Thursday, July 28, 2011

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.


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