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The Long Trail: A Thru Hike For The Working Man

8 Feb
Time will tell if I go the shelter route.

Time will tell if I go the shelter route.

A few months ago I decided it was time to plan a hike on America’s oldest long distance hiking trail.  The Long Trail, inspiration for the creation of the Appalachian Trail, stretches over 270 miles through the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont border to Canada.  Despite a high point of only 4,395 at the summit of Mt. Mansfield,  the Long Trail averages 500 vertical feet of gain or loss per mile for its entire length, nevermind that it is renowned for the presence of rain, mud and bugs.  By all accounts, it is a deceptively difficult trail, especially in the North.

Long enough to be a challenge, short enough to keep my job, the Long Trail seems like a good fit for now.

Since Christmas I have been doing my research.  Yes, I like to do a lot of research, especially when it comes to gear.    But, for this hike, I have to prepare for 270+ miles and gear is only part of my preparations.    As much as I hike now, the vast majority of my ventures are day hikes.  I’ve relied heavily upon Bob McGraw‘s “End to Enders Guide” and the Green Mountain Club‘s “Long Trail Guide” and official Vermont’s Long Trail Map in my planning.  All three are terrific and offer tremendous information and advice.

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Philip Werner’s www.sectionhiker.com (highly recommended), also offers an experienced perspective.  An example—he is a strong advocate of using the shelters provided on the trail to avoid wet nights and wet gear.  There was a time when I wanted to hike the AT, but all the accounts I read of mouse-ridden shelters have taken their toll.  I will be using a tent on this LT trek.  I’m guessing I can handle the extra 1-2 lbs. Mice or tenting in the rain?  Right now I prefer rain.  I’m sure Phil is right, but as I write from my warm, dry house, I plan 100% on using a tent each night.

As a precursor to the Long Trail, Blue Bin and I plan on tackling the infamous Devil’s Path in the Catskills.  If you are not familiar with the Devil’s Path, it is arguably the toughest hike in the East.  In a mere 24 miles, you endure over 14,000 feet of elevation gain and loss.  At the very least, after completing the Path I expect to be a bit more trail-ready and hopefully test my gear a bit.  As for Blue Bin, she plans to join me for the beginning of my Long Trail hike.  This of course, is assuming she is willing after a weekend on the Devil’s Path.  Stay tuned.

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8 Feb

reblogged on headline alone

My Meandering Trail

For months now, I’ve been on the lookout for great deals to fill out my wardrobe. Namely, I still needed to purchase short-sleeved shirts, long underwear bottoms, and socks. I’d already decided that I was going to steer clear of synthetic materials since I’ve found that they become a haven for body odor. Instead, I was focusing explicitly on finding high quality wool garb.

Don’t be so skeptical about wool. I mean I understand; I grew up thinking that wool was itchy and suffocating and all-around unpleasant. But in 2003 I discovered Smartwool socks and more recently Smartwool long-sleeved shirts. I realized that, with modern techniques, wool can now be woven into garments that feel like cotton and naturally have antibacterial properties, which keeps odors at bay.

I felt like I’d exhausted my luck with REI’s Outlet website, so I turned to Sierra Trading Post. Sierra Trading Post sells high…

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HIKE & EAT: Camp Smith Trail & Grown-Up Grilled Cheese

25 Jan

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A challenging day hike a mere 45 minutes from New York City is the Camp Smith Trail from the Bear Mountain Bridge Toll House to Anthony’s Nose and back.  We recently completed this hike on Martin Luther King Day.   According to our mapmyhike reading, it is a 7.77 mile hike back and forth.   I have found mapmyhike to be relatively accurate in determining distances.  The Town of Cortlandt lists the hike as only being 2.5 miles each way—this is absolutely wrong as the road distance between the two trails is 2.5 miles and the trail is anything but straight.  In fact, part of what makes it a challenging day hike is the constant change in direction and elevation changes. 

Given our struggles at Storm King as detailed in my last post, we came prepared with Yaktrax.  Bear Mountain to the West appeared covered in snow.  Fortunately, the trail was in great shape and except for a few icy areas we could hike at a quick pace.  As with most of our hikes, the Red Headed Stranger led the way.  We can always tell if there are hikers ahead as she pushes the pace to absurd levels in their pursuit. 

There were a few stretches where we might as well have been running. 

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HIKE: Storm King (The Howell Trail)

11 Jan

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On Saturday we made our way to Storm King State Park for a challenging winter hike.   I’ve done this 9.6 mile loop many times and I consider it one of the toughest day hikes in the Hudson Highlands.   Storm King Mountain lies on the west side of the Hudson River, just across the river from the far more famous and busier Breakneck Ridge hike.   Storm King is blessed in that unlike Breakneck Ridge, it doesn’t have a convenient train stop from NYC near the trailhead, and therefore, far less traffic.     For whatever reason, trail guide books never include the Howell Trail in their suggested hikes for Storm King.  I don’t know why.  The trail starts about 5.5 miles into the hike at a mere 200 feet above sea level and quickly ascends to 1200 feet.  Along the way, the views of the Hudson River are spectacular.  It eventually drops back down to 520 feet before rising back to 1100, all of this in just a couple of miles.  If you think the elevation gains are paltry, you are wrong.  This stretch is tough and the terrain can be unforgiving.  I’m not going to compare it to difficult stretches of Devil’s Path in the Catskills, but it isn’t Bear Mountain either.  I’ve never encountered another hiker on the Howell Trail. It is the road less travelled.

We set off around 11:30am.  It was crisp, cold day, but perfect for a hike.  We expected snow on the ground, but not as nearly as much as we encountered.   For most of the first 5.5 miles the snow had been packed down by previous hikers.  I always find hiking in New York to be deceptively hard as most trails have a myriad of rocks, roots, fallen trees, and rarely if ever, a switchback.  You tend to go straight up and straight down.   This day we were making great time as the packed snow created a sometimes slick, but mostly an easy path to travel on.  The Red Headed Stranger, a veteran of this hike, led the way and pushed the pace.  Blue Bin had no idea what was ahead. Continue reading

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