Friday, February 18, 2011

Winter Camping: Greenwall Shelter, LT, White Rocks, Vt

This adventure was initially planned for 2 days but was cut short due to sickness.

White Rocks from Ice Bed trail
I hit the trail later than planned, about 3:45 pm. I decided to take Keewaydin Trail; a side trail of the LT/AT system. It's a local trail that leads to the Long Trail then eventually to the overlook at the cliffs of White Rocks Mountain. The weather was overcast with mild temps in the mid 30's. The trail was in great condition, well traveled but still not strong enough to handle the weight of  me and my 35 pound pack without snowshoes. At mile 0.4, I intersected with the Long Trail. The hike was fairly steep and quite slippery in spots. I took my time enjoying the views as I hike up this wonderful mountain. After traveling on the LT for 0.7 miles (1.1 miles hiked) I came to the spur that leads to Greenwall shelter. This spur had not been hiked on and due to the geographical location it had created a lot of snow drifts. This spur also follows Bully Brook which was snow covered except for a few areas. This created voids beneath the drifts. I found myself sinking in certain areas, dropping 4-5 feet unexpectedly. In one area I got stuck in a drift that was well over my head with a pack and snowshoes on. It took me over 5 minutes to get back on top of the snow.  After 30 minutes on this spur and dusk approaching I saw Greenwall overlooking a beautiful valley. 
Greenwall shelter when I arrived

When I got to the shelter it was 5:20 pm, the snow around the shelter was about 3 feet deep, the picnic table was the only thing distinguishable and no sign of a fire pit. I set up camp as it got dark out. The only water source was a mere trickle at the bottom of the 4 foot banks of snow along Bully Brook. I carried in 4 liters of water with me so I had plenty for a day. So I thought. I packed down the snow in front of the shelter to about 1 foot making nice an solid platform to walk on. I opted not to build a camp fire because of no decent fire wood. There had not been any recent wind storms to knock down dead limps since December so most of the wood was buried under the snow. Not worth the trouble. By 7:00 pm, I sat down on the edge of the shelter floor and popped open a Centennial Red and relaxed. The sky had cleared some and the full moon lit up the valley quite brightly. A light breeze passed as I started to get chilled. I was still in just my base-layer. I cooled down a little too much and my hands started to get cold. I put on my fleece, stomped down a small area and lit up a coconut shell briquette on foil for a little heat. To add to the ambiance, I used Coleman fire starters as candles. Against  the backdrop of snow it was warm and very bright.

My makeshift campfire
After I finished the beer I was pretty dehydrated and couldn't get enough water in me. I soon found out that I was going to need water. The brook wasn't really an option but there was plenty of snow around. I broke out the Pocket Rocket and melted snow, enough for a freeze dried dinner, breakfast and to refill my Nalgenes & bladder. By 9:30 pm I was ready for dinner then bed.

From my sleeping bag. 9:30 am.
I slept great until about 5:30 am when I awoke with a scratchy throat and dry cough. My wife had been sick the past few days and it finally hit me. I drank some water and then fell back asleep. I had a dream that I was camping at the shelter but it was more of a cabin when a hiker knocked on the door. I awoke to the sound of a woodpecker on a tree doing his thing. I peeked out and it was so sunny and bright. 9:30 am. I slept later than I really wanted to. I felt tired and feverish. I ate some oatmeal with a coffee, packed up and by 11:00 I was headed out. I debated with myself about continuing south for another half mile or so to reach the overlook at the cliffs. Because I wasn't feeling the greatest, I chose to go north back to where my ride would pick me up.

I couldn't get picked up until 1:30 pm so I took my time back down to the trail head at the picnic area. When I got there it was noon. I still had an hour and a half before my ride arrived so I dropped my pack and went on a small hike on the Ice Bed trail. This is a great day hike with an overlook and a vista within a little over a quarter mile. When I got to the vista, it was sunny and windy but the view was incredible. I spent some time there just being. At 12:50 pm, I headed back down to where my ride was waiting for me.

From White Rocks vista on the Ice Bed trail.

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