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.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
On Monday,July 13, 2009 I took the day off to hike the final side trail hike I have in the southern part of the state. It has been difficult getting away to hike this summer because I am spending lots of time playing golf with my sons that are home from college and because there has been sooo much rain this year and trails are muddy and rocks/roots are really wet.
I arrive at the trailhead (700 ft above sea level) about 11:00 am. After about a 200yard walk the trail ends at the point where major road construction intersects the old trail. I work my way around the perimiter of the construction following a series of blue blazed asteriks (*) figuring these are meant to mark the re-routed trail (the trail is a blue-blazed trail). Turns out I am wrong. After about 1/4 of a mile I cross the road construction and begin to work my way up a telephone line gap that I hope the trail will intersect with. after a total of about 30 minutes I am ready to give up looking when a rider on an ATV comes roaring up. I flag him down and tell him my delimna. He says he thinks there are blue blazes up a side road just a few hundred yards from where I am at. I follow his advice and, sure enough, find my way back to the intended route. Who says ATVs shouldn't be allowed in Vermont?
I follow a couple of unnamed brooks for a while and then begin a steady climb up Bald Mountain. I cross a few wet rock slides but do not lose my balance. It is sunny today but it rained the last few days. At 2.6 miles on the trail (more like 3.6 given my bad start) I reach White Rocks. This is a series of broken rocks that I must carefully pick my way over to avoid twisting an ankle. It looks like someone came up here and mined white rocks and left many 3-15 pounders lying about. I work my way through 3-4 fields of these stones.
I re-enter the woods and continue another mile to the junction with the Long Trail (2,750 ft) having climbed a full 2000 feet on this hike. On the way back down I take a short side trail just below the white rocks to a view of the Bennington Valley. Also on the way down I am able to follow the correct trail and come out where I should have gone in at. The trick is to walk through a tunnel placed by the road construction crews instead of trying to work around the construction. Future hikers take note. I am back to the care by 3:00 pm having taken four hours to cover about 8 miles.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
On Tuesday, June 23, 2009 I took two days of vacation to go on a couple of long day hikes. This morning I decided to hike a short section of the Long Trail rather than do a side trail. I started on Duxbury Road near Jonesville VT (326 feet above sea level). From the Honey Hollow parking lot I hike a flat, paved road for 2.1 miles until I cross under Interstate 89 and proceed a few tenths up a gravel road (Stage Road). There the LT takes a right turn (southward) and head up a steep ascent through a power line field. The sun is up and I sweat profusely on the climb. I reenter the woods after another few tenths and continue to climb over exposed rocks to an unnamed summit. From there it is a short downhill to a spur leading south to Duck Brook Shelter (built 1966, sleeps 12, 670 ft.). At this shelter I meet a group of four teenage men and one teenage woman who spent the night at the shelter. The men are standing around while the young lady cooks breakfast for the group. It is at this point that I realize that, for the first time, I have forgotten to bring my camera on a hike - oh well!
From the shelter I begin a series of short ascents and descents for another 3.3 miles. Along the way I pass several rocky ledges offering nice southern views. I end this portion of the Long Trail with a steady descent that winds around a long beaver pond and emerges on Bolton Notch Road. I have covered five miles of trails plus 2.1 miles of asphalt road.
It is my intent to catch a ride down the 5.8 mile hike back to the car. If I can do that, I will have the time to go hike another trail somewhere before calling it a day. After about 2.5 miles of hiking down the road an old farm truck rumbles up and I'm offered a ride. Since it is only a couple miles out of his way, he takes me all the way to my car. I offer him gas money but, like a good Vermonter, he's having none of that. I've gone a total of about 9.5 miles and feel great. It's only 1:00 in the afternoon so I treat myself to a pizza at a joint in Richmond, VT and then drive north a bit more than an hour away to Belvidere Corners and the Babcock Trail.
The Babcock Trail, and Babcock Trail Extension, is a 1.8 mile side trail. By hiking South on the Trail I can circle back to the LT and then hike 1.7 miles north along the LT and back to my car for a total of 3.5 miles. The trail is pleasant and skirts two ponds. The first, Big Muddy Pond, is not at all muddy and I enjoy the views as I hike to the west side of the pond. The last 1/2 mile is a descent into Devils Gulch, a ravine. At the bottom of the gulch I intersect with th LT and begin the climb back to my car. It is here I pass by the second pond, Ritterbush Pond. Soon after the pass I find myself climbing a rock staircase steeply out of the gulch. By the time I reach the top I am very winded but the trail flattens out and the rocks disappear so the remainder of the hike is pleasant. At the car I find three young through hikers, all college students, who are looking for a ride into Belvidere to buy supplies. I give them a lift, returning the favor given me earlier today.
I arrive home about 6:00 pm having hiked about 13 miles and feeling very good. At night I sleep well and never have a hint of cramps so, on Wednesday, I decide to go hiking again. When I wake up in the morning I step on the scale and am pleased to see that I am about 5 pounds lighter than usual. I feel good and never connect the weight loss to dehydration, a big mistake.
I head north to hike a few side trails on Mount Mansfield the highest mountain in Vermont. At 9:45 am I begin at the trail head of Sunset Ridge Trail(2,340 ft). This 3.3 mile long trail is considered the most popular hike to the Summit of the mountain as it climbs up onto a rocky ridge above the tree line and gives a great view of the valley below.
After a short but intense climb I come to the Cantilever trail. This is a 0.4 mile round trip spur to a unique rock feature not done justice by my photo. Discovered in 1960, Cantilever Rock is a horizontal blade of rock 40 feet long and wedged into a 100 foot rock face about 60 feet above the trail. It is quite an impressive sight.
I work my way back to the Sunset Ridge Trail and continue my enjoyable climb arriving at the LT near the summit of Mount Mansfield at about 11:45 am (4,000 ft). I decide to walk along the LT on top of the mountain and then work my way back using alternative side trails. I pass many people on the summit as I hike 1.9 miles south - all on top of Mt. Mansfield. Eventually, I work my way to the Visiters Center up on the Mountain. There is a Toll Road that, for $24, you can take to the top and park at the Visitor's Center.
It is here that I get the first cramp of the hike. In less than two minutes I'm getting a second cramp and realize that I have a tough hike ahead of me. A family from New Jersey is out having a picnic and I ask them if I can buy a drink from them. They give me a 20 ounce bottle of Gatorade - a potential life saver. I drink up the Gatorade and figure that will do the trick so I return to the trail. I am so confident that I decide to take an alternate route back. I head down the Halfway House Trail for about 0.2 miles until it intersects with the Canyon North Trail Extension. I turn south and figure I'll hike the 0.6 mile trail. After a short 0.2 miles I come to a crevice that I'm supposed to crawl through. I realize the cramping I'm in for if I try to crawl through this space and decide to turn back.
Back at the Halfway House Trail I have a decision to make. I can go down the Halfway House Trail and, in 2.5 miles be at my car (in hindsight the smart thing to do) or I can continue to work my way back to the Sunset Ridge Trail. Not realizing
how dehydrated I am, I really do not give the smart choice much of a thought and choose to continue 0.6 miles north on the Canyon North Trail. It is along this rugged route that the cramps really begin to set in. I climb my way back up to the Long Trail and make the 1+ mile hike back to the Sunset Ridge Trail. A couple of hundered yards later and I'm at my next decision point, continue 3.3 miles back down a trail I've already hiked or turn down the steeper, but shorter (2.7 miles) Laura Cowles Trail.
I choose the latter at about 1:30 pm. It is supposed to take 90 minutes to make the descent according to the guide book. No way that is going to happen. Instead it takes 3 hours. The descent is very steep and rocky. A stream runs most of the way down the trail making the rocks wet. Every time I slip, about every dozen steps or so, my body tenses and I get cramps. Some are so bad I practically scream. Every 25yards or so I'm forced to stop for a minute or two to recover from cramping. Bear in mind that so far today I've had 70 ounces of water, 20 ounces of Gatorade, and 20 ounces of mountain Dew (not a good choice I know).
About halfway down I come across another hiker stoping to rest on the way up. He looks at me and says "you don't look too good". I tell him I don't feel too good. He offers me some bread to boost my blood sugar and I take him up on it. He then tells me the only drink he can give is an Apache energy drink - his skin tone tells me he is an Indian - but he doesn't think I should have that. I look at him quizically so he reaches into his bag a pulls out a 12 ounce can of Budweiser. I do decide to pass, even though I was a bit tempted. We part ways after about five minutes and he cautions me that this is the toughest climb he's ever made on a trail.
I continue down steeply with the cramps altering their locations. By the time I reach the car I've had cramps in both feet, both calves, both quads, both hamstrings, multiple side stitches, my right tricep, my left forearm, both hands, my upper back, my neck, and my chin. It takes a solid 10 minutes to be able to get into the car behind the steering wheel and then I sit there for another 10 minutes wondering if I can drive without getting another series of cramps. I have some extra water and a soda in the car so I drink that while I wait.
After a few minutes I decide I feel better and begin a slow drive home. I never cramp on the way and only stop once, at a drive-through McDonald's to get a burger and a 32 ounce Powerade. Once I arrive home my wife insists that I go to the hospital. I was thinking that would be smart by this time anyway. At the hospital, they start me on an IV quickly and run some blood tests. The first tests result in the blood clotting before it could be analyzed so they have to pull blood again. Long story made short, I was dehydrated enough that they kept me overnight for observation to make sure my kidneys and heart were not injured. I had six bags of fluid pumped into me. My upper body recovered quickly, but my legs were sore for four days after I got out of the hospital.