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 12, 2009

Stage 18 - LT Day Hike from Davis Neighborhood Trail to Rte.15/118

On Sunday, October 11, 2009 my wife and I head out in the cars to drop me at the start of the Davis Neighborhood Trail. The weather looks ominous as we drive north. We drop the return car at Belvidere Pond on Rt. 15 in a steady drizzle with the temperature in the upper 30's. We drive south to the trailhead of the Davis Neighborhood Trail(1,200 ft). As we reach the trail the sun breaks through for the first time all day. It is to remain sunny my entire hike.

I drive partway up the trail (this is allowed) as the trail follows an old roadway. after about a half mile I decide it's getting too rough and turn around so Kim can drive out. I begin my hike at 11:00 am. It is a short 1 mile back up to Corliss Camp (1,900 ft) and I make excellent time as the trail is easy. I turn north on the Long Trail and begin a steady 1 mile climb to the summit of Butternut Mountain (2,715 ft). The summit is marked with a US Geological Survey brass marker.

I begin to descend the north slope of Butternut and realize that I have been walking on frost/light snow ever since I rose above 2,500 ft. It is so mild it is not even slippery. I don't become aware of it until I'm descending and having to watch my step more carefully. i would characterize the foliage a few days past prime, but it is still breathtaking to be walking in such beautiful surroundings. As I descend I pass a few brief clearing that afford a view of the valley below.

As I bottom out from the mountain I reach Basin Brook. It has been a number of hikes since I have come across a stream that compares with the beauty of the ones I saw in southern Vermont, but now that I am north of Mt. Mansfield they are beginning to get enchanting again.

The bottoms at this point are fairly soggy and I am glad that, for the first time, I have worn gaiters over my boots and lower legs. This keeps my sock dry. As I descend rapidly I jump out onto a old roadway and come face to face with a huge Moose. The Moose is about 50 feet away from me and is as startled as I am. She (no antlers) turns and wobbles/runs across the road and into the woods. She stands taller than I am so I'd put her at 6 feet tall and older as she is very grey around the muzzle. I am unable to get my camera out in time so I take a shot of the closest living thing I can think of - Me!

I continue to descend towards Spruce Ledge Camp. It is 5.4 miles from the summit of Butternut To the spur leading to the Camp and along the way I climb to small summits that make up Bowen Mountain. Other than that the hike is mostly downhill. It is not terribly steep but it is damp and fall leaves cover the trail so it is slippery. I fall twice. the first time I am rounding a corner too fast and my back legs hits my front and I am thrown off the trial onto my side. No damage done - just wounded pride and a lecture to myself to be more careful. The second time I step on a downward sloping rock that I do not notice because of the leaves and my feet fly out from under me. I land hard on my left hip and, as I write this entry it is sore and beginning to bruise.

At the Spur I turn uphill and hike 830 feet to Spruce Ledge Camp (built 1998, sleeps 8, 1,515 ft). The camp is pleasant and well made, with a separate picnic shelter that is very close to a nice view of Ritterbush Pond in the distance. I pause here for the first time today to drink some Gatorade and catch my breath. It is 2:10 pm and I don't even think about eating anything.

Soon I continue downhill along a pretty stream towards Devils Gulch (1,260 ft). Devils Gulch is described as a challenging set of boulders and rocks that hikers must work their way through. It really wasn't that bad but it took a while to get through it. The pictures to the right and below left show part of the path I have to navigate. It is bordered by steep cliffs and is an awesome sight. The picture at the top of this blog entry shows one sidewall of the crevice.

From here it is a short hike to the intersection with the Babcock Trail (1,100 ft). Along this route I encounter a pleasant waterfall/cascade.

I turn east and follow the Babcock, a trail I've hiked before, for a short 1.4 miles to Rt. 15. This trail passes by Big Muddy Pond, whose name still perplexes me as there is nothing muddy about the pond at all. I arrive at Rt. 15 at 3:45 pm having hiked just over 10 miles at just over a 2.0 mile per hour pace. I pause at the car to take three photos of Belvidere Pond. You can see the peak of Belvidere mountain off in the distance of one of the shots - my next challenge on the LT.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stage 17 - LT Day Hike from Prospect Rock over Laraway Mountain and out Davis Neighborhood Trail

On Saturday, September 26, 2009 on a crisp and cool morning (38 degrees) Kim drove me to my drop off point on Prospect Rock Road where I began hiking on the Long Trail at 9:30 am. From Prospect Rock Road (960 feet above sea level) I head north along the road for a few hundred yards before I turn to the right and head off into a pleasant pine grove complete with pine needles carpeting the path. If the hike stays like this my feet will smile the entire trek. (Just a reminder that you can double click on any picture that interests you and it will enlarge to fill your screen)

After 2.6 miles I have reached the top of three climbs I will make today. This one is called Roundtop and a short distance after summiting I reach Roundtop Shelter (built 1994, sleeps 10, 1,650 ft.) There is a hand written note telling hikers that the water source for the shelter has gone dry and will not have water again until the next heavy rain. I suspect that may surprise a few overnight hikers coming from the south as there is no water source in that direction.

From the shelter I follow a ridge to the north before descending to Plot Road one mile from Roundtop shelter. along the way I come to a sugarbush (a stand of sugar maple trees) and take a picture of the tubing that is used to collect maple sap. In times past the sap was collected in buckets (a technique still used on a limited basis today) but nowadays tubing is used and the sap drains to a collection tank. In high tech sugaring operations a vacuum pump is used to draw the sap from the trees.

I cross the road and begin my second climb of the day followed by a descent into Codding Hollow. Before I reach Codding Hollow Road (1,230 ft) I cross an interesting stone wall marking the boundary of an old farm.
I turn right on the road and, in a few hundred feet turn north back into the woods. I soon come to a nice stream and pause to take a drink and a picture. The trail here becomes wider and I believe I am following an old logging road.

In short order I come to the base of a most impressive cliff. It is probably 75 feet of sheer rock wall that continues for several hundred yards. I climb over numerous rock slabs as I work my way along the edge of the base of the cliff. Clearly, the rocks I'm scrambling over have fallen from above so I keep my fingers crossed that known fall as I pass under them.

I now begin the 1,400 foot climb to the summit of Laraway Mountain. The climb is not excessively steep and I make good time. Before I reach the summit I come to Laraway Lookout (2,620 ft) which provides a panoramic view from the southeast (Mt. Mansfield) to the northwest and what I assume is the Adirondack Mountains of New York. A short distance of 0.3 miles further on I reach the Peak of Laraway Mountain.

Laraway Mountain (2,790 ft) has a wooded summit and no views to speak of. i do pause and take a photo of the summit sign, however. I have know made my third and final climb of today's hike having covered 7.0 miles so far.

The descent is quite nice with few sections that require me to pause and think about where I will step on the way down. It is 2.7 miles downhill to my next stop, Corliss Camp. Corliss Camp (built 1989, sleeps 14, 1,900 ft) is the "cutest" camp I have come to so far with a proper door and windows making it look much more like a cottage than a camp. The inside looks like it will only sleep about 6 so I wonder how 14 could sleep there as the guide book suggests. When I come back out of the cabin I find a ladder that ascends up to an open "attic" that sleeps the rest. I pause here for a few minutes to each some roasted Cashews and drink some Gatorade.

When I push off, I leave the LT and begin a 1.5 mile hike out the Davis Neighborhood Trail to my car. In no time I come to a gravel road with no indication of which way I should go to get to my destination. I choose to go left and, in a few hundred yards come to a blue blaze on a tree that indicates I chose correctly. I arrive at my car at 3:35 pm having hiked 11.2 miles in six hours - not a bad pace for the Long Trail.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stage 16 - LT Day Hike Over Whiteface Mountain

On Monday, September 21, 2009 I was able to slip out for another hike on the Long Trail. I arrived at the Trail head of Beaver Meadow Trail (1,550 ft. above sea level) at 9:20 am and started out on what promises to be a beautiful day (sunny, temps in upper 60s, low 70s). I am backtracking up this trail to complete the Chilcoot Trail and hike along the LT. The first 1.8 miles covers ground I hiked on my last outing. It is a pleasant walk with a gentle ascent and few roots and walks. I hike this portion in regular running shoes as I know it is a soft and friendly route. At 1.8 miles I turn left and continue on the Beaver Meadow Trail Loop for another 0.5 miles until I arrive at Beaver Meadow Lodge (built 1947, sleeps 15, 2,214 ft). The lodge is musty, but has a wood stove so that it can be used in winter. Here I change into my hiking boots for the rest of the hike.

From the lodge I continue on the Beaver Meadow Trail Loop for another 0.3 miles to complete the loop and come out at the Whiteface Trail trail head. I then turn around and return to the lodge. In back of the lodge I find the Chilcoot trail that leads up to the LT. This is a short, but steep 0.5 mile hike up to Chilcoot Pass (2,950 ft). Thus, I climb 735 feet in a short 0.5 miles.

I arrive at the LT winded but in good spirits. I turn north to retrace 1.5 miles of LT that I covered on my last hike in this area. Along the way I pass Hagerman Overlook (3,190 ft) again and take a nice picture of Mt. Mansfield.

In short order I arrive at Whiteface Shelter (built 1958, sleeps five, 3,156 ft). This is the spot where I turned off of the LT and hiked out to my car two hikes ago. I pause long enough to take another photo of the shelter, another shot of the view from the shelter, and drink some Gatorade.

It is 12:15 pm as I leave the shelter for what promises to be my last climb of the day, up 0.5 miles to the peak of Whiteface Mountain. At the peak (3,714 ft) There is a short spur that leads to a couple of nice views of the valley below.The shot to the left looks north toward Canada while the shot to the right once again frames Mansfield to the south. I pause again to take the photos and catch my breath. I have hiked 5.4 miles, most of it in ascent. Now comes the fun part.

It is a 3.1 mile drop from the peak of Whiteface to the Bear Hollow Shelter. As I hike down I am prepared for a steep descent as the trail drops from 3,714 ft to 1,380 ft. over this distance. I am pleasantly surprised to find only one or two really steep areas. Over most of the descent I am able to make excellent time. Along the way I pass several interesting rock formations but only pause to take a picture of one whose face I pass under on the way down.

I reach Bear Hollow Shelter (built 1991, sleeps 12, 1,380 ft.) one hour and 45 minutes after leaving Whiteface Shelter. The guidebook says it should take 2 hours and 15 minutes to make the hike - So There! The shelter is interestingly positioned on a small bluff that overlooks the LT that passes underneath the bluff. I pause to get another drink and eat a package of Cashews for lunch. Kim is deathly allergic to Cashews so this is a treat I do not get to have at home.

I have made excellent time and only have a short 2.6 mile hike left to get to the car. The trail level out at about 500 feet above sea level and I cross several small brooks before emerging on a worn logging road. After a short stint along this road I come to a field where I take a picture of an interesting flower (name anyone?) If you enlarge it you can see a bee doing his days work.

After about 1 mile from the shelter the logging road intersects with a gravel road that presents me with a left or right decision. I finally consult the guide book (if all else fails, read the directions) and proceed to the right. Only then do I see the white blaze that tells me I'm doing the right thing.

In short order I arrive at the Iron Gate blocking the road and my car parked just beyond. It is 3:20 pm so I have covered 11.1 miles in 6 hours even - not a bad pace. On the way home I drive past Cady's Falls and stop to take pictures. One is at the top of the entry for this hike, the other is to the left.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stage 15 - Long Trail Day Hike to Prospect Rock near Johnson, VT

On Sunday, September 13, 2009 I slipped out to try and make my last ascent of Mt. Mansfield. My plan was to take the Gondola up to the Cliff House Restaurant and from there finish the rest of the side trails I need to hike before hiking off the mountain. I arrive at 9:30 am to find the summit covered with dark, foreboding clouds. The Gondola doesn't open until 10 am so I stick around to see if the skies might clear.

The weather forecast is for partly sunny weather, with a bit of rain possibly moving in for the evening. Obviously the meteorologists went to the wrong palm reader for this forecast, as they often do in Vermont. If you've ever noticed that precipitation forecast are always in increments of 10% ( say 30%, 40% or 50% chance of rain/snow) and never say a 25% or 33% chance I can explain the phenomenon, at least in Vermont.

In Vermont, all of the radio, TV and newspapers have pooled their resources to predict the weather. They can't afford trained forecasters so they have hired 10 well-intentioned persons who know a little bit about weather forecasting. Being Vermont, these individuals are allowed to work out of their homes and still draw a salary. Each morning they awake, take a shower, dress, and drift downstairs for a cup of coffee - organic, fair trade, no doubt. Eventually they drift out onto their decks and gaze off into the sky. After a few sips of wake-me-up they wander over to their computers and wait for the dial-up Internet connection to function. Then they email Office Central with their prediction. If three of the ten say it may rain today - Waalaa! - 30% chance of precipitation in Vermont today. And that, little kiddies, is the science of weather forecasting in Vermont!

At 10:00 am I make the wise decision to forgo Mt. Mansfield today. Instead I choose to hit a bit of low lying fruit on the Long Trail - easy hikes in the rain. I head north from smugglers Notch to route 15 and turn east to West Settlement Road. This public road is actually a part of the LT. I drive south on the road until I come to a fork and take the left branch. i immediately see a sign warning of Tree Logging operations. I continue on another 0.3 miles until I come to a locked gate and a place to park my car (@700 ft. above sea level).
My hike should be short so I forgo the usual backpack, water, and hiking staff and head back down the road on the LT. About 100 feet from the intersection with Rt. 15 the LT turns left and follows the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail (500 ft). I follow the flat, gravelled railroad bed for just under a mile before the LT veers right and across a hay field.
In short order, I climb briefly out of the field and skirt around the eastern edge of an attractive cemetery.

I cross Rt. 15 and continue into another hay field that I skirt around until the LT heads north into the woods. From here it is about a 1/3 mile hike to the Lamoille River through a pine forest on a soft, pine needle carpeted trail. This hike is clearly going to be easy on my feet. I arrive at a back pool of the river and cross it on a most interesting rock formation. I then climb gently to a well maintained suspension bridge over the river.

From the other side of the river (500 ft) I cross Hogback Road, where there is a parking area for anyone wanting to see the river and bridge, and begin to ascend 0.8 miles to the top of Prospect Rock (1,040 ft.). The climb is only steep in a very few spots and the trail is virtually root and rock free so I enjoy the ascent, passing several other hikers on the way up. The view from the top of Prospect Rock looks out over the Lamoille River Valley and is quite nice.

I continue north on the LT for another 0.3 mile downhill to Prospect Rock Road (940 ft.).
Here there is another parking area for those who want to get to the view with a minimal amount of walking. I turn right on Prospect Rock Road and leave the LT to hike back to my car. I make the round trip in 2 hours and five minutes, covering about 4.7 miles - a good pace over the easiest section of the LT I've found.

I then drive to Jonesville to finish up a short section of the LT I passed over earlier. This section is a 2.3 miles section that follows along the Winooski River on Duxbury Road. It connects the descent from Camel's Hump to the ascent of Bolton Mountain. I hike the 4.6 miles out and back in a very short 90 minutes. This is because it is all on pavement and their is very little elevation change. Now I have covered every inch of the LT to the top of Mt. Mansfield from the MA border. I head home damp from the misting rain but happy to have still had a productive day.