Tag Archive 'Green Mountains'

Oct 07 2017

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Breaking Away

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Yesterday I awoke with a powerful urge to drop everything and head for the hills, but instead of doing that I set to work on my book biz. New acquisitions had to be listed and orders needed to be filled. Then I moped through the first half of the afternoon thinking it was too late to break away.

2:30 pm. With only a few hours of daylight left, I pulled on my hiking boots and hopped in the car. Then I drove as deep into the Green Mountains as I could get in an hour. Some things just can’t wait.

After parking the car, I hiked up a logging road for twenty minutes before bushwhacking over to Basin Brook. Felt good to be in the woods. Felt even better to be sitting next to the brook, listening to the endless murmur of water finding its way downhill.

My dog Matika chewed on a stick as I smoked a cigar. I pondered matters both great and small while sitting there. Eventually I felt the urge to get moving again. So I wandered through the forest with no particular destination in mind. Then I tagged the logging road and headed back to the car well before sunset.

Just what the doctor ordered. Though I’d be hard pressed to explain what it is exactly that I get from a wild place when I visit it, there’s no doubt in my mind that it fills a need deep within. I returned home feeling much better, and ready to resume work.

 

 

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Jul 05 2017

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Grandkids Climb Jay Peak

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We had to wait before setting foot on the trail. The rain was nonstop for days. And even when it did finally stop, the trail was all wet rock and mud with a stream running down it. No matter. We went up the mountain anyway.

I did my best to coax my grandkids into ignoring the mud and water, making sure they had good footing with each step. But that was a lost cause. They hopped around, trying to keep their shoes clean and dry, falling down in the process. We all have to learn that the hard way, I suppose.

“Are we halfway yet?” the kids kept asking, even though they all had energy to spare. As for me, well, I was huffing and puffing ten minutes out the gate, and reduced to a steady creep by the time they found a comfortable pace. The eldest boy Hunter was out front with orders to halt the group whenever they lost sight of me. That happened frequently.

They thought it was pretty cool when the broadleaf trees became conifers, and when the trail became steep and rocky. Reaching a ski path, I told them they could either take the easy route up that path or continue following the white blazes straight ahead. The blazes marked a steeper, even rockier ascent through stunted spruce. They charged up that section of trail without hesitation.

By the time we reached the summit, we were in the clouds. No view for all our hard work. But they thought hiking into the clouds was pretty cool, too. We stayed on the summit long enough to drink water and eat our energy bars. Then we ducked into the nearby building to warm up. That’s when we started missing Grandma. She could have taken the gondola up to meet us.

I think it was Maddie who noticed how dark the woods were when we left the open ski slope. Our descent after that was arduous, thanks to slippery mud and rock. All the same, everyone was glad to have done the hike when we finished. At 3,800 feet, Jay Peak was the biggest mountain any of them had ever climbed.

On the way down, there was some talk about climbing other big mountains in Vermont. But I think next year we’ll hike something with Grandma instead. It was a great hike, but she was definitely missed.

 

 

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Jan 08 2017

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A Good Winter Bushwhack

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A few days ago, I drove to a nearby state park for a short walk at dusk after a full day’s work. My dog Matika enjoyed it, but it wasn’t nearly enough for me. So the next day I did only as much work as necessary before stuffing a few essentials in an old rucksack and heading for the mountains. Time for a taste of wild country. Actually, it was long overdue.

The inch of fresh snow covering the icy woods road provided sufficient traction so the Microspikes stayed in my pack. A mile up the road I turned onto a trail hidden beneath a couple inches of crusty snow. I crunched my way down to the brook, which was still open surprisingly enough. Yeah, it has been a squirrelly winter so far: freeze and thaw then freeze again.

The trail petered out beyond a downed tree. Suddenly I was bushwhacking the familiar route to a favorite spot along the brook. There I once buried the ashes of my first German shepherd dog, Jessie. Matika romped through the woods like a pup despite her eleven years. I was happy to see it. Looks like she’ll be hiking with me a while longer.

Just above the campsite, recent storms had ravaged the banks of the brook, creating mudslides and thickets of downed trees. It was rough getting through there, but it felt good to be in the trackless woods again. I took cover from a chilling breeze coming down the mountain then ate a quick lunch with Matika. My wife Judy had given me an energy bar that’s good for both dogs and people, so Matika and I shared that after our respective meals. People food or dog food? – hard to say.

With temps hovering around 20 degrees, I didn’t linger at the lunch spot. I tagged the trace of an old skidder trail leaving the brook then slowly made my way back to the woods road. Matika negotiated the slippery slope with no difficulty. I dropped to all fours once to do the same.

Out came the Microspikes as I descended the woods road. That made the walk easy enough where I could lose myself in the beauty of the surrounding landscape. In the distance the mountain summits looked cold and forbidding. No matter. Here in a heavily forested hollow, I was having no trouble. In fact, I got back to my car a bit sooner than I would have liked.

A good winter bushwhack. Won’t wait so long before getting out again. There’s more to life than work, work, work.

 

 

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Jul 17 2016

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Before the Rain

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Preston Bk in JulyMy wife wants me out of the house while window shades are being installed. That’s all the excuse I need to drop everything. Never mind that thunderstorms are in the forecast for this afternoon. As soon as I finish doing the bare minimum work for my business, I grab my fly rod, load my dog Matika into the car, and head for the hills.

By midday I am bushwhacking downhill to a favorite brook. A tremendous sense of relief sweeps over me as I tramp through the woods. This is my first excursion into open country in months.

The stream is low, even for midsummer. We need rain. That said, I hope the dark clouds gathering overhead hold off long enough for me to make a few casts. After that, it doesn’t matter.

The stream is beautiful. Crystal clear water finds its way down a rocky streambed surrounded by lush green vegetation. I have walked this brook or ones like it a thousand times yet they never fail to charm me. The rush of flowing water, the cool shade, and that earthy smell – I’m a real sucker for this kind of wildness.

Matika sniffs around as I ply the water with nearly invisible line and tiny fly. When I pull an eight-inch brook trout from its hiding place, she dances around me, chomping at the creature flipping about desperately in my hands. I release it into nearby shallows so that Matika can give chase. She doesn’t stand a chance. The brookie torpedoes out of sight in seconds.

Dripping sweat and menaced by biting insects, I hobble over rocks and around fallen trees for another hour or two, maintaining a low profile to keep from spooking the fish. I catch and release a couple more brookies despite the less-than-ideal fishing conditions. When finally thunder rumbles in the distance, I splash cold water into my face then leave the brook.

The uphill scramble to a dirt track is hard. The amble down the road is easy. I reach my car right before the first raindrops fall. It’s raining by the time the wheels touch pavement. On the highway it’s a downpour. All the way home, I marvel at how lucky I’ve been.

 

 

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Jul 07 2016

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Hiking with Grandkids

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Kids on Stowe PinnacleAt long last, I stopped working long enough to go for a half decent hike. I had the perfect reason to do so. Five of my grandkids came to visit last week and they were ready for action. We went swimming and boating at a local quarry. We went fishing. And when the opportunity arose, we hiked up Stowe Pinnacle for a great view of the valley.

My dog Matika went with us, of course. Grandma Judy stayed in the trailhead parking lot and knitted. She’s not a big one for bagging peaks. I fashioned a hiking stick for Johnny, who stayed close to me during the hike, asking all sorts of questions about the natural world. The others charged ahead.

The eldest boy, Hunter, stopped the gang every once in a while, making sure to keep Grandpa in sight the entire time. I was carrying a rucksack full of water bottles, rain jackets and other accoutrements. That’s my excuse for bringing up the rear. Fact is, all the kids play sports and are in good shape. And Grandpa, well, he’s not as strong a hiker as he used to be.

We started early in the morning. T-storms had been forecast for that afternoon. Tight window. I wanted to get everyone up and down the mountain before the rain came.

The forest was still wet and humid from rain the day before. I kept warning my young hikers about the dangers of a wet trail, but they seemed more interested in the red efts underfoot.

On top I gathered them all for an obligatory snapshot. Then we drank water and ate snacks while enjoying the view. We didn’t linger. A squall crossed the valley just to the south of us. I thought it best to get off the mountain right away.

We felt a few raindrops on the way down but the predicted storm didn’t arrive until we were eating lunch back at the cabin a couple hours later. Nearly everyone slipped and fell once. No one was any worse for it though. Kids are resilient. I was exhausted from the hike yet happy to have done it with them. One doesn’t get a chance to create memories like that every day.

Next year we’ll do Camel’s Hump.

 

 

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Feb 07 2016

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Midwinter Hike

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Feb LT with MatikaMy dog Matika was all excited when I pulled out my daypack the other day. She knew what it meant. I’ve been so busy working lately that I haven’t gotten outside much. She has been feeling as cooped up as I have.

I drove to Johnson, parked my car along a logging road, and hiked up the frozen mud track until it became a skidder trail. Then patches of ice transformed into a few inches of hard-packed snow. I passed one fellow checking maple sugar lines and another eating lunch in a pickup truck parked next to a skidder. Aside from them, I had the forest all to myself.

The rush of open streams and a solitary chickadee were the only sounds that broke the silence. Not until later, on the way out, did I hear a chainsaw in the distance. The running water and thin snowpack gave the surrounding landscape the look of early spring. A bone-chilling wind blowing through the woods told me otherwise.  A mild winter this year but, at 1800 feet, winter all the same.

When I left the skidder trail, following Long Trail blazes across the crusty snow, mine became the only human tracks. Matika found plenty of animal tracks, though. As empty as the woods seemed, we were not alone.

Reaching French Hill Brook, I stopped long enough to feed Matika lunch and scratch a few lines in my field journal. When I started to chill in my own sweat, I turned around and hiked out. No rush. The expression on my dog’s face mirrored my own mood: happy to be tramping through snowy woods and thinking about nothing but the elements and wildness for a while. The beautiful simplicity of these quiet, forested mountains keeps me coming back to them time and time again.

 

 

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Sep 04 2015

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Cooling Out

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Version 2Judy said I should go into the woods overnight. She’s been around me for 30 years so she knows better than I do what I need. Between publishing, book promo, and my online bookselling, I’m going to be very busy this fall. Best to get out while I can.

I packed up a few essentials, loaded my dog Matika into the car, and headed for a mountain brook where, surprisingly enough, I’ve never camped before. I followed a trail a mile back, until it veered away from the brook. Then I bushwhacked upstream. Sweating profusely in an unseasonably hot afternoon, I looked for a pool at least the size of a bathtub. There I would make camp and dunk by overheated body.

I struggled up the steep, rocky ravine nearly an hour, until the brook was a mere trickle. Then it suddenly appeared: one of the biggest pools I’ve seen on any mountain brook in a long while – thirty feet across. But there was no good place to camp.  There was nothing even close to flat. I pitched my tarp on the overgrown remnant of an old woods road not far away, calling that home for the night. Then I stripped off my sweat-soaked clothes and went for a swim. Matika waded along the edge of the pool, getting her belly wet. That was good enough for her.

After cooling out, I settled into camp for the night. Building a small fire then cooking on the sloping ground was a little tricky. My things kept rolling away. Sleeping was even trickier. Matika and I gradually slid downhill through the course of the night. By morning I was in her place and she was no longer beneath the tarp. Poor dog! But it was worth it. A pool that big in such a wild and beautiful setting is the stuff of dreams.

 

 

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Jul 08 2015

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Butterfly Camp

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NewHavenHeadwatersTen days after my brief stay alone in the Broadleaf Wilderness, I returned with my wife Judy to spend some more time there. We camped in the same spot where I had been before, along the edge of the headwaters of the New Haven River, miles away from the nearest road. With fair weather predicted, neither Judy nor I could imagine a better place to be on the 4th of July weekend.

A little rain fell the first night but we were comfortably situated in our tent by then. The rest of the time it was cool and dry – perfect weather for lounging in camp. Judy knitted or read while I gathered wood, tended a campfire, or puttered about. Twice I fished the mountain stream for brook trout, which Judy had for lunch. Our dog Matika chewed on sticks when she wasn’t following me along the stream. We napped. We listened to the endless rush of water breaking over rocks. Yeah, we did a lot of nothing.

Black and white butterflies overran our camp in the middle of the second day. Later we would identify them as the birch-loving white admirals. They gathered on the clothes hanging from a line strung between trees, on our tent, my backpack, and whatever other gear we had strewn about. They were not shy. I had encountered them on this stream before, but never in such abundance. Clearly the headwaters of the New Haven is their world.

Judy had some trouble getting comfortable in our primitive camp. I could relate. It’s not as easy to lounge in the wild at our advanced age as it was thirty years ago – not while living out of a backpack, anyhow. But we were glad to be out there all the same. We returned home on the third day feeling more than just a little relaxed. The wild has a way of massaging all concern into oblivion, temporarily at least. Wish there was some way to can it.

 

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Jun 03 2015

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A Good Hike

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lush forest2I awaken undaunted to the wet, overcast day. After being trapped indoors by two days of steady rain, I’m going out no matter what. A couple hours of work early in the morning then I grab my rucksack and go. My dog Matika is all for it, of course.

An hour later I am tramping a rare section of the Long Trail that passes through a farmer’s field. The wet grass completely soaks my pants. No matter. I press forward. Then the trail markers follow an old railway bed before reaching a logging road that goes deeper into the mountains. Better than staying home and staring at a computer screen, that’s for certain.

I am dressed more for early May than early June. That’s why I don’t mind the cool dampness of the forest. I break a sweat, in fact, while pressing uphill. That’s fine. Sometimes sweating is a good way to relax.

My thoughts are a jumble of memories of previous hikes mixed with the sights, sounds and smells of the lush forest all around me. It keeps me from thinking about all the work I do on a regular basis. I dig my hiking stick into the ground and keep going.

A mountain brook winds into the trail. After crossing the stream a couple times, I sit down next to it to groove on rushing water for a while. No bloodsucking insects, surprisingly enough. Foamflower blooms across the brook. It’s easy to miss. A waterthrush sings in the distance. A thin drizzle commences.

During the gradual descent back down to the trailhead, I veer off the LT, following a new snowmobile trail for a while. It winds through the kind of ultra-green forest that I dreamt about during the frigid days of February. Eventually I tag the LT again. Then back across the wet field, thus completing my hike to nowhere. A good hike, actually. Just what the doctor ordered.

 

 

 

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Jun 15 2014

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Bagging a Peak

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JayPeakViewEvery once in a while, I get the urge to climb a mountain. They aren’t hard to find in Vermont. One of my favorites is Jay Peak simply because it’s close to home. The trailhead for it is only an hour from my doorstep.

Jay Peak is also fairly easy as mountain climbs go. Only takes a couple hours to get up and down it. And there’s a great 360-degree view on top.

I set foot on the trail to Jay Peak a few days ago. Had my dog Matika with me, of course. She got up front right away and stayed there during most of the hike. I stopped several times along the way to catch my breath and admire wildflowers. Painted trillium was in abundance, and yellow clintonia was just coming out. I also found patches of Canada lily, false Solomon’s seal, and wild ginseng – all late spring wildflowers. Yeah, it’s that time of year in the mountains even though summer has already arrived in the Champlain Valley.

Jay Peak is the last mountain on the Long Trail headed north, just a few miles shy of the Canadian border. Every time I climb it, I recall my thru-hike along the LT back in the 90s. There are plenty of good views of the Green Mountains towards the top, with Mount Mansfield usually visible. Makes me realize how lucky I am to live in Vermont.

Since Jay Peak has ski trails on its eastern slope, there’s a lift going to the top of it. That killed any desire I might otherwise have had to linger on the summit. After consuming a granola bar and half a liter of water, I was ready to descend. I daydreamed all the way down – one of the nice things about hiking alone.

I felt rejuvenated when I got back to the car, having cleared the stinky thoughts from my head. Bagging peaks is good for that. And the rest of the day was gravy.

 

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