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, June 9, 2010
On Tuesday, June 8, 2010 I simultaneously finish both the Long Trail and all the recognized side trails. I am the 9th person in 2010 and the 3,813 person to ever officially finish the LT and I am the 2nd person this year and only the 12th ever to officially finish all of the side trails.
I arrive at VT 105 and the LT (2,150 ft above sea level) at 10:00 am. Kim drops me off and I immediately begin a short ascent of Carleton Mountain. As I round the second turn in the trail, not 200 yards in, I almost step on the snake pictured to the right. He refuses to move so I pick him up with my hiking staff and place him off the trail to continue.
The climb up Carleton Mountain (2,670 ft) is a short 1.2 miles and I fairly jog up with eagerness to finally finish the Long Trail. There is ashort spur off the trail to a ledge that affords a view to the south over the trail I have come these past 270 miles. That picture is to the left.
The descent is also quite pleasant, a mere 1.4 miles to the Canadian border. Less than a quarter mile down a clearing opens up and I'm able to take a picture of Canada to the north (picture above). I make even better time down the mountain than up and arrive at the northern terminus of the LT after a total of 2.6 miles hiked in 70 minutes. I climb a rock about 20 yards past the sign pictured at the top center of this post and I take the photo to the right of Canada. I also take a shot of a survey marker in the Center of the rock I climb.
I then begin my search for the US/Canada sign post. I wander around some indiscriminate bushwhacked trails searching for the post and just about give up thinking that the little marker on the rock must be all there is when I decide to climb the rock again. I climb down the other side and see the post. I imagine a number of hikers have come all this way and not seen it. It says "Treaty of Washington" on one side and gives the date of the treaty on the other. Remember, you can click on a picture to see a larger image.
After killing about 5 minutes on the border, I decide not to seek asylum in Canada and begin my hike down the final side trail, appropriately called Journey's End Trail. A short but muddy 0.6 miles later I come to Journey's end Camp (1,720 ft, built 2003, sleeps 8). Just past the camp I arrive at a stream crossing that has a rope to help you climb the slanted rock on the other side. This is a new twist on stream crossing that i have not seen elsewhere on the trail.
Another 0.7 miles and I arrive at the trailhead where Kim is parked and waiting for me. It has taken me well under two hours to hike 4 miles and, aside from a muddy final mile, the hike has been pleasant. Kim takes a picture of me at the finish and, as I climb into the car to leave, it begins to rain.
We drive to Stowe, Vermont where the headquaters of the Green mountain Club are located. I deliver a hard copy of this entire blog and they certify me as a completer of both the end-to-end and the side-to-side requirements. They give me a couple of patches and certificates, congratulate me, sell me a t-shirt and a ball cap, and send me home to shower.
I recall a sign that was hand written over the inside door frame of the Journey's End Camp shelter that said "The mass of men lead lives of quite desperation". It is a quote from Walden by Henry David Thoreau (a book I have read twice and love). It occurs to me that this extended hike has been a good break for me, allowing me to disconnect from society for a while and enoy the outdoors, isolation, and exercise. In three days I will be moving to Florida to start a new job in the Panhandle. I commit to doing what I can to keep my efforts there from becoming anything close to "quiet desperation".
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
On Memorial Day, 2010. My wife and I paid the $25 to drive up the toll road to the top of Mount Mansfield, the tallest mountain in Vermont. We arrived at 9:45am with the intent to have Kim explore the top and perhaps read a book and enjoy the view, while I hike for three hours finishing up the side trails I have not yet done up top. As we approach the Visitor's Center a Trail Guide asks me my plans and I tell. She tells us I'd better plan on more than three hours to cover all I expect to do. I disregard her.
I leave Kim in a nice spot near the Long Trail and return to the TV road the find the start of the Amherst Trail. It takes a few minutes but I find it and am off. This trail is 0.3 miles long as is relatively easy. I reach the end and backtrack 0.2 miles track to the start of the Cliff Trail.
The Cliff trail is a tough 1.1 miles and the guidebook does not recommend it for backpackers because of the tight crevices you must pass through. It takes me 80 minutes to cover the trail making it the slowest mph I have made on any route to date. Along this trail I navigate three ladders and work my way through 3-4 very tight spots, not to mention a number of places where a fall would mean serious trouble.
I arrive at the LT winded but otherwise in good shape. I now hike 0.2 miles up Mt. Mansfield to the start of the Profanity Trail. I did this trail before but descend it for 0.5 miles to get to the Hell Brook Cutoff Trail. The descent is steep but manageable.
I Take the Hell Brook Cutoff Trail from just below Taft Lodge on the LT. This trail is 0.7 miles long and ends at the Hell Brook Trail. The path is narrow and there is one spot where I must sit on a wet slippery rock and slide about eight feet laterally to solid ground on the other side. If I slip I will likely slide down the rock for about 10 feet into an area that will be a challenge to climb out of. I do begin to slide downwards, but am able to slide at an angle and not descend to the bottom.
At Hell Brook Trail I turn up and climb 0.4 miles to the Adam's Apple Trail. along the way I realize the mathematical mistake I made to day. I had totaled up the number of minutes I expected each segment of today's hike to take and calculated it would take 295 minutes. When I stupidly converted this to hours, I came up with 3.0 hours instead of 5.0 hours. thus, I've left Kim on top of the mountain expecting me back two hours before I am going to actually get there. I'm tired and the climbing is tough, but I am a few minutes ahead of my 295 minute estimate at this time.
I ascend the Adam's Apple Trail 0.2 miles to its intersection with the LT. Along the way I reach Eagle Pass and look backwards to see the beautiful Lake of the Clouds. I soon reach the LT and turn north to descend 0.3 miles back to the intersection of the LT with Profanity trail, thus completing a 1.6 mile loop.
I now face a 0.5 mile climb back up the Profanity trail and I know it will be challenging. My right foot keeps wanting to cramp as I climb, but luckily it doesn't. It takes 32 minutes and four of those are one minute rest stops, but I make it to the top and back to the LT.
I retrace my LT steps from earlier today for about 0.3 miles until I come to the Subway. The subway is a short 0.3 mile trail that works its way beneath the west side of Mansfield. I'm tired and this makes the route a challenge. The photo to the left shows the final pass and climb I take up from the Subway. I return to the LT and continue south.
In short order I reach the Canyon North Extension. As soon as I start down the trail I realize I have hiked it before - last summer. Therefore, I return to the LT and work my way the last mile to where Kim is waiting for me in the car. It turns out she was not worried about even though I told her 3 hours and it took 4 hours and 45 minutes.
This will be my last hike on this mountain. It is a challenging mountains and most of the toughest hikes I have taken have been here.
One more hike and the whole event is finished!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
In spite of a less than favorable weather forecast, I decide to take my last "long hike" on the Long Trail on Wednesday, May 19, 2010. The weather is cool, upper 40's - low 50's, windy and wet. The forecast calls for light showers most of the day with winds up to 30 mph. I decide to go because I have three more hikes left to finish the LT and all of the side trails and I want to do it before June 10th.
Kim drops me off at the start of the hike at 9:30 am on Rt. 242 at the base of Jay Peak (2,220 ft. above sea level). As soon as I enter the woods I reach a day shelter that I did not photograph. It is not intended for overnight use and fires are not permitted there.
In short order, 0.1 miles, I come to the south end of the Jay Loop trail that leads 0.2 miles to Jay Camp (built 1958, sleeps 10, 2,350 ft). From there it is another 0.2 miles to the northern intersection of Jay Loop with the LT. I actually by-pass the Jay Loop trail at the start of the hike with the intention of driving back to it and covering it after I finish the rest of today's hike. That way, if the weather turns really nasty I'm that much closer to my car.
As I ascend Jay Peak it starts to drizzle but not so badly that I have to break out the rain gear. It is 1.7 miles to the peak and all of my running these past few months has really paid off as I make it with ease. At the top (3,858 ft.) I must manuver around some water pies and a fence, cross a ski trail, and continue to climb. At the very peak there is a ski-lift station and I take some stairs off the rocks and get on a ski trail for several hundered yards. The view from up here is non-existent given all of the cloud cover and the wind is whipping hard.
I am pleased to be heading off of the peak given the cold wind. It is 1.5 miles down to the Laura Windward Shelter (built 1956, sleeps six, 2,800 ft). The trip down is relatively easy, although there is still a fair amount of snow (3 feet in places) and I have to navigate the first ice of this year's hikes. The trail is very well marked, however, in this region.
I now undertake a 0.9 mile ascent of Doll Peak (3,409 ft). The climb is steady but smooth. I then proceed down and up 0.5 miles to an unnamed "peak" on North Jay Mountain. On the descent from North Jay I encounter a bit more snow but no ice. The northern side of the mountains are wet, slippery, and more likely to have snow until June I have found.
I now take a very pleasant 2.9 mile hike down North Jay to Shooting Star Shelter. The trail is soft, forgiving, and feels very good on my feet. I make excellent time down and arrive at the shelter feeling very positive as the misty rain has ceased for good it seems. The shelter (built 2001, sleeps six, 2,260 ft) is situated on a prominant rock outcropping that I find rather slippery to negotiate. I rest here for all of about three minutes before pushing on.
I climb steadily for 0.6 miles to the peak of Burnt Mountain and then descend 1.2 miles, again gently and speedily, to my parked car at VT 105 and the North Jay Pass. I have traveled 9.3 miles in five hours. Feeling good, I drive back to my starting point and hike the Jay Loop mentioned earlier, bringing my total mileage today to 10.2 miles.
Monday, May 17, 2010
On Sunday, May 16, 2010, a beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the 60's, I was able to check off another stage on the Long Trail. I begin on Vt 118 in Eden Crossing and head north from the LT trailhead (1,320 ft above sea level). I cross several brooks, one named Frying Pan Brook (picture above center) and begin to climb steadily up Belvidere Mountain. At 2.6 miles I intersect with Forrester's Trail.
I turn right onto Forrester's trail and continue 0.2 miles to the summit of Belvidere (3,200 ft). A fire tower is maintained on the summit and I climb halfway up to take photos. You can see in all directions but the wind is probably blowing 30 miles per hour so I choose not the climb to the top. The picture above right shows an old Asbestos mining operation on the northeast side of the mountain. The picture below left shows Jay Peak and Big Jay that I will climb on my next LT hike.
From the summit I back track to the LT and then take Forrester's trail down the mountain a ways to make up for my failed attempt to hike the trail to the summit two weeks ago when the snow was too deep. In a short couple of hundred yards I arrive at the spot where I abandoned the attempt before. I'm surprised how close I was to the LT. Now I can officially say I've hiked the entire Forrester's trail.
Once again it is back to the LT and a turn north to hike 2.8 miles to Tillotson Camp. I descend Belvidere and, in the valley below, I come to a picturesque Beaver Pond and pause to enjoy the view. I then begin the climb up Tillotson to the Camp (2,560 ft). I've been to the camp before from the Frank Post Trailhead.
I now have a 0.6 mile climb to Tillotson Peak (2,980 ft). From Tillotson Peak I have a 2.1 mile down and up hike to the east summitt of Haystack Mountain (3,180 ft). This mountain is deceiving. I hike to what I think is the peak and, as I crest the rise, discover a higher peak ahead. I do this four times before I reach the summit. It does not feel like a mere 2.1 miles when I get there. At the top there is a 0.2 side trail called Haystack Summit Trail that I climb even though it is not an official side trail of the LT (it should be).
From the view atop Haystack I descend steeply 1.9 miles to Hazen's Notch where my car is parked (2,040 ft). Being the north slope, it is wet and slippery from the recent snow melt and I pick my way carefully. Several times I sit and slide down a rock slide as I'm sure my boots won't hold on the wet angled rocks.
As I approach the Notch I pass a young family hiking up. Once again a foolish father has his infant child in a chest sling and is hiking up wet rocks. I almost say something about how risky it will be coming down, but don't. His wife and 2-3 year old daughter are behind him and the youngster tells her mom that I'm a "nature man" as I pass them. 50 yards later, and still thinking about the danger of hiking wet rocks with a baby strapped to you, I hit a slick spot and my feet fly out from under me. I land on my side and slide a few feet. I'm fine but my right side is soaked. I say a little prayer that the father doesn't meet the same fate.
I arrive at the Notch at just after 4:00 pm so I have hiked 11.2 miles in just over 6 hours. I take a photo of the cliffside were Peregrine Falcons nest and drive home to a great dinner my wife has fixed.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
On Tuesday, May 4, 2010 I am able to get away for a day hike on the Trail. i decide to skip the Belvidere Mountain section and give it another week for snow to melt. Over the weekend, 10 inches of snow fell in northern VT so I suspect there is still plenty of snow up on Belvidere. The section I'm doing today is north of Belvidere but is not at such a high elevation and I believe i should be free of most snow.
My wife, Kim, drops me off at the trailhead at 10:30 am on an overcast day that calls for scattered thunderstorms. I cross my fingers and take off. I enter the LT going north into Hazen's Notch (1,780 ft above sea level). The Notch is named for General Moses Hazen who built a military road from Peachem, VT to this point. The road was intended to reach Canada but was not completed. After just seven minutes on the hike I reach out to grab a small tree I must work around and I grab a spot with a broken branch that takes the skin off of the piece of meat between my thumb and forefinger of my right hand. It bleeds like a stuck pig for the next 10 minutes and makes it tough to grip my hiking staff for the rest of the hike. Over the next 1.4 miles I travel level ground and then ascend steadily over Sugarloaf Mountain. I then descend a short distance to a 0.1 spur leading west to Hazen's Notch Camp.
From Hazen's Notch Camp (sleeps 8, built 1948, 2,040 ft) I return to the LT and head north. I ascend steadily to a skyline view at Bruce Peak (2,900 ft.). From there I begin a down, then up, cycle taking me to the summit of Buchanan Mountain (2,940), Chet's Lookout (2,900 ft., see picture at right) and Domeys Dome (2,880 ft). Finally, I ascend Gilpin Mountain (2,940 ft) and begin the 0.8 mile descent to VT 242 (2,220 Ft.).
Along the way the sky threatens to dump a storm on me constantly, but the most I ever get is a 10 minute light sprinkle. I arrive at the car at about 2:30 pm having covered about 7.2 miles in four hours. I feel good at how strong I felt during the hike and about my prospects of finishing the LT before I leave for Florida.