Sunday, June 29, 2014

Killington and Camel's Hump 2014-06-29 and 30

Killington 2014-06-29

Compared to my usual 2.5 hour drive to the Adirondacks, Killington is a stretch at nearly 4 hours (plus an another hour to get out of Montreal on a Friday afternoon). I camped at Gifford Woods state park which has large sites set in mature woods. It was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the Appalachian Trail runs through the campground.

I still had an hour of daylight so I drove to the base of Killington's ski resort to familiarize myself with the area. I was glad Brian (Pathgrinder) had chosen to ascend via the opposite undeveloped (western) side because it would've been less interesting to hike along the ski runs.

After a good night's sleep (aided by earplugs because some campers don't care about "Quiet Hours") and a hearty breakfast, I met Brian at the Bucklin trail-head, on Wheelerville Road at 8:45 AM. The Bucklin trail rises gently to a junction with the Long Trail then proceeds to Cooper Lodge. "Lodge" is a bit of a misnomer because the structure is more of a cabin.

The trail climbs more steeply beyond Cooper Lodge and ends on Killington's developed summit. Bristling with antennas, a fire-tower, and a ski-lift station, the only thing lacking on its check-list is a parking lot. Nevertheless, it was a lovely cool day with a tolerable number of black flies and decent views of the countryside.

Brian and I spent at least an hour and half on the summit. We watched the gondola bring hikers and mountain-bikers to the summit. We chatted with an AT thru-hiker ("Trademark") and he recounted a few of the highs and lows of his journey. By amazing coincidence, he and I would cross paths later in the day at Gifford Woods!

The descent was a breeze and we capped off the morning with lunch at McGrath's Irish Pub, part of the Inn at Long Trail which welcomes thru-hikers. By mid-afternoon we had our fill of Long trail Ale, had made tentative plans for other hikes to chip away at the NE115, and it was time to part company. I headed back to the campsite to clean up and make supper. I turned in at sundown and was serenaded by loons in nearby Kent Pond.

Around 1:00 AM I was awakened by the call of a Barred Owl. "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" is such a delightfully spooky sound in the still of the night. I lay there with a big grin and enjoyed every moment of the owl's song.

Photos of Killington.

Camel's Hump 2014-06-30

The next morning I took Brian's advice and drove north along route 100 (instead of I-89). It was a very scenic tour of rural Vermont and I especially enjoyed the section through Granville Gap. I also made a a mental note of the intersections for Lincoln Gap and Appalachian Gap because I'd be returning in the future for a thru-hike of Abraham and Ellen.

I had been to Camel's Hump thirty years ago but the details were foggy. Using only a Vermont state road map, I blundered westward from Waterbury along route 2 (currently gravel due to pavement replacement). Eventually I realized I was living the Vermont farmer's maxim "You can't get there from here." I stopped and asked for directions and was told to return to Waterbury and head west on Winooski Road.

I left the trail-head at 8:45 AM and decided to make the trip a "workout". I chose to ascend via Monroe to Dean then from Wind Gap along the Long Trail to the summit. It seemed like the most "sporting" route as well as the most scenic. I was not disappointed.

A few minutes in along the Monroe trail, a passed a hiker jogging back to the trail-head. He had no pack and was dressed casually in bermuda shorts and a buttoned short-sleeve shirt. I didn't think much of it at the time.

Upon reaching the bog along the Dean trail I paused to photograph the ridge leading to Camel's Hump (route of the Long trail) as well as the peak's imposing southern face. I paused again to photograph the trail junction in Wind Gap and, hearing someone behind me, turned to see the casual hiker jogging past me. I greeted him as he began the steep scramble up the ridge.

Sensing an opportunity to follow a strong pace-setter, I tried to keep up with him. He was moving briskly and it wasn't long before the gap began to widen. At one point he mentioned that he was trying to catch up with his pregnant wife! Upon reaching the top of the ridge, I paused to catch my breath and appreciate the scenery I was passing. I lost sight of him.

I caught up a few minutes later to discover him with his 6-month pregnant wife. I congratulated her for her stamina and continued on to the summit. Wow!

The hike along the ridge is gentle and then climbs steeply to the summit. I paused below the southern face at the junction of the Long Trail and the Alpine trail (a foul-weather bypass that skirts the peak's eastern side). The final stretch was on open rock and very enjoyable. I reached the summit 95 minutes from the trail-head.

Being a hot and hazy day, there were no views of the Adirondacks or the Whites. However, the surrounding countryside was beautiful, the peak had few other hikers, and bugs were almost non-existent so, all in all, it was fine day to be atop Camel's Hump.

I spent about 45 minutes on the summit, watching hikers and their dogs come and go. I implored a group of three young ladies to keep off the alpine grass but they seemed to have trouble differentiating between it and rock. A nearby hiker shrugged and raised his hands in a gesture saying "What can you do?" Camel's Hump could benefit from a Summit Steward.

After I had my fill of the scenery, I stuck to my "workout" goal and began a speedy descent along the Monroe trail. I was glad to have ascended via the Long Trail because I found the Monroe approach to be less scenic. I arrived at the trail-head fifty minutes after my departure. After a sponge bath and a change of clothes I was ready to return to the big city. I spent the balance of the day lounging about Burlington and enjoying the last day of June.

Photos of Camel's Hump.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mount Moosilauke 2014-06-21

Out and back via Beaver Brook trail. First 1.5 miles is steep by any standard but the trail has been hardened to a degree that has no parallel in the Adirondacks. Rock slabs have steps either in the form of wood blocks cemented into place or flat spots drilled and carved into the slope. Boulders have been stacked to serves as staircases and iron rebar serves as handrails in key areas. There was only one slightly muddy spot on the entire trail. We're definitely not in the Adirondacks, Toto!
  • Cool day with many clouds; no bugs except upon our return to the trail-head.
  • Beaver Brook Cascades looks like a great spot to return to on a steaming hot day.
  • Moosilauke's open summit offers spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. 
  • It was a busy day and it appears most hikers arrived by way of the Ridge and Gorge trails.
  • First trip back to New Hampshire this year and I hope to do many more this summer.

See all photos.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Allen 2014-06-17

The recent rains had me concerned about exceedingly wet and muddy trails plus a challenging crossing of the Opalescent. In fact, the trails were no worse than normal (for this route) and the Opalescent river-crossing was a non-event.

It was my first time using the rerouted trail around Lake Jimmy and it's a pretty route through firs, cedars, and the lake's outlet. Maybe one or two more planks are needed to span new sections of mud but overall it's a solid path compared to the old "floating bridge".

The normally wet section along Lake Sally had standing water. A few other areas, notably well past the sand pit, featured broad mud-wallows. Most of them can be crossed on exposed rock and timber.

The herd-path along Allen brook was wet and muddy (no surprise). There was plenty of water coursing down the slope as well as the slide section.

Neil and I wore trail-runners and, combined with careful foot-placement, they proved their "grip" on the slippery rocks along Allen brook. I did my best to avoid the exceedingly slick "red slime".

I found a pair of soaking-wet, Smartwool long underwear sprawled on Allen's slide. If anyone wishes to claim them they are resting precisely where I found them, undisturbed.

Deer flies pestered me from Lake Jimmy to Allen brook and back. A wide-brimmed hat kept seemed effective at discouraging them from landing on my face, ears, and neck but little to keep them from being a constant buzzing nuisance. 

West of Mount Adam's observer cabin, I spotted a hare on the trail, standing on its hind legs and calmly munching grass. Naturally, it ducked into the underbrush the moment my hand touched my camera case.

A grouse dashed noisily across the trail, just a few feet ahead of us, and proceeded to run through the woods alongside the trail fluttering its wings. I don't know if it was attempting to lure us away from its nest but I do know it elevated my heart-rate.

Allen was my last peak to complete a Spring round of the ADK 46. We completed the hike in just under 9 hours.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Santanoni Range 2014-06-15

First to arrive in the parking lot. Only one other additional person in the Santanonis and I met him near Couchsachraga's bog. He indicated he was heading to Couch and Panther.

Log book indicated the Santanoni Range was much busier the previous day.

Morning was cool (50 F/ 10 C) and overcast; peaks were shrouded in clouds. Trees were dripping with condensation; "car-wash" effect. Bonus: no bugs.

Trails were wet and muddy. I wore boots instead of trail-runners and they worked well for the mud but not so well for the slippery rocks.

The recent heavy rain caused me to be concerned about a few areas:
  • The initial stream was not as high as expected and I was able to rock-hop across; I left my sandals clipped to a tree-branch for later retrieval.
  • The beaver pond at the base of the Panther Brook herd-path was high but easily crossed via the narrow beaver dam.
  • The swampy area at the base of the Express herd-path was surprisingly dry; Santanoni brook was easily rock-hopped.
  • Couchsachraga's bog was "extra juicy" but easily crossed via deadfall
Cloud cover suppressed views on Panther. The rains transformed the normally muddy area on its summit into a pond.

Stopped to mend a broken hiking pole (the second time in the Santanonis); the middle section splintered (carbon-fiber). I wrapped the break with tape then inserted the lower section past the break to act like a splint. Pole was shorter but usable again and much appreciated during the descent of the Express trail.

I finished the trio in just under 8 hours (a personal best).

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Marshall, Cliff, and Redfield 2014-06-07

Steve (Little Brown Mushroom) coined the phrase "power outage" and it best describes how I felt on Saturday's tour of Marshall, Cliff, and Redfield. The route I chose covered 23 miles and 5300 feet of ascent and took me 12h 45m to complete. By day's end I returned to the Loj "draggin my butt" and was focused on a hot shower followed by a burger and UBU(s).

I left the Loj at 6:35 AM and headed in via Indian Pass to the breached dam at Scott Clearing. I continued past the clearing and followed the so-called high-water route. I wish I had simply scrambled down from the dam and followed Indian Pass brook because the high-water route is an ol' tyme Adirondack mess. I haven't hiked through this area in over 30 years but the trail's condition invoked a strong sense of déjà vu. It's as sloppy as it ever was.

I stopped about a hundred yards before the trail-junction to check my map and convince myself I hadn't already passed it. The junction presented itself plainly and it'd be difficult to miss. I turned east and began to ascend a trail I hadn't seen in decades. 

The Cold Brook Pass trail, unmaintained since Hurricane Irene, was in fine shape and passed several lovely waterfalls and pools. The herd-path junction to Marshall is marked by a prominent cairn. The woods are tight at the top of the Pass so, even without a cairn, the mouth of the herd-path is hard to miss. I'd characterize the herd-path as easy to follow but "snug and scratchy". It is in far better shape than Herbert Brook.

I expected to emerge directly at the summit of Marshall. However, after skirting around the east side of a large glacial erratic, the path faded and I emerged on the Herbert Brook path about 50 feet from the summit. I guess if I went around the west side of the erratic I might have finished directly on the summit. I greeted two hikers on Marshall then stopped at the lookout for a few pics.

The descent along Herbert Brook was scenic but the herd-path is showing the effects of its popularity. I thought the western Cold Brook Pass trail was in far better condition and equally pretty. I met above a half-dozen hikers during the descent and arrived at the Flowed Lands trail about 4.5 hours from departure. It seemed like a big chunk of my day had been sapped by the first 8.5 miles.

I turned north, crossed the Colden Dam, and headed east up the Opalescent. The waterfalls, pools, and gorges of the Opalescent kept me amused and before long the 1.5 miles and 500 foot rise to Uphill Brook lean-to was done. I headed in along the herd-path then stopped to filter water from Uphill Falls Brook. It was my first lengthy pause and the black flies took advantage of it. After spraying a home-brew concoction of DEET and lemon-eucalyptus oil on my neck, ears, and hat-brim I returned to topping up my hydration bag. 

I find Cliff's route to be more demanding than Redfield's so I chose to climb it first. The first few hundred yards past the junction have become a mess of muddy, braided trails. If the idea of unmarked, minimal-maintenance trails was to minimize the carnage caused by go-your-own-way herd-paths, it has failed to contain the damage on the approach to Cliff. Without gaiters and wearing only Raptors I managed to finesse my way over the remains of old corduroy, rocks, and fallen timber without soaking my feet.

Somewhere past Cliff's false-summit (muddy) I met two women who asked if I was Wayne. I said no. They explained there were two men at the summit waiting for Wayne. Upon reaching the summit, one of the two hikers exclaimed "There you are!" and the other said "No, that's not Wayne." I confirmed I wasn't Wayne. Shortly after tagging the summit, I met a lone hiker who proved to be the long-lost Wayne. He was also a ADK High Peaks forum member (Ebbinghaus) and we stopped to chat for awhile.

Descending Cliff wasn't as tricky as I had expected (ripped some skin off a finger on a previous hike) but certainly not as much fun as in winter. I returned to the junction and began the final peak of the day. I began to feel sluggish and slowed my pace to avoid frequent start-stops. I reached Redfield's summit and met the two women from Cliff. I introduced myself as "Not Wayne" and then snapped a few pics before heading down. I still had a "long row to hoe" and didn't dawdle on the summit.

I stopped at the head of Uphill Brook Falls to take on water. By day's end I think I went through 4 or 5 liters of water and most of that was lost through my pores. Upon arriving at the trail, I met a large group of young hikers and one asked me the distance to Lake Colden. I replied "One and a half miles." They claimed to have "a map" but it appeared to be in the hands of one person who emerged moments later to report the guidebook's version of the distance (1.6 miles). I wished them well and began the first step of many to cover the (approximately) 8 miles back to the ADK Loj.

I arrived at the Loj almost thirteen hours after departing and feeling a little worse for wear. I heard my name called and turned to find Bud (Bud3010). We chatted until the black flies made it impossible.

After a satisfying meal at the Lake Placid Pub and a solid night's sleep at Tmax-n-Topo's hostel, I departed to hike Giant and RPR. With 800 feet less elevation gain and a fraction of the mileage, it was an easy-breezy day and I finished feeling invigorated.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Seward Range and Seymour 2014-06-01

In order to get an early start to the hike, Tom (Boghollow) invited me spend Saturday evening at his cabin on Oseetah Lake. Inaccessible by car, I was treated to a three mile boat ride to reach his eponymously named cabin ("Bog Hollow"). From the lake one could see Scarface, Mckenzie, the Sawtooth Range, Seymour, and Seward. Spring peepers filled the evening with their song as I watched the sun set from the cabin's porch. The sky was clear and would have made for a good night of star-gazing. However, we turned in with the sunset because we had a big day ahead of us.

Adirondack charm.

Last sunset of May 2014.
I awoke at 4:45 AM to the tune of my phone's alarm. It was early dawn and the cabin's interior was faintly illuminated. Tom emerged from his room and proceeded to brew a pot of coffee. Over breakfast we discussed the day's itinerary. We planned to be at the trail-head at 6:30 AM and Steve (Little Brown Mushroom) indicated he'd arrive at 7:30 AM. There was a possibility he would catch up with us.

Early morning at Oseetah Lake.

Farewell Bog Hollow.
Our breakfast was leisurely and the boat ride through the morning's mist felt like we were on a fishing trip. We docked, covered the boat with a tarp, then drove to a nearby convenience store for snacks. By the time we arrived at the Seward trail-head we were running a little behind schedule. It proved to be fortuitous because Steve was running well ahead of schedule and was already at the trail-head. We departed together at 7:05 AM under clear skies.

The chosen route was well known to all three of us: ascend Donaldson, Emmons, and Seward via the Calkins Brook trail then descend to the Ward Brook Truck trail and head to Seymour. Calkins Brook was easily crossed via a rocks and the trail to Donaldson was in good shape with the exception of one (normally) muddy spot. We paused on the summit for a snack then continued to Emmons. We all agreed the man-high steps found along the trail were easier to tackle in winter. We stopped on Emmons for another snack and tried to appreciate what little in the way of views it offered (hint: it's like the summit of Nye). 

Shortly after descending Emmons, we met a solitary hiker heading to Emmons. He indicated he had left a shirt somewhere along the trail and asked that we leave it be because he would return for it. Shortly before reaching Donaldson we met two more hikers out to visit "D-E-S". We passed Donaldson's summit without pausing and dropped into the col. I had finished my liter of water and expected to find a trickle but there was none. We went over the shoulder, dropped into the second col, and then began the steep ascent to the summit. Steve spotted the hikers's shirt. Its location indicated the lone hiker was doing an "out and back" of Seward, Donaldson, and Emmons from the Ward Brook Truck trail.

Water flowed over the "rock slide" and we paused at its top for me to sip water from its source. I had recently acquired a Sawyer Mini filter and was eager to test it in "drinking straw" mode. After slaking my thirst, we continued to the summit. We stopped for lunch and Tom introduced us to "Spam on Seward". We were soon joined by the lone hiker. We chatted briefly and then he sped down Seward's northern trail. We left a few minutes afterwards.

Tom's invention: Spam on Seward.

The upper third of the route was as challenging as I had recalled. I joked with Steve that this section was "Scientifically designed to hurt you." It took us 20 minutes to descend (carefully). I consider the middle third to begin where the upper third's steep rock, roots, and running water peter out and give way to a noticeably kinder and gentler trail-bed made of soil and mud. The middle section took us 25 minutes to descend. I consider the final third to begin at the water-crossing and end at the Truck trail. We stopped at the crossing to guzzle water and take on a liter or two for the trip to Seymour. The last third took us 20 minutes to descend.

Upon reaching the Ward Brook Truck trail we met the lone hiker who introduced himself as Jason. Hearing that we would be continuing to Seymour, he joined our group.

Seymour's ascent was everything one would expect it to be after hiking the Sewards. During the climb, conversation bred familiarity and Jason confessed that when he met us on Seward he didn't expect gentleman of our vintage to "move so fast". It had spurred him to join us for the hike to Seymour. Frankly, Jason had been doing quite well without us seeing that it was his very first hike of the year and he had done "D-E-S" the old-school way (out and back). We enjoyed his company and encouraged him to join the ADK High Peaks forum.

Tom and Steve reached the summit first followed by Jason and I a few minutes later. Seymour was Jason's 44th ADK High Peak and we congratulated him. We met Gary Koch on the summit and two other hikers who, at the time, I didn't know one was also a forum member (Hello Sininho!) 

Tom and Steve tagging Seymour.
The Santanoni Range from Seymour.
We spent about a half-hour on Seymour. Its views had eluded me on several previous trips (notably in winter) but today I was in luck and took the time to appreciate the day's efforts. Although all four objectives had been achieved, there was still the matter of the long walk back to the trail-head. We made a speedy descent and reached the Truck trail at 4:30 PM. I had to stop one last time for water and then hurried to catch up with the group.

We reconvened at the junction with the Calkins Truck trail and then, with Jason in the lead and setting a brisk pace, we sped down the trail and exited at 6:00 PM. The trip took us just under eleven hours, including several extended breaks. That's a full two hours faster than my first attempt in 2011. A big "Thank you!" goes out to my fleet-footed companions for an enjoyable and speedy day!

See all photos.