Tag Archive 'day hiking'

Sep 06 2019

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A Great Day in the Mountains

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Early morning. With temps in the 50s and a clear sky in the forecast, I set my work aside for a day and head for the Adirondacks. A grin breaks across my face as I enter an empty parking lot at the Owls Head Lookout trailhead. Looks like I have the trail all to myself – until other hikers get out of bed, anyhow.

After signing into the register, I hike up a trail easing gradually uphill. Morning shadows dominate the surrounding forest until the sun shines straight ahead. A blue jay calls out, otherwise all’s quiet. I hear the faint sound of rushing water and soon cross a bridge over Slide Brook. From there the trail weaves in and out of a feeder stream as it steadily climbs towards a junction. From the junction it’s a short, steep climb to the top of Owls Head. I arrive with energy to spare.

Owls Head Lookout is located in Giant Mountain Wilderness. Giant Mountain peeks at me from behind a ridge that leads to it. Rocky Peak Ridge to the left of Giant is in full view. Farther left, the forested landscape breaks away like a choppy green sea frozen in time. To the right is Knob Lock Mountain, and farther right is Hurricane Mountain. In other words, it’s wild country in every direction as far as I can see, with stunted birches directly behind me and a 500-foot drop immediately in front.

I gulp down water between bites of an energy bar, quite comfortable in a wool shirt despite a light breeze. I’m not a big one for bagging peaks, but I must admit that sitting on top of the world like this feels pretty damned good. It’s especially nice because there’s no one else around. I linger for the better part of an hour before heading down.

My right ankle, still weak from a big hike in June, complains a little while I descend. I ignore it, leaning into a heavy walking stick as necessary. I’m all smiles and whistling by the time I encounter a pair of hikers and their two dogs at Slide Brook. I greet them while walking past, then finish my hike. Five and a half miles round trip. An eleven hundred foot ascent. No bugs. Just about as good as a day hike can get.

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Oct 13 2018

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A Fairly Good Hike

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I thought I could fake out my old dog Matika by taking her for a walk in a nearby park first, but I had my hiking boots on so she expected a lot more. After the walk, while I was back home taking care of business, she wouldn’t let me out of her sight. Finally I patted her on the head then left without her. I had in mind a hike that I knew her hind legs couldn’t handle.

Mt. Philo was on the way to Vergennes where there was a book sale going on yesterday afternoon. Yeah, it was a combination work/play outing. I’m doing more of those these days. Was the book hunt an excuse to go for a hike, or vice versa? Good use of gas money, either way.

The parking lot at the base of Mt. Philo was full. I soon found out why. While a few patches of green lingered in the canopy here and there, the autumn color was fast approaching its peak. A thin layer of fallen leaves covered the road climbing to the top of the oversized hill. Too beautiful for words, really. I took it all in while ignoring the steady stream of people. Usually I hate hiking busy paths. This time I didn’t mind it.

I barely broke a sweat during the mile-long, road-grade ascent, but it was still the most rigorous hike I’d done in a month or two. Mt. Philo is a monadnock – what used to be an island in an interglacial sea – so it rises quite dramatically from the Lake Champlain valley floor. When I reached the top, I gazed across the sprawling lake and rolling farmland below to the not-too-distant Adirondack Mountains. A great view for relatively little effort.

The descent went quickly. Soon enough I was driving again and attending that book sale. I collected a box of new inventory for my book biz then headed home. The traffic going into Burlington was pretty intense but I didn’t care. I had squeezed in a short hike during a workday and was feeling very relaxed as a result. Not the kind of deep woods outing I prefer, but good all the same.

 

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Sep 15 2015

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Between Seasons

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town forest pondIn the middle of the workday, I load my dog Matika into the car and drive to the town forest just a few miles outside of Saint Albans. Cooped up for several days running, Matika needs to get outside and stretch her legs. Quite frankly, so do I.

The trail is still damp from yesterday’s daylong rain, but the sun shines brightly through the forest canopy. I break a sweat in a manner of minutes. Summer lingers like an unwelcome guest at the end of a party, despite the fact that the trees are starting to turn.

Not far from the parking lot, I come upon a small pond with a few birdhouses around it to encourage avian habitation. I stop for a moment to take in the juxtaposition of summer heat and the rusted leaves of a couple red maples. It’s a win/win situation as far as I see things. I like autumn just as much as fall.

Continuing along the trail, I notice blue asters in bloom. That’s a between-season wildflower to be sure, just as comfortable in summer heat as autumn coolness. Seeing it reminds me of my long September hike through the Adirondacks a few years back. Since then I haven’t been able look at blue asters without smiling. They are denizens of the deep woods in late summer and early fall, even though they grow pretty much everywhere.

The smell of the forest in September – that’s what I like most about this time of year. It’s a dry, earthy fragrance with just a hint of floral sweetness. It’s as if the forest is satisfied with itself. Once again the growing season has been a success. Now there is only this pleasant coasting towards colder, darker days.

And yet I am not complacent. Wildness stirs within me with each step I take. Even though this is only a lunch hour hike, I hunger for a much longer excursion into the woods. Soon, very soon, I hope – before the snow flies.

 

 

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