front "living room", 2,020 ft). This is one of the nicest shelters I've seen and I rest for about 15 minutes in the front area of the shelter. When I put my pack back on I spend about five minutes trying to find Beane Trail. There are often so many little trails around these shelters that finding the right one can be a bit tricky. But a little patience pays off and I'm soon on my way downhill. The going is quite pleasant and with 0.4 miles to go I emerge on a private road that takes me to the trailhead and my car.
I have walked about 16 miles over two days over the most demanding terrain yet. However, by shortening the distance (my past few overnights have been in the 22-28 mile range) I feel quite good upon reaching my car and have no problems with cramping or excessive soreness. I believe the trick to enjoying this hiking stuff is to keep the distance reasonable and, for me, that is no more than 20 miles on an overnight hike.
On Monday, October 6, 2008 I am able to take the afternoon off to hike. I drive to the south of Rutland, VT to the town of Danby to hike two connected side trails of the Long Trail. I arrive at the Lake Trail Trailhead (720 ft above sea level) on a cool early fall day when the leaves are at their peak colors. I start the hike on a snowmobile trail that stays moderately flat for about one mile before it narrows and begins to climb up Baker Mountain.
I pass several narrow vistas and soon come to where the Baker Peak Trail Branches off to the North (1,920 ft). Following this trail I begin to skirt around the northwest edge of the mountain along a ridge that, at times, makes me realize that one misstep and I could slide down the slope. The top picture of this post shows one such possible slide.
At one point I cross a wooden platform complete with metal railing. This is a first on my hikes so I suppose one or more accidents must have caused this platform to be built.
I arrive at the Long Trail Intersection with Baker Peak Trail (2,760 ft) and turn south on the Long Trail. I travel south on the LT for 1.9 miles. This is the third time I have hiked this section of the LT. I arrive at Griffith Lake and then backtrack 0.1 mile to the Lake Trail intersection with the Long Trail (2,620 ft)The descent goes smoothly and follows the brook the feeds out of Griffith Lake. along the way I come to an open area filled with colorful leaves that have fallen from trees. My camera does not do the color justice. I arrive back at the Car no worse for the year having climbed over 2,000 feet and hiking some 8.1 miles.