Tag Archive 'hiking'

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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Oct 18 2016

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Autumnal Bliss

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fall-color-lookoutThe trees surrounding my house look like they’re on fire, making it hard to concentrate on work. With temps shooting into the 70s by noon, this may very well be the last warm day. So I don hiking clothes and head for a pocket of woods I haven’t seen in a while: Niquette Bay State Park.

In the mood to make tracks, I shoot down the trail at a good clip. My dog Matika keeps up with me despite the many interesting smells along the way. Even though I’m stripped down to a t-shirt, I break a good sweat while going uphill. Looks like autumn but it feels like summer.

A strong wind blows through the canopy overhead. Leaves rain down – the season being true to its name. The path underfoot is covered with them. The forest is all green and gold. The afternoon sun burns brightly through it, casting long telltale shadows. Winter isn’t far away.

After cresting the hill, I come to a lookout with a good view of Mt. Mansfield in the distance. But more impressive is the color in the hills close by. The fall foliage is peaking in the Champlain Valley right now, a week or so behind the higher elevations. My eyes soak it in.

Back home a little later, the sky suddenly darkens as the front blowing this way brings heavy weather. For the next few days gray skies and rain will be the rule. So I’m glad I got out when I did. A little autumnal bliss goes a long way.

 

 

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Jul 28 2016

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In Cool Woods

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the cool forestAnother hot day. It has been that kind of summer. Before going over to my old house to do some more renovation work, I slip into a pocket of local woods for a short, relatively cool hike. I know my dog Matika will appreciate it. They call these dog days, but this certainly isn’t her favorite season.

The forest is shady for the most part even though sunlight filters through the canopy. The bright hues of fresh springtime verdure have given way to a more mature midsummer green. The trail looks moist because of a recent rain. I am not deceived by it. I know that down deep the earth is still dusty. Thunderstorms are numerous this summer, yes, but we haven’t seen an all-day soaking rain for quite some time.

Hot and dry. I resist the urge to jump to environmental conclusions, hoping that August and September will be a little cooler and wetter overall. I plan on doing some serious hiking at that time, after finishing up the renovation. Lord knows I’m overdue for it.

But for now these woods will have to do. A few deer flies follow me as I amble up the trail. Aside from their buzz and the occasional songbird, all is quiet. Matika sniffs around, wondering where the squirrels are. My mind clings to work-related matters until I catch a whiff of forest decay. Then I entertain faraway thoughts. Yeah, a serious hike very soon – one to make me forget all the nonsense in these lowlands that passes for civilization. That’s what I really need.

 

 

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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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May 09 2016

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Verdure

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verdureA cool, overcast day in early May. I head for Aldis Hill to run my dog. I tell myself that it’s all for Matika, but I need to stretch my legs as much as she does. We’ve both been indoors too long.

I meander up the trail in no rush, noting all the wildflowers in bloom along the way: purple trillium, dutchman’s breeches, trout lily, violets – the usual suspects. They are blooming right before the forest canopy leafs out. Their time to shine lasts only a few weeks.

Halfway up the hill, I spot patches of green on the forest floor – the shoots of wildflowers that have recently pushed up through the bleached, brown forest duff.  A little later, I come upon leaves unfolding from a bush next to the trail. Fresh spring verdure. No matter how much I anticipate this, it always comes as something of a surprise.

Spring beauty, hepatica and bloodroot are gone already. The spring season is so ephemeral, so easy to miss. Soon the temps will reach into the 70s and I’ll let out a dreamy vernal sigh. Then the bugs will come out. Then the verdure before me will darken to summer green. And I’ll only half notice the transformation as I go about my busy-ness. With that in mind, I take a long, hard look at the tender leaves before me right now and thank god I’m here to witness their magnificent unfolding.

 

 

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Apr 29 2016

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Taking Time to Walk

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InBkRes springI took my dog Matika with me when I went book hunting in Burlington the other day. That was a commitment to go for a walk at some point. It can’t be all about work all the time. Actually it can be, but that’s not healthy. So I had Matika (and my hiking boots) in the car to remind me what’s important, to lend a little balance to my life.

The trail around Indian Brook Reservoir is a nice, two-mile loop. Can’t do it in the summer because the locals keep the place for themselves. But this time of year it’s available. It’s an easy way to get a woods fix when a trip to the mountains is out of the question.

No leaves on the trees yet, but the trail was dry beneath an azure sky. A few patches of conifers provided sufficient shade. I spotted a fellow on the water fishing from a canoe and thought to myself: man, that’s the way to go. But tramping around the reservoir was good enough for me for the time being. Besides, I needed the exercise.

A woodpecker knocking, a duck sighting, and a few wildflowers blooming across the bleached forest floor – it doesn’t take much to make me happy this time of year. As for Matika, well, she was having a great time between sniffing, chasing chipmunks, and doing a meet-n-greet with half a dozen other dogs encountered along the way. She gave me big sloppy kisses when we got back to the car. I took that as her way of saying “thank you.”

I wish I could can this feeling one has after a mere hour walking outdoors. It always clears my head, and I work better afterward as a result. Yet I have to force myself, more often than not, to take the time to do it. I wonder why that is.

 

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Mar 08 2016

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A Hint of Spring

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March trailI awoke this morning to light coming through the window, and saw a starling at the bird feeder while I was getting breakfast. After reworking a short narrative about hiking in early spring, I could no longer contain myself. I did the bare minimum work necessary to keep my book business going then flew out the door with Matika’s leash in hand. She came running after me, all smiles.

Temps had reached into the mid-40s by the time my dog and I stepped onto the icy trail at Niquette Bay State Park only half an hour from home. A mile out, I stripped off my light jacket and hiked in shirtsleeves as the dusting of snow on the trail underfoot melted away. Two miles out, the frozen mud began to thaw. It was a wonderful thing to behold.

A crow called out in the otherwise quiet woods. I looked up to see patches of blue in a mostly grey sky. The trees were motionless in the still air. I stopped frequently during the hike just to groove on the snowless forest all around me. It was a wonderful thing to behold.

Is it still winter? Do I dare think of this as the beginning of an earlier-than-usual spring? It’s a hint of spring to be sure, and for that I am grateful. I am a creature of the warmer months. I’ve done enough winter ruminating already. So bring it on! Tomorrow, I hear, is going to be a surprisingly warm day. I can’t wait.

 

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Oct 14 2015

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Climbing Jay

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climbing Jay PeakHaving the freedom to take time to play is one of the big advantages of being self-employed. But I work harder for myself than I ever would for anyone else. I don’t stop and play enough. That said, Monday was too nice a day to stay indoors, staring at a computer screen. So I grabbed my pack and headed for the hills.

Once again, I drove to the Jay Peak trailhead. Not my favorite mountain, because of its ski trails, but the drive to it is short. Besides, it’s a relatively easy climb. I’m out of shape, thanks to excessive computer time recently, so I thought it best to make the day’s hike a short one.

My dog Matika leapt out of the car all smiles. She’s been cooped up a lot lately, thanks to my relentless work schedule. She ran up the trail, setting a rigorous pace for me. Soon I was shouting for her to wait so that I could catch my breath. With low humidity and temps in the sixties, I was sweating very little. All the same, the elevation change was doing a number on me.

We broke above the treeline towards the top. The trail became rocky. I admired the view: blue sky overhead and the landscape below ablaze with autumnal color. That’s when I promised myself that I would get out more.

A quick lunch on top then Matika and I descended. At my age, going downhill is the hard part. All my joints below the waist were aching by the time I got back to the car. Still it was good getting out. Back to work yesterday and today, I’ve been much more productive as a consequence of the outing. Yeah, there’s really no excuse for working all the time – no excuse at all.

 

 

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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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