Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter Camping: Tucker-Johnson Shelter,Long Trail,Vt

January 10-11, 2010

This trip was initially planned as a backpacking adventure with intentions of trekking 19.1 miles but due to a forecasted Nor'easter it ended up being an overnight winter camping trip; the second of the season.

I was very excited about this trip because of recent snowfall. I knew that I would be logging some snowshoe mileage. I thought I would be snowshoeing after I arrived at the shelter and trekking to a higher altitude to deeper snow but that wasn't the case.
I entered the trail at Rt.4 at Sherburne Pass and walked a mere ten yards and the snow was about eighteen inches deep. The trail was already packed by recent snowshoes so I dropped the pack and strapped on the Tubbs. I was giddy. I had been doing a lot of day hiking in the area and snowshoes were never needed. That's why I thought I would have to venture out after I set up camp to snowshoe. I was hoping for untouched snow but with a thirty five pound pack I was satisfied. The weather was a bright sunny day with a temperature of a pleasant twenty degrees and a crisp breeze.
I hiked for a mile when I arrived at Maine Junction at Willard Gap. This is where the Appalachian Trail leaves the Long Trail and continues north to Katahdin. The AT and the LT coincide in Vermont from the Massachusetts border to this junction.  The previous snowshoe tracks continued north on the AT towards Deer Leap. The LT was untouched. New snow. Deeper snow. About two feet of the fluffiest powder. Perfect. I took my time inching along while I enjoyed the beauty of this valley. It was only a half mile when I approached the shelter.
It was late afternoon when I got to the shelter and a fire was my first priority. The snow was deep and most of the wood was buried except for this big ol' maple that was cut down and waiting for me only ten yards from the fire pit. Once again I was blessed with a decent supply of wood. I went to clear the fire ring and the last folks to build a fire here never cleaned out the pit so frozen half burned logs had to be dug out. Something that I should not have to do. A "Leave no trace" principle. Eventually I got my fire going as the sun set. Just in time for the evening. I went to check out the water source and discovered it to be frozen. Oh well, I brought three liters with me so I had plenty if rationed right. Two liters for drinking and one for food prep.
The night was clear. The winter night sky has some of my favorite constellations so instead of going into the usual fire staring "trance" my head was looking up taking in the wonders of the universe. Before I knew it, it was nine o clock, my neck was sore and dinner was calling. Mountain House beef stew tonight. Basic but quick and easy. After dinner, loaded up the sleeping bag with my water, crawled in and quickly fell asleep.A very deep sleep. I bet I kept the critters away with my snoring.
I awoke at eight o clock somewhat chilled. The temperature was thirteen degrees and there were flurries as I stared out while having my coffee and using the last of the food water for oatmeal. Then the inevitable putting on cold boots in which this trip I had a hard time getting my feet rewarmed. I spent a good twenty minutes swinging my leg like a pendulum to get the warm blood down there. It's been a long time since my feet have been cold. By nine thirty I was packed up and on the trail. The forecasted Nor'easter was approaching so some of the hike back was nasty but when I got to the parking area the skies opened for a few minutes and the sun poked through. Great adventure. I wonder where to next. Greenwall shelter maybe.

Winter Camping: Clarendon Shelter,Long Trail, Vt

December 15-16,2010

This was the first overnight trip of the 2010-2011 winter season. A solo adventure.

I had planned this trip a week ahead with intentions of backpacking north about a mile and a half to Gov. Clement shelter but en route, with the newly fallen snow, I could not make it down Upper Cold River rd to where the trail crosses so a last minute change of plans was needed. I took the Lower Cold River rd to the trail crossing and went south. I could not go north due to a river crossing and with recent rainfall the river was quite swollen and crossing it would have been too southbound it was.
I entered the trail at Cold River Rd and instantly I was in heaven. Six inches of fresh snow had fallen, the air was crisp at fifteen degrees and not one footprint was on the trail. The hike in was gorgeous; a moderate, short three miles on a pristine trail ( did some maintenance on this section a few weeks prior ) and after an hour and a half I arrived at Clarendon shelter. When I arrived, I ate a quick lunch and then collected firewood for the evening. Luckily, there had been high winds a few weeks before so a lot of "blow-downs" were in the area. I had an endless supply of dry seasoned firewood. How convenient.
The fire ring was covered in snow and when I went to clean it out I noticed a piece of sheet metal so all I had to do was lift it and viola, my fire pit was ready to go.
I spent the rest of the day setting up camp, sawing wood etc. Once night fell, snow flurries started to fall adding to the ambiance of the winter night. Quite tranquil to say the least. The fire was warm but the air was cold making my water filter freeze up so unfiltered water it was. I had to keep my water bottles on the edge of the fire ring to keep them from freezing up. By eight pm the temps had dropped to five degrees with a light breeze; a hot meal was needed. I cooked dinner; fettuccine Alfredo with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes, a good calorie boost. After dinner I sat by the fire until nine thirty and crawled into my sleeping bag. Slept like a baby waking once at five thirty am due to nature. I went back to sleep until eight thirty. When I woke up it was cold; three degrees, pushing the limits of my zero degree sleeping bag. I fired up my stove, had coffee and oatmeal with sausage while still cocooned in my bag. Once finished I started to break camp doing jumping jacks to help get the blood moving and stay warm. Once all packed up, I cleaned out the fire pit and covered it with the metal, swept the snow out of the shelter and policed the area for any debris. I left this shelter as I found it with the exception of extra fire wood pre-cut and ready to go for the next person. At nine forty five I strapped on my backpack and continued southbound on the trail for one mile to Rt 103 where my ride was waiting.