After years of reading about it but never living it I’d about given up on the dream. Then, totally unplanned and unexpectedly, there is was! We can’t always make our dreams come true I guess. Sometimes they come true though anyway!
48 pics and the story of The Mama’s triumphant return to Mt Mansfield and this year’s annual “marinara in the wilderness” location: Lake Carmi State ParkLast year’s failed attempt to climb this mountain inspired us all to come back stronger next time. Diets were changed. Winter exercise increased. Then of course real life got in the way and it all fell apart the last month or so before the trip 🙂 We didn’t let that or the weather daunt us. There had been some heavy rain the day we arrived and our day to climb started out feeling steamy, but thankfully cooler than the 90s of the days before.We were stopping early and often per our plan of taking care of everyone’s needs before they became problems. No shortage of places to sit on this part of the trail, but the little one was ready to go.We were definitely having a lot more fun this time! There were a few challenging bits for those with shorter legs, but we were moving right along.Definitely looking much happier than the last time we were on this spot. I got a lot of great pics of The Mama with epic clouds behind her.Still a bit more to go. Just over this hump is where we ate lunch and turned around last year. Soon we’d be on unexplored trail which is always a bit more exciting.Then we hit the somewhat crowded summit where we tried to look cool about the whole being on top of mountain thing 🙂 Pretty sure if there was no one else there it would have been a lot louder heh. We try to be good neighbors!That happy face might be because she’s got her shoes off or maybe she is just glad we’ve finally reached this spot. Cheese and sausage might have something to do with it too.From the summit we could look down on the spot where we stopped last time and it seemed so close. The trail winds around the side to the left rather than coming straight up the cliff so the walk is much longer. Having done it I’m all the more sure that turning them around last time was a really good idea. Coming this much more would have made for a lot of suffering before we got back to camp.Not much suffering to be found this time around other than a healthy cloud of blackflies on the summit. A lot of people since it isn’t a long walk from the top of the toll road, but that motivated us to start our long walk back down.We enjoyed the lean to quite a bit on this trip as it was far removed from the other campsites and the parking lot. Work to carry everything down to the camp, but worth it. We ate well and then made a fire mainly to make s’mores as it certainly wasn’t chilly. I invited Ranger Ira to come join us when his shift ended, more as a joke than anything since I assumed he’d want his dinner. We’d just wrapped up our toasting party and were about to put everything away when he wandered up. He decided that he’d have his dessert first that night and we had a blast swapping stories with him for a bit. Not sure we want to climb Mansfield again anytime soon, but we really enjoyed our two nights at Underhill again this year. It helped that they timed the downpours to happen when we were in camp!Then we were off to Lake Carmi State Park, almost to the Canadian border. This is a bustling campground with lots of people and lots of noise. Not our usual thing, but we wanted some place to chill out after the mountain climbing thing and if you ignored all the noise this was a beautiful spot. The LT was wet inside from the previous night’s storm so I put a tarp out front in case another came through. They positioned it for the view, not protection 🙂This place was definitely about the views! And the ducks!! No really, there were ducks everywhere. They’d wander through camp looking for scraps or handouts. There were signs saying not to feed them, but of course people do.Yup, views and ducks pretty much all the way down.The next day we headed out to explore the hiking trails near the park gate. We saw no one else out there and I think the gate ranger was a bit surprised when Frau Stranger asked about the trails. We covered most all of them except for a few short cut offs. First there was a huge meadow area that used to be a farm. Lots of birds and flowers. The trail was just a mown path that wound around the perimeter. This old stone wall gave the trail its name, but not much of it remained. Guess it got tired of waiting around to fall 😉Not sure if this is a snowmobile trail or what, but the mowing stopped here so we did too.Almost back to the car I spotted the other trail option hiding behind a tree. We were glad we looked for it because it took us through the forest and down along the shore of the lake.That fuzzy thing in the middle is a very large bird which appeared to be an eagle. It launched from a tree right over our heads as we came through and made a wonderful whooshing sound with its wings. It appeared to be fishing when I tried to take this shot, but autofocus thought I wanted a picture of the tree heh.Then the trail headed back away from the shore and through a fern filled glade.No really, it was filled! With the sun coming through the trees it was really neat there. I’m used to seeing ferns like this early in the Summer, but not in August. After all of that walking there was some swimming and some relaxing. Just because we weren’t sleeping in the hammocks doesn’t mean we couldn’t hang them up.And of course there were more ducks. Lots more ducks!Finally it was time for the annual “marinara in the wilderness” which has been going on for a decade now. The pasta changes from year to year, this time I went with spinach and cheese tortellini. The sauce is always cooked fresh with shrimp carefully planned to survive in the cooler until the big event. We had a full grocery store just miles away this time so that part was easy this year compared to some.
This was a very successful trip on many levels. The mountain was climbed, marshmallows were toasted and shared, ducks were seen and shrimp eaten. Plans for another trip after this fell through so I’m especially glad we got a chance to enjoy this one so much. Alone or with others, I hope you’re getting out there because Summer is almost gone. Time for family trips is over which is sad, but Fall brings thoughts of solo adventures…
The reservations have been made so there is no turning back now. We’ve booked a two night stay at the Underhill State Park campground from which to mount our second attempted family assault on Mt Mansfield.
Last year’s amazing adventure came up just short of the summit as we stopped within sight of the crest of the Chin. Mother and daughter astounded me with their determination to reach the top, but the climb had taken a toll. Thankfully some clouds rolled in and I was able to convince them it might rain or they may have insisted on continuing. Good thing because everyone, daddy included, was wiped out by the time we got back to camp.
When Frau Stranger told me she wanted a rematch I was surprised, but happy to oblige. This time we know what we’re getting into. The plan is to bring more food, more water and more legs this time. We’ll get an earlier start so we can have an extra long lunch on top, food and rest tend to be good motivators we find. Hmmm, maybe two lunches heh.
I’m already assuming victory this time because I know how hard my wife has been working to get ready. I have a feeling she will be a great inspiration should we feel a bit weak and might just carry us on her back if we’re slowing her down too much 🙂
Hope you are getting out to enjoy whatever random weather this very random Winter has been throwing at you. Mostly ice here which is no fun, but there is talk of snow tomorrow. Just because I’m making plans for Summer doesn’t mean I’m ready for Winter to end!
Sure, quiet reflection can be nice and all, but sometimes a more visceral response can be cathartic. Last year’s fun filled family attempt at climbing Mansfield in Vermont left Frau Stranger feeling a bit miffed at the mountain. Her response has been to direct that anger into a plan for revenge this coming Summer. Given the progress she’d already made by eating salads and lots of walking it was time to give her more of a challenge so I set up this lovely pain cave with a view.
Seeing her stomping on the pedals next to me I am worried I may be holding her back on that climb this year. Definitely fun to have a training partner this Winter and the view out the back window is a lot nicer than being stuck in the basement on the recumbent. Bet the climb up Mansfield will be a lot more fun this year too!
1.5 LT miles, 6 mile road walk, 20 mile hitch, 9 mile shuttle
I got an early start in hopes of either putting in some long miles or a shorter day ending early depending on how the climb up Haystack went. It soon became clear that Monday had done more damage to my body than I realized. Any sort of climbing was a struggle and by the time I reached the road in Hazen’s Notch I knew it was time to sit down for some hard thinking. Going up Haystack seemed sure to make things get ugly fast so the prudent thing seemed to be to get off trail to regroup.
As road walks go the six miles or so down RT 58 to RT 100 were beautiful. No one stopped to offer a ride but traffic was sparse and it was a nice morning in the shade.
Rather than focus on my troubles I opted to try to enjoy how pretty of a place I was walking through. There were a few dog encounters along the way, a German Shepherd that looked like it might have been abandoned threatened me for a while until a voice in the woods called him home. Another two big dogs followed me, barking at my heels, for a good quarter mile.
Still it was such a pretty place it was a walk to be appreciated. Various streams and brooks ran under the road in both directions.
Eventually I reached the highway and realized that I needed to figure out my next goal. Heading down to Johnson to pick up my resupply seemed logical since food was running low, so I stuck out my thumb. Once that was accomplished I talked to my wife a bit and decided to find a place to stay to either recuperate or wait for a ride home. Smugglers Notch to the rescue!
Dinner, beer and breakfast are behind me and I am still feeling a bit broken. I am coming to terms with the fact that this hike is over before it really got started. There has been some cussing and a few tears, but to keep going at this point seems foolish and probably dangerous to my health.
As much as I regret the way this turned out I am glad I tried to chase the dream. For an old fat man this was an ambitious challenge to begin with, but no one could anticipate tropical weather in VT at this time of year. With my aversion to hiking in the heat I planned to start this late in hopes of much cooler weather.
Will I try again? No, probably not. Putting my family through all of this again seems unfair. I also have to acknowledge that the universe seems to be trying to tell me something.
Still, no regrets! Not sure what crazy dream will come to me next, but I will keep chasing them, you can be sure. Thanks for coming along on this adventure and I apologize for not being able to share the rest of this beautiful trail with you.
8.7 LT miles
Day two started with the climb up to Jay Peak. Looking up at the ski buildings was a bit intimidating but the climb actually wasn’t too bad.
Nice views up there in all directions. I was sorry I didn’t have time to stay longer until I met a big school group headed up the other side.
I stopped at Jay Camp near the bottom for water and potato soup for elevensies. Then came a series of climbs that took me over three mountains on my way to Hazen’s Notch. Not sure how hot it was but it was way too hot to be climbing mountains. The last big climb up Buchanan did me in.
The last two miles to camp were quite a struggle as my stomach was angry and not afraid to show it. I arrived in camp just before dark in pretty ugly shape. Getting the hammock up was all I could manage before collapsing. Then it started to rain hehe. I managed to sort of string the tarp over me, but didn’t have the strength to stake it out.
Knowing from past experience that hiking today would only serve to anger my stomach I opted to stay here today to see if I can recover. I hung out the wet clothes and even staked out the tarp.
The shelter here is a classic and smells like one inside heh.
There is a nice view of Jay Peak from just outside the door. Considering I came up the other side and all the way here on a hot, breezeless day certainly explains my body falling apart.
Tomorrow will tell me a lot once I hit that first climb. The weather has improved with cooler temps and a nice breeze so that will help. Hopefully yesterday didn’t do too much damage, but it certainly has given me some doubts.
8.6 LT miles plus about .5 on the approach
Back at the border just after dawn. Expecting it to warm up I skipped coffee but was amped to get started.
The first white blaze! Now these steps counted heh. So hard to believe it was real, but once I started to sweat it didn’t feel like a dream.
I stopped at Shooting Star shelter for elevensies and found this bunny house.
Then it was time to start the first real climb, Doll Peak. Too sweaty to take pics, sorry.
Drying out with a nice breeze in the hammock at the Laura Woodward shelter.
There are two NOBO hikers in there chattering away. They are very excited about finishing tomorrow. I am excited about dinner, gotta go!
We got an early start on the drive and were almost to Canada by lunch. After a short break for trailhead sandwiches we walked the approach trail the rest of the way to the border.
Surprisingly warm for the time of year, but I will take that over rain any day. Going to be warm again tomorrow so I am hoping for an early start.
Not giggling yet as I have a roommate here, but that may not stop me for long. Totally amazed to find myself in this place and on the edge of such a grand adventure.
Tomorrow it will begin for real as hard as that is to believe. I am ready!!
I’ve been keeping it quiet, but the excitement has been building as the time draws closer. The Long Trail is on! In the morning I’ll head up to Journey’s End to spend the night, probably giggling, before starting southbound on the trail on Sunday. My ride home is scheduled for about a month later, so I’ll be in no hurry. Hoping to have enough contact with the world to post a bit along the way. Should be a very pretty trip if the leaves and weather cooperate.
Those who have been reading for a while know that I’ve been trying to do this trip for years. It started as an impossibility, then matured into a full fledged pipe dream. That is where it stayed for the last couple of years with something always preventing me from getting out there. Hopefully all of that was meant to put me out there at the right time. I’ll be finding out soon enough and will let you know how it turns out 🙂
Saturday was supposed to be the start of a four week SOBO adventure on Vermont’s Long Trail. For those who’ve been reading since the start you know I’ve been wanting to do this forever and each year start out thinking this might be the year. Usually by mid Summer I’ve either hiked myself into an injury or had family commitments come up that force me to say “Maybe next year.” This year was different.
When I injured my hip on the June AT trip I walked my way through the recovery keeping my legs strong and discovering that the hip felt better the more it was used. The support I had from my family was amazing and despite some issues with our car my wife was practically pushing me out the door because after all these years she was as tired of me not going as I was.
Things were looking so positive I began to stockpile food and was putting mail drops together in between trips to make sure the legs were primed for the trail. Last week, with the start of the trip only ten days off, things fell apart. I mean literally fell apart, as on the return from a Speck Pond overnighter the rear tire on my motorcycle failed spectacularly. Thankfully I was able to get it off the road safely and even was lucky enough to be near a house full of friendly farm folk who let me use their phone to try to find some help for the bike. Alas, in the far reaches of Maine, help is hard to find. I ended up paying a small fortune to have the bike towed home.
If this unexpected expense was my only issue I’d probably suck it up and chase my dreams, but it really is more the last straw on a tall pile of reasons to call the trip off. Our car, the one the girls would have to use to drop me off and pick me up on either end of VT is circling the drain. After having been stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere its the last thing I’d wish on them. There are a few other things going on as well that had me hesitant about abandoning my post here at home for so long. My wife being so supportive doesn’t make it any easier 🙂 A woman who loves you enough to tell you to go is worth staying home to spend time with!
So here we are again another year later and the same sad story. Fall will come to Vermont without me once again. I’d say “Maybe next year.” but at this point I’m not sure I can say it with much conviction. For now I’ll focus on what is possible rather than what is not. I’ll get to spend more time watching my daughter start kindergarten. My wife will have some help raking the leaves that will start to fall soon enough. Who knows? I might even sneak out to visit a mountain or three. Besides, with the lack of rain this year the leaves will just turn brown and fall off, but next year…