Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Long Trail: Division 6

May 28-30 2011

This trip was scheduled as a solo trek but I found a hiking friend who wanted to join me...Zach. Division 6 of the Long Trail goes from U.S. Rt. 4 near Sherburne Pass to Vt Rt 73 at Brandon Gap. It is the first section of the trail, northbound, that starts to get tough compared to the lower hundred or so miles of the trail. Because of logistics when we were due to be picked up, we decided to do this trek southbound. I had planned this trip to last 2 and a half days. Not an aggressive pace at all. 7.4 miles on day one, 7.6 on day two and 5 miles on day three. 4432 feet of elevation gain and 4148 feet of elevation loss. My pack weighed in at around 30 pounds plus water.

Day One:
Zach and I in the trail parking lot
We hit the trail at 9:30am. The weather was overcast with a light breeze. Temps were in the mid 70's and the air was somewhat humid. Pollen did not seem to be a problem. Black flies were patchy. We practically ran up the side of Goshen Mountain. The trail is straight with a steady ascent and the footing is excellent. Perfect way to start the weekend. Awesome cardio workout and a great sweat ( I love to sweat; I know nothing medically if it purges toxins but I do know that it makes me feel better). Before we knew it we were at a great view of the Great Cliffs of Mt Horrid. 10 minutes later we arrived at Sunrise shelter. Mile one completed in 20 minutes. 3 miles an hour uphill. Did I mention great cardio? We took a short break then continued on. As we passed Chittenden Brook trail the terrain changes to the classic roots & rocks that Vermont is known for. My favorite kind of terrain. With a slower pace we steadily ascended, meandering along the east side of Farr Peak passing Bloodroot gap taking a few breaks along the way. Moose tracks and droppings were abundant. It seemed amazing to me or maybe purely coincident that these moose did not crap on the trail but on the side of it. Continuing south, now on the east side of Bloodroot Mountain, the trail gets a little rough. I took a good spill on a slippery rock slab, smashing my forearm against the same slab. After shaking it off (It was like getting kicked in the chin...that make ya wanna puke feeling; mild shock) we continued on and soon we were at Wetmore Gap when I discovered that I was out of water. There was only about a mile or so left for the day so I didn't bother busting out the filter. As we were putting on our packs, a very close clasp of lightning crashed just on the south side of Mt Carmel giving us enough incentive to beat feet to David Logan shelter trekking alongside the western face of  Mt Carmel. I still stopped here and there to take pictures. Zach didn't hesitate to keep on moving. After a quick descent down the shelter spur, at 2:30pm we had finished our hike for the day. My first priority was to rehydrate. I had sweat out all of my fluids. 

David Logan shelter
We rested for about an hour when a married couple came tromping down the shelter spur; cool, company. Within 20 minutes a young lady and her father came to spend the night. We all intermingled some but most of us were knackered so no one really had the energy to strike up conversation. At about 7:00pm another young lady, her father and their dog strolled in for the night. They all started south and came north...a 13 mile stretch, in the fore-mentioned storms...Zach and I really lucked out as far as hiking in the rain by going south. Regardless, 8 folks in a 8 man shelter. No thanks. Luckily, I brought my tent and gladly used it. By 9:00pm we all settled down for the night.

Day Two:

Southbound solo
I awoke once at about 4:00am to the sound of coyotes close by. I had already slept for about 6 hrs so I just lied there for about an hour and read until I drifted off again. I finally got up at 6:30am, had some breakfast, a coffee, replenished my water supply for the days trek and started to break camp. Zach informed me that he had blood in his urine. Probably not a good thing. Thankfully, the shelter spur is on New Boston trail that leads to forest road 99. I recommended that he bail out. The days trek ahead is not an easy one. I thought it would be too much of a risk to have him drop without a way of bailing out. It's less than a mile from the shelter to f.r. 99 so he went that way and I went south on the L.T. He already had a ride arranged when I departed him. The weather was overcast and humid with temps in the 70's.
Day 2: Ran out of water
As I had suspected, this days hike was a tough one. A lot of ups and downs, fairly tough terrain and a turd-ton of blowdowns blocking parts of a trail that is extremely steep. One slip and I'm rolling down the mountain a good 20 yards or so. My pace for the day was slow. I was more concentrated on footing and photos. Some of the ups were killers. 15 et cetera. Although I didn't rest on the downs, I was slow going down. A true knee knocking section of trail.  It took me 7 hours to trek 7.6 miles that day and once again...I ran out of water right before my last up. There were stream crossings the whole way so after I noticed I was getting low I made the decision of getting water at the next stream...that next stream was on the other side of the mountain...foiled again. I made it up & over fine, chewing gum along the way to keep my mouth moist and I replenished at the first stream. I thought I still had a small distance to go for the day and I expected to come upon the last vista but it obviously grew up because a tenth of a mile after I replenished my water, there was a toilet sign nailed to a tree. I had arrived at Rolston Rest. The days trek was over. My feet were on fire.

Rolston Rest
 I rested for no more than 5 minutes when 2 gentlemen approached the shelter. They were going south as well. Both are highly seasoned backpackers and started their day at Sucker Brook shelter. They backpacked 20.5 miles that day. Not for me...I choose not to go over 10 a day. We exchanged hellos when two young college students came in from the south. They were the only thru-hikers that I saw during this trip. They were 11 days in and had no more than 24 days from their start to complete the entire trail. After dinner and some light conversation, I set up my Tadpole and crashed. 

Day Three:
I was woken up at 2:42am by a bright flash followed by a deep rumble off in the distance. Then I heard a drop on the tent...then another, larger drop...then the skies opened. It poured for about 20 minutes and that was that. An addition to the already existing humidity in this wilderness. My tent is well ventilated and quite rainproof so I was completely dry except for residual DEET that was on my arms. Once again, I read for about and hour and fell back to sleep. I ended up waking up late. It was close to 9:00am. I ate a quick breakfast, broke camp, packed up and at 10:00am, I took off. The northbound hikers had told me that the trail was in fairly good shape so I decided to wear my trail runners for the last 5 miles. The weather was clear and sunny with temps in the low 80's and quite humid. 

Mile 100 for the year
This part of the trail had a decent terrain to where I could up the pace a little. There was some elevation changes but nothing too labor intensive. My feet felt great by wearing a lighter shoe. There were minimal blowdowns and a few muddy areas. When I got to Elbow Rd, I took a wrong trail. It has been some time since I had been in this area before and I recall hiking down to this pond when I was a teen. I thought I was on the LT, ignoring the signs and just trekked along until, after a half mile out of the way, a mountain biker passed me. I assumed (Yep, I made an ass out of myself) that I was on the LT because of some familiarly but I was wrong. I then trudged back up the bike trail and found where I was supposed to be. Because I prefer not to make my ride wait, I picked up my pace some. From Elbow Rd onward, my thoughts were concentrated on the Tucker-Johnson fire and how that site looked. It had burned down on March 8th due to improper use and definite inexperience.
My treasure at the end
T-J shelter is also the approximate area where I hit my 100th hiking mile for 2011. I took a small break here, noticed my trail runner broke an eyelet, ate some trail-mix then beat feet for the last mile and a half. Within 40 minutes I was at Rt 4. I walked up to the parking lot and had a treasure waiting for wife and friend were waiting for me with a 12 pack of Long Trail Ale to celebrate my 100th mile.I was expecting my father so this was quite a surprise.

The weekend as a whole was awesome. I really enjoyed day two the most...It was a little more challenging than my usual hikes. Zach is doing fine. I do not know what the outcome of his medical condition was but he is all better now. I hope it isn't a reoccurring  problem because he plans on thru-hiking this trail, in it's entirety, with me in September. I shall pack as if I'm doing it solo just in case.
A re-supply and I'm off

For a slide-show of this adventure, please click here

1 comment:

  1. I love the 'out of water' photo! You captured the pain very well :)