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.

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.

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