Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bald Mountain Trail

July 26, 2011

This short and easy hike has been on my bucket list for some time.... like over a year. With rain forecast  for the day I thought it would be a great way to bag this trail but easy enough to bail. My friend Kathi joined me. I rode with Kathi to the trailhead in which we passed initially. Actually travel to the trailhead took longer than the actual hike.

Little Rock Pond via Homer Stone Brook Trail

July 25, 2011

This hiked was planned by my friends Kathi and Deb on a spur of the moment. A simple text message of "Hike 2morrow?" is enough for me to respond yes. Kathi suggested that we go check out the new shelter at Little Rock Pond. We were to meet at Dick's sporting goods in Rutland with a few of Debbie's friends. They never showed up. I found out later from Deb that they texted her back and said they didn't know who Dick was or where he lived. Ah, the misunderstanding of text messages.

The weather report before we left said an 80 percent chance of rain but we decided to do it anyway. The temps were in the mid 70's and humid. The skies were overcast. We decided to take Homer Stone Brook trail to the pond.

This trail is a fairly easy trail that slowly ascends up through an evergreen forest. The path is wide and is used in part as a ATV and snowmobile trail. The trail basically follows the Homer Stone Brook along the way.

Homer Stone Brook trail

Homer Stone Brook trail

 The brook itself is a "stone" brook comprising of large boulders. There are a few deep pools that probably could be used to cool of on a hot day. I'm sure there are a few trout in here as well.

A deep pool in Homer Stone Brook

Homer Stone Brook
At mile 1.8 in the trail then crosses the brook and starts to steeply ascend. The terrain changed to a rocky trail that steadily and steeply ascends to the pond.

At mile 2.3 we were at the northern end of Little Rock Pond. We contemplated taking Green Mountain trail and bagging Green Mountain (2509') but choose to check out the shelter first then loop around the pond. We ran into a few day hikers as well as a couple of AT thru-hikers as we headed for the new shelter. 
Little Rock Pond

Little Rock Pond

When we got to the shelter we took a break. This shelter was built in September of 2010 by GMC Volunteers. It is a post & beam constructed shelter with a sitting area that is roofed. It can sleep 12. There are also tent platforms as well.

Little Rock Pond shelter

Built in September 2010

Kathi checking out the shelter.
After we rested some we decided to continue our loop around the pond. As soon as we started, we ran into one of the day hikers who asked the concerning question "Have you seen my family?" They were together 45 minutes before we ran into this man. He continued on in one direction and we continued in the other. As we were finishing up the pond loop we ran into the guy again. "You didn't pass them?" he asked. Unfortunately the answer was no. Then the skies opened up and it rained down-poured as we made a plan to help this guy find his wife and two children. I asked certain questions like "Would they bushwhack?" "Do they have rain gear?" Would they have already gone back to the car?" "Do they have a whistle?" "Could they be sitting this rain out in the shelter?" The answers were all no except they did bring rain gear but the guy had it in his pack rendering it useless and the guy, although he circled the pond twice, didn't know there was a shelter even though he passed it. We beat feet in one direction while the guy took the other. Eventually we ran into him again solo. So as we headed towards the shelter in which he passed a third time to have his wife approach us. She was not happy at all. They were soaked but sought shelter under the caretakers tarp. Apparently, the lady had seen her husband pass and yelled to him but he didn't hear her because of the rain beating down on his hood.  She couldn't catch up to him because he was focused on speed. Once everything was copacetic we stopped back at the shelter to let the rain let up some. I donned rain gear. We then started our trek back to the parking area. They hike back was fast paced and before too long our wet day was over.
Kathi, Deb and Joe
A few lessons were taught to this poor guy. He made the mistake of saying wait here and I'll be back in 20 minutes. (He had hiked north some towards the tenting site north of the pond and left his family so he could find a good spot to roast some hot dogs) Mistake two: The wife decided to head towards the shelter when it started raining but didn't have a piece of paper  and a pen to leave a note.  Three: He brought his kids into the woods and no one had a whistle or the knowledge of a simple messaging system. Four: Not one of them brought a cell phone; they were left in their car. Five: When searching for someone be sure you can hear and see your surrounds.

We never did get to bag Green Mountain but we hiked a total of 7.4 miles with an elevation gain of 1400 feet. When I got home and uploaded my photos and filled out my mileage log, I discovered that I passed my 200th hiking mile for 2011!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kayaking: I Once Was A Sailor

July 23, 2011

Yep, In the late 80's to the mid 90's I was a boat coxswain in the US Coast Guard. Since then my "sea legs" have sought out a more solid surface. I have been on the water less than 10 times in the last 15 years. I am more of a woodsy type of guy. This was the first time kayaking in my life.

This trip was actually suggested by my wife who enjoys kayaking. She has been many times before and since I spend a lot of time hiking I thought I would give the legs a break and paddle away. We were recommended by my friend Kathi to kayak on Chittenden Reservoir and that she would meet us there. We got to the public boat access at 7:00 am and Kathi arrived within a minute later. 

We launched our kayaks and paddled off. The weather was relatively cool in the upper 70's compared to the heatwave that hit the northeast and the skies were overcast. We paddled along the shoreline in a counter-clockwise direction.

We paddled along the shore checking out the scenery. There was plenty of wildlife, mainly birds that we passed. Red Loons, Gulls, and possibly an Osprey but it was too high to identify. There are Osprey nesting platforms on this lake.  

Osprey nesting platform  (Kathi  Altobell, photo)

We paddled towards the middle of the lake some just taking in the Vermont landscape. As a I paddled slowly, more of a drift, I reminisced my May section hike. Section 6 of the Long Trail was completely in view. From Mount Carmel to Dave's Peak It was neat to recall every little hill in between. 

Mount Carmel

Telephone Gap (Jennifer Minard, photo)
Dave's Peak
I continued paddling south towards a small island where some campers were leaving. The sun had started burning off the early morning overcast and the humidity started to rise. I paddled around the island as my back started to get sore.

The island

As I headed back towards the boat landing (I say I because we all took our own little ventures), the sun had completely broke through and the July heat started to beat down but it lit up the shoreline beautifully.

As I rounded the last point my back was quite sore and my legs were stiff from being in the same position for two hours so I rested them on the deck of the vessel.  My wife was amused at the fact that I was wearing wool socks and hiking shoes. I'm in nature therefore the wool socks & Merrells are a given.

Merrells & Darn Tough on the water (Jennifer Minard, photo)
Overall it was a great morning. I really enjoyed traveling in nature in a different fashion. My first kayaking trip didn't chase me away and I look forward to doing it again. I think a fall trip on this lake would be gorgeous with the foliage as a back drop.


Clarendon Lookout: Enduring The Heat

July 21, 2011

It was 86 degrees when my hiking friend Deb picked me up to go hit up Beacon Hill on the Long Trail. We had planned this hike the day before with a few other folks but the heat created cancellations. The humidity was high and the wind was still.

When we arrived at the parking lot on Rt 103 the first thing I noticed was garbage all over the place. It's been a problem for years that visitors who park to go swimming at Clarendon Gorge or camp in the area tend to clean out the crap in their cars and leave it. Three weeks prior to this trip, my wife and I picked up three large garbage bags full of coffee cups, cardboard beer boxes, old towels, socks, and a few McDonald's bags. Unfortunately, Deb and I didn't have any trash bags so we put on our packs and crossed the road.

I've always liked this section of trail. We crossed over a ladder to enter a small pasture where some cows were grazing. The heat was on. The first few breaths were like inhaling steam. Once we entered the small wooded area the canopy helped some against the hazy sun but the air was still stagnant. It was definitely hard to acclimate. My legs wouldn't loosen up, I felt like I had already hiked 10 miles, I couldn't keep the bite valve on my water bladder out of my mouth and we were only a tenth of a mile in. I was already soaked with sweat. The trail then opens to ascent across a powerline exposing us once again to the July heatwave. Once we re entered the woods the trail ascends a little steeper to a boulder filled ravine. Our steps were deathly slow. The heat was extracting every bit of energy out of everything. Even the ground. The rocks were wet and somewhat slippery due to the condensation from the humidity. The ground was sweating too. Before we began climbing the ravine I checked with Deb to see if she was alright and was willing to venture on. I was willing to bail. Deb hadn't been on this section of trail before so we continued on.

The trek up the ravine was slow. Every now and then a hot breeze would pass and we took it in. Any air movement was greatly appreciated. The voles that usually scurry around were moving as little as possible.

A vole braving the heat

It seemed that it took forever but after an hour and ten minutes we reached Clarendon Lookout. We had hiked a half mile. There was an elderly gentleman thru-hiking the AT north just finishing up his break and continuing on. "Seminole" was his trail name. We talked with him for a few minutes finding out that he was 89 years old. He claims to have completed the AT when he was younger at the age of 82. He was carrying a 34 pound pack. The man weighed 118 pounds. He looked frail but he didn't show any signs that needed concern.

We continued north as the trail levels out some. The ups were over. Our pace didn't really pick up much faster but we did do better time even though the temps and humidity were rising. Within 35 minutes we reached Clarendon Shelter. We were a mile in from the parking lot but it took us an hour and 45 minutes. I can usually make it to this shelter in 40 minutes. When we got to the shelter we had a snack, read the register, checked out the brook hoping there would be a pool deep enough to sit in but the water level was too low. Seminole soon joined us as he dropped his pack and headed to the brook to dip his bandanna in the cool water.

Seminole at Clarendon shelter

We stayed at the shelter for close to an hour talking with Seminole. He was thru-hiking with his daughter but fell behind so he took a bus and jumped ahead some. He hadn't seen her in a few weeks. Although the man was tired and burned up from the heat (we all were) he still wanted to make it to Gov Clement shelter for the night. He then strapped on his pack and we parted ways. Deb and I decided to return to the parking lot instead of continuing north to Beacon Hill

As Deb and I were leaving I noticed that the humidity was affecting my camera. Every shot came out blurry. I kept meaning to bring lens tissue but it just always slips my mind until I need it. As we were headed back to the parking area we passed a solo LT thru-hiker who was suffering some from the heat. We never got his trail name but he had 2 and a half weeks as a time schedule and had to keep a fast pace. He would start the next day behind schedule due to the fact he needed to stop for the day at Clarendon shelter. Shortly thereafter, we passed another lady who was doing an 8 day trip at a fast pace. She had passed Seminole's daughter a few days prior and she was estimated a day and a half to two days behind her father. 

The hike down the ravine went easier and faster than going up it but it still took almost an hour for our return trek. The heat was brutal. With Clarendon Gorge a tenth of a mile south we dropped our packs at the car went down and jumped in Mill River. It was so relieving. I did notice that the Vt Fish and Wildlife Department had cleaned house and rid the campers that trash the place. There are now boundary signs that hopefully will keep folks from camping here.Because of time, we didn't stay long.

When I got home and sat, I noticed I was having a hard time cooling down. I tried sitting in the A/C but that seemed to make it worse. My core temp was still high. I felt drained. My muscles were cramping up and I was lethargic. By the time I went to bed I felt much better until at some point in the middle of the night when my legs knotted up with cramps. After a painful sleepless night the next day was just as hot. I refused to venture out in it. The weather almanac for the day reported that we were hiking in 94 degree heat with a heat index of 107F.

I do not think that I will hike in heat like this again. It took too much out of me and I didn't enjoy it like I do with most hikes. It took too long to recover. But nonetheless it is hiking so I probably won't heed my own advice.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shrewsbury Peak via Black Swamp Trail

July 19, 2011

My friend Kathi and I have a few things going on that have been keeping us motivated; a 1000 mile challenge which is to hike, bike, walk, paddle 1000 miles within a year (Kathi is in the lead by quite a bit) and a new site that we both joined; The Peakery in which we are trying to bag as many hills/mountains in our local area. Shrewsbury Peak (3720') is on the list and was our choice.

We decided to do a loop hike starting at the southern Shrewsbury Peak trailhead and hiking in a counter clockwise direction  easterly down the CCC road to the Black Swamp trailhead then hit the peak and come down the SP trail.The weather was warm in the upper 70's, humid and partly cloudy.

We started our day at 10 am with a walk down the CCC road which was a great warm up. It seemed like the distance was marked wrong on the map because the 40 minutes to walk 1.3 miles seemed like an hour but we still managed a good pace of 2 miles an hour.

CCC road
We took a very short break at the BS trailhead before starting our ascent. The hike was almost a quarter of the way completed and we hadn't hit a trail yet. The trail starts out as a steady straight grassy road as it steadily ascends for close to a mile. It was nice because we had two paths and it made chit chat easier. Due to rain the day before, the grass was wet and loaded with toads. Little ones, big ones, they were all over.

Black Swamp Trail, southern section

It didn't take too long before the grassy road ended and we were in classic Vermont terrain. The trail narrowed down to a footpath crossing a small wet area and then climbing relatively steeper towards the peak. There were a few slippery areas along the way and this trail is not as highly traveled as other trails in the area so the terrain was a little more rugged.

At mile 1.8 from the BS trailhead we reached Shrewsbury Peak shelter. This old log lean-to shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corp is fairly run down. Personally, I would stay here in a last choice situation only. It is definitely in need of some maintenance. There is no privy and the water source is scarce. 

Shrewsbury Peak Shelter...

... slowly rotting away

We took a short break at the shelter and then continued on with our trek. It was 0.3 miles to the intersection of SP trail so, although fairly steep and rugged, it didn't take us too long. We contemplated heading north on the SP trail to the LT/AT system and then bushwhacking some to bag Little Killington but this would have added 5 or so miles to our day and time was a factor. 

We headed south down SP trail dodging moose droppings and within a few minutes we bagged Shrewsbury Peak. 3720 feet above sea level. Vermont's 28th highest point.

Shrewsbury Peak

Mt Ascutney in the distance

Burnt Mountain

We stayed on the peak for about a half hour before starting our descent. The trail south was quite a challenging descent to say the least. I'm glad we did the loop in this direction. Coming up this section of trail would have been quite brutal. This section is not as highly traveled, is not as maintained and is pretty rugged. It is a true knee knocker. Then add the dampness of the previous rain on top of moss covered roots and rocks...We found ourselves sliding down on our butts more than hiking down it.

Kathi sliding down SP trail
 At the bottom of this steep mountainside it dips in a ravine and then steeply ascends up Russell Hill for a short distance. This is Shrewsbury, Vt... there are no flat, level areas.... at all. Once on top of the hill we came across Russell Hill shelter. This shelter is in much better condition than SP shelter. It is close to the road and seems to be maintained more. It has a privy, a nice fireplace and is much more structurally sound. We took a short break here before the last 15 minute jaunt. 

Russell Hill shelter
As we were leaving, I noticed that this shelter didn't have a water source. I could hear a car pass on the nearby road and wondered if one is supposed to tote water in if needed. Within a few minutes we stumbled upon and old well and then found the remnants of the well's homestead, represented by an old stone chimney. 20 more yards down the trail and we came to the end of our hike for the day.

Overall it was a great hike. We manged to trek 5.4 miles, gained 1400 feet of elevation and bagged another local peak.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

It's been a while since I last posted due to hiking pretty much daily. This 1000 mile challenge has kept me motivated to put on at least 20 miles a week so far. I also scheduled a few day hikes with my day hiking group which were great hikes. Here's an update for these group hikes:

On June 26, a scheduled hike to visit the Japanese Gardens and Mt Zion took place. This is a short but somewhat tough hike due to the terrain.

On July 15, a scheduled hike to observe July's full Moon took place. These full Moon night hikes are scheduled monthly. 

On July 17, a scheduled hike to Killington via the Sherburne Pass trail took place. This hike to date was the longest scheduled for this group.

Other than these scheduled group hikes I have also done a lot of other spur of the moment hikes in which I will post at a later time. I just needed to catch up with this group thing first.

Happy Trails!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Day With Randy

July 8, 2011

My brother Randy had gotten in touch with me about doing a hike somewhere in the Sherburne area. The last time I had saw him was a month ago briefly when he visited my parents. He is also moving out of Vermont by the end of the summer so a hike was in order. I had planned a hike to summit Pico since I hadn't done this peak since I started keeping track of my adventures. When we met at the parking lot he really wanted to go up to Deer Leap instead of Pico. This was a favorite spot of his when in high school and he happened to hike up here for his honeymoon. So Deer Leap it was. This was also our first hike together since last October. The weather was warm in the mid 70's with clear sunny but hazy skies. 

As we headed up we noticed that we were not the only ones on the same quest. This is a popular lookout and it's very common to see others on this trail. This trail isn't one of my favorite day hiking trails but I was here to spend time with my brother. The trail itself is tore up, wide and muddy in spots. The first half mile went great only running into a few people and dogs of course. At this half mile point the Appalachian trail continues on towards Maine. Ben's Balcony is a lookout a tenth of a mile off this intersection so we decided took head there first before reaching Deer Leap rock.

Killington from Ben's Balcony

 After a few minute break at Ben's Balcony we headed towards Deer Leap. Once we got to the junction of the AT south and Deer Leap spur a group of hikers came upon us. They were doing a loop around the mountain and decided to continue north. Randy and I went southwest. We continues up talking, getting caught up etc and before we knew it we had reached the lookout.

To the south
To the southeast

To the north

To the west
When we arrived there were others enjoying the views as well. Then another group showed up with 10 minutes so we decided to take off. When we came across the junction that leads to Deer Leap Mountain we decided to take that around and adding some mileage to our trek. Within a tenth of a mile we turned back. Randy wasn't up to the steepness of this valley let alone climbing up the other side. We took our time heading back to the parking lot enjoying each others company along the way. Once we got back to the parking lot Randy still had a few hours to kill so we went for a small road trip through the back roads of Vermont and thought we would pay a visit to my late mother and brother. May they rest peacefully together.

Mom & David; Miss you both
With time to spare and only a few hundred yards down the road, we thought we would visit our "Aunt" Barb. She is actually our father's cousin but we grew up calling her "Aunt". It was a great visit. I hadn't seen her in over 25 years. 

Overall the day was awesome. It's probably going to be 5 years before I see him after he leaves but we intend on getting together before his journey south. He will be moving to Georgia and is gladly giving me 4 pairs of snowshoes. (This is a hint to my daughter and a few friends who like to use the excuse that they don't have snowshoes. lol,) We hiked 2.5 miles gaining 600 feet of elevation.