Archive for April, 2017

Apr 27 2017

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Early Spring Overnighter

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Every once in a while I feel an overwhelming urge to spend a night alone in the woods. Either that or my wife orders me to do so when I become too grumpy. Yesterday the urge came hard and fast.

My dog Matika became very excited when the backpacking gear came out. She knows. She was all smiles during the ride to Johnson. There I left my car at the Long Trail parking lot and headed south.

I like to hike the LT south from Route 15 in early spring because there’s not much I can do to damage the trail. It crosses a meadow, tags a rail trail, follows a logging road, then becomes a skidder trail as it climbs into the mountains. By the time it’s a bona fide footpath, I’ve left it and am bushwhacking along a stream.

The loggers are taking a break during mud season so I had the woods all to myself. Just me and my dog, that is.

I travelled light, only taking with me what would fit in my old rucksack. A three-mile hike put me deep into the woods. I found a nice place along the stream to make camp. Afterwards I collected wood and made a small campfire. I can sit and feed sticks into a campfire for hours. Matika likes just looking around and chewing sticks.

An hour or so after dark, I slipped beneath the tarp to sleep. Matika was already there waiting for me. The sky broke open and the stars came out. You know what that means. Radiational cooling. I froze my ass off despite the fact that temps shot into the 60s yesterday and the 70s today. But it was worth it to crawl out this morning to a sun cresting the nearby ridge, deep in the woods. The mountain stream roared endlessly. And a breakfast campfire made it easy to shrug off last night’s chill.

Hiking out, I found a small patch of spring beauty, then a purple trillium in bloom – one that had still been closed the day before. Ah, spring! Matika crossed paths with a red fox that vanished in the blink of an eye. Something for both of us.



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Apr 19 2017

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Prospect Rock

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With all the rain in the forecast for this week, it seemed a crime to waste a fair day staying indoors. So I grabbed my rucksack and hike boots before heading to Hyde Park to do some book hunting yesterday. I worked the book sale for a couple hours, then drove to a trailhead for the Long Trail just west of Johnson.

My dog Matika was overjoyed at the prospect of hiking in the woods again. Finally! It’s been days! And a day without a hike is a day wasted as far as she’s concerned. Hmm… She might be on to something.

It’s a short hike from the road to Prospect Rock, but it feels longer due to the 500-foot ascent. Got me huffing and puffing, anyhow. One look from the cliffs made it all worthwhile. The Lamoille River Valley unfolded before me in all its springtime beauty. Not much green other than conifers, and still a little snow in the distant peaks, but beautiful all the same.

I settled into a depression in the rock to eat my lunch and enjoy the view. Matika sniffed around – a bit too close to the edge at times. I called her back. A pair of hawks rode the thermals overhead. The sun burned brightly in the mostly clear sky, warming both me and the rock. A few other hikers came and went, otherwise I had the place to myself.

Early spring. I find it difficult to be unhappy this time of year. The warm season is just beginning and the prospects for a lot of day hiking look good. I hiked out of the woods thinking that these combination work/play outings might be just the thing this year. Any way to get outdoors is a good way. Matika concurs.



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Apr 10 2017

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Back on the Trail

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With temps soaring into the 60s this morning, there was no force great enough to keep me indoors working. I loaded my dog Matika into the car and drove to Niquette Bay State Park to do my first hike of the warm season.

The trail was surprisingly dry despite the recent snow melt-off and three days of rain. No matter. I made it a point to leave a set of boot prints pressed deep into the few mud holes that I came upon. Matika did the same.

I passed a couple other hikers with their restless dogs, otherwise I had the woods all to myself. A woodpecker serenaded me with his loud knocking. I listened to the telltale songs of nuthatches, chickadees, and robins as I tramped. Otherwise all was quiet.

The sun played hide-and-seek from the clouds overhead. A cool breeze blew inland from the punky ice still covering the edges and bays of Lake Champlain. Trees creaked as the wind whispered through their upper boughs. I caught a whiff of that intoxicating forest smell and instantly came down with a case of spring fever.

I cut my pace to a crawl just to savor the walk. Matika took notice but didn’t seem to mind. All the same, I broke a sweat as the trail turned sharply then started climbing. My leg muscles complained, grossly under-used through the winter. Yeah, I felt all of my 61 years as I climbed the hill, but didn’t mind it one bit.

There’s a time for thinking deep thoughts, and another for simply being in the moment. During this outing, all I wanted was to move through the forest, sweating, while grooving on the sights, sounds, and smell of it – more in my body than in my head, like my dog. It has been a long winter. It felt good to be back on the trail again.



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