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.


1 comment:

  1. Looks like a great time! That old well you found is very cool - someone's life used to depend on that water source.