Tag Archive 'hiking'

Apr 10 2019

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Bare Ground

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Awoke to snow this morning. Just a dusting of it that would melt off before the end of the day, but snow all the same.

Snow or no, I had to get outdoors. So after dealing with the IRS and other sources of infinite frustration for most of the day, I slipped on my boots and headed for French Hill.

The plan was to do a little bushwhacking across a mix of snow and bare ground. But not more than five minutes into the hike, I was slogging through several inches of old, crusty snow left over from winter. Not what I had in mind, so I aborted.

Shortly thereafter, I was walking the mostly bare ground of the Rail Trail on the Champlain Valley floor. Much better. I flushed half a dozen robins from the trail as I hiked at a good clip. That assured me that it is spring despite the white stuff lingering like a tiresome drunk at the end of a party. The steady breeze out of the north had a chill to it. Temps hovered around 40. All the same, I was able to take off my hat half a mile into the walk.

When I reached the half-frozen wetlands, I was hoping to catch the high-pitched chirp of a spring peeper, but it’s too early for that. Patience. Another week or two. Instead I enjoyed the steady rush of meltwater in the cut running parallel to the trail. This time of year, we need to take our simple pleasures wherever we can find them.

Before returning to the car, a shy sun peaked from the gray clouds overhead, offering a ray of hope. The warm season is running a little late this year but it’ll get here. And my next outing, if I stay out of the hills and mountains a while longer, will be nothing but bare ground.

 

 

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Mar 28 2019

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Between Winter and Spring

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Yesterday I went for a hike despite the foot of snow dumped by last weekend’s storm. I’m sick of winter, but with the sun shining through an azure sky and temps in the 40s by afternoon, I simply had to go out.

I went to Milton Pond, assuming that the trail around it had been packed down by other restless souls. That was, if fact, the case. All the same, it’s a good thing I had Microspikes on my boots. The trail was icy in places and the snow punky in other places. Without the ‘spikes, I would have done a lot of sliding around.

I hiked at a good clip, soon breaking a sweat. I was smart enough to leave my sweater in the car, but had to strip off my jacket halfway around the pond and carry it. It’s always a strange feeling being in shirtsleeves while traveling over snow. That’s the smart thing to do sometimes, between winter and spring. Still it felt strange…

Looked like winter but felt like spring. The pond was iced over, of course, and there was snow everywhere. Yet a springtime sun shined brightly, meltwater ran fast through runoff streams, and the buds on maple trees were swollen. Definitely between seasons.

I thought about my recently deceased dog Matika during the hike, and how she would have enjoyed the outing a couple years ago, back when she could handle it. We enjoyed a lot of good hikes together through the years. But when I saw a yellow spot along the side of the trail, I was glad I didn’t have to stop and wait for her to sniff it. Slowly adjusting to hiking alone again. There are certain advantages to it, no doubt.

 

 

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Oct 16 2017

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A New Place to Hike

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Sunday evening I slid into a funk and my wife Judy had to deal with me. Once she realized how deep my funk was, she emailed me the info for Milton Pond. When I get this way, the only solution is a good hike.

Milton Pond is located in Milton Town Forest. I’m all the time complaining that I’ve hiked everything close to home, but somehow I missed this place. When I parked my car at the Carriage Barn trailhead, I knew why. It’s not well marked and easy to miss.

The trail itself is very well marked, almost to a fault. It crosses a field, enters the woods then soon reaches Milton Pond. Passing maple sugar lines along the way, I got the feeling that this place isn’t so wild. There are power lines crossing the pond as well. But the fall foliage was beautiful and I had the place all to myself – just me and my dog Matika that is.

I hiked the trail circumnavigating the pond, which is a little over two miles. While it showed some signs of wear, it became clear to me that this town forest is a fairly well kept secret. On the far side of the pond, I took a side trail down to its edge for the view. I stumbled upon a beaver lodge there that Matika found very interesting. But I quickly became chilled in the cool autumn air so I urged her to keep moving.

The terrain becomes a bit more rugged on the east side of the pond. There I felt the wildness stir within me despite the syrup lines, power lines, and new trail signs. When that happens, I know I’m onto something. So I made a mental note to come back here soon and hike the rest of the trails in this area. It’s always good to have a new place to hike.

 

 

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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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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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