Thursday, August 25, 2016

Greenwich to Port Chester

Waterfall
My first Ramblers hike post-LT was less strenuous than usual - probably about nine miles, with no significant elevation changes.

We began by hiking near at the Audubon Center. Then, after a short road walk, we hiked along more trails that I believe are part of the same property but not contiguous. The final hike back to the trail station was on roads; I opted for the slightly shorter version, not being a lover of road walking.

The trails were pleasant if unspectacular; the highlight was definitely the waterfall, an old dam, where we had lunch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The LT and the body

Wings
Hiking 273+ miles in 24 days is bound to affect your body, and even more so when you're carrying most of your own food. If you've read much about thru-hiking, you know that it's a struggle for most hikers to eat enough calories. Then there is the adjustment of the tendons and muscles to carrying your body and a pack around. Plus, there might be blisters, chafing, and less attention to personal hygiene ...

Well, I was lucky when it came to blisters - I only had one, and was easily dealt with. A little Desitin cleared up a bit of monkey butt. Otherwise, I had no major skin ailments to deal with.

My body worked hard, of course, and I built up my endurance but lost some strength. Upon my return, I either had to go down a bell size or work harder at kettlebells. (The exception to this was overhead presses with my right hand - putting my pack on and taking it off apparently works those same muscles!) Of course, muscles adjust faster than tendons. My Achilles tendon and the back of my heels were hurting, especially in the middle of my hike. It's been a month now, and the soles of my feet still hurt easily; Sunday's hike wasn't that tough, but my feet quickly felt sore. I've definitely been avoiding classes with jumping rope at the gym.

And the calorie thing ... whoa. I knew I lost a few pounds, but I didn't realize how many until I got home and stepped on a scale - after I'd already gained a few back eating in Burlington. Whether it was going stoveless, snacking instead of eating full meals, or whatever, my calorie intake wasn't enough. It was sustainable over the few weeks I was out; but my body would have been in real trouble if I had been on a long thru-hike. Next time, I'll have to reconsider my food choices.

(To be honest, like most people, I didn't mind losing a few pounds. But now most of my bottoms don't fit, and I don't know if I should buy new clothes or if my weight will get back to normal quickly.)

Anyway, now I truly understand the phrase "going to town on" something. Whenever hikers get into town, they eat a lot! Here was where I think snacking instead of eating meals hurt me; my stomach just didn't have room for enormous meals.

But none of these issues turned out to be significant. I didn't have any serious injuries or medical problems on the trail, thank goodness. Part of that is luck, I realize, but it's also good to know my body is generally capable of doing that kind of work.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hiking Bearfort Mountain

Greenwood Lake
My first hike upon my return to everyday life was a relatively short hike at Bearfort Mountain. Embarrassingly, I had been here before and totally forgotten about it. On this hike, we just did the highlights - the ridge overlooking Greenwood Lake, Surprise Lake, and the AT at the NJ/NY state line.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Long Trail, Part III: The End

Lavender fields

On day 17, I was looking forward to the one and time the trail becomes flat - crossing the Winooski River. After heading down from Camel's Hump, there it was - the road. The trail leaves the road and crosses through agricultural fields. It's perfectly flat except for stiles over electrified fences. As I made my way past a creek, I ran into Pink Heels and Easy Cheese, who were going the wrong direction; they found a fence they couldn't get around. But all good things must come to an end, and the flatness turned into a straight-up grin to the top of Bolton Mountain. Bolton wasn't particularly interesting, but we stayed in a great shelter that night - Puffer isn't a fancy structure, but it has a terrific view.

View from Puffer shelter

Day 18 had its own milestone - Mt. Mansfield, the high point of Vermont. Like Burnt Knob and Camel's Hump, it has a great deal of rocky scrambling. Now, Mt. Mansfield is said to look like a face (which I can't see at all), and the LT goes from the "forehead" to the "chin." The forehead had the most tricky scrambling of the entire trip, and I was glad to be hiking with other people. Of course, the views at the top were terrific, but the sheer number of people was a bit overwhelming - there are several other trails to the top, most of which are shorter by virtue of gondola or car. After a short but steep descent partway down the mountain, we spent the night in Taft Lodge, a very well-appointed shelter, along with the caretaker, two overnighters, and Silent Force.

Climbing Mansfield

On day 19, the trail descended to Smuggler's Notch before going uphill again. At the Elephant's Head Cliff vista, I caught an impressive view of a cliffy side of Mt. Mansfield. Then it was on to Sterling Pond, which had a lot of dayhikers, thanks to the nearby ski area. However, it was to be a short day - a storm was rolling in. Pink Heels, Easy Cheese, and I hoped to make it to the warming hut on top of Madonna Peak - I was glad for their intel, as it isn't mentioned in the guidebook. We came out of the trees onto a ski trail in sight of the hut just as the first drops broke. The hut wasn't the fanciest, but it was dry, and we had some fabulous clouds to watch. Later in the evening, the Skittles and their adults joined us for the night.

Clouds on Madonna

Day 20 was town day again, the last one. The trail itself was up and down until it joined a country dirt road. We stayed the night at Nye's Green Valley Inn; the owner was a truly gracious host and shuttled us around to both Johnson and Jeffersonville. Also, they had goats and miniature ponies, and if you don't love that, your heart is cold.

Nye's Green Valley Inn

After leaving the Lamoille Valley on day 21, we went up and down a few times, enjoying a few vistas along the way, and ending up at Corliss Camp. It was another nice shelter, and we had a good campfire with marshmallows.

Laraway Mt. and maple candy

The next day was a series of ascents and descents. It included the Devil's Gulch, which reminded me of hiking in Tennessee's Cumberland Plateau. Then there was a rough climb up Mt. Belvidere - I had an allergy attack, it was pretty hot, and the deer flies had come out in massive numbers. I felt like Pigpen with a cloud around my head. But there was another great fire tower view at its summit.

Belvidere view

On day 23, the hiking itself was nothing spectacular. I did enjoy Domey's Dome, mostly for its name. Somehow, I didn't have enough water, and spent a good part of my afternoon thirsty. Finally, there was a stream before the road, so I didn't have to hitchhike to town for a drink. I spent the night at Jay Camp, where a major thunderstorm boomed right over us in the night.

That close to Canada?

Day 24 was supposed to be a longer day. Pink Heels, Easy Cheese, and I went up Jay Peak. Thanks to the fog, we didn't get much in the way of views. We took the gondola down to the ski area - unlike many of the trams, it runs on a schedule instead of continuously - at 10:30 and had lunch. They planned to spend the night, so I said goodbye and hopped back up on the 12:30 gondola as thunder began to rumble. It turned out to be a good choice, as they shut down the gondola after that because of the weather. I made it to Laura Woodward shelter with only a few minutes to spare before the skies opened up again, and I was trapped for the day. My final day would have to be longer than planned.

Killington

I got an early start on day 25. The trail was wet but not particularly treacherous. The end was so close! And then it was there - the line post marking the border with Canada. After an obligatory photo and a quick step into Canada, I turned east onto the Journey's End trail to return to civilization. 273 miles plus a few spurs and road walks - done.

Boundary marker


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Long Trail, Part II: The Endless Middle

The middle of the hike was the most challenging part for me. Suddenly, the trail grew rougher. The weather grew worse. And my body was growing weary ...

Snail

On day 9, I set off from McGrath's Killington Inn in fine spirits. The weather was unpleasantly hot and muggy, but I was freshly showered and coffeed. Soon, the AT split off the the east, and I continued north, spending the night at the David Logan shelter. Here I met two hikers I'd see much more of later on, Pink Heels and Easy Cheese, and they named me "Weasel Masseuse."

Wet bridge23

I planned to spend day 10 as a zero day; my heels had been hurting me, and I didn't want to push things. But spending a rainy day in a shelter is boring, not to mention cold, so I went on. I decided to go as far as the Sunrise shelter, but I got there and was still tired and cold, and it was nothing special. So I went the extra mile to the road and hitched a ride to whatever town I could get to, which happened to be Rochester, and stayed at a B&B. It was nice enough - the owners were very friendly - but they weren't as accustomed to hikers as the other places I stayed.

Sucker Brook shelter

Still, a night in a warm building did wonders, and day 11 was better. It helped that it was going to be a short trail day - thanks to shelter placement, it was either a very short day or a very long day. Mt. Horrid had a great name (and a Great Cliff, which is very Lemony Snicket), but no view, thanks to rain.

Middlebury Snow Bowl

On day 12 I got back to some decent mileage, a little over 11 miles, and the weather cleared - although the trail was a wet, muddy mess. At one point, nearing the shelter, I had a rather nasty slip that nearly twisted my ankle. It was clearly time to call it a night.

Dead trees

Day 13 came, and I was getting thoroughly sick of the Breadloaf Wilderness. The trail in the this area was quite overgrown, and I got tired of getting thwacked by wet evergreens while avoiding puddles. There were a few good views, though, as a reward.

Foggy morning

Day 14 began with a hike up Mt. Abraham. I understand the view from it is quite fine. I, however, did not see it, as it was still shrouded with fog when I reached the top. This isn't necessarily a complaint - while it would be nice to see it someday, I had chosen to get started early from a very crowded camp in order to avoid the hordes. From Abraham one proceeds over several summits, and then it's down to the road. At the road, I hitched a ride into Waitsfield for my box and lunch (Three Mountain Cafe, which roasts their own coffee, was excellent), and then another ride to the Hyde-Away Inn. 

Cowles Cove shelter

After a ride to the trailhead, I had high hopes for day 15, aiming for Birch Glen Lodge, but nature had other ideas. I stopped at Cowles Cove shelter just after lunchtime, knowing that nasty thunderstorms were supposed to be coming in. Under some circumstances I might have plodded on, but right after Cowles Cove is Burnt Rock, and a sign in the shelter warned direly of how slow it was under the best of circumstances, and how dangerous it was when wet. I sat down to be bored as I waited out the afternoon, closing the tarp door as the rain hit. (This was a feature on no other shelter.) Just as I wished for company, a group of eight campers and their two counselors arrived. While they were planning to tent, there was no point in making them muck around in the driving rain.*

Burnt Knob

I was ready to move on day 16, despite worries about wet rocks - at least the rain had stopped. But Burnt Rock proved to be dry enough, and it was really fun. It's nearly all exposed rock, so not for the faint of heart, but it has great vistas. From there, though ... Next up was the Allen Brothers, Ira and Ethan, and those were some of my lowest moments on the trail. First, I thought I had lost my map. Then the trail went endlessly up and down on scrambly bits, and it looked like it might rain again. I was thoroughly sick of the trail and annoyed when I reached the top of Ethan Allen and paused for a snack. The food and rest helped, and then the sun came out, and everything looked a lot better. So I decided to go on, to Camel's Hump, which is a more magnificent version of Burnt Rock. It offered incredible 360 views.

Luckily for me, that was the low point on the trail. I was now 2/3 of the way done, and beginning to realize the end was in sight. 

Camel's Hump

* Camp groups aren't allowed to stay in the shelters; some of the local camps use the LT on a weekly basis, and would drive out thru-hikers. We wouldn't even have all fit for the night. But for a couple of hours, a roof improved everyone's spirits. Although I'm not sure theirs were ever dampened.