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, June 16, 2009

Stage Nine - Beane Trail to Duxbury Road Overnight Hike

On Sunday, June 15, 2009 I am able to slip off for my first overnight hike of the season. This one promises to be a challenge as I will climb and descend Camel's Hump over the Long Trail. Kim drops me off at the start at 9:40 am and I take off up Beane Trail near Hanksville, Vermont (1,361 ft above sea level). The climb is gradual and by 10:30 I arrive at the LT and Birch Glen Shelter (bulit 1930, sleeps 12, 2,020 ft)having covered 1.5 miles.

As soon as I start on the LT I can tell the difference as the LT is much rougher. I have 2.9 miles to get to Cowles Cove shelter. The climb is only 500 feet but the footing is rough. My new hiking boots are a God-send, however. Cowles Cove was built in 1956 and sleeps eight (2,520 ft.). It looks pretty run down to me and is in need of some sprucing up. I'd hate to have to pack the tools and wood up here to do it, however.

From Cowles Cove I climb 1.5 miles to the summit of Burnt Rock Mountain (3,168 ft). Along the way I pass the junction with Hedgehog Brook Trail, a trail I hiked last year. The going is rocky with numerous spots where I must throw my hiking staffs up ahead and climb rock ledges. A couple of them are exposed edges that I don't want to slip on. The guidebook says that I will "scramble over bare rocks and cobbles " an accurate description. By the way, it rained yesterday so the trail is a bit muddy, but more problematic, the rocks are slippery. The view from the top is impressive.

From Burnt Rock I descend into a small valley and then climb to the summit of Mount Ira Allen (3,506 feet) covering another 1.5 miles. Along the way I pass several viewsheds and also must climb down a 12 foot aluminum ladder into appropriately-named Ladder Ravine. Climbing down a ladder with a 35 pound pack on your back in wet hiking boots is not fun but I manage. The hard part is getting on the ladder in the first place because it rests on the top of a slick angled rock. I have to hold onto a small tree and spin myself around backwards to get my foot on the ladder. I imagine inexperienced ladder climbers often try to face away from the ladder when climbing down - not a good idea. At the bottom I find no skeletal remains of inexperienced ladder climbers so it must not be that big of a deal.

From Mount Ira Allen I drop a couple of hundred feet and then ascend his brother Mount Ethan Allen (3,688 ft) covering another 1.1 miles. The going has been a challenge today but my feet feel great. I have a 1.2 mile hike to my stopping point for the night at Montclair Glen Camp. I arrive at the shelter (Built 1948, sleeps 10, 2,670 ft) at 4:30 pm having covered 9.7 miles in six hours and 50 minutes - not a very fast pace but steady given the condition of the trail.

The cabin is nice with windows and a door that help to keep out the black flies. For Christmas this past year I got a JetBoil Cooking system so, for the first time ever, I eat a hot meal on the trail - dehydrated Beef Stew. It tastes quite good and, best of all, the gravy contains two cups of water. It feels good to eat something warm instead of cold Tuna and the liquid helps to hydrate me. I settle down at 6:30 pm in my sleeping bag and listen to Robert Earl Keen and Tom Waits on my Ipod (I know, I shouldn't bring electronic devices with me on the trail) and drift off to sleep at 9:00 pm. I toss and turn as I always do when sleeping on too thin a pad and wake up every 30 minutes to reposition myself. But the liquid has helped and I suffer no cramps during the night.

I awaken at about 4:00 am just as daylight is beginning to break. I force myself to stay in bed another 45 minutes and then get up to pack and cook breakfast. I have a Denver Omelette (also dehydrated) that needs salt and pepper (mental note). I am back on the trail at 5:54 am on a morning that is overcast and looks like looming rain.

The first part of today's hike promises to be the toughest climb (up Camel's Hump). It is a steep 1.5 mile ascent but along the way I am treated by several great views. At several points along the climb I am so winded I must stop and rest for one or two minutes. I take my pulse during these intervals and am surprised to find it at about 170 beats per minute. This is equivalent to my heart rate back when I was a distance runner training with interval workouts and it dawns on me that this hiking business is every bit as tough as any workout or race I've ever entered.

I arrive at the intersection of the LT with the Alpine Trail (3,800) and am faced with a key decision. I can continue 3/10s of a mile up to the summit of Camel's Hump and 8/10s of a mile down the other side or I can circumvent the hump by hiking the 1.7 mile Alpine Trail that is designated for use in inclement weather. The rocks are wet, the sky is ominous. and I'm tired of the rugged ascent so I choose the extra distance (I previously hiked all of this section and side trails so I know what I'm in for). The Alpine trail may be designated for inclement weather but it is still a challenging workout over wet rocks and bluffs. About one mile in I am treated to an imposing look at the Hump and pause to take a picture.

I arrive back at the LT intersection on the North side of the mountain and take a three minute break to catch my breath. Now begins a rugged 3.0 mile descent to Banforth Ridge Shelter. At this point I'm not looking forward to the pain of a steep descent. To my surprise the trail doesn't just bottom out. Instead, I climb a series of steep ridges and descend along slippery rocks only to ascend again. On at least a dozen occasions I must sit down and slide on boulders too wet to stand up on - not a pleasant experience - but safer than risking a fall. I make good time on the descent however and cover the 3.0 miles in two hours - better than I thought I would do. It is 11:00 am as I arrive at Bamforth Ridge Shelter (Built 2002, sleeps 9, 1,900 ft) perhaps the shelter in the best condition I have seen on the trail. It sits about 2/10s of a mile off the trail and it is another 1/10 of a mile to the water source to fill my Camelbak. So visiting the shelter adds over a half mile to today's hike.

I now have 2.9 miles downhill to go Duxbury Road (400 ft) and another 9/10s of a mile to my car parked in the Honey Hollow parking lot north along the road. The descent on the map is much steeper than what I've just come down so I fear for the worse. In fact, however, although steep the trail has few rocks to navigate and I am able to make great time without a lot of wear and tear on my legs. It has been thundering for some time as I descend and I figure at any moment the clouds will open up and a deluge will come. Just before Duxbury road I come to a new wooden bridge crossing Gleason Brook, the only sizable stream I've seen on this hike.

Once I reach the trailhead at Duxbury road I turn north and hike along the pavement for about a mile to the car. I arrive at 1:50 pm about 5 minutes before a thunderstorm strikes. At this point (400 ft) the trail is at it's lowest point in Vermont. Today I've traveled 10.1 miles in eight hours and 10 minutes. I'm wet and muddy but I feel rather well as I head for home haivng hiked a total of 19.8 miles over the two days.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Up Camel's Hump - Twice! - All Side Trails Day-Hike

On Monday, June 1, 2009 I took the day off of work to take a day hike up the west side of Camel's Hump. The temperature was in the low 40's and the day was clear at 9:12 am as I set out up the Forest City Trail (1,600 ft above sea level) on the western edge of Camel's Hump State Park. The trail climbs 2.2 miles and 1,070 feet to Monclair Glen Lodge. Along the way I cross Brush Creek twice. The creek is impressive with large boulders and cascading water. I also pass a small clearing and an old cement covered oven located on the site where a 1930's Civilian Conservation Corp camp used to be.

I arrive at Monclair Glen lodge (built 1948, sleeps 10, 2,070 ft) to find three young men eating breakfast around a campfire (forbidden at this site). I'm feeling really good so I decide to add the Allis Trail to my hiking distance today. The trail begins about 0.2 mile south of the Lodge and loops east of the Lodge to rejoin the LT 0.1 mile north of the lodge. Along the route I pass the David Morse Memorial Bench honoring a volunteer trail maintainer.

I am wearing new hiking boots today. I have finally broken down and bought true backpacker boots. The Merrill brand boots cost $150 but are made for rocks, roots, and mud. I am hoping they make my feet smile more than the day-hikers I've been wearing. At this point in the hike my feet would usually be getting sore already. But so far I can't tell I've even taken a step. For this terrain you need a boot with little to no lateral give when you step on a root or rock. When I grab this boot by the heel with one hand and the toe with the other, I'm unable to twist it from side to side, unlike my other hiking shoes.

Because of how good my feet feel, I decide to add more on to the hike. I start down Dean Trail, a 1.0 mile trail that travels partway down the east side of Camel's Hump and connects to the Hump Brook Tenting area and the Monroe Trail. Along the way down the Dean Trail I pass three small Beaver ponds that are quite picturesque. The last of these gives a great shot of the top of Camel's Hump in the distance, the place I hope to reach later today.

I arrive at the Dean Trailhead and spend a few minutes exploring the nice campground that can only be reached by hiking 1.4 miles in from the nearest parking area. I'm still feeling good so I decide to descend all the way down to the start of the Monroe Trail on the East side of Camel's Hump. By making this decision, I am committing myself to trying to do all of the Camel's Hump side trails in one day - something I had planned to take two days of day hiking to accomplish.

I arrive at the Monroe Trailhead (1,500 ft) no worse for the wear. To the south of the trail I find a plaque memorial dedicated to the ten crew members of an air force Bomber that crashed on the Mountian in 1944. Of the 10, only one survived. A family member must have visited the memorial over Memmorial Day weekend because of the recently placed Pewter crucifix left hanging nearby along with incence residue. I pay my respects and return to the trail. Before climbing back up the 1.4 mile descent from Dean Trail, I swap out my shoe inserts in an effort to make my feet less sore by the end of the day.

The trip back up is a bit more challenging after the five miles I've done so far, but it is my legs that are complaining and not so much my feet. Once I reach the Dean Trail I continue the ascent up 1.1 mile further to the Monroe Trail intersection with the south section of the Alpine Trail. The map shows that this section of the Alpine Trail climbs south around the cliff making up the peak of Camel's Hump. This is also considered to be the "inclement weather route" for LT hikers who do not want to be exposed on the top of the cliff in a thunderstorm. A little more than halfway up the 0.5 mile climb back to the LT I find the remaining wreckage of the plane that crashed in 1944. I believe it is a wing section. the climb is steep but not too rugged.

After intersecting with the LT, I turn north on the LT and complete a 0.3 mile rugged ascent up the rock face of Camel's hump. The going is tight and there are two spots where, if I lose my balance, It will take a helicopter to rescue me - if I am worth rescuing at all after such a fall. I complete the scramble and arrive on top of camel's Hump (4,083 ft) to share a brief rest with about six other hikers and take a couple of pictures, the first of Lake Champlain and the second of Mount Washington way off in distant New Hampshire.

Camel's Hump is the most recognizable physical landmark in Vermont and is tied with Mount Ellen (climbed earlier) as the third highest Vermont Peak. It is the only undeveloped peak over 4,000 feet in Vermont (read - no cell/fire towers and no ski lifts). It is one of three Vermont peaks that support rare alpine vegitation. The Waubawakee indians called it Tawabodi-e-wadso, meaning "the mountain that is like a seat" while french explorer Samuel Champlain named it "le lion couchant" ( the crouching, or sleeping, lion). On Ira Allen's (brother of Ethan Allen) 1798 map it is referred to as Camel's Rump. To bad that name didn't stick. In 1830, it was amended by map maker Zaddock Thompson to Camel's Hump which has led to any number of t-shirts and bumper stickers asking the question, "Have you seen Camels Hump?" reminding me of equivalent paraphanalia in Florida stating, "I climbed Mt. Dora" - not exactly a mountain in central Florida.

After a brief rest I descend the north side of the Hump 1.1 miles to the start of the northern section of the Alpine Trail (2,800 ft). The descent is steep and slow but not as risky as the southern climb. Having said that, I slip once and cut the back of my left hand while grabbing for a tree branch to break my fall. I don't notice the blood for several minutes until it is dripping off my hand. Turns out to be just a surface wound - no need for a med-evac. The 1.2 mile section of the Alpine Trail I cover next is a straining climb at this time of the hike. I have covered 9.1 miles of steep terain and am starting to feel the onslaught of leg cramps. I drink extra water and push on.

I reach the Monroe Trail intersection where I turned off on the southern section of the Alpine Trail and turn north to complete the 0.6 tenths of a mile climb remaining on the uncovered Monroe Trail that climbs back to the LT on the northern side of the Hump. While any climb is work at this point, this section of trail is really quite manageable and I reach the end of the trail at 4:00 pm exactly. I now have a 2.1 mile descent of Burrows trail to make.

The descent down Burrows is quite painful, in part because of how far I've climbed today and, in part, because of how rocky the climb down is.
I reach the end of Burrows and decide to take the 0.1 mile trail connector back over to the Forest City Trail I hiked at the start of the day. A short, and fast, 0.8 tenths of a mile later I am back at my car at 5:45 pm having covered 14 rough miles in 8 and 1/2 hours.

On the way home I have two major calf cramps but my feet, though sore, are much fresher than in the past. I would have never made this trek in my other hiking shoes.