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, 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.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mt Mansfield via Halfway House, Forehead By-Pass, Lakeview, and Canyon Trails Day Hike

On 09/09/09 at just after 09:09 in the morning (more like 10:30 am) I arrive at Underhill State Park (site of the end of the hike that saw me hospitalized with dehydration earlier this summer) to tackle yet another ascent of Mt. Mansfield. This time I will climb up a trail that was once used to by horses to apparantly get to a lodge (no longer there) that was about halfway up the mountain. Once on the top I plan to check off as many as three additional side trails I still need to cover near the summit.

From the Park (1,800 ft above sea level) I join up with another hiker and take the Eagles Cut Pass to cut out some of the road hiking and emerge on a CCC gravel road after a few tenths of a mile. We follow this road to the trailhead of his destination (Sunset Ridge Trail) where he leaves the road to begin his climb. His name is Ben (I think) and he has on a very nice baby backpack and is toting along his 2 month old baby, Maggie. I tell him how Kim and I used to hike with our oldest son, Jon, like that in Arkansas. I also warn him about the steepness of the trail and that he should take care. Maggie is sound asleep within ten minutes of the start of the hike. If she is like Jon was she will stay asleep most of the hike with her head bobbing back and forth the whole way. I also warn him that, if he goes all the way to the Chin, he should return by the same route and not by the shorter, but steeper Laura Cowles trail. I'd hate see him slip and fall with a baby on board.

I continue on the CCC Road for another few tenths and come to the trailhead of the Halfway House Trail (2,600 ft) and turn left to begin a steeper climb up the mountain toward the Forehead. At one point on the ascent I come to a ladder that, if the Halfway House was higher than this on the mountain, must have been a challenge for the packhorses to navigate in days past. Of all of the climbs I have made up Mansfield, this has been the least strenuous and I arrive at the LT intersection on top of the mountain at 12:00 sharp.

From the intersection I have a unique view of the Forehead so I pause to take a picture and talk with a few visitors who have driven up the toll road to walk around. I then head south on the LT towards the Forehead. In a short and easy 1/2 mile trek I arrive at the start of the Forehead By-Pass Trail. Much of this short hike is actually on a gravel road called the TV Station road that leads to the TV Towers on the Chin. I hiked 0.3 miles of the By-Pass Trail on one of my previous hikes as I worked my way down the east side of the mountain via the Hazelton Trail and I'm back now to cover the entire 1.2 mile trail.

The Forehead By-Pass Trail (3,900 ft) is a trail designated for inclement weather use to protect hikers from storms, high winds and lightning. From the north side of the Forehead it drops rather steeply, falling over 900 feet in 1.2 miles. About half of this trail is hiked on rock ledge that in wet weather I have to believe would be very difficult to navigate. The picture to the left should give you a feel for this. Since I am heading downhill in dry weather I make short order of the 1.2 miles and arrive at the south end of the trail where it intersects with the LT at an interesting rock formation called the Needle's Eye (picture at right) that LT hikers pass through (3,080 ft).

On the way back up the By-Pass Trail I pause to take a photo of a large rock formation that I hike under on the trail. I arrive back at the Northern LT Intersection at about 2:00 pm having covered about 5.4 miles so far.

I head North on the LT and about 50 yards after I get back on the TV Road I take a left into the woods to hike the Lakeview Trail.
After a short stent in the woods I emerge on an open shelf with a great view of Sunset Ridge and the valley below. This short 0.8 mile trail takes over an hour to hike as it quickly becomes a challenging hike over, under and around boulders.

The Trail intersects with the Canyon Trail Loop about 100 feet from reconnecting with the LT, So I hike to the LT and turn around to go back and complete the Loop. Canyon Trail Loop is an even shorter hike, 0.6 miles, that takes even longer and is the most difficult trail I've hiked. I squeeze through several narrow passages too thin to get through with a backpack and one that anybody more than 250 pounds will probably not get through at all - unless they're 7 feet tall. I then enter "the Canyon", a large chamber overhung by the mountain wall. At the far end of the chamber I must climb a six foot aluminum ladder that is not hooked to anything to stabilize it and that ends on an angled rock slope that I crawl over to get back to level ground. I then drop into another smaller chamber at the end of which I must remove my back pack and push it and my hiking staff in front of me as I scoot on my belly to get through the narrow passage about 2 feet high, three feet wide and 20 feet long.

Once I emerge from the cave, if you will, it is a short and easy hike to the intersection with the Halfway House Trail where I turn left and head down the mountain to my car, arriving at 4:00 pm. I have covered 8-9 miles in about 5.5 hours and feel very good, with no soreness or cramps as I drive home.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stage 14 - Smuggler's Notch to Whitface Shelter on LT and out Beaver Meadow Trail

On Friday, September 4, 2009, a beautiful day n the low 70's without a cloud in the sky, I took a day off to hike up from Smuggler's Notch at the base of Mt. Mansfield (1,600 feet above sea level). Because I have an appointment tomorrow, I am unable to make this an overnight trek. I hit the Long Trail, heading north, at 9:15 am and begin the 2.3 mile climb to Elephant Heads Cliff. I had been told that this was a reasonably challenging climb but, having climbed Mt. Mansfield multiple times over the past few weeks, I find this to be pretty easy going.

About halfway up I catch up with three ladies that are out on the first day of a several day hike. One of them seems to be struggling more than the others. Just after passing them I come upon a clearing that gives me a good view of Mt. Mansfield and I take two pictures. The one above on the right is of the Forehead and Nose, and the one to the left is of the Chin and Adam's Apple.

I reach a 0.1 mile spur that leads steeply down to Elephant's Head Cliff (2,800 ft) and arrive at a view that I last saw in 2007 when I climbed up to here via the Sterling Pond Trail with Charlie Castelli and several Vermont Tech students. The shape of an Elephant's head escapes me in the photo so perhaps it is on the cliffs that are below me. I do not lean out over the major drop (several hundred feet) to try and see. As I reach the LT the three women I passed about 20 minutes ago are standing there trying to decide which way to go. I explain their options to them and one of them immediately says, "I want to see the view" and takes off down the spur. The one I thought was dragging looks at me like I'm evil for suggesting the extra hike has a rewarding view. I tell her this would be a good spot for her to sit and rest while the others hike the spur. I can see that she doesn't want to be viewed as weak by the others so I then suggest that she leave her pack in the brush and hike down. She brightens at this idea and is soon off down the spur. This is day one of a three day hike for her and they've covered less than 3 miles so far. I predict PAIN and SUFFERING for her this Labor Day weekend.

Back on the LT I continue to climb towards Sterling Pond. The trail emerges on a Ski Slope, called Snuffy's Ski Trail (3,080 ft), Snuffy the Snuffleupagus, I assume, and I follow the trail down a short way to the striking Sterling Pond (3,000 ft). At the Pond is a man and his young son and their Golden Lab. The father throws a stick out as far as he can into the pond and the dog retrieves it with no hesitation. I think about joining the dog as it is warm, but instead eat a couple of cookies and drink some Gatorade before pushing on.

In short order I cross another ski trail and reenter the woods to come upon the Sterling Pond Shelter (built in 2005, sleeps 8, 3,030 ft). From there I begin a steady climb to the top of Madonna Peak (3,668 ft), the highest point of today's hike. At the peak is a chairlift and I take a picture facing Northeast from the peak and showing the lift (in all it's beauty). I have hiked exactly five miles so far, most of it up, up, and up. From here I must follow a ski trail down the north side of Madonna Peak. The trail is sparsely marked and I get nervous that I may miss where it reenters the woods. Off in the distance I see Whiteface Mountain and, below the summit, I see a building that I believe is Whiteface Shelter, where I plan to leave the LT. About 50 paces past the intersection of the Chilcoot Ski Trail ( the one I'm on) with the Catwalk Ski Trail, I find a cairn that shows me where the trail re-enters the woods.

I begin to drop steadily until I reach Chilcoot Pass (2,950 ft) and Chilcoot pass trail. Here a sign warns me that I am in imminent danger. I decide to stop here and eat lunch which consists of a roast beef sandwich and Gatorade. While in recline a young hiker from the north joins me. It turns out he graduated in the last couple of years from MIT and is a computer engineer in Boston. I tell him my son went to the University of Chicago. We share a few jokes at the expense of Harvard - If MIT or UChicago students really wanted to make A's they would've gone to Harvard - that sort of thing. We chat for about 15 minutes and it's time to part.

I now begin to climb the south slope of Morse Mountain and soon reach Hagerman Overlook (3,190 ft). The view looks back over Mt. Mansfield one more time. I continue to the height of land on Morse Mountain (3,380 ft). From here I begin to drop to the base of Whiteface Mountain, a mountain that I will tackle in my next hike.

At the base, I come to Whiteface Shelter (built 1958, sleeps 5, 3,156 ft). This is a nice lean-to shelter that faces south and gives me a chance to take a picture of the ground I covered coming off of Madonna Peak. The ski trail coming off the mountain is the one I hiked down earlier. I pause here to drink some more Gatorade and then leave the LT to begin my descent down Whiteface Trail. I have hike 7.3 miles to this point. Whiteface Trail is a 1.0 mile steady descent down Whiteface that, in short order, intersects with the Beaver Meadow Trail.

At the intersection with the Beaver Meadow Trail (2,165 ft) I decide to turn right and work my way over to Beaver Meadow Lodge. The trail quickly thins out and after about 0.2 miles I come to a most interesting building labeled Burling Camp (I wonder if the owners are from Burling-ton). I enter cautiously and discover a stove and several bunks along with a built in table.
The place reeks of mold and I doubt if I could spend five minutes inside, let alone a night. The trail is so thin I give up trying to find the lodge and figure I will find it on my next hike. I retrace my steps back to Beaver Meadow Trail.

As I suspected, Beaver Meadow Trail is a wonderful way to end the day. the downward slope is mild and the trail is wide and well-worn. I cover the 2.3 miles very rapidly, probably averaging three miles and hour. I arrive at the trail head (1,550 ft) , however, and have a decision to make. The trail abruptly ends at a steel gate and intersects with an unimproved road. I must decide whether to turn left (up) or right (down) to get to my car. I choose the easier route, right, and am rewarded about 15 minutes later when I arrive at my car and the end of the hike. It is 4:15 pm and I have covered just over 11 miles (in 7.0 hours). My feet are sore but, other than that, I've had no threats of cramps or side-stitches. I feel very good and am glad to have taken this beautiful day to hike. Hopefully, I'll be fully recovered over the weekend as I hope to get out again on Monday.