Thursday, August 11, 2011

Long Trail, Division 5

August 5-7, 2011

In 1910 the Green Mountain Club formed to start cutting a "footpath in the wilderness"; a trail that followed the spine of the Green Mountains of Vermont known as The Long Trail. In 1911, the club's first section formed; The Killington section; a group of 25 individuals who took on building a 24 mile stretch of trail that runs from Rt 140 in Wallingford to Rt 4 at Sherburne Pass.100 years later the Section scheduled a north bound "thru-hike" of this division. Last year was the GMC's centennial year and they hosted a relay thru-hike. As a special guest on our section hike we brought along the baton from the relay otherwise known as Prickles Porcupine.

Day one: 7.3 miles
The weather was partly sunny warm in the 70's and humid. 3 of us; Allison aka Land Shark, Kathy and myself along with Prickles hit the trail at Rt 140 at 10:40 am.

Allison holding Prickles, Kathi and me

The start of our weekend

Within 5 minutes we came to the main parking lot where a 4th met us, Sue.  We left the parking lot and meandered up and over Bear Mt (there are 11 Bear Mountains in Vermont, 2 in Rutland County alone) After 2 hours and 3.6 miles in we reached our first stop for lunch at Minerva Hinchey shelter.

Minerva Hinchey shelter. Prickles was just hanging around
Prickles poops Raisinetes

After a short lunch break and talking to some AT thru-hikers we strapped on our packs and continued north towards Clarendon Shelter. The heat of the day was approaching it's high and the humidity with no breeze made the trek remind me of the term "dog days of August". Sue pointed out different flora and fauna along the way. By 2:30 we were at Airport Lookout.

From Airport Lookout

We didn't stay too long before we continued on. I, once again, ran out of water (This is becoming a repetitive problem) but knew that I could refill within a mile. We trekked down the mountain side and by 3:00 pm we were at Clarendon Gorge where we took a break. I filtered some water while Allison and Kathi swam for about 15 minutes. Prickles went bungee jumping off of the suspension bridge.

Prickles bungee jumping

Swimming at the Gorge
From the river the trail crosses Rt 103 and follows a boulder filled ravine. This was cut about 15 years ago. Sue recommended that we take the original trail at Crown Point Rd. This is a lot easier than the new path. Within 20 minutes we reached our days end at Clarendon shelter.

Crown Point Rd

When we crossed 103 we ran into a couple of thru-hikers that we had met at Minerva Hinchey shelter. They took the new trail and after a short break when we reached Clarendon shelter the two men strolled down the spur and noticed us with a surprised look . A "when did they pass us?" look. While we were setting up camp, Wayne aka Mad Hatter, the Killington section's president came strolling down the trail. He was to join us for the remainder of the weekend.

The Mad Hatter joins us. Welcome Mr. President.
Home, night one

This shelter was busy. Thru-hikers came in regularly. Some stayed, some looked around at the tent city and journeyed on. A few slack packers stopped too for a quick break. 22 people stayed at this site to include 14 tents, a hammock and a comfortably filled shelter. (it wasn't packed) By 9:30 pm the place was quiet.

Day two: 10.1 miles

I woke up early and at 4:50 am I had my Pocket Rocket fired up for some coffee and enjoyed the morning twilight. The birds and chipmunks kept me company. Soon the place was awake and busy with packing thru-hikers. By 8:10 the 5 of us along with Prickles hit the trail. Sue would be leaving us at the next road crossing.

Allison, Sue, Prickles, Kathi, Wayne and me at Clarendon shelter
From the shelter the trail starts out steep for the first 0.4 climbing 500 feet of elevation. What a great way to get the blood moving for the day. It didn't take long before we reached Lottery Rd and parted ways with Sue. We continued our trek slowly descending before we reached our big up for the day. The heat and humidity was increasing and the wind completely stopped. I was drenched with sweat even though the terrain and descent were fairly easy.

 After we crossed Upper Cold River road, we took a break at the "500 miles  to Katahdin" sign where Wayne had set up a chair and a cooler of ice sodas and waters the day before. Of course none of the sodas were left but an ice filled bandanna on the neck was soooo wonderful. We continued on towards our lunch stop, Gov. Clement shelter.
Wayne at Gov Clement shelter
After a short lunch and a water fill we prepared for our big climb for the day. We still had 4.3 miles with 2000 feet of elevation to go. The heat and humidity were steadily rising. The ground was sweating. We slowed down some but still trekked at a fairly steady pace. Land Shark realized that Kathi didn't have a trailname yet so, since she is vegan I recommended "Chic Pea". It suits her well. This was her first backpacking trip. She had been reading Section Hiker and learning about ultra light backpacking. Her backpack weighed in at 26 pounds with water. Impressive.

Mad Hatter, Chic Pea and Prickles
We continued on north as the trail steeply and ruggedly climbs towards the junction of Shrewsbury Peak trail. This was my first time taking this section northerly. I recalled why. We ran into a Long Trail caretaker along the way so I thought I would get a picture of me with her. The GMC had posted on Twitter that the first one to post a pic with a caretaker would win a free T-shirt. I was game. We all got a pic with her. I had met Kim a few weeks back when Kathi and I were day hiking.

Me and Kim
As we approached the Shrewsbury Peak trail we came across a small spring that seeped out of the lush moss. I needed water again. And it was ice cold and delicious. At 5:00 pm we reached Shrewsbury Peak trail. I was beat and started to cramp up some because of the days sweat session. Although I drank plenty of water, I had depleted every last electrolyte in my achy body. The worst part of the day was over and after a short break and a refuel of trail mix we headed towards Cooper Lodge; our destination for the day. The sky now was overcast and with elevation came some cooler temps. The trail leveled out some as we well. At 6:00 pm we reached the shelter.

The tent platform at Cooper Lodge. (photo credit, Allison)

There were a few people staying but no where as populated as the previous night. The winds finally picked up and the temps dropped as it showed signs of future rain. After a hot dinner, I crawled into my tent when the first drops hit my tent walls. It rained and misted all night and into the next day.

Day three: 5.6 miles

I woke up a 5:00 am to a steady light rain and decided to just lay there and read some. It was too wet for me to make coffee or eat a hot breakfast. I was ready for a hot shower and a decent meal so the parking lot was in mind. I finally climbed out of my warm comfy tent, broke camp in the rain, had a power bar and met the others.

Tent platforms at Cooper Lodge, morning day three
From Cooper Lodge. Wet and foggy.

It was close to 9:00 by the time we got out of there. My pack, with a wet tent and sweaty laundry weighed in close to 50 pounds. I chose to wear my low cut trail shoes. I set the pace fairly quick. Even though my pack was heavy, my shoes are very sticky on a slippery day. We made it to Jungle Junction by 10:00. 2.5 miles an hour. Since the day before we altered our trip and took the original trail, we did the same when we reached this junction and took Sherburne Pass trail which was the original Long Trail. We continued on north towards Sherburne Pass stopping once at Pico Camp. At 11:50 we reached the parking lot where Allison's husband, Phil, met us with a beer and dry towels. Prickles even indulged. Wayne's wife had met  him there as well. Due to the rain I was unable to take any pictures of day three's journey.

Cheers, Prickles! Thanks for coming along!
Overall, this was an amazing trip. It was truly an honor to be included in this historic event. Thanks to Allison who coordinated it, Wayne and Sue for sharing their knowledge of history of this wonderful division, Prickles who quietly observed the whole way and especially the GMC; for without them this trail would not be here. Congratulations to Chic Pea for successfully and without fear completing her first backpacking trip. And finally, Happy birthday, Killington Section on your first centennial!


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