Sunday, September 30, 2007

On the AT - Mt. Washington to Pinkham Notch, NH

September 30, 2007 | Miles: 13.4
Start: Mt. Washington
End: Pinkham Notch
An unorthodox way to do the northern Presidentials, but hey, why not? It was a beautiful day, and we knew we only had a few more weeks to get in this hike before winter arrived in the Pressies, so we decided to go for it. An early start got us to Great Glen for a 9am hiker shuttle up to Washington and hiking by 10am. It was a bit odd to start at the highest point and hike down, especially as the going was rocky and rough, but we eventually got into a groove and enjoyed the views along the way. Fall foliage was slowly creeping into the hills and the leaves of the alpine blueberry, bunchberry and others were changing red, lending a nice hue to the tundra as we walked along. We meandered up and over and along the northern Pressies, and finally descended to Madison Hut in time for a late lunch around 1pm. The hut was already closed but we sat on the rocks outside, took off our shoes and rested for a while. Then the quick but stiff climb to Madison summit where 2 other hikers were relaxing in the sun. Nice guys who are doing the NH 4000 footers. Things slowed down alot in the next few miles as we descended the Osgood Ridge, which was basically a steep and rough jumble of rocks. Where was the nice flat, mellow terrain of last week in VT?! NH is hard! My knees and feet were taking a beating! After the long descent, we finally reached Osgood tentsite, where things mellowed out considerably. The trail meandered through the woods, crossing many brooks and streams, until we reached Lowe’s Bald Spot, a beautiful outcropping near the Auto Road, with great 360 degree views of the Presidentials and the Carter range. Still 2 miles to go… most of it was along an old road but it still seemed to go on forever. We met up with a group of Quebecois near Pinkham—very nice but tired from their hike—and best of all, it was them who picked us up as we attempted to hitch back up Rt. 16 to Great Glen. Thanks guys! We changed quickly and headed to Moat for nachos and beer before the drive home. All in all, a long day but a nice hike.

Nowhere to go but down. Starting a hike at the top of the highest peak around is a weird way to go, but why not? Due to the logistics of getting to the Auto Road and then getting to the top, we didn’t start hiking until just before 10:00. As it turned out, we didn’t stop hiking until just after 6:00. Yup, it was a long day. The Whites are hard. Actually, there was nothing particularly hard about the hike, but everything above treeline is really rocky, which makes for slow going. After the summit of Madison along the Osgood Ridge the trail is ridiculous, if you can even call it a trail. It’s basically just a jumble of sharp rocks. Good times. Luckily, we had a beautiful day: clear and little to no wind. It was a great day to hike and take some photos. We lucked out on weather, just as we did for our hike from 302 to the summit of Washington, so really I can’t complain. It was another great day on the Trail…even if it was a long one.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

On the AT - Minerva Hinchey to Rt. 4, Killington, VT

September 22, 2007 | Miles: 13.9 (plus 1 mile road walk and 0.6 up and back to Killington Peak)
Start: Minerva Hinchey Shelter
End: Cooper Lodge
This might be our earliest start yet! I really feel like a thru-hiker today, spurred on by thoughts of “real food.” The four of us hit the trail at 6:30am and must have all been hungry as we were sitting down to breakfast at the Whistlestop before 8am (luckily the roadwalk was flat!). Chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs and coffee for me. Yum! Fueled up by our big breakfasts, we were back on the trail by 9:30, off to conquer Killington! I kicked it into gear on the way up, and we made good time on the climb. Moxie caught us as we reached the height of land, and we wandered along the ridge together. Moxie decided, in true thru-hiker fashion, to continue on into town, as did Happy, Badmoon and Phantom. But enough was enough for us :) After setting up the tent, up the ridiculously steep 0.2 mile spur trail to Killington peak and lodge beyond. Snowman lamented the fact that we didn’t have any money, not counting on the fact that I am smart (Or paranoid about leaving my wallet in the tent in a crowded area!) and had my wallet in my pocket. So, to the lodge we went, and indulged in fries and beer, looking at the nice views from the top. Ah, what a day.

On the trail at 6:30am and a large breakfast in front of me by 8:30. We got up early and walked a half mile on the road to get to the Whistlestop Café. Moxie and Sawmill came with us, and it was a great way to start the day. I mean how can 2 eggs, lots of French toast, sausage, and homefries…with gravy!!! not be a good start to the day?
We also climbed Killington today. We rocked it. It was a pretty solid climb and we ran right up it. It felt really good to be hiking hard. Best of all, we got the choice tent platform at Cooper Lodge and were able to get to the Killington ski area restaurant before they closed. French fires and beer! Oh yeah. Right before we headed up, we said goodbye to Happy, Bad Moon and Phantom as they were headed to the Inn at Long Trail and then back home. Good time hiking with those guys.
I also finished off the last of the hot n’ zesty salami today. It was pretty darn good for the last couple days.
BTW, this was now 7 days without a shower. We’re tasty.

September 23, 2007 | Miles: 6.2
Start: Cooper Lodge
End: Rt. 4, Inn at Long Trail
Clouds rolled in after dinner, but no rain. We awoke to a dry tent and cool temps. Crisp and clear again. We were on the trail by 8am, meandering through the woods. We decided to continue on our “purist” pursuit of the trail, and didn’t take the “historic” AT which leads straight to the Inn, instead continuing on the AT. Luckily, after a few impatient minutes of hitching at the road, we were picked up by a nice guy in a bright red sports car and dropped off at the Inn’s front door. Even better, our room was ready and we got to shower before we headed to the pub to eat lunch. Moxie and Sawmill joined us, and we spent the afternoon helping them resupply in Rutland. Sawmill was determined to hit the trail and head to the next shelter, so we dropped him off and headed back to the Inn and the pub, where we enjoyed a few beers courtesy of Larry (thanks again!) and dinner with Moxie, while listening to an Irish band play Irish pub songs. A great end to a great hike! This section of VT was beautiful. Plus, we lucked out with great weather and company on this leg of our journey too. We couldn’t have asked for more (although we did wish we could continue hiking north to Canada with Moxie and Sawmill!)… A great trip, and one more state down. Only 290+ miles to go…

Our last day out, and not a single drop of rain the whole trip. The only time I wore my rain gear is while we were doing laundry. That’s not so bad.
It was cool again this morning, and that helped us get moving. Then again, I didn’t need much more motivation than all the goodness that was waiting at the Inn at Long Trail. It was an uneventful hike to the road, and we even got a hitch the 1-mile up the hill to the Inn.
Moxie and Sawmill joined us for lunch and then we helped them resupply in the afternoon. You can do those things when you have a car. It’s fun being a hiker and then being able to turn around and help out your hiking buddies.
Sawmill moved on up the line, but Moxie stayed on to enjoy the pub scene at the Inn at Long Trail. We had a great time hiking with those guys, and it was rally hard to not keep going with them up to Canada. They’re both hiking quite strongly and should have no issues on their way north. Of course, I spent most the evening trying to convince Moxie to hike the AT next year…I think I’m pretty close.
All in all, we had a super trip. Obviously, the weather helped, but Vermont really is great. It’s definitely a section of the AT, we’ll be returning to…maybe to walk to Canada!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

On the AT - Bromley Mountain Shelter to Minerva Hinchey, VT

September 20, 2007 | Miles: 14.3
Start: Bromley Mountain Shelter
End: stealth campsite at Big Branch River
I felt tired today. We started off the morning with a steep climb up to Bromley summit, where we again came across Moxie, Sawmill, Happy, Badmoon and Phantom before they had packed up… this seems to be a theme! We took in the views from the observation tower, where the crew had spent the night in the wind, and then began the descent into Mad Tom Notch. From there, a steep climb up Styles Peak and then over the ridge to Peru Peak Shelter for lunch. Nice foliage along Griffith Lake and a relatively mellow afternoon, with the exception of a rock scramble up Baker Peak, to our campsite along the river. A great spot, with a big flat rock to sit and cook on. Moxie set up camp next to us, and after dinner, we collected firewood and made a great fire. Sawmill and Phantom came back down the trail from the shelter (just 0.1 miles away) to sit and chat around the flames. Can’t beat it. Another beautiful day on the trail (we’re getting spoiled!)

After opening the wine with a mini knife and tent stake and eating our bagel sandwiches. Bert and Sancho appeared. Bert is a dude and Sancho is a dog…a 100-pound golden retriever. The shelter is a double decker, and we had laid our stuff out on the bottom. Bert chose the top to keep Sancho from sleeping on our heads. Of course, he had to lift him up there. Pretty funny. It was even funnier when he had to get Sancho down in the morning. Sancho did some kind of dance because he was freaked out.
On to the hiking, Bromley Mountain is really nice. The crew that slept at the top was a little chilly as the wind blew all night. Of course, they chose to sleep on the tower. Moxie’s Mom has decided to return to civilization. Kind of a bummer, but her hips are bugging her. Probably a good decision. It’s a tough one though, but I completely understand.
Eventually, we hit Mad Tom Notch and then the toughest climb of the trip to the top of Styles Peak. When I looked at the map a couple days before, I just knew it was going to be a grumpy one, and it was. After that we meandering, i.e. grumbled, our way to Peru Peak, and then eventually to Griffith Lake, which was beautiful. VT is really nice. After another short climb up Baker peak, we descended to Big Branch to an awesome campsite. Right along the river. We’ve scored some nice spots on this trip.
Moxie camped nearby, and actually, the shelter was just up the trail, so Sawmill and Phantom came back to hang out by the fire I built. It was a good one. Hairball would have been proud.

September 21, 2007 | Miles: 13.4
Start: stealth campsite at Big Branch River
End: Minerva Hinchey Shelter
After a big dinner last night, I felt better today, more energetic. Another beautiful day! Can it be? We are really lucking out!! A nice hike to Little Rock Pond, where Snowman and I sat on the rocks and had a snack before starting the climb up White Rocks Mountain. Now, we had heard about this mountain before, and it lived up to the hype. In two spots along the trail were these clearings with tons of creative rock art (meaning, lots of cairns that people had built). Pretty crazy. Nice pine forest too. We headed down a blue blaze to White Rocks Cliff, where Happy, Badmoon and Phantom were enjoying lunch at the outlook. We spread out the tent fly to dry and sat for a while before heading on to the shelter. Moxie and Sawmill are here tonight too, while the rest of the crew continued hiking, spurred on by thoughts of dinner at the Whistlestop Café. We, on the other hand, have decided upon an alpine start in an attempt to get in a big breakfast before our climb up Killington! We’ll see how that goes ;-)
Lots of baby frogs on the trail today.

What can I say? Another beauty. Well, actually, it was a bit hazy today. Our first stop was Little Rock Pond. It was beautiful. Man, VT is getting boring.
From the non boring department, there were dozens of cairns piled up on White Rocks Mountain. A really neat rock garden.
We ended the day setting up the tent, getting water and eating dinner. Like I said, what can I say?
Happy, Bad Moon and Phantom moved on to the Whistlestop Café for dinner. We’re planning to hit it tomorrow for breakfast. YUM!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

On the AT - Black Brook to Bromley Mountain Shelter, VT

September 18, 2007 | Miles: 12.8
Start: stealth campsite by Black Brook
End: stealth campsite at Branch Pond Trail
Another crisp morning followed by a blue sky day! Wow. This morning’s climb was up Stratton. I made the climb up the tower, enjoying the views from the top. The colors are shifting in the valley. Beautiful. We stayed on the summit for lunch, and then made our way to Stratton Pond. Another beautiful spot. This section of the AT is awesome. The great fall weather helps, but can it get any better? Great views, great ponds, a few nice climbs… perfect. Of course, it’s also great that we’re in a group of people who are a lot of fun. It’s nice to keep meeting up with everyone throughout the day. After an extended stay at the pond, we all headed on our way. Neighbor Jay was headed down to Manchester today, but the rest of us planned to hit town tomorrow. Snowman and I stopped at the Branch Pond Trail, and set up our tent in a grassy clearing by the brook, at the edge of a field full of purple asters and goldenrod. Everyone else headed on, and it was just us.
Flora and fauna report: 2 frogs, minnows and newts seen in Stratton Pond, 2 spruce grouse and after dinner, a big bull moose
I could hear Sawmill from the other side of the brook. Impressive.
Stratton is awesome. What a great climb! And another spectacular trip to the top of a fire tower. We stopped for a snack on the way up Stratton and Phantom passed us. Phantom hiked the AT in ’01, the LT in ’02 and the PCT in ’05. He looks like he’s not even trying. Danielle did not like the fact that he passed us. So, she started hammering to catch up. After nearly killing me in the process we caught up to him when he stopped at an overlook, but we had closed in on him before he stopped. Maybe we’re still hikers after all.
It also seems that Neighbor Jay is in a full court press in his attempt to pink blaze with Moxie. Pretty funny to watch. She doesn’t seem to mind.
After the awesomeness of Stratton Mountain, we descended to Stratton Pond. It was ridiculously beautiful. Just perfect. We spent a long time just hanging out.
Then we headed off to the best campsite ever. OK, maybe not THE best, but pretty close. Grassy clearing, enough for one tent, a brook a few feet away, a big rock to lean against for dinner, and a bright red maple directly above. It’s all straight out the brochure. Oh yeah, and we saw a moose near the campsite. Ah, life on the trail.
Health update: there is no update. Everything feels good. We’ve gone longer than we planned the last two days, which will make our resupply day tomorrow shorter and easier.

September 19, 2007 | Miles: 7.7
Start: stealth campsite at Branch Pond Trail
End: Bromley Mountain Shelter
Lots of dew on the tent fly in the morning. 48 degrees in the tent. We hit the trail early, knowing we were headed into Manchester to resupply, and made it to Prospect Rock, an outcropping less than a mile down the road, in time to see Moxie, Happy, Badmoon and Phantom packing up. They had camped there last night. The crew of 3 blueblazed into town, and Snowman, Moxie and I made our way on the AT, chatting along the way. Moxie’s mom was meeting her there, so we happily accepted a ride into town. Manchester is actually a great hiker town, at least in the way all the services are set up. Of course, there are also outlets, meaning the town is a strange mix of hikers, yuppy tourists and locals. Still, it worked out great, and we even got a ride back to the trailhead from Moxie and her mom after a painless resupply, HUGE calzones, ice cream and laundry. We headed up to Bromley Mountain Shelter, 2 miles out of town. Snowman and I stayed, while Moxie and mom headed up to the summit to meet the others. We felt we had carried our bottle of wine far enough :) Night fell before Bert & Sancho (his dog), hiking the AT, arrived. We had fun chatting before we finally fell asleep.
Saw a downy woodpecker by the shelter.

Another great day. Our first stop was the overlook at Prospect Rock where Moxie, Happy, Bad Moon and Phantom had camped. Neighbor Jay has gotten off the Trail to head back to work. The view was great. Ah, Vermont. We had an uneventful hike to the road with Moxie. Actually, Moxie’s mom is coming out for a couple days, so we didn’t even have to hitch. She met us at the trailhead.
Manchester, Vermont is a shopping mecca. High end. Needless to say, we avoided those stores. No Brooks Brothers for us. Instead we hit, the pizza place, Price Chopper, EMS, the LaunLiquor Store. Oh, and I almost forgot Ben & Jerry’s. All within walking distance. All in all, a great trail town. And, Moxie and Mom picked us up and brought us back to the Trail.
The rest of our crew headed to the top of Bromley, but the shelter a mile below the summit was really nice. We decided to stay. We had wine to drink after all.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On the AT - Bennington to Black Brook, VT

September 16, 2007 | Miles: 10.1
Start: Rt. 9, Bennington
End: Goddard Shelter
After a late arrival at the Inn at Long Trail last night, we awoke to big breakfast and our 9am shuttle by Dot. Dot kept us entertained with fun hiking and trail maintenance stories until Bennington. We hit the trail at 11am, and started the 10 mile gradual uphill trek to Goddard Shelter. Beautiful hiking weather-cool, clear, bright blue sky. Wonderful! A few leaves are turning. We arrived at 4pm to the shelter with a pretty view out into the VT hills. 4 other hikers joined us – Tryn & Mary, hiking a SOBO section of the AT, plus Moxie and Carl, who are hiking the LT NOBO. All were tired, and it was cold, so we were all snug in our sleeping bags by 8pm. HOWEVER, we were awakened a while later by huge snores emitting from Carl’s bag. We had forgotten our earplugs, and so Snowman finally gave up around 9pm and went to find a tentsite! We needed to get some sleep! He found a small flat spot up in the woods and we set up quickly in the dark. Ah, peace and quiet…
Flora and fauna notes: 2 frogs, 1 orange newt, hairy woodpecker, lots of chickadees and juncos cavorting in the pines by the shelter, and 1 thrush (hermit, I think).

Full disclosure: I’m writing all the journal entries for this trip after it is over. I didn’t take any notes or anything while we were on the Trail. Oh well.
We had a long drive leading to a late arrival at the Inn at Long Trail, which was to be the bookend for this trip. On Sunday morning we took in breakfast at the Inn, and waiting for Dot to pick us up. Dot has section hiked the AT and the LT and now volunteers with the Green Mountain Club…along with helping hikers with shuttles. Thanks Dot!
We hit the trail just before 11:00 for the 10 mile trek to Goddard Shelter. I have to admit, I had some concerns going into this trip as my back has been fairly tight. Not really sure why, but I think I just need to work on my core strength. My knees have felt good, but I haven’t carried a pack for 8 days either. So, we’ll see.
Not much to report from today other than that the weather was perfect. Actually, it was quite cool. And by that I mean perfect for hiking. We had a fairly solid initial climb up from Route 9, but the rest of the day the terrain was reasonable with some nice brooks and a couple overlooks. Vermont is nice.
There’s 6 of us in the shelter tonight. Two AT Sobos, and two LT Nobos. Or are there...

September 17, 2007 | Miles: 11.5
Start: Goddard Shelter
End: stealth campsite by Black Brook
This morning Carl was quickly named Sawmill by Snowman and a new trailname was born! It was a cold night and there was frost on the grass in front of the shelter. A quick jaunt to the top of Glastenbury Mountain, and into the fire tower there. I didn’t make it to the top, but enjoyed the view from a platform just above the trees— great spot, as tons of birds were in the pines—goldfinch, redbreasted nuthatches, sparrows and others I couldn’t identify. The “it’s a small world” moment of the day occurred in the fire tower. Another hiker, Neighbor Jay, was up on the top taking photos. Snowman chatted with him and it turns out he hiked the PCT in 2005. We told him we’d done the AT, and he said we probably know some of the same people… and it turns out we do! Mr. Fusion, one of the first people we met on the AT, is now hiking the PCT and Neighbor Jay spent time hiking this summer out west with him. What a coincidence! Nice hike today, relatively mellow terrain. We ended at a great spot right by Black Brookand Snowman started a fire. Moxie, Sawmill, Neighbor Jay and friends Badmoon, Happy and Phantom set up camp across the river.

I’ve dubbed him Sawmill. Last night, one of the LT Nobos, Carl, started snoring. Then the shelter starting shaking. Luckily, it was only 9:00, so I climbed out of my sleeping bag (temps were in the 40’s), donned my headlamp and found a tentsite. We spent a quiet night in the tent. It was 39° in the tent this morning. Chilly, but that meant we’d have good temps for the day.
The summit of Glastenbury was only .3 away from the shelter, and I wish we’d gotten water at the shelter and camped on the summit. Oh well. Next time. The views from the fire tower were unreal. What a morning!
We had a short day planned, but ended up pushing it further, which was a great call. The site we scored by Black Brook is one of the nicest stealth sites we’ve ong the whole AT: great little flat spot for the tent, a bench and a fire ring. Good stuff. It turns out we’re hiking with about 6 other people out here: the aforementioned Sawmill, who incidentally is a really nice guy; Moxie, who has a great spirit; and a group of 4 who hiked the PCT together in ’05: Neighbor Jay, Happy, Bad Moon and Phantom. I got a small fire going, which is definitely going to help us keep warm on a fairly chilly evening.

Monday, September 10, 2007

On the AT - Church Road to Williamstown, MA

September 10, 2007 | Miles: 14.5
Start: Church Rd., Cheshire
End: Rt. 2, Williamstown
Another gray day... Mom and Dad again acted as taxi service and got us to Cheshire for a 7:45am start. We knew we had a long day ahead of us, with a long hike and a long drive home, so the early start was necessary... and they were driving home to NC so they needed it too! Thanks again guys! Having you around this weekend made filling in these remaining MA sections much easier! We appreciate it :-)

We pretty much hiked in the clouds and mist all day, which made the woods seem sort of dark and spooky... the hike up to Mt. Greylock was long, but fair, and we managed to make the summit in time for lunch. The road is currently closed to cars as they're doing work on it, so the summit was pretty quiet, except for a group of guys working on some sort of weather/wind towers. Who knows? We sat outside the boarded up Bascom Lodge and ate lunch before heading off along the ridge... We had just made it to the Money Brook Trail with 3 miles left in the hike when it really started to rain. Not that we weren't wet anyway, from all the mist and clouds and humidity and sweat! The final few miles were steep, but not as bad as we had feared and less than 7 hours later we were back at Mim's, getting clean. The best thing about today is that now we are done with MA! YEAH! :-) Only took us 3 years to finish it off :-)
Flora and fauna report: 7 orange newts, 5 spruce grouse scared up, 1 bunny. Pretty quiet in the woods today...

A wet day. It only rained on us for about an hour near the end of the hike, but it was about 143% humidity all day. It was dark, too. And kinda spooky. The climb up Greylock from Cheshire is pretty nice. Nothing really hard, just a good steady uphill for 8 miles. We had heard horror stories about the descent off Greylock, but that wasn't that bad either. We moved right along, too, and finished in pretty decent time.
Best of all, we finished MA. It's the first state we've finished since CT in 05, so it felt good to put that one behind us. Our vacation is coming up, and if all goes to plan VT shouldn't be far behind.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

On the AT - Pittsfield Road to Grange Hall Road, MA

September 9, 2007 | Miles: 6.9
Start: Pittsfield Road, The Cookie Lady’s House
End: Grange Hall Road
After getting a bit turned around on our drive to Pittsfield Rd., the hike went off without a hitch. This 6.9 mile hike took us 2:25 and was nice and mellow. The day was overcast and humid, with showers forecast. The woods were nice as was the treadway. Not much to say about this hike, except that we were done in time for lunch! Mom and Dad met us at Grange Hall Road (thanks guys!) and we went to Bob's Country Kitchen in Lanesborough, where we all enjoyed some yummy food.
Flora and fauna: 8 orange newts, 2 toads, 1 frog. An amphibian day!

Art and Cheryl acted as a taxi service, and they're pretty darn good at it. It was a gray day, and this was an unexciting section. So, we hiked fast, and we're done in about 2 1/2 hours. Then I ate a hiker lunch at good ole homecooking breakfast all day restaurant: Cheese and mushroom omelette and a grilled cheese with bacon and turkey. Delicious!