jayfurr: (Trail)
I just got home from another backcountry hike. I decided to have Carole drop me back on Bolton Notch Road where I'd 'bailed out' yesterday (not where she actually encountered me, but back at the spot where the Long Trail crossed the road and where I called her to inform her of the change of plans). Then I 'finished' yesterday's hike.

Oh, am I glad I didn't try to do that stretch last night. The hike was 5.8 miles, which I did in 2.5 hours, but boy, were those tough miles. A lot of it was UP and then DOWN and then UP and then DOWN along the side of a ridge, often with steep drop-offs. In the gloom of the woods as evening fell, that'd have been tricky hiking, and very tiring hiking too.

At one point I encountered a beaver pond that wasn't on the maps and found that the trail was half washed out below the pond, requiring a bit of balancing on some fallen trees.

After the pond, it was one long trudge after another, up and down. I didn't even get cool views out of it until I finally came to a big rock at the end of one of the ridges.

Finally I got to the last shelter on my route from Stevensville: Duck Brook Shelter. Someone encountering it for the first time might have thought that the composting privy was the shelter, since the privy was visible from the trail and the shelter wasn't.

The shelter itself falls under the heading of, er, "well-loved". Check out all the carved initials and stuff from various hikers who've passed through in the 52 years since it was built:

From the shelter, it was 'only' 1.7 miles to the Jonesville bridge, the lowest spot on the Long Trail. Unfortunately, the 'ledges' that the Long Trail Guide warned me about were no laughing matter. At one point, not photographed, I looked up and said 'You've got to be kidding." Okay, so I was a bit tired and foot-sore. Eventually, though, I came to the part of the Long Trail people don't like to talk about: the part where the trail runs under high-tension power lines, then onto a road, then down the road to the Jonesville bridge. The Green Mountain Club would dearly love to get rid of the lengthy (5 miles?) road hike and have some alternate way of staying in the woods and, who knows, crossing the interstate and route 2 and the river on some sort of bridge or something. But right now the high-voltage lines and the road are what they've got.

(They have to be a little creative about blazing a trail that coincides with power lines and a well-traveled road and actually goes under Interstate 89.)

Finally I came to the Jonesville Bridge, and left the Long Trail for a quick mile walk to my house.

I was glad to be home. Those 5.8 miles were hard miles and I was sorry to find that I'd raised a blister where my right big toe meets the foot. I thought I was sufficiently tough and calloused that I wouldn't be blistering any more, but I guess I was wrong. Surprising that I hadn't felt it forming and didn't notice it until I took my boots off at the house.

Anyway, here's the route and the elevation profile:

jayfurr: (Maple Ridge)
Most people, training for the Breast Cancer 3-Day, try to get in shape with a lot of long-distance walking.

I guess I was getting a bit bored with road walks ... and besides, they tell you not to train exclusively on flat, paved terrain. So today I walked around 13 miles (perhaps a bit more) up and over the spine of the Green Mountains from a town north of here to a spot on a road about three miles from our house.

For most of my hike I was on Vermont's legendary Long Trail, a backcountry "footpath in the wilderness" which runs from Massachusetts to Canada and predates the establishment of the Appalachian Trail. The Long Trail passes within a mile or so of my house as it crosses the Winooski River, the lowest spot on the Trail. (The highest spot on the trail, the summit of Mount Mansfield, is 12.2 miles northeast of my house.)

I had Carole drop me off at the Stevensville Road trailhead which allows access to the Long Trail via the 1.5 mile Nebraska Notch trail.

Once on the LT proper I followed the trail to Taylor Lodge, a 12-person log shelter, very popular with occasional hikers since it's easy to get to, where I found a large mass of people camping and having basically no idea how far it was in any given direction to "the views". (I had to pull out my LT map and show them that they had at least two and a half miles to go to get to the spot they thought they'd take a quick amble over to -- carrying a baby, at that.)

Heading south, I started up the slopes of Bolton Mountain, a much less popular stretch of the LT. (With scenic Mount Mansfield to the north of Nebraska Notch, why head south to the heavily forested and not-quite-as-high Bolton Mountain?) As I headed up, I passed an older couple coming north and then encountered a third hiker resting near the summit at Puffer Shelter. That was it as far as encountering other hikers on Bolton Mountain proper. If I'd been heading north toward Mount Mansfield I'd have encountered dozens.

The trail up Bolton Mountain was, oh, a bit steep in places. The Green Mountain Club had even installed a ladder at one spot.

Coming down the far side of the mountain wasn't hard, just somewhat boring: a seemingly endless slow descent through pine forest on a trail still somewhat muddy from the previous morning's rains. Not much in the ways of views until I finally got to a point where I could look south and east toward the Bolton Valley Ski Area and Camel's Hump.

Heading on south I came to the spur trail for the Buchanan Shelter, but since I didn't feel a need to use the composting privy and had no real urge to go three tenths of a mile down a side trail just to see what a particular shelter looked like I kept on going. By this point it was well into late afternoon and I had adopted a trudge-forward-at-all-costs attitude. I even wound up skipping the little side trail that led to "Harrington's View", supposedly one of the more scenic spots on that section of the LT. I'll probably regret doing so when some random person sees this entry and posts to tell me what I missed, but I'll live.

I imagine part of the reason I got so single-minded about just plodding on no matter what was that I met no hikers for several hours. It's boring, hiking with no one to chat with or break up the monotony a bit. Between one p.m., when I left Puffer Shelter, and around five p.m., when I was about a mile past Buchanan Shelter, I saw no one. I finally passed a solo hiker who asked me how far it was to Buchanan Shelter, and then a short distance later passed three more hikers, all heavily laden, probably also heading for that same shelter to camp for the night before heading onwards. I met a grand total of seven hikers all day, not counting the small mob around Taylor Lodge back at the beginning of the hike.

My goal was to follow the LT all the way to the river crossing a mile from our house, but at 6 pm, when I finally arrived at a road crossing on Bolton Notch Road, I found that I had a hard decision to make. I was supposed to follow the LT back into the woods for four more miles of backcountry rock-hopping, including a climb back up a ridge. Then I'd follow Stage Road south to route 2 and the bridge, and then I'd walk to our house. That'd be another two and a half hours of walking allowing for the winding route through the woods and up that ridge. Or I could simply follow Bolton Notch Road south to route 2 and then walk along Route 2 to our house. It'd save about two and a half miles and probably more than an hour walking time. Or I could elect a third option: start walking south on Bolton Notch Road and call Carole, who'd been at her office all day working (yes, on a Sunday), to see if she was heading home yet and if she could come intercept me and take me on home.

I felt bad about bailing on the final leg of the walk but I really didn't like the sound of going up one more ridge just so I could say I'd done the entire LT between Nebraska Notch and our house. I wound up calling Carole, who was just about to leave work, and when she found me I was a mile and a half south of the LT/Bolton Notch Road intersection.

I got home around 7 and needless to say, dropped my clothing on the floor and headed for the shower. I was very pleased, upon inspecting my feet, to see that I had no blisters, although I was developing a fine set of callouses. A timely application of moleskin on the way up Bolton Mountain had saved my right big toe from what felt like an incipient blister.

In summary:

All in all, it was a good day and a tiring day. I did thirteen miles in just under ten hours, which really doesn't say much for my miles-per-hour, but on a muddy, rocky, steep trail it was about the best I felt able to do. I know more experienced hikers can zoom at a much faster rate (there are guys who've run the entire Long Trail in something like five days, carrying next to nothing and being resupplied by friends at pre-designated locations), but I'm making the most of my current skill and strength level.

jayfurr: (Hiking inna dark)
Labor Day Weekend in Vermont did not cooperate, weather-wise, with my plans to do 60 miles worth of hiking. Rainy, misty, icky weather.

But I did my best. Starting this morning at 7:00, I headed north on Vermont's "Long Trail" from Appalachian Gap, aiming to follow the Trail along the ridgeline of the Green Mountains over the top of Camel's Hump (the oddly shaped mountain that appears on the Vermont quarter) and all the way down to Route 2 in the Winooski River Valley.

What I hadn't counted on was how God-forsakenly rugged the trail over that stretch really was. UP and DOWN and UP and DOWN and rarely any level stretch lasting more than a tenth of a mile. You know how a walking pace of 3.5 to 4.0 miles per hour is reasonable to fast for most people who aren't actually speedwalking? I was managing around 1.3.

This should give you an idea why (assuming you know what the contour lines on topo maps mean):

Or maybe this will tell the story more directly:

A typical section of trail:

An atypical section of trail:

Fortunately for my sanity, I had lots of signposts telling me how far I had to go and periodically encountered shelters maintained by the Green Mountain Club, where I could get in out of the drizzle for a few minutes and also use the composting privies located nearby.

I fell down a lot.

No matter how carefully I worked my way down slippery rocks on trails, there were times that there simply weren't any branches to grab onto and down I'd go. One time I fell and somehow twisted as I fell so that I landed face down, WHUMP, and was so frustrated that I just grabbed a nearby pine branch in my teeth and chewed angrily on it like a dog worrying a sock puppet.

Yes, I made growling noises.

I eventually realized, upon reaching Montclair Glen Shelter in Wind Gap that there was simply no way that I was going to be able to make it up and over Camel's Hump and down to route 2 in the steady drizzle in anything less than eight more hours, and I was already pretty tired. Unfortunately, there was just about ZERO cell phone reception and I wasn't able to get through to Carole to say "COME GET ME."

I resorted to texting her, trying repeatedly to get messages through asking her to come pick me up at a certain parking area off Camel's Hump Road in Huntington, a spot we'd been to twice earlier this summer. While I kept texting her, I headed down the trail toward said parking area, hoping against hope that I'd get there and find her waiting.

Unfortunately, Carole's not much for maps or for remembering picky details like which trail we'd taken up a mountain, so she headed for the other side of Camel's Hump.

I kept walking. There came a brief period where I had reasonable cell signal for a moment and got a bunch of her queued-up messages and went "WHAT?" at the news that she was actually heading away from me. A barrage of text messages went back and forth and I finally got her turned around and headed to Huntington, Vermont and the right trailhead.

Before she could get there, I actually made it all the way down the trail and down three more miles of road to the main north-south route through Huntington and was waiting at a particular stop sign when she finally pulled up. I was exhausted.

And we still had to go back to Appalachian Gap to pick up the other car before we could go home.

Fortunately, this morning I felt fine. My feet were in fine shape and my legs were a bit tired, but not sore or stiff or aching, so I guess I must be tougher than I was a month or two ago.

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

jayfurr: (Badwater)

We did one heck of a hike yesterday, eight and a half miles or so on the western side of Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain at 4,400 feet. We took a trail to the top that's probably the toughest we've ever been on, with many scrambles right up cliff faces and at times leaping from boulder to boulder across small chasms. Once at the top, we hiked along the ridge to the true summit and then came down the less-difficult Sunset Ridge Trail.

Our round trip took about 9 hours, which makes it sound like we were really dogging it since we only went 8.5 miles, but if you saw the trail we took up, you wouldn't have to ponder why we didn't make better speed. Then too, it was a staggeringly beautiful day and at times we just stopped to drink in the scenery.

Carole, to her credit, didn't complain at all during the hike. If she's becoming more of a hiker as the years go by, I'm not gonna argue. :) I think she's a bit stiff today but I feel fine, knock on wood.

Our photos are at: http://www.furrs.org/images/mansfieldloop/default.htm

jayfurr: (Default)
It rained here last night so we didn't even consider going out to Burlington Bay to watch the fireworks from our kayaks. But today's supposed to be a sunny day, not too warm -- and so we're going up Mount Mansfield.

See y'all later.

jayfurr: (3-Day)
It was a lot cooler on Saturday and Carole, for some reason, just couldn't get her brain fired up. Still groggy around noon, she suddenly proposed we do vigorous physical activity instead of staying home to work on chores around the house (like sorting mail and filing bank statements and stuff). An hour later, we were all packed up and heading to a trail head to have another go at hiking Camel's Hump.

As you'll recall, we tried hiking to the top two weeks ago on a blisteringly hot, humid day and between the heat and the mild stomach bug I seemed to be suffering, we had to turn back before we got to the top. Saturday, we had no such issues.

Admittedly, the trail we took on Saturday was a much more user-friendly trail, shorter and less steep, but I have to say, twenty-five degrees' difference in the heat was probably the main factor in our having a much better day of it.

Our hike was 5.4 miles round-trip with 2500 feet of elevation change from the trail head to the summit. I felt fine immediately afterwards and still felt absolutely fine, no aches at all, the next day.

You can see our photos here:


Hot Hiking

Jun. 9th, 2008 08:08 pm
jayfurr: (Lone Shieling)
It's damn hot here in Vermont. It's been as hot as 95 degrees since Saturday and it's been humid too. Not fun when your body has mostly gotten used to cooler temperatures. And when one's house isn't really set up for air conditioning except in the bedrooms.
Read more... )


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