Saturday, June 30, 2012

Long Trail Day Four: It's hot out here

We had another relaxing morning at our campsite, all the teenage and 20-something boys trying to ignore Parker's squeals and our clanking and swishing packing up the gear.

Sparky found a moment to kick back before getting packed up in her Poco for the day. 

On the trail by 9ish again, as it happened it was the same time as most other days on this trip. (A big difference from the 6 and 7 a.m. start times on the PCT). The morning started out with a gentle climb through a bright deciduous forest, more toads, rocks, roots and leaf litter. The heat was already slowing me way down so Chris went ahead. (He had a quote on the PCT, "Heavy pack + hot weather + incline = one slow Baby." Now that quote is doubly true.)

After our slight climb we enjoyed a long slow decent to the Gorge. I knew Chris was still ahead of me because I found our tent poles along the trail. Apparently they'd slipped out of the bed roll when he took a spill. Good thing I was bringing up the rear!

The Gorge was a delightful opportunity to strip down and go for another swim. We clambered down the steep, rocky slopes underneath the suspension bridge for a delicious cool down.

But our break was short lived. Moving on, we tackled quite a climb. After we passed a steamy field under power lines, we climbed a rock tumble that could only be found on trails in New England. (The PCT was graded for pack animals, so none of this climbing on your hands and knees.) 

And we emerged on a road where a trail angel had just left a cooler of icy cold bottled water. The ice cubes were still crunchy! From there the trail detoured onto a ~2 mile road walk after Hurricane Irene had washed out part of the trail. The smooth and graded gravel roads were a welcome change, despite the hills. We passed farms and beautiful yards and even a stable with trotters peeking out of their stalls.

The road disappeared — literally, washed away by Irene again — and we turned back into the woods. Our destination was only a mile or so away. We'd heard about a shelter with a tenting area near a brook.

The campsite and brook was exactly what we needed on a steamy summer day. Chris and I took frigid skinny dips in the rushing water, each taking a turn holding the babe.

A real mountain stream: Refreshing to Mom and Dad, too chilly for Parker to even dangle her piggies in the rushing water.

Rushing water also made for cooler temperatures and cozy sleeping.

We discussed briefly whether we wanted to stretch our last 10 miles into two days. There was little debate, we were ready to get off the trail. So this lovely little campsite was our last, and it was fantastic place to finish up. Next stop Inn at Long Trail! But first a four mile climb up Killington and Pico peaks...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Long Trail Day Three: Napping and Nudity

The third day dawned beautiful and warm.  A perfect morning for a run (if you are like Emily then you think I am crazy!) around Little Rock Pond.  It was less than a mile around the pond, and less than ideal terrain (rocky, muddy, rooty) but it was enough to inspire me to go for a morning swim post-run.

Parker gazes out of the tent after waking up.

We got our usual ~9AM start and continued northward.  Overall, it was a pretty mild day with regards to climbs and descents, although the temperatures made it into the 90's, not Emily's favorite weather ;)

Parker napping in the Poco.
We even had time for some fun during breaks.

Me whistling with a blade of grass really cracked her up!

A snake sunning itself on the trail.

P actually hiking part of the Long Trail
And we were caught a little bit off guard when we met 10 naked men hiking southbound.  Because it's a leap year, summer solstice lands a day early in 2012: June 20, which is the official naked hiking day.

June 20, summer solstice, naked hiking day!

To lighten our load for the hike, we sent ourselves a resupply box to the town of Wallingford.  In it was clean clothes for all, diapers, dehydrated milk, food, etc.  I hitched into town solo while the girls continued north to the next shelter, where I met them a few hours later,

Heading back to the trailhead after our resupply stop in Wallingford.

Campsite at Minerva Hinchey Shelter.

This is what it's like to put a toddler to bed in a tent while the sun is still up.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Long Trail Day Two: Toads and Tranquility

We woke on Styles Peak to hear the dreaded "drip...drop...plick...pock..." on the sides of the tent. Fortunately, rain wasn't it the picture. It was just condensation on the pines overhead. We were in a cloud and dressed Parker accordingly in her rain jacket and rain pants, plus a hat because it was pretty chilly.

Parker scoots around the tiny campsite inspecting the tent.

She slept well in the tent. Probably better than me because I never sleep well in tents. It's just not that comfortable, and now we were putting three people in a two person tent. Crowded. Actually, Parker was pretty thrilled about all things involving the tent, especially at bed time. (We'd put her down in her sleep sack and she'd proceed to thrash around the tent, push on the screen sides, put her lamb into the pockets of the tent, flop onto the sleeping pads, etc. Never got old.) She scooted around the tiny campsite that morning, inspecting the tent as Chris performed the morning ritual of boiling water for coffee and oatmeal. We were packed up and on the trail 9 a.m.

An old fellow hiker heading southbound warned us of floating bog boards. He wasn't exaggerating. We managed to stay dry by jumping from the dry ends of the boards to the nearby shoreline.

Floating bog boards

A hot buggy lunch on a Baker's Peak rock

The floating boards were possibly the most noteworthy event of the day. Mild ups and downs, plenty of rocks and roots. Some frogs, toads and more efts. Lots of birds. I rejoiced when I heard that  wilderness call of the hermit thrush, which was familiar from our time on the PCT. It's a sound I could never replicate but would describe as sounding like a rusty swingset. Have a listen.

We decided to push it to a campsite 13 miles away from Styles Peak that promised a pond—Little Rock Pond shelter. As the day heated up, that proved a powerful incentive.

Frequent mini rests were needed as much for my legs rest as for letting Sparky stretch her legs. 
"Aw, Dad, why you putting leaves on my head?"

Look Sparky, a toad!

One of dozens of handsome butterflies at a Big Branch shelter, a short stop to replenish our water supplies.

As the afternoon stretched longer and the temperature oozed higher, I started getting a little cranky. But my sour attitude melted as Little Rock Pond appeared through the trees around 5 p.m. It was a lovely, woodsy pond with a steep mountain rising on the opposite shore. The water temperature was refreshing but hardly shocking. The woman thruhiker sleeping in the shelter said, "You guys must be from around here, the water's too cold for swimming." She was from Virginia.

Chris and I parked the napping baby, still in her Poco backpack on the waterfront tent platform (which surprisingly hadn't been claimed by the other two individuals camping at this area already) and I slipped into the water while Chris set up camp. My whole body relaxed as I cut a wake through the calm water, that festering cranky attitude fluttered to the bottom of the pond.

This is what it's all about.

We traded places and Chris got to swim, then Sleeping Beauty got to dabble her feet in the pond. 
Lots of newts and other critters to be seen swimming in the shallows.

It's evenings like these, at enchanted ponds in the wilds of Vermont, that make backpackers like me put up with bugs in the eyes, welts on the ankles and several days in the same sweaty pair of shorts. That blissful evening swim, the lush and leafy smell of fresh water, the not-quiet of a night in the woods — they completely recharge your memories for another year the city.

Chris brushes his teeth with a view of the pond.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Long Trail Day One

At the southern trailhead.
We started our hike at the base of Bromley Mountain, after being dropped off at the trailhead at Route 11/30 by Patrick, the chef at the Inn at Long Trail.  After he left, we had a moment of "oh boy, I guess we're doing this" and began walking north.  It was 50 trail miles back to the Inn, where we had left our car for the week.

Parker inspecting the little red eft.
(We took it away from her when she got a bit too curious, no efts were harmed in the making of this picture.)

On our way up Bromley Mountain, a 1400' climb, we stopped to check out an orange newt.  I later learned that it was a red eft, the immature terrestrial phase of the eastern newt, Notophthalmus viridescens.

Walking up a Bromley run.

Day 1's water source: a well and hand pump.

Once at the top of Bromley, we broke for lunch and enjoyed the vistas - it was a beautiful day.  But we were low on water so we continued north, descending to Mad Tom Notch and a hand pump.  We filled our water bottles as Parker giggled watching us work the pump.  She was very intrigued by it.

Helping herself to Mommy's GORP.

Continuing north, the next shelter was 5 miles away so we decided to start looking for a campsite.  A mile and a half in, and almost a 1000' higher, we spotted a perfect spot to set up our tent and spend the night.  Parker was ravenous, eating everything we put in front of her and then some.  Bedtime was shortly after dinner, and Emily and I enjoyed a vista and a little Kentucky bourbon before we turned in as well.

Looking east, on top of Styles Peak.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Long Trail 2012

2 days to go!  We plan to hike the 49.5 miles between Route 4 (Killington) and Route 11/30 (Bromley), which is the upper half of the purple line (lower map).

A low-res official LT map

My creation from a AAA map