Vermont Day Hikes

Dorset Peak - June 10, 2003
Mendon and Pico Peaks - June 11, 2003
Equinox - June 25, 2003
The Coolidge Range - June 26, 2003

by Papa Bear

Click on an entry to jump to a particular section:

Dorset Peak - June 10, 2003
Mendon and Pico Peaks - June 11, 2003
Mount Equinox - June 25, 2003
The Coolidge Range - June 26, 2003


Dorset Peak: June 10, 2003

Weather: 70°s, sunny.

O

n Tuesday June 10th, a little past noon, I met Meo in Manchester, Vermont. A good spot, just equi-distant from where we live (I live in NYC, he in Montreal ). I had taken the bus up and he had driven down. We had originally "met" on the discussion forums of Views From the Top, an internet site devoted to hiking and climbing in the northeast. We found ourselves to be very compatible hikers.

We did the pleasant hike up to Dorset Peak - first the south summit, then the north. We took about 3 hours and 15 minutes round trip. On such a sunny day and we would have stayed longer at the summit if not alas, for the bugs. There is a nice view towards the northwest from the south peak, but none from the north peak (which has the canister). And yes, the pitchers are still there.

Since Dorset is one of the New England 100 highest peaks (actually Dorset is number 99), it gets perhaps more travel by hikers than it's features might warrent. Nevertheless, we found it to be a very enjoyable hike and certainly it had a number of attractions. I tried to take a picture at each of the spots along the route that are referred to in the trail descriptions available, so as to be of some help to anyone who may intend to follow this route.

The best trail description I have found is the Green Mountain Club's Day Hiker's Guide, a great little book which you should get if you don't have it already. There is even a little map in there showing the trails on the summit. This made it much easier to visualize the route than reading the many descriptions that are available, with the profusion of confusing logging roads, snowmobile paths and trails. In actuality, there was very little confusion in finding the route once we got out there.

(Photo of woods road at Dorset Hollow)
The woods road starts out from Dorset Hollow
To get to the start of the trail we took Dorset Hollow Road from the village of Dorset. We soon took the right fork in the road onto Lower Hollow Road and finally bearing right, we went onto Tower Road. These roads had a surprising number of upscale houses, some fairly new. Finally we crossed a bridge over a stream and got to a place that looked like the end of the line.
(Photo of cabin along road)
A hunting cabin at the side of the road
The road actually continued on into the woods, but the surface got rougher, so we found a spot to park and got ready to get going. The stream was visible through the trees down to the left.

The woods road ascends very easily and after about a mile it bears to the right and starts to ascend more steeply. Soon after, we passed a hunting cabin on the left as the road gets steeper. One of the reports I read mentions that the young man who lives here is very friendly to hikers and interested in the idea of climbing "100 peaks". No one was around the day we went by.

(Photo of Viburnum)
Viburnum along the side of the road
Most of the elevation gain was in the next mile, as the road ascends the ravine next to Jane Brook up to the col between Dorset and Jackson Peak to the west. This section was our excercise for the day. The grade was not super steep but it was fairly constant and unrelenting the whole way up, so these old legs were feeling it. Along the side we saw some Viburnum, which seemed to be at the peak of bloom.

(Photo of Meo at the fork)
Meo checks his GPS at the fork in the road
Eventually the grade levelled off and at the height of land there was a small cairn (more a rock pile than a cairn) and a fork in the road. To the left a woods road continued down to Danby Corners, which the Day Hikers Guide mentions as an alternate route. To the right the road continues along the back (north) side of Dorset along a fairly level grade.

The road to the right proved to be very easy walking and we knew most of our work was behind us so we were feeling good. Meo had brought the GPS he had just bought and had fun setting routes and way-points and gererally having fun with this new toy. For my part, I was wearing my Suunto Altimeter watch, also new. We were like two little kids.

(Photo of right turn onto snowmobile path)
The first right turn up onto a snowmobile path
Between this point and the south summit we had to take two right turns. These both were very obvious. The first right turn was onto a snowmobile path that was very well cut. The slope was constant and the brushing and grading was very well done. The guide book said this point was marked by a small cairn and that the path was blazed sporadically with silver squares, but, to be honest, we didn't notice or even look for these markings
(Photo of right turn up onto a steep path)
The second right turn up onto a steep path
since the path was so clear and obvious. At about this point, the vegetation had changed from the hardwood forest of the lower elevations, to a boreal forest of spruce and fir. The smell of Balsam was very pleasant.

The second turn was equally clear. This was a right turn onto a rather steeper and less well graded trail. This was obviously a hiking trail and I doubt if a snowmobile could make it up this route.

In a few minutes this trail brought us to a clearing and we found ourselves on the south summit.

(Photo of Meo at the south summit)
Meo enjoying the view from the south summit
This summit was evidently considered the true summit of Dorset at one time and the ruins of an old fire tower stood there in the middle of the clearing. Turning around the way we had come afforded a rather nice view to the northwest. Besides the trail we had come up, another trail headed off towards the north making an approximate right angle with the first trail.

(Photo of trail towards the north summit)
The trail heading over to the north summit
Perhaps the most interesting thing we found on this summit was what was left of the old fire tower. The girders extended about 10 or 15 feet up and attached to the side of the tower, at just the right height, was a barbeque grill. If we had only known, we would have brought hamburgers and charcoal. Oh well, next time!

The route on to the north summit was quite clear, so we started off on the fairly level trail through open fir towards the north.

The route between the two summits is slightly more than half a mile and there very little elevation loss - perhaps 100' down to the col. The trail is fairly straight, but there are a number other trails which cross, with the possibility of some confusion. In each case the correct route is straight across each intersection.

There were two crossing that stick in my mind. The first
(Photo of Meo at the north summit)
Meo opens the canister at the north summit
was marked by a small cairn across the intersecting path (which was actually the snowmobile path we had taken earlier), and on a tree there were two door knobs attached! At another crossing there was an old sign with trail directions. Unfortunately these were out of date and a bit confusing. The arrow at the top of the sign pointing to "Dorset Peak" was pointing back where we had come from! It was most likely a sign from the now abandoned Dorset Ridge Trail and indicates that at one point the south summit was considered the higher peak. In any case we ignored the directions on the sign and just continued straight across. Very shortly we arrived at the wooded summit.
(Photo of papa bear at north summit)
Papa Bear sitting next to the pitchers
checking the log

At the summit we found the canister on the right side of the trail, and to the left were the remains of an old cabin. In my mind I was expecting more of a structure - it was just a few feet of old timbers forming a right angle. But it provided a place to sit and there in the corner was an old rusted bucket and two pitchers. I guess a generation of hikers fondly recalls these pitchers. Gene Daniels writes in his Routes To New England Hundred Highest Peaks: "... the Dorset Memorial Pitcher, placed here in February 1978 by Tom Sawyer & myself, commemorating all those who have become temporarily bewildered on the slopes of this mountain. (Everyone gets there, but sometimes it takes more than one try.)"

The bugs were out as soon as we stopped moving, so we did not tarry. On the way back we took a right turn at the intersection with the doorknobs. This was the snowmobile path we had taken earlier, and on it we bypassed the south peak and eventually descended to the logging road leading to the height of land between Dorset and Jackson.

Going down is so easy compared to going up. What a surprise! Before we knew it we were down and past the hunting cabin, and soon back at the car. As we got packed up, another car arrived and after looking around a bit, the driver parked right in front of our car. Now what would someone be driving way in here for? Well, you guessed it, it was another 100 Highest peak bagger. A man got out an introduced himself as John Buckley. He asked how long it took us, not even asking how long for what! I guess it was as obvious what we were doing here as it was to us what he was doing. Soon he was off on the trail, and we were off to stake out a campsite at Emerald Lake State Park for the night.

Emerald Lake is a lovely park on the opposite side of Dorset Mountain, on Route 7, about 10 miles of driving. It turns out that Meo had attempted to bag Dorset from this side last year, but without a map or directions he was defeated by the confusion of logging roads. But as Gene Daniels said of Dorset: "Everyone gets there, but sometimes it takes more than one try."

We found a nice spot, and I actually took a shower (coin operated - bring some quarters). We enjoyed a scrumtious supper courtesy of Meo. Hey, the guy with the car brings the stuff, right?

Miles hiked: 6.8, elevation gain: 2580'


Mendon and Pico Peaks: June 11, 2003

Weather: 60°s, cloudy with light rain and fog.

O

n Wednesday, Meo and I hiked and bushwhacked up to Mendon, and then over to Pico Peak, stopping for lunch at the Cooper Lodge (near the top of Killington). Alas, the weather had deterioated from the day before. It started with light rain on Mendon and ended with fog and wind on Pico. We skipped Killington, since we both had done it before and the weather would have allowed no views whatsoever. Given the weather and the nature of bushwhacking, I managed to take fewer pictures than I did on Dorset, but I did get the major points of interest.

We found the best resource for navigating the bushwhack up to Mendon to be the report on VFTT written by Brian Reinhold of the hike that he, Sherpa Kroto and Arm did in May of last year. We did not have the good weather that they did but we accomplished our goals on this very wet and tiring day of hiking.

A word about routes to Mendon

O

ver the years, it seems that several different bushwhack routes to Mendon have been in fashion. This is due in part to the changing situation with regards to logging roads in the area (they come and go), and in part to the preferences of individual "exlorers" who document "new" routes which then become popular. If there is any trend, it is that hikers seem to be starting higher and higher up the logging road to start the bushwhack. And although ocasionally the possibility of bushwhacking from the LT near Little Killington across the col is mentioned, I have yet to read an account of anyone who has actually done it that way. Everyone seems to start from some point on the logging road which starts at Brewers Corner and ends (if you follow it that far) at the LT near Cooper Lodge. Here are a few notes on the routes which may clarify the situation for future peak baggers.

1) The directions given in Gene Daniels' Routes To New England Hundred Highest Peaks, suggests beginning the bushwhack about 1.5 miles up the logging road, just after the first stream crossing. He reports that various hikers have found logging roads in this area and have found the west summit from them. His route approaches Mendon from the northwest.

2) On the other hand, Brian Reinhold's account takes you up past the fourth crossing (which he calls the "second crossing from the run-down cabin") which is about 3.2 miles up the logging road, and approaches Mendon from the east (or slightly north of east). This is a totally different route, so don't confuse the directions from these two sources. To add to this confusion, there is a cairn (which I call the "first cairn") which was built by recent hikers and has lately been the consensus starting point. Brian's route is close to this but is not the same. It starts about 10 minute's hike and 250' of elevation further up the road. You might say starting at the first cairn or at Brian's second cairn are two close variations. But let's face it, once you hit the woods off the trail, all the trees look alike!

The other thing to remember is that Brian's account mentions a heading of due magnetic west. The magnetic declination is about 15° in this area, so if you are trying to plot that on a map, the bearing would be 255°, slightly south of west (true west would be 270°). If you don't plot from a map and just use a compass, don't worry about it, going due magnetic west is fine, without further ado.

3) The plot of the logging road on the topographic map of the area (see Topozone) is rather inacurate in the upper section. My best estimate based on altimeter readings we took, is that the logging road does not veer up to the right before dissapearing as shown on the topo map, but rather veers left and follows along near the top of the headwall, somewhere between 3300' and 3500' before eventually heading up towards Killington where it meets the Long Trail at approximately 3900'.

Starting up

W

e started up the logging road at around 8:50 AM and used the directions given in Brian's report. The lower section of the road is a pleasant walk. The Catamount Ski Trail follows the road for a short distance and we pass by a house
(Photo of Mendon)
Papa Bear with Mendon in the distance
(complete with a basketball hoop) on the left. We get our first glimps of Mendon from this section. We would not actually see the top again till we're standing on it!

The number of stream crossings always seems to vary in the accounts of this hike, so we counted them carefully, noted the elevations in my log, and took pictures of each one. Remember that you start on the left side of the stream (It's called Eddy Brook) and end up on the right side, so you must cross it an odd number of times. The first crossing (where Gene's bushwhack starts) was at 2100'. The second was at 2270'. The third crossing is just after an old run-down cabin and is at 2500'.
(Photo of First Crossing)
The first crossing of Eddy Brook
This is not Eddy Brook however, but a tributary. The fourth and last crossing (the third over Eddy Brook) was at about 2750' and is followed by a steep section and the start of a hairpin turn - first a sharp right then a sharp left. The first cairn was at this left hand turn (at about 3050'). I was encouraged so far, since my elevation readings agreed fairly well with what was shown on the topo maps for the stream crossings. However, past this point, we realized that the plot of the road shown on the map started to diverge from reality.

We were almost there! Another right hand turn up a steep section and finally another left hand turn brought the second cairn (Brian's cairn) into view. The elevation was just over 3300' and we had hiked over 3 miles. Since we had been hiking about an hour and a half (and almost 1600' of elevation) without a rest, we took a break here
(Photo of Second Cairn)
The second cairn
starting point for the bushwhack
and changed our clothes for the impending bushwhack.

We went into the woods at around 10:30, just as it started to rain and soon found the going very tough. As per Brian's account, we followed a magnetic west bearing, which agreed with the reading on Meo's GPS as the direction to Mendon. He had put the coordinates into the device a few days before in preparation for this hike. But unlike Brian's group, we could not "keep Killington at our back" since it was hidden by fog and clouds. We also didn't have the luck or instinct they seemed to have had and found the going very tough. (Didn't I just say that? )

In spite of the rain and tough going, I spotted a beautiful Red Trillium and had to stop to take a picture.

As we hit the steep section at the top of the mountain, we turned straight up the slope (to the left, or south) and arrived almost exacty on the east peak. We easily found the herd path to the west peak and had no trouble following it. Only when it was blocked by a blowdown did we have to look carefully so as not to lose the path. The distance between two peaks is only slightly more than .1 miles with the low point in the col perhaps 20' down and then 60' up to the west peak, so this was hardly a five minute walk. As we got close to the true (west) peak, the herd path circled around a little to the right (north) and we arrived at the peak peak more from the north than from the east. The canister is a few yards off to the right, and if you continue a short distance past the peak, you get a very nice view to the south - even in the rain. We got there about 11:10 AM. Brian's account says
(Photo of Mendon Canister)
The Mendon Canister
you find the viewpoint from the col, not from the west summit, so maybe this was a different viewpoint, but it was very nice just the same. Since there isn't really much distance between the two points I would guess it's the same place. Based on my Maptech version of the topo map, I estimated that we bushwhacked about .8 miles from the logging road to the summit (after adding 20% for zig-zagging).

We then went back along the herd path to the east peak and found another herd path down off the peak towards the east. It starts slightly to the left (north) of the summit. This was very easy going, and when it degenerated into myriad animal paths (with myriad piles of deer scat), we took the path of least resistance down, slightly to the north (left) of east. Low and behold, we arrived on the logging road with very little effort. This was at elevation around 3400' and is where the road reaches it's high point on the side of Mendon.

Now this would be the way to go. Forget Gene's route, forget the first cairn, forget the second cairn, go up further along the road to the height of land (probably 5 minutes walk past the second cairn) and proceed in from there approximately magnetic west but take the steepest route up slope and you will, or I should say you will hopefully reach the east peak with considerably less effors than we expended. From there folowing the herd path to the true summit (the west peak) is a piece of cake. If I were to do this peak again, this is the route I would attempt.

On to the Long Trail

T

he next job should have been easy. Just follow the logging road on up towards Killington to where it intersects the LT slightly south of Cooper Lodge. However, we managed to lose the road once and ended up too far down to the left. The road we thought was the real road deteriorated and finally dissapeared. We should have known better when our road suddenly dropped about 10 feet and became very boggy. Even a long disused logging road would not have a drop off like that. We were misled by several accounts which said the road becomes unclear and tends towards the headwall to the left before climbing Killington. Well, in reality the real road doesn't become that unclear nor drop off that much to the left. Where our road finally dissapeared entirely, we scrambled up a very steep, but thankfully open grassy slope which tended back up to the right, and luckily soon found ourselve back on the real logging road. The turn we missed was where the road turned up to the right, and the (wrong) road we took tended down to the left. The real road was rather rocky and it looked almost like a stream bed running down the slope. When you get here, take the right hand rocky road up the slope, you don't want to go where we did!

The road then starts to rise again, rather steeply, and is more of a trail than a road for it's last half mile or so. Curiously, the last section showed signs of recent maintenance. Several blowdowns were cleared and some brushing seems to have been done. It finally hits the LT at around elevation 3900' about a quarter mile from the Cooper Lodge. Just before we saw the trail, we saw a backpacker walking by. I shouted out: "I hope you're on the Long Trail". He said (perhaps thinking I was daft) "Yes". This was Eric, who was on his first day of a section hike on the LT, and incidently the only person we would see on the trail all day.
(Photo of Cooper Lodge)
Cooper Lodge
We walked together for about 5 minutes and arrived at the intersection of the spur trail to the Killington summit, with Cooper Lodge down to the left. We took a break here for lunch and tried to dry off a bit. It was 12:40 and we had been in the rain and heavy brush for over two hours. We decided to skip the very steep spur trail up to the Killington summit. On a better day with a little more time, we would have done it.

Cooper Lodge is interesting. It's not the typical lean-to style shelter usually found along the AT and the LT. It's an old stone building with a door and windows (with no glass) which probably served as a ski warming hut in years long past. I stayed there overnight about a year ago when I was section hiking the AT in this area.

At this point I got a little concerned about the time. Although we had done the major, and by far the hardest part of what we planned for the day, we actually had gone less that half the total distance. At this point we had hiked about 6 miles. But to go north on the LT, take the side trail to Pico, then return back down the LT to the Bucklin Trail (which intersected the LT just down the hill from where we were), and return to the car that way, was over 10 miles more. Luckily most, but not all of that was down hill, but with a bus to catch in Rutland in six hours, I knew we couldn't dally.

Next: Pico Peak

S

o we got going shortly and followed the LT north to the Pico Peak side trail (about 2.5 miles) at a slightly accelerated pace. Meo said we were hiking in "Robot Mode". You know, when you're tired and rushed and conversation stops. The Pico Peak side trail used to be the old route of the LT before a recent relocation which was put in to avoid the ski area on that peak. Now this part of the trail is called the Sherburne Pass Trail and it goes all the way down to Route 4, crossing that highway at the Inn at the Long Trail. But for today it was just Pico on our list.
(Photo of Pico Peak)
On the summit of Pico in the fog
The Inn and a cold pint of Long Trail Ale would have to await another day. We reached the side trail in under an hour however, so I knew I would not miss my bus - in fact we would probably be back at the car by 5:00 PM at this rate.

We took the side trail and in a few minutes reached a wide ski trail trending up to the left. We saved a little bit of hiking by following this ski trail and skipping past the Pico Shelter. We then picked up the summit spur trail, which was rather steep and rocky but thankfully short, and soon arrived at the summit in the fog, rain and wind. It had an especially eerie look with the large gondola building looming overhead as we went up past the warming hut to the summit. After crossing a road and another grassy area, there it was - the summit (and Meo's last Vermont 100 highest). Was there a sign or a canister? No just a pile of rocks and some kind of water pipe used by the ski area. Meo and I shook hands and congratulated each other - we had made it!

After the obligatory pictures, it was down again, back up the LT, then down the Bucklin Trail to the car. Easier said than done however. Getting back to the LT on the side trail was very quick but moving back down the LT to Killington and the Bucklin Trail was very tiring. The long day and the tough bushwhack was at last catching up with me. What seemed like an easy down grade on the way over, became a relentless up grade on the way back. But we made it, taking only about 10 minues more than it took the first time.

Then it was down the Bucklin Trail. Everyone had said this was all down hill, but I'm generally a little skeptical of that kind of advice. There's almost always some uphill they don't mention. But in this case I must admit it really was all down hill (except maybe a few feet going up a stream bank). The first mile down was rather steep - it fell over a thousand feet in about a mile. I'm glad we were going down, not up. Then the trail joined an old woods road and eased up. Finally it crossed a stream, followed another woods road for about a half mile and eventually ended back at Brewers corner. It was just after 5:00 PM. We had been hiking for over 8 hours, and I for one was beat.

We made it to the Rutland Bus station with plenty of time to spare. I spent most of the trip home snoozing and got home with little to complain about than a tiny rip in my Frogg Toggs bottoms (from some fir branch, I guess) and a few sore muscles. It was a great trip with good memories of Vermont!

Miles hiked: 16.1, elevation gain: 4600'


Mount Equinox: June 25, 2003

Weather: 90°s, sunny, hot and humid.

T

his week I hiked Mt.Equinox in Vermont. It lies across the Manchester valley from the Green Mountains (where the AT goes), approximately due west of Prospect Rock (about 10 miles up the trail from Stratton Mountain). At 3850',
(Photo of Equinox Hotel)
The Historic Equinox Hotel
it is the highest peak in the Taconic Range which stretches north from Connecticut into Vermont. It was the last of the New England 100 highest peaks in southern Vermont on my list, so it was good to complete this one. All the Vermont peaks left on my list lie on or near the Long trail, north of Maine Junction, and I hope to climb all of those next year when I do that part of the Long Trail.

On Wednesday June 25th I got on an early bus in NYC and headed up to Vermont. The rainy season seemed to be over and the weather was expected to be hot and somewhat humid both in New York and Vermont. Around noon I arrived in the old part of Manchester, right in front of the historic Equinox Hotel.

When I hopped out of the bus I could feel that it was a rather hot day, around 90° in the valley. I was hoping it would be cooler when I hit the woods. The trail guide (The Vermont Day Hikers Guide, published by the
(Photo of start of B&B Trail)
Start of the Burr and Burton Trail
Green Mountain Club) suggests parking in the Equinox Hotel's parking lot and gives directions from there up the hill to the trailhead. This was essentially a dirt road up to a small parking lot on the grounds of the Burr and Burton Academy (formerly a seminary). The trail from there up the mountain is very well marked and maintained by the Equinox Preservation Trust. The descriptions given in Gene Daniell's notes mentioning confusion and a multiplicity of trails at the bottom and the top of this trail are no longer an issue. It's well marked with no confusion from bottom to top. The trail is the Burr and Burton Trail (or the Blue Trail) and is marked in blue. It was 90° and humid at the trailhead and I got going about 12:25 PM.

From the parking lot the trail follows a woods road up a very easy slope. A few mosquitoes were buzzing around which was a little annoying but they didn't seem to be biting. The road got increasingly steep and although there was no scrambling, the route was consistently steep for the next 2 miles. On this hot day it was very tiring.

About half way up - after climbing about 1400' - there was a side trail to a spring which the book described as "Gushing" - it said you could hear the spring from the trail junction - and you could. I took the short walk over
(Photo of Equinox Upper Spring)
Equinox Upper Spring
to check this out and sure enough it was not just gushing, but literally cascading out of the side of the mountain. Someone had put a pipe into the side of the hill to channel the spring, perhaps to control erosion, and with the water flowing out of the pipe at least 10 feet through the air, it looked like a water main that had burst. If you hike this hike, by all means check this out.

Above the spring the route became less and less of a road and more and more of a trail. But there were signs from the way the route was cut into the side of the mountain that it had one been some sort of a road, perhaps for some logging long ago. I passed the only other hiker I would see all day here, a woman coming down the trail. There were some broad curving stretches which sufficed to keep the hike reasonable. Sort of switchbacks on a very large scale.

At about 3100' the trail leveled off for a while and it was clear I had finished most of the steepest hiking. The trees also changed from mixed hardwoods to spruce and fir, as you would expect at this elevation. This section was rather pleasant with mostly open, older trees. It had clearly not been logged in a while. At about 3500 it once again became steep and the trees here were very thick. I crossed another trail marked in yellow which led to the
(Photo of Equinox Inn)
The Equinox Inn at the Summit
right to Lookout Rock, and to the left to the summit road southwest of the summit.

The trail continued a short distance to the ridge line where it crossed a dirt road and a radio transmission tower. The trail circled around to the left of this and at this point the Burr and Burton (Blue) trail ended at a T-intersection with the ridge trail to the summit. I took a left and in a short time arrived at the open summit.

This was not a particularly beautiful site: there was a large hotel (The Equinox Inn, that was closed) and a parking lot with a large array of radio towers off to the side. But there were some nice views, particularly to the west. The parking lot was the upper end of the Equinox summit road, a private toll road. A few cars were there and a few "fat people" were wandering around. I guess they were disappointed there was no snack bar to reward them after their difficult drive to the top . I had arrived at the summit in about 2 hours, a distance of about 3 miles with 2700' of elevation gain. It was sunny and humid with temperatures near 80° and there were a few bugs (black flies) around, but like the mosquitoes lower down they seemed not to be biting.

(Photo of Lookout Rock)
View from Lookout Rock
I then took the ridge trail back and kept going past the B&B trail intersection towards Lookout Rock, which, at the other end of the ridge, was supposedly a much nice destination than the true summit. On the way I passed a memorial stone for "Mr. Barbo", whom the inscription said was "shot and killed by a malicious hunter, Nov. 24, 1955". He had apparently belonged to a prominent physician from Manchester who loved to hike in this area with his dog.

Very soon I arrived at Lookout Rock and enjoyed a good rest and lunch stop. The views to the east were great and the setting was very nice. The bugs were around but as at the summit they were not biting. I got moving again a little before 3:00 PM and took the Yellow Trail, which followed the ridge line down slightly to the east (left) of the other trail. This way I could get to the B&B Trail and bypass the radio transmitter. I did this, and in about 7 minutes arrived at the B&B Trail and headed down.

Steep trails are hard going up, but also going down, especially ones such as this that had an elevation change of around 1000' per mile. My Lekis got a good workout keeping my quads and knees from getting too much stress. But it was nevertheless faster going down than up. I arrived at the trail head in about an hour and a half from Lookout Rock. My total hike was just about 4 hours.

(Photo of Mrs. Gorp's House)
Mrs.Gorp's House in Wallingford
I had arranged to stay overnight with Mrs. Gorp, who lives in Wallingford, about 20 miles north of Manchester. She was definitely my trail angel for this trip. I gave her a call and she agreed to meet me in front of the Equinox Hotel in about a half hour. So I walked down to the Equinox the same way as I had come and found a nice shaded spot in front of the court house opposite the hotel. There I rested after a tiring, albeit short hike on a hot day.

Soon I was picked up by Mrs. Gorp who had come with her son. I seemed to have but one ich on the back of my neck, so the toll from the bugs was slight. Soon thereafter I was sitting by her pool enjoying a cold one and some barbeque. And what was I drinking? You guessed it - Long Trail Ale! It had been a good day!

Miles hiked: 5.9, elevation gain: 3060'


The Coolidge Range: Pico Peak, Killington and Shrewsbury Peak - June 26, 2003

Weather: 90°s, sunny, hot and humid.

O

n Thursday June 26, I spent my second day in the mountains of Southern Vermont doing some hiking "off the beaten path". Last year I had hiked the Long Trail (the AT) through this area, and just two weeks ago I had bushwhacked to Mendon Peak near Killington on a rainy and foggy day. I wanted to spend this sunny day exploring the Killington area a bit more.

The Coolidge Range consists of the peaks of the Green Mountains roughly between Vermont Route 140 and US Route 4. The main peaks (from north to south) are Pico Peak, Killington, Little Killington, Mendon and Shrewsbury. Since I also wanted to hike on trails other than the LT, I chose a route starting at the Inn at the Long Trail on Route 4, following the old route of the LT (now renamed the Sherburne Pass Trail) up over Pico, then along the LT past Killington and finally onto the Shrewsbury Peak Trail over that peak and down to a road in the town of Shrewsbury. This route also goes close to Little Killington and about a mile from Mendon, so I left open the option that I would bushwhack to those two peaks as well.

A second goal was to see if I could find the several places where the LT used to go along the east side of Mount Snowdon (a minor peak between Killington and Pico). The trail had been moved to the west of that peak some years ago to avoid the ski trails on the east side of the range. I would also document and photograph the spot where the Mendon logging road (a steep trail at that point) intersected the LT just south of Killington. Hopefully this might be of some help to future peak baggers who attempted Mendon from this direction.

I had stayed over at Mrs. Gorp's house and after breakfast we got an early start. She would not be hiking today but offered to shuttle me to the start and finish. She decided to save time (and to allow her to hang out at her pool all afternoon) by spotting her Jeep at the end of the trek, and then drop me at the start on Route 4. So off we went, she in her Volvo, me in her Jeep through back roads to the old CCC road in the town of Shrewsbury to drop the Jeep. We found the parking lot which seemed to be the trailhead, and there was a trail there, but there were no blazes. Well, how far away could the real trail be if this wasn't it? Surely I would find the Jeep quickly if I ended up a short distance up or down this dirt road. I was a bit skeptical of this plan, but since this was the only place that
(Photo of The Inn at the Long Trail)
The Inn at the Long Trail
looked like a trailhead, we left the Jeep and circled around to the east of the mountains and took Route 100 up to Route 4, and thence to the Sherburne Pass trailhead by the Inn at the Long Trail. This turned out to be much shorter and quicker than driving back up the west side of the mountains through Rutland.

Pico Peak

And so after taking a few pictures, I got started up the trail at about 10 minutes before 8. The temperatures were already in the high 70s at this point (even here at around 2200') so I could expect a hot day ahead of me. The trail is initially fairly easy through mixed hardwoods gradually changing to the usual boreal forest of spruce and fir. After about a mile, I reached Sink Hole Brook which the book described as "a permanent stream which disappears into a sink hole". Well, it was not that permanent, since the hole was obvious but there was practically no flow of water.
(Photo of Pico Camp)
Pico Camp
I continued on and passed a ski trail which headed up to Pico Peak as the trail skirted to the east of the peak. The trail was steep in sections but was generally very nice. I reached the old Pico Camp shelter just before 9:00 AM so I had made good time: 2.5 miles and 1330' of elevation in an hour and 10 minutes.

The shelter is an old one which sees much less use than formerly since the LT was rerouted away from this route several years ago. It is enclosed, having windows and a door, but was not in the greatest of condition. I dropped my pack here and after a brief rest, headed up to the peak via the spur trail. I had just hiked this peak 2 weeks ago but I was looking forward to much better views today. This is quite a steep trail, rising almost 500' in a little more that .3 miles. The spur trail crosses a pipeline cut which affords good views of Snowdon and Killington to the south.

Upon reaching the summit area, you cross a ski trail, a maintenance road and then come upon the warming hut and the chair lift terminus building. These structures, together with the myriad of pipes they use for snow making were more
(Photo of Buildings on Pico Peak)
Approaching Pico Peak Summit
than a little bit jarring. The spur trail actually goes right over the porch of the warming hut and the actual summit is a pile of rocks right next to some ugly water pipes sticking out of the ground. The view today was quite a contrast to the fog and rain I experienced on my last visit here, but the bugs started swarming as soon as I stopped, so I took a few pictures but did not tarry.

The spur trail took about 15 minutes both going up and coming down. It was the kind of steep trail where you could not really gain any speed going down vs. going up. I reached Pico Camp, picked up my pack and set off the short distance to Jungle Junction where this trail ends where it meets the (new route of the) LT. The name comes from the fact that this area was a "jungle" of blowdowns following the famous 1938 hurricane (the Portland Gale). In fact, Earl Shaffer wrote that there was virtually no trail here and for some miles to the east of Sherburne Pass when he made his thru-hike in 1948, ten years after that storm! He referred to this section as the "missing link". Today there is no sign of this devastation. How nature renews itself!

Killington

(Photo of Cooper Lodge)
Cooper Lodge
I was now on the "official" Long Trail (AT). Counting today's trek, I have hiked this section twice northbound and twice southbound in the space of one year. Ironically it feels like you are going upward whichever direction you go. The trail skirts Snowdon Peak and the map shows the old route went along the east side of that peak from the col at around 3450' all the way to Cooper Lodge. Well, try as I might, I could find no remnant of the old trail at all. Some day I must go down from Killington to Snowdon along the ski trails and try to see what I can find. I reached Cooper Lodge around 11:00 AM. I stopped here for a rest and to rev up my energy before climbing the steep spur trail to the top of Killington.

This spur trail rises something over 300' in about .2 miles and involves several rock scrambles. When I reached the top on this hot sunny day, I felt literally exhausted from the climb. As you near the top the views get wider and
(Photo of Spur Trail)
Looking down the spur trail
Cooper Lodge is that speck in the upper right
broader, and when you reach the summit, the roof of Cooper Lodge is visible as a tiny speck below. There are good views in all directions and this is perhaps the only spot where you can see the complete network of ski trails connecting Killington, Snowdon and Pico Peaks. But once again the views were accompanied by a swarm of black flies, so after taking a few pictures I headed down again to Cooper Lodge.

Once I was down again at the lodge, I took another break and had my lunch. It was around 11:30 and the day was just half done so I felt pretty good. I was however slowing down as the day wore on - the heat was definitely having an affect on my hiking.

Little Kinnington and Mendon

My next task was to continue south on the LT and spot the Mendon logging road which comes up and intersects the LT a short distance from Cooper Lodge. I timed my walking and in just 6 minutes I found the spot. I would estimate it lies between .2 and .3 miles down the trail from Cooper Lodge and about 50' of elevation above the lodge, at about 3950'. This logging road is just a trail at this point, hardly a road, and can be seen going down at about a right angle to the LT through relatvely open forest. It also continues up on the other side but is somewhat more obscure on that side. There were several small tree limbs lying across the entrance on the downward side as if some trail maintainer had put them there to
(Photo of Mendon logging road)
The Mendon logging road from the LT
(just a trail at this point)
make sure no one would confuse this trail with the LT. There were several stones on the side at this point, and I added a couple more, but it is hardly what you would call a cairn. The tree to the north of the junction has a white blaze on it's south facing side. I took several pictures to document the spot, but to tell the truth it looks like a million other places. But I saw no other places either before or after which resembled a trail going down, so you should find this intersection if you look carefully.

I was considering another bushwhack to Mendon today, but not by this route. I had done the bushwhack two weeks ago from this logging road, starting from the bottom where it originates at Brewers Corner. My route that day started about a mile further down the logging road from where I was now. Today's attempt was to be from Little Killington, which was about a mile further south along the LT.

This section of the LT has very little elevation gain or loss for more than a mile from the Cooper Lodge to Little Killington. The trail skirts little Killington a short distance to the east and I was on the lookout for an approach to that peak that was not too thick. As I reached the height-of-land, it looked very thick and the day was getting rather hot so I did not relish the thought of putting on long pants and long sleeves to do a bushwhack. I went a little past the height-of-land and I think the best approach would be from a point a little past the high point where the trees seemed to thin out in the direction of the Little Killington peak. The thickness of the brush together with the heat and my waning energy level convinced me to give up the idea and I went on down the trail. It turns out this was a very sound decision.

Shrewsbury Peak

(Photo of Shrewsbury Peak Trail)
The Shrewsbury Peak Trail
The Shrewsbury Peak Trail terminates at the Long Trail 1.6 miles south of Cooper Lodge, about .4 miles past the height-of-land at Little Killington. I think the upper part of this trail was at one point an old route of the LT, but it's always difficult to look at an old map, and then try to correlate what the map shows with what's on the ground. Once trails are rerouted, old sections seem to disappear without a trace in a very few years. I took a left onto this trail and very soon I was in a very lovely area falling gently from the LT intersection at about 3580' and heading north for about .4 miles and then swinging south and arriving at a low point (around 3100') in another .4 miles. It was clear from the state of the tail, and the few blowdowns that were not cleared that this was a much less traveled trail. This was a very good thing in my opinion. But I was getting rather tired and unfortunately my water was running low so I took a long break here and had some M&Ms to recharge my batteries a bit.

The trail climbs gradually through pleasant woods for another 1.4 miles,ultimately reaching a height of 3720' at the peak, about 600' above the low point. Normally this type of slope would be no problem and I would make good time, but now with my water virtually gone it was tough going. I have known this feeling before - in doing long training runs
(Photo of False Summit)
View from the false Summit
for marathon preparation on hot summer days, some times you just run out of steam - and this was my feeling at this point. There is a real danger of dehydration and heat stroke and so I took it very easy and rested frequently. At this point I knew that if I had attempted the Mendon bushwhack it would have been a disaster! I seldom run out of water but on a hot humid day like today one must just plan for more. I was reminded by Mrs. Gorp that night that I could have replenished my water at the warming hut on Killington, but at that point I wasn't thinking I would have a problems, and besides the bugs chased me off that peak. Live and learn.

I arrived at the summit and was disappointed since there were no views and all you could see were some recent blowdowns around the summit area. I continued a short distance and to my surprise there was a sign pointing down to the left to a shelter. I didn't check if there really was a shelter down there and I later learned that this was the Black Swamp Trail, an alternate route to the peak from the southeast. (According to the book, the shelter is a log lean-to called the Shrewsbury Peak Shelter, about .3 miles down from the peak.) But just after this trail intersection, the trail started up again and there was the true summit before me, a rocky outcrop with nice views in several directions! This was more like it. If you approach this peak from the north, remember it's the second peak that's the real one. But the bugs knew
(Photo of Shrewsbury Peak Summit)
Shrewsbury Peak Summit
this too, and they were there waiting to swarm as soon as I stopped. They must like the views since they were all here, and not at the false peak, even though that peak was at nearly the same elevation.

It was all down hill from here (well, almost) so I figured I was home free. The trail down on this side of Shrewsbury was considerably steeper that the approach I had taken from the north. I'm glad I did this from the direction I did. The elevation dropped about 1300' in 1.3 miles. I reached a low point before the last obstacle - Russell Hill - a small knob rising about 150' from this low point. I took a rest here for this little "Matahorn" and sat down on a log next to some shrubs. When I got going again my legs itched like hell where I was sitting. I must have sat on some kind of stinging nettle. I was hot and sweaty, my legs itched to the point of pain and I had to climb this freaking monster of a mountain!

I got hold of myself and plodded on up this tiny monster and was delighted to find another shelter just at the top. This had a sign identifying it as the Russell Hill Shelter. The trail down was very short and suddenly I saw an old well and a chimney, which told me I had made it. This was the trailhead we had scouted that morning. And blazes or no blazes, I was done and there was the Jeep.

But even this ending to the journey was not that neat and clean. I managed to get lost twice on the back roads trying to make my way back to Wallingford, but with the help of the DeLorne Atlas, I eventually did make it and replenished myself with the carefully contrived sequence of nourishments: water, then juice, then beer, then hot dogs.

As I write this a couple of days later, I have 3 bug bites on my legs and probably 3 on my neck, so I did not go totally unscathed. Still I had a great couple of days of hiking in a beautiful section of Vermont.

Miles hiked: 12.0, elevation gain: 3560'.


Click here for a consolidated album of photos from these hikes

Click here for an album of fauna and flora seen along the trails
in May and June 2002


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