Sunday, July 29, 2007

On the AT - Rt. 4, Killington to Stony Brook Shelter, VT

July 29, 2007 | Miles: 10.0
Start: Rt.4 , Killington
End: Stony Brook Shelter

The first half of today’s hike was nice and mellow. After three quick miles we hit Gifford Woods State Park where we ate lunch in the nice picnic area in the shade, with bathrooms and a water spigot nearby. Then we went pass an idyllic pond where people were fishing and kayaking, the fish jumping and little ducks by the shore. Several hikers lounged on the grass enjoying the views. These first miles went by easily… then we hit Quimby Mountain, a steep climb which, combined with the heavy, humid weather, made us sweat! After a rest along the ridge, we made our way down to Stony Brook Shelter, arriving in good time by 4pm. We made ourselves comfortable, and enjoyed the evening chatting with the thru-hikers that wandered in throughout the afternoon. I made my way into the tent around 8pm, and had a good night’s sleep!

Perhaps the most interesting part of our hike today was actually getting to the hike. It was a two part journey. The first part was a drive from home to the end of our hike on Rt. 12. On the way, we got a flat tire. Danielle’s first response was “Should I call Triple A?” Hell no! I can change a tire. 10 minutes later and we were on our way, and she was impressed with my manliness. The second part was a taxi ride from the crazy taxi lady. She talked the whole way about…I have no idea. She was insane. She drove slowly. It was painful. Then we hiked. Nice hike. 10 miles in 5 hours. Saw a great campground that we’ll perhaps stay at in the future. Hiked past a pretty little pond. Met a bunch of thruhikers. Another day on the AT.

July 30, 2007 | Miles: 13.7
Start: Stony Brook Shelter
End: Rt. 12, Woodstock
Another hot and humid day. Today’s hike was relatively uneventful, but a nice hike through the forest, with a short stretch through some fields at the end. The morning’s climb ended at The Lookout, a cabin on private property that hiker’s can use, which had nice views of the countryside and lots of raspberry bushes with ripe berries. Yum! The rest of the day’s hike had us wandering along through the woods, eventually dropping us out in the Vermont fields we know and love. All in all, a good, if sweat-soaked hike!
Flora and fauna report: Indian pipe, blue bead lilies, a few wood sorrel, 4 snakes, several chickadees flitting about the trees at Lakota Lake Lookout, and a Broad-winged Hawk calling for its mate from a tree branch near an old woods road where we stopped for a water break. Cool!

Today was fine. Really humid. Therefore, I was really sweaty. We hiked. It was fast, only about 6.5 hours. The biggest complaint was the totally wrong guidebook and even more incorrect elevation profile on the map. We had no idea where we were for most of the day. So we kept hiking. There were cows at the end. MOO!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On the AT - Pinkahm Notch to Rt. 2, Gorham, NH

June 19, 2007 | Miles: 13.1
Start: Pinkham Notch
End: Imp Campsite
A beautiful day for a tough traverse, with many steep ascents and descents, going over 5 of NH’s 4000 footers. We’ve done some of this section of the AT before, and it did not like us then… However, luckily this time, we had a better time of it, although that isn’t to say it was rough! There was lots of sweating (it was humid), and more than enough grumbling… It took us over 9 hours to do these 13 miles, with the first two miles rising up from the Notch to the start of the Wildcat ridge, giving us great views along the rocky ledges back over to the Presidentials. Then we descended into Carter Notch, stopping at the AMC hut to enjoy the luxury of filter-free water (yeah!) and lunch at their picnic tables, before quickly and steeply ascending up to Carter Dome. Ugh! That was a climb! Over Mt. Hight, Middle Carter and North Carter, where we began our final descent to Imp. I remembered lots of steep rocky slabs to descend on this section, and my memory hadn’t lied. It was indeed steep! Then finally, the spur to Imp, with yet another descent :) After a quick set-up, we devoured our dinner while trying to keep away the black flies that had descended upon us in droves. Needless to say, we didn’t have much success! Ah, hiking in June….
Overall, a tough section of trail, but with some nice views, lots of new bog bridges and some good wildflowers—bunchberries, gold thread, star flowers, rhodora, white violets and a few trillium—to liven up the woods.

A long hike to close out a long week of work—no rest for the wicked. Day started cloudy, but cleared out nicely, then got hazy. And we saw it all as it took us more than 9 hours to get from point A to point B. The initial climb up the Wildcat Ridge Trail was hard—really steep. But we made it to the top of Wildcat Ski Area and then onto Wildcat D in just about 2 hours. Then some more work to climb Wildcats C, B and A, followed by a huge descent to Carter Notch Hut. The climb out of Carter Notch to Carter Dome was even bigger, and slow after a tasty lunch. Then it gets a little muddled, we just kept walking over the Carters. It was long and rugged and warm and we were tired. Then came the descent from North Carter—reeeediculous. Eventually, we got to Imp campsite 13 miles after we started. I got tired just typing that. Overall, it was a great day. We were tired, but we had a blast. The views were great. The trail was beautiful. The company was even better. All in all good times. But then the 8 million black flies arrived at Imp, made it a little tough to eat my Teriyaki noodles. I muddled through.

June 20, 2007 | Miles: 8.0
Start: Imp Campsite
End: US 2, Gorham
In today’s episode of “The adventures of Sparkplug & Snowman,” we find our duo, tired from a long hike yesterday and not much sleep, continuing their traverse of the Carter-Moriah Range, ascending the slick rocky ledges of Moriah in the rain, hurrying along to get out of the wind, passing by the vistas now enshrouded in fog… the rain finally relents as they descend to the Rattle River Shelter, the trail mellowing as it follows the stream. As the rain relents, the bugs begin their attack, and the episode concludes with a shot of S&S running the last half mile of the now flat trail in an attempt to outrun and outwit the hordes of angry, blood-sucking mosquitos that have descended upon them… Yup, that pretty much sums it up.

So, I woke up feeling like I had been to Fight Club last night…and lost to Meat Loaf. Not pretty. So, a grouchy start. Then it started raining. Then we walked. Then we tried not to get hypothermia climbing over Mt. Moriah. Danielle was in the lead and yelled at me because “She felt rushed.” Of course, I was rushing her…it was miserable, and I wanted to get out of there. Once over the peak, it was all good from there. Off and on rain, but nothing too bad. Then it was all down. About 3000 feet down to the land of the ravenous mosquitoes. We ran/jogged the last half mile in order to not donate too much blood. A great 2 days.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On the AT - VT 12, Woodstock to West Hartford, VT

July 17, 2007 | Miles: 12.6
Start: VT 12, Woodstock
End: West Hartford

Today can be summed up as a day with 1) lots of steep, short PUDs (or unnecessary ups and downs) and 2) lots of overgrown, high field crossings that made nice red welts on my legs. While the field crossings did yield some nice patches of milk weed, black eyed susans and a good patch of raspberries at one point, as well as a few nice views of the rolling VT hills, overall, this was a section that was not super exciting and which elicited lots of grumbling! We were both dragging a bit and the miles seemed to go on forever… so, needless to say, we were very happy to reach the car at the end of the day!

Today kinda sucked. No one event to point to, just an off day. The weather was nice, so that wasn’t a factor. We were both feeling sluggish from our big day in NH yesterday, and it felt like it was taking forever. Plus, the trail wasn’t that great. A couple decent views, but lots of PUDS and a number of overgrown fields. It just wasn’t really fun. I’m glad this section is out of the way, and I hope the other parts of VT are better…they have to be, right?

Monday, July 16, 2007

On the AT - Lyme-Dorchester Rd to NH25A, NH

July 16, 2007 | Miles: 16.0
Start: Lyme-Dorchester Rd.
End: NH 25A

A gorgeous day to be hiking in southern NH. We really enjoyed this section. With two big climbs, it was the perfect Danielle & Ryan hike. The hike up to Smarts Mountain was pretty nice, with some great views from Lambert Ridge. When we got to the firetower on Smarts, a fast-moving NOBO was sitting, playing his banjo and singing. Very nice to snack to :) Then it was down to South Jacobs Brook for lunch. A great spot! Mount Cube was next on the list, again with some nice views along the ledges leading to the summit, and a few blueberries too. Yum! By the summit, we were pretty tired, but were still moving along well. The final descent seemed to go on for a while, but we soon arrived at our car, very happy with our hike! Saw quite a few thru-hikers throughout the day, and gave a ride to Pokey, a section hiker like us, back to her car at Lyme-Dorchester Road.

Flora and fauna report: Most of the wildflowers have passed, but we did see some nice wood sorrel, wild geraniums as well as the blue beads and bunchberry berries starting to get blue and red, respectively. Saw 5 snakes, a toad, a frog, one orange salamander (newt), a deer and Ryan saw two woodpeckers.

Today rocked! Of course, I started out a little less than thrilled to be up and out, but a Dunkin Donuts Supreme Omelet has just the right amount of disgusting to fuel the day. A great climb up Smarts Mountain. Hard, but fair. Great views from the summit fire tower, plus some tunes from Five String, a northbounder with a banjo. Mt. Cube was even better. A number of open sections and a great view from the top. The trail was busy today with a number of thruhikers, both north and southbound, which made it a lot of fun. It was a long day with the two big climbs, but it was a great one.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

On the AT - Williamstown, MA to Rt. 9, Bennington, VT

July 7, 2007 | Miles: 6.9
Start: Rt. 2, Williamstown
End: Seth Warner Shelter

A visit with Hairball and Snowbunny made this morning great! They met us at the parking lot at Rt. 9, and we piled into Rhonda, Hairball’s Honda Civic with the two of them, the two of us and their two dogs—one Rat Terrier and one Chesapeake Bay Retriever. The car was stinky and full! We had a big breakfast and caught up before they dropped us at the trail crossing at Rt. 2 in Williamstown. Stomachs full, we started off, knowing we could take it slow as we were just planning a 7-mile day. And overall, it was a mellow hike. Easy treadway, a few views and the first blueberries of the season atop Pine Cobble (yum!) and then a wander through the woods to the shelter. We arrived at 1:30 and had a late lunch. We figured we were in for a quiet night, but people kept arriving… in the end there were 16 of us in the shelter and at the surrounding tent sites! Lots of Long Trail thru-hikers starting out! We took spots in the shelter and escaped the rain that came in the afternoon and during the night… that was nice… however, we were entertained by a fellow hiker who even before enjoying the bourbon he was carrying was a gregarious character. It was a bit noisy to say the least!

Flora and fauna report: Indian pipe, blueberries, wood sorrel, mountain laurel, one snake, lots of birds chirping in the woods.

What’s the best way to start a hike? With a visit from friends and a big breakfast. Team Hairbunny, Hairball and Snowbunny, met us at the trailhead in Bennington, took us to breakfast and then dropped us at the trailhead in Williamstown. Good to catch up with those guys. That was really the most exciting part of the day. The trail was mellow and very nice. Overall, it was an easy day, and we were done by about 1:30. Short and sweet. Some thunderstorms, rolled in and we stayed in the shelter. It was busy with about 15 people. About half of them were just starting the Long Trail and on their way to Canada. The Long Trail runs about 270 miles the length of Vermont and coincides with the AT for a little less than half of it. Then the AT takes a right and heads for Katahdin. We had a good fire, talked trail with all the new hikers and had a great afternoon and evening. It got a little noisy later as one of the guys drank waaayyyy too much bourbon. A drunk 65 year-old imitating a barred owl is not how you want to go to sleep.

July 8, 2007 | Miles: 11.5
Start: Seth Warner Shelter
End: Rt. 9, Bennington

We awoke to rain, and didn’t rush to get out, but managed to hit the trail a little after 8am. Today Vermont lived up to its nicknames—“The Green Tunnel” and “Ver-mud”! It was very nice walking through the forest, nice and lush and green with lots of clearing with sweet-smelling ferns and hobblebush. But along with that, there was lots of mud! Squish, squish! We went by a few nice ponds/swamps today, including a very cool beaver pond. A quick 7 miles to Congdon Shelter where we had lunch, then a climb up to Harmon’s Hill before a steep descent down to Rt. 9. The skies cleared and things started to heat up as we headed down to the road. We were envious of those continuing on up the Long Trail as they all had that great combination of apprehension, excitement and wonder as they started on their hike, but it was a great 2 days out, and we’ll be out again soon!

Wildlife highlight of the day: 12 bright orange salamanders (newts) seen, including one that was only about an inch long. So cute!

Green tunnel and mud. That’s Vermont. So, we did a little over 18 miles on this trip, and here’s the best part: it was easy. We had a great two days. That’s really all there is to report from today. It rained in the morning, cleared, was really, really muggy and about 90 degrees. That’s July, though. Overall, we’re feeling really good about the progress we’ve made so far this year and reaching our goal. This AT thing has been pretty fun…I guess that’s why we’re still going.