Saturday, October 12, 2013

Day 16: Historic Letterboxes

Dscn6049September 19: The trail climbed out of Battell Shelter on a steep trail to the top of Mount Abraham, one of the tallest mountains in Vermont peaking at just over 4,000 feet above sea level. Less than a mile away from the shelter, the peak provided incredible 350-degree views and did so without the need of a fire tower. (No, that 350 isn’t a typo. There were some trees in one section that blocked about 10 degrees of the view!)

 

When I arrived at the top, it was quite windy and Greylock was already taking a rest to admire the view, and we just marveled at the wonderful views and enjoyed the sun on our skin. So much of the trail is in trees, and WOW! What a view!

 

But since we hadn’t even gone a full mile yet, we didn’t take a long break and continued onwards. With Greylock having knee troubles, I pulled ahead and, less than a miles later, came to another stop at the peak of Lincoln Peak with its incredible views. Not quite as good as Mount Abraham, but still some of the best views so far of the entire trail. At the top there’s a deck where hikers can sit down and relax, and I just used it to stand on the benches for an even better view. =)

 

While admiring the views, I heard a crashing sound on the trail—like a hiker who stumbled and perhaps a metal water bottle crashing down some rocks. Since Greylock was the only hiker immediately behind me, I figured it must be him, and I shouted down to him, “You dropped your water bottle again!”

 

There was a brief pause, then I heard him shout back, “Will you pick it up again for me?!”

 

“No,” I replied. “I’ve already passed you. You’re on your own this time!”

 

A few minutes later, Greylock appeared at the top, muttering curses about losing the water bottle again. “I thought it was secure in my pack this time!” he insisted. I was amused that even thought I didn’t see him lose the water bottle, I could tell that was what happened just by the sound of it rolling down the rocks.

 

The trail largely followed a long ridge at the top of the Sugarbush ski area so even the areas that weren’t naturally clear of trees often had been cleared of them for ski lifts and ski runs. Just one awesome view after another, mile after mile. It was a great day to be hiking!

 

Dscn6057The trail soon climbed up and over Mount Ellen which, according to my guidebook, was tied with Camel’s Hump for being the third highest peak in Vermont at 4,083 feet above sea level. I’d already climbed over the second tallest peak (Killington), and I knew the trail would go over Mansfield (the tallest of all), and it would go over Camel’s Hump soon, so already this trail will get me—at a minimum—the four tallest peaks in Vermont, and I started to wonder how many of the tallest peaks in Vermont I’d eventually end up hitting. I’ve since looked up the list, which varies depending on what website you look at. Mount Mansfield, for instance, is a mountain range with several different peaks and some lists show each individual peak as a separate mountain while others just use the highest peak on the mountain as a single high point. I guess there’s no standardized way of measuring the highest peaks, but on one list of the 50 highest peaks I looked over in Vermont, the trail goes over almost all of them—or at least close enough that the peak can be reached from a short blue-blazed trail (like I did with Killington).

 

After reaching Stark’s Nest, the trail took a turn for the worse becoming much more steep, treacherous and difficult to travel over. My progress slowed down considerably. A ladder showed up, along with metal bars driven into the rocks to make climbing up and down them easier. The trail was getting tough, but I knew it was just a warm-up for Camel’s Hump. People had been talking about the difficulty of Camel’s Hump since the beginning of the trail, and I would reach it tomorrow. This difficult section, I knew, was just a warm up!

 

Dscn6059At AppGap, I pulled out a couple of clues to letterboxes that I had written down earlier—emailed to me by California Bluefrog. These boxes were supposedly planted way back in 1998 and still had their original logbooks and everything. I really, really wanted to find these particular boxes! And I did find them! Both of them!

 

In one, California Bluefrog had left me note knowing that I’d be trying to find them when I passed by a couple of weeks later, so that was a nice surprise. I hadn’t expected any notes for me when I opened the box! =)

 

The boxes were wonderful too! Hand-carved stamps that had now been hidden here for the last 15 years, both of them still with their original logbooks. Incredible!

 

After that last break, I had to hustle down the trail as quickly as possible. The difficulty of the trail had slowed my progress considerably and I was starting to worry if I could reach the Birch Glen Camp before dark. I needed to get there in daylight to take photos for http://www.walking4fun.com, but hustling over this difficult terrain wasn’t easy!

 

I did make it into camp before dark, though it was considerably later than I had originally intended to arrive. Only one other person was in the shelter, Sarah, who I learned was a nanny for one of the Fish group members and got to fly a private jet to California for a Fish concert. That would be fun, I think, to fly a private jet. I’ve never been on a private jet before!

 

Shortly after dark, we both went to sleep, but around 9:00 that night I was woken up by three hikers arriving with headlamps burning. Night hikers! I didn’t feel like getting up to find out who they were, though, so I went back to sleep and the mysterious night hikers set up camp outside of the shelter—presumably not to bother those who were already asleep in it.

 

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Greylock takes a break at the top of Mount Abraham.

 

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The deck at the top of Lincoln Peak.

 

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Ski lift—I’d be seeing ski lifts all day long!

 

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Apparently, this particular ski lift is famous for being a single-chair
lift. I took a seat on one just to say I “rode” it, then got off.
About five minutes later, bells started ringing and the chair
took off! They started zooming around so fast, it seemed
unlikely that anyone would have been able to get on or off
them safely. And I was suddenly glad I hadn’t sat
on the chair any longer than I did. I might have wound up
getting stuck up there when it stopped several minutes later!

 

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After Stark’s Nest, the trail took a turn for the more difficult.
When you need to embed metal bars into the rocks to help
ascend or descend the trail, you know you won’t be moving fast!

 

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The first ladder of the trail!

 

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This blue-blazed trail led through a cave to the Theron Dean Shelter.

 

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Yet another ski lift… and I haven’t even posted photos of ALL
of the ski lifts I’d seen this day!

 

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View from AppGap

 

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Check out the date on this logbook—September 7, 1998!
It turned 15 years old last week!

 

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An unexpected note left for me! =)

 

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See that high point on the left? That’s Camel’s Hump—tied for
the third highest peak in Vermont and (allegedly)
one of the most difficult sections of the entire Long Trail.
But we’ll save that for tomorrow…

 

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The door of the privy at Birch Glen Camp was awesome! =)

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a great hiking day! Congratulations on finding the letterboxes.

Grumpy Grinch

tiggermama said...

yup. that's our trail. glad you're enjoying it.

Anne Bonny said...

Wow, what a great bunch of pics, from the 15-year-old letterbox (WOW!) to the privy door! Love these blog posts!

strollerfreak - Mel said...

Private jet is pretty cool. Flew from KC to Detroit in the 16 passenger Ford corporate jet about 9 years ago. Best part? Not having to go through standard security. Win. Though the super comfy chairs and tons of space were pretty kickin' too. Congrats on those letterboxes! How cool!