Tag Archive 'hiking'

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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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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Apr 22 2014

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Following the Brook

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PrestonBrk.AprilIt’s a dry day with temps in the 60s – a perfect day for hiking in the woods.  I put Matika in the car and drive to the mountains.  Before noon I am bushwhacking along Preston Brook, headed upstream.

There’s no snow in sight. Just grey rocks, the bleached brown of forest duff, the dark gray/brown of naked trees, and the occasional splotch of pale green conifers, moss or ferns that have wintered over. Not exactly a lush forest, but this time of year I’m happy just tramping the ground again.

The stream is clouded by silt and roiling with snowmelt. To avoid mudslide areas, I cross it a half dozen times while making my way upstream. The first few times I rock hop across, but eventually I get wet. I get muddy as well. No matter. I welcome this elemental immersion.

The sky overhead is mostly blue. A woodpecker knocks in the distance, otherwise all is quiet.  Just the steady rush of water obeying gravity, and the occasional creak of a tree swaying in the gentle wind.

Matika is so busy sniffing that I lose track of her a few times. I lose myself in dreamy, early spring reverie. When finally breaking a sweat after tramping a mile, I can’t help but smile.  Compared to thrashing around in snow, hiking like this is easy.

Thirty years, I figure after doing the math.  That’s how long I’ve been following this brook. Sometimes I have a fishing rod in hand, sometimes I carry a daypack. I stop by a favorite camping spot and find the fishhook that I pressed into the bark of a young tree years ago. Yeah, this brook and I have history.

A couple miles deep, I reach the small, narrow bridge where the dirt road in this valley crosses the stream. I follow the road back to my parked car, occasionally stopping to look around. Not a spectacular hike but a pleasant enough afternoon in the woods all the same. In another month or so, once the trails have dried out, I’ll go higher.  Until then, these mountain stream rambles will do.

 

 

 

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Apr 15 2014

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Awakening

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hepatica 2014With temps shooting into the 70s, I dropped everything yesterday morning and went for a hike. Niquette Bay seemed the place to go: low elevation and close to home. Still too much snow in the mountains.

The first thing that struck me when I stepped out of the car was the smell of trees, forest duff and raw earth. That’s something I’ve missed terribly.

Ah, to have a soft muddy trail underfoot again! Remnant patches of snow lay hidden in shadowy places. A blazing sun illuminated the forest. And the air was full of birdsongs – robins, chickadees, and some other bird whose name I’ve forgotten over the long, hard winter.

Not far into my hike, I heard peepers in the distance. I left the trail in search of them – woods wandering once again. I stumbled into a vernal pool where a solitary wood frog floated. He clucked away incessantly as I kept a respectful distance. Then returning to the trail, I spotted something that took my breath away: round-lobed hepatica in full bloom. Considering how the snow and ice have lingered well past the Vernal Equinox, how is that possible?

A fierce wind blew cold across Lake Champlain. Down by water’s edge, I listened to fragmented ice tinkle as it jammed against the shoreline. Back on the trail, I crossed burbling rivulets of spring run-off making their way towards the lake. The elements on the move again.

Near the crest of a hill, while tramping dreamily along the trail with my dog Matika, a mourning cloak butterfly fluttered past. From a ledge I saw snow still clinging to cold, blue mountains in the distance, making me wonder.  Then a woodpecker telegraphed a message across the forest, removing all doubt as to what time of year it is.

In shirtsleeves yet sweating, I burned off the last of an indoor funk. Hope springs eternal in wild nature, when the world suddenly awakens.

 

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Feb 23 2014

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Deep Woods Talk

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Trail into WCLW copyOn Saturday, March 8th, I’ll be talking about the Northville/Placid Trail to my fellow Green Mountain Club members. I’m excited by the prospect. This will be my first time presenting to the GMC, and my first time using visuals.  Judy has helped me put together a slide show. If you live anywhere near the GMC Visitor Center in Waterbury Center, VT then come on down. $5 fee for members. $8 for non-members. The event starts at 7 pm.

If you miss that show, I’ll be at Stowe Library at 7 pm on Thursday, March 27th, doing something similar, reading from my NPT hiking narrative, The Allure of Deep Woods, and talking about the importance of wildness. As many of you know all too well, talking comes naturally to me.

While I’d rather be on the trail winding through the Adirondacks, talking about it with like-minded others is the next best thing. Like many Vermonters, I sometimes forego the lush, green mountains close to home for the sprawling forests on the other side of Lake Champlain. It’s a good thing to share.

When it comes to Adirondack wildness, the Northville/Placid Trail is the way to go. There are lots of people in the High Peaks region, especially during the summer. But it isn’t difficult to experience wilderness solitude on the NPT. That’s why I don’t mind talking about it. The NPT is the less-traveled path.

 

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