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, May 26, 2009

Emily Proctor Trail Dayhike

On Monday, May 24, 2009 (Memorial Day) I took a day hike up the Emily Proctor side Trail to the LT along with my oldest son, Jon, and his boss at National Life, Tom Yevchek. This is only the second time that I have had company on a hike since I began this quest. It's good to be following someone else for a change. We arrive at the trailhead (1,520 ft above sea level) at 10:43 am on a beautiful cloudless day with the temperature about 70 degrees and a cool breeze blowing.

The beginning of the hike is a steady climb for about 1/2 mile on an old logging road to a clearing that was logged several years ago. From this point we begin a gradual ascent up Breadloaf Mountain. Along the way we come to a beautiful stream known as the New Haven River. Where we cross is an inviting pool of water that is crystal clear and appears to be at least five feet deep. I make a note that I will have to hike back to this point with Kim sometime and take a dip. It takes us about 40 minutes of hiking to reach this stream.

We continue the gradual ascent for a total of about 2 miles , crossing numerous smaller streams until, with about a mile and a half left on the ascent the trail becomes much steeper and rocky. My legs begin to tell me that they remember the 16 miles I did two days ago and my feet recall that they were sore. On the steepest section we pass two hikers with large dogs descending and, about 200 yards further on, one hiker with a beautiful, but huge, Husky.

We arrive at the Emily Proctor Shelter (built 1960, sleeps 5, 3,460 ft) at 12:30 am and eat a lunch consisting of a sandwich (mine was Bologna and Swiss) and a handful of M&Ms. We begin the hike back down at 1:00 a bit disappointed that there were no views from the shelter out over the valley. According to my map the nearest vista is 0.7 miles away and we decide it's not worth the extra steps. I forget to take a picture of the shelter before we leave.

The trip back down goes fast and smooth. When we reach the New Haven river pool I offer Jon $5 to take a swim but he is not up to the challenge. We arrive back at the car at 2:30 pm having covered 7 miles and climbed 2,000 feet in 3 hours and 45 minutes, including a 30 minute lunch. I have a cooler with a couple of sodas and a couple of beers and we relax for a few minutes before heading back to civilization. At the trailhead is a primitive camping area along the New Haven river that is the prettiest camping area I've seen in Vermont so far. Kim and I will definitely camp here this summer - hopefully more than once.

Finally, I have another flower picture for identification.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 23, 2009 East Bald Mountain - West Ridge Trails Day Hike

On Saturday, May 23, 2009 I set out on what promised to be my longest single day-hike of my odyssey. I plan to hike 9.7 miles along the West Ridge Trail to Goddard Shelter and the Long Trail up on Glastenbury Mountain and then reversed field and trek back down for a total of just under 20 miles in one day. I arrive in Woodford Hollow at 8:15 am but struggle to find the trailhead. I continue down the dirt road until I meet a man on a small backhoe. I ask him and he advises me to park in his yard and head north up a snowmobile trail until I reach the blue blazes marking the the trail. When he says blue blazes I figure he must know what he is talking about so I follow his direction. I start hiking at 8:35 am in 60 degree weather with overcast skies and a 30 percent chance of rain/thunderstorms (1,300 feet above sea level). At the start of the trail there is a horse farm with about a dozen pretty white horses. They seem pleased to see me.

The snowmobile trail snakes northward and climbs steadily for about 2.5 miles taking one hour of hiking. I realize partway up that the trail is not heading westward enough for me to meet up with the West Ridge Trail and that there is a serious ravine between me and the trail. I know, however, if I keep going north, not only will I reach my destination, but I also may be able to cut my hiking distance down significantly. Unfortunately, after an hour I run out of snowmobile trail as the trail ends at a private lodge partway up Glastenbury Mountain.

I have a decision to make - bushwhack on up or turn around and admit defeat...I bushwhack. The climb is steady but there are numerous moose trails that help me navigate through the bush. I use my compass and try to keep moving in a northern direction as much as possible. After one and a half hours of this I step out onto a trail and immediately see a blue blaze. It turns out that I am just about 200 yards from my destination - Goddard Shelter (3,748 ft) - on top of Glastenbury so I have climbed 2,500 feet, mostly bushwhacked, and have knocked off about five miles and two hours of hiking by taking this route. I reach the shelter at 11:00 am.

I pause at Goddard Shelter to eat a cold hamburger I brought with me and to change out the inserts in my hiking shoes. At 11:15 I begin the descent down the West Ridge Trail. The going is fine and the descent is not too steep but my feet are exceptionally sore today, especially my left foot. Every step on a rock, root, or at an angle, anything other than on a soft pile of leaves, is uncomfortable to say the least. I must descend 7.8 mile to the crest of Bald Mountain (2,857 ft). About halfway to Bald Mtn. I come to a spot where the trail enters a flodded area. I do not relish the idea of stripping down and wading across. Eventually, I find a way around that keeps me from getting wet. I arrive at Bald Mountain at 3:00 pm having covered about 8 miles in about four hours. Along the way I pass an older couple who obviously are just learning to overnight hike. They are carrying way to much gear and are laboring under the loads. I ask if I can help but they politely say no - they are fine. I wonder if that is really true but decide to push on. When I pass them they are about six miles from their car and heading home.

On the top of Bald Mountain there is an unusual white dust covering that, I'm sure, is the basis for its name. The views are not majestic, but the clouds have cleared off and the day has warmed up into the mid seventies. The black flies have been out in force for much of the hike and I put to good use my mosquito netting Kim got me for Christmas. It covers my hat and head and works great. I never use the bug spray.

I turn east just after the Bald Mountain summit and begin a steep 2.0 mile descent back to the road I started on. The descent is tough on my already sore feet as there are numerous rocks and roots that have to be stepped on during the trek down. I reach the road at 4:00 pm and now see where the trailhead was that I missed to begin with. My large map located it 1.2 miles from Route Nine but it is actually 0.8 miles from there. I hike the remaining half mile up the road to my car having travelled roughly 16 miles in just under eight hours.

On the way home I drive through Bennington where a Moose Festival is going on. As if I haven't hiked enough, I park my car and walk through the festival, taking pictures of the only moose I've seen on the hike. Something tells me that they are not the ones that left all the moose poop up on the mountains I hiked today :)

Let me know what your favorite moose is - don't forget the one pictured at the beginning of this entry...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

May 18, 2009 - Lye Brook, North Branch Pond, and Old Rootville Road Trails

I get up at 5:30 am on Monday, May 18th 2009 in order to have plenty of daylight for a long day hike. I arrive at the trailhead of the Lye Brook Trail just outside of Manchester Center at 8:30 am. The weather is cool (low 40s) and overcast but the forecast is for no rain so I take off. From the trailhead (760 feet above sea level) it is 2.3 miles up an old railroad bed and old woods roads to a turn off heading south to Lye Brook Falls.

The climb is steady but not too steep and the falls were the nicest I have ever seen along any trail. As majestic is to Niagra, beautiful is to Lye Brook Falls. The falls tumble over a rock ledge at least 150 feet. The side trail I am on intersects the falls well below its bottom. Unfortunately, the angle and the trees keep me from getting a perfect angle in order to capture a nice image, but I highly recommend the 5.0 mile round trip hike to anyone that likes a waterfall - this is one of the best!

From the Falls I return to the main trail and continue up the south side of an unnamed mountain in the Lye Brook Wilderness. I reach the height of my hike about 200 feet from the summit at about 2,700 feet by my calculation. At this point the trail flattens out and I actually enter a very marshy area.
I cross numerous areas of muck but I am usually able to find submerged rocks and/or logs that keep me from sinking to my knees in the mud. I've attached a picture of the typical sinkhole. I arrive at the intersection of the trail with the Branch Pond Trail after 8.1 miles of hiking. It is 12:10 pm. This intersection is the point at which last year, on July 19th, I came to from the east along with my son Jon. At that time he and I turned south and completed the southern half of the Branch Pond trail. This time I turn north. Along the way I cross several streams and find a particular type of flower growing over about a one mile stretch of trail. I provide it for you to identify, if you can.

I turn north and skirt the eastern shore of Bourn Pond passing two primitive tenting areas along the way. The trail is rather flat now and stays this way for several miles as I work my way 3.5 miles north to a shelter. Along the way I come to a point where the trail disappears into a flood plain. It is cool out and I do not relish the idea of wayding through the water so I decide to try and bushwhack my way around the obstacle. It takes about five minutes, and I begin to get nervous about finding the trail again, but it all works out well and I'm on my way again.

After hiking along Bourn Brook for about a mile, I arrive at the William B. Douglas shelter (built 1956, sleeps 10) a log lean-to renovated in 2005 with a nice sleeping platform inside the shelter. There is a refreshing piped spring providing clear-cool water, but my water supply is in good shape so I don't pump any. I rest in the shelter for about 10 minutes, taking my shoes off and replacing the inserts with a spare pair in an effort to fool my feet into thinking they are refreshed. It works for a short while.

I now hike 1/2 mile north from the shelter where I intersect with the Long Trail. From this intersection it is a short hike to Old Rootville Road, a passable but poor road that the LT follows for 0.9 tenths of a mile before turning north. I continue past this LT turnoff for 1.8 more miles down the Old Rootville Road until I arrive at a home and an intersection with East Manchester Road. The last two miles have been fairly steeply downhill and my quads are telling me they are tired of hiking. I finish the trail at 3:20 pm. At the intersection I find an older man in a GEO Tracker who stops to ask me questions about the trail. After answering him, I tell him about the Lye Brook Trail and the falls that he simply must see. He does not know where this is so I volunteer to let him drive me to the trail head where my car is. By doing this he gets information about a hike he is going to take and I save about 3 miles of extra hiking on a blacktop road. In the end I've hiked 14.5 miles in just under 7 hours and I've marked three more side trails of my list.

Monday, May 4, 2009

May 4, 2009 Pine Cobble and Broad Brook Trail Day Hike

On Sunday May 3, 2009 I completed my first successful hike of the 2009 season. I say successful because I went out in mid-april and attempted to hike the Emily Proctor Trail to the top of Breadloaf Mountain. I made it about two miles and about 2/3 of the way up when I encountered snow as deep as two feet. I continued into the snow for about 1/4 of a mile before I came to the conclusion that I was not going to make it to the top and complete this hike until the snow melted. On the way up I came across what I am certain were bear tracks in the snow. Unlike dogs these tracks had clearly defined claw marks.

I started my Sunday hike on the Pine Cobble Trail (630 ft above sea level) in the stae of Massachusetts. This trail is not in Vermont but is considered a side trail because it is one of two approaches to the Vermont Long Trail start at the state line. I hiked the other approach, the Appalachian Trail, last year on my first overnight hike. The Pine Cobble trail is an easy to find and well-marked Hike. I get on the trail at 10:20 am and make good time climbing 2.1 miles to the intersection with the AT (2,010 ft) arriving at the AT at 11:15 am. Along the way I traversed through two granite fields I found interesting.

On the way back down I took a side trail for 0.2 miles leading to the peak of Pine Cobble Mountian (1,894 ft.) and overlooking the Hoosic Valley and the Berkshire Mountains. I pass several people on the trail - this must be a popular hike for people in the area. Some bored hiker went to great lengths to set up a number of balanced rock formations that must have taken a bit of effort to achieve. I arrive back at the trailhead at 12:15 pm having taken just under two hours to hike 4.4 miles.

It takes just 15 minutes to get to the trailhead of my next hike - Broad Brook Trail. Charlie Castelli has warned me about this trail telling me that it is poorly marked and has multiple creek crossings that one must wade because their are not enough rocks to step across on. He was correct - especially since the spring runoff is still occurring. I start out at the trailhead about 25 yards inside the State line of Vermont (900 ft.) and pass by the Pownal Water Works as I enter the trail. The first mile or so is well marked and follows the south side of Broad Brook.

Then come the water crossings. The first one is the deepest (of course, I don't know that at this point). I remove my shoes, socks and pants and put on a pair of imitation Crocs I bought thinking just of this hike. I wade across in frigid water up to my thighs. My footing is secure, however, and the current, while strong, does not come close to knocking me over. I re-dress on the other side and continue on my way.

I make the next crossing about 1/2 mile later and go through the same ritual. On the other side however, I decide that since there are no other cars at the trailhead the trail is mine and mine alone so I leave my Crocs on and begin hiking in my black spandex Under Armour underwear. If this is too much information, I apologize. The trail continues to cris-cross back and forth over Broad Brook. I keep a count and in total I make 19 creek crossings with 10 of them requiring me to get wet on the way up and back. After a few more crossings I can tell my feet do not like hiking in Crocs so I put on my shoes and socks but continue sans pantelones.

At the top I come to a rough but driveable road that takes me .3 miles east to the Long Trail (2,130 ft). There is no sign for this intersection so I take a picture of the White Blaze that marks the LT. It takes 2.5 hours to cover the 4.0 miles to the LT, about 30 minutes of that spent changing shoes to make the crossings.

The trip down is much faster as I decide to wade in my shoes and socks and forego the Crocs. The trip down goes well even though the trail is poorly marked and I get sidetracked a couple of times. I arrive back at the car at 5:00 pm having covered 8 miles in 4.5 hours.

In total I've hiked 12.4 miles today in less than 6.5 hours. Not bad for the first hike out this spring. I stop and eat Thai food in Rutland on the way home to celebrate the start of another season. My goal is to complete the LT and all of the side trails by the end of next fall.