Monday, 2 May 2011

Appalachian Trail Reflections: North Adams MA to Manchester VT

For a while I was working in New York which afforded me the chance to walk sections of the Appalachian Trail (AT), over the coming weeks I will publish my reflections on the special trips along the AT, for those who may be considering walking the AT.

This article looks at my trip along the AT and the Long Trail in Vermont in October 2006.  I commenced in North Adams (MA), and linked up with the trail, north bound, as they say. After crossing the valley the trail climbed up to East Mountain, soon after crossing the border between Massachusetts and Vermont officially commencing The Long Trail  a 430 kilometre path to the Canadian Border.
Once on the Long Trail you enter the Green Mountain National Forest and with lots of autumn colours it was a wonderful walk.

As many people will know, there are around 300 shelters on the AT, and it is possible to stay in shelters for most of the trip. There is ample information available on the web about the shelters including GPS locations These shelters tend to be 3 sided shelters with a roof, water is normally available near by and in locations where bears may be there will also be bear boxes. So after entering the forest I soon arrived at the Seth Warner Shelter which was camp for the night. Whilst these shelters provide a comfortable space, I often prefer to camp out as I did this night so I set up my Tarptent Contrail in the vicinity of the shelter and relaxed in the cool afternoon sunshine

It was a pleasant evening and I had the area to myself and so I relaxed and enjoyed the peace and solitude that can even be found on the AT. The following morning I set off in reasonable weather admiring the wonderful autumn colours as I walked. 

The trail had me climbing up to Consultation Peak, before descending to Congdon Shelter for the night, it was here I met up with a hiker who was new to hiking and seeking lighter gear, we had an interesting discussion, his trip plans were similar to mine, however, we lost contact in the coming days so I never knew if he completed his planned trip.

The last two days had been short, however, today was to be a long day of 9 hours of walking which would would take me down to Vermont Route 9 before climbing past Melville Nauheim Shelter to the Glastenbury Wilderness Area. It was at the Melville Nauheim Shelter (built in 1977) I stopped for lunch. Many of the shelters are named after benefactors or recognise the contribution of trail maintainers and club officials. The weather was cool and misty and my  Litespeed was damp from inside and out.

The Glastenbury wilderness area was picturesque in its autumn colours and with the many flowing streams provided a wonderful, but slippery, walk as I climbed to Glastenbury Mountain and then on to Goddard Shelter.

It was a cool, misty, damp night at Goddard Shelter with the wind blowing and the mist swirling, unsurprisingly there was no one else around. 

I decided to spend the night in the shelter as tent sites were minimal and found the most sheltered corner and laid out my quilt and mattress. There was certainly no chance of drying things and without a bivy there was a certain amount of dampness in my bag in the morning. Sadly the mist had not cleared in the morning and any potential view from the front of the shelter was non existent.

The morning was foggy and windy, after a short climb to the highest point in the Glastenbury wilderness (there is a tower on top) I then descended along a rocky trail to Kid Gore Shelter, a small damp shelter as I recall.

The trail continued its rocky path downwards, providing new hiking challenges as well as

a variety natural flora.

As I continued along the trail I passed a beaver dam and beaver "island", these were the first I had ever seen and were perhaps a highlight of the trip.

The weather had improved and there was even patches of sunshine in the afternoon. There is a lot of space around Storey Spring Shelter so I set up the Contrail and enjoyed the peace and quiet until I was suddenly reminded it was hunting season, with two loud shots, I never saw anybody nor heard any more, but I made sure I kept a low profile for the remainder of the evening.

The following day I was heading to Stratton Pond an area that I had heard a lot about. The days walk turned out to be fascinating from many aspects. There was unusual rocks in unusual places

Beautiful streams

Small waterfalls

Around midday I met a solo NOBO hiker who was doing the whole AT, he was a bit behind schedule. He had started in Georgia with his partner but after a couple of months she had decided to leave the trail, he was reflective but was intent on finishing the trail.
Finally, there was Stratton Pond Shelter.

A marvellous shelter sleeping 20, but tonight it was all mine. The weather had cleared somewhat and it was a chance to dry gear and enjoy the amenity of the area. Even today I can still recall my evening spent there.

As well I can recall the surprise of the young couple who arrived in the dark the following morning to find me sound asleep in the shelter, they had made a very early start and had hoped that the shelter would be empty, "sorry not quite".

I got up, packed, and having had breakfast set off north towards Spruce Peak. This was a beautiful but misty section of the trail as it passed through the Lye Brook Wilderness area, it was also along this section that I came across the freshest bear foot print I have ever seen. I did look around but no bear was to be seen.

The trail is generally well signposted with its white blazes and other signage though sometimes these signs are not where you expect them, this one was a good 4 metres above the ground.
Prospect Peak provides a wonderful view of Manchester below (so they tell me)

Passing Prospect Peak I then descended to Spruce Peak shelter where a person appeared to have taken up residence, he did not say much. As I was leaving the shelter I met 2 hikers, one who was espousing the joys of the zips on his gaiters, I did wonder how the zippers would work in the mud.

After lunch I descended down to route 11 and 30 and there to Manchester and home. It had been a memorable and damp trip.

I would like to go back to walk the entire length of the Long Trail as it provides a variety and challenge that appeals, maybe one day. The Green Mountain Club has a very useful guide book of the trail known as the Long Trail Guide, it is well worth the expense in my view.

Gear Reflections.

It is interesting to look back and see some of the gear I used then.

For cooking I used MoGo Firefly stove formerly sold by Gossamer Gear coupled with a small titanium stand, I still have this set up and have used it in Norway as can be seen by the red colouration. For a pot I used my Evernew 900 ml pot, a pot I still use to this day.

I wore a Montane Litespeed in bright yellow and still use them now.

My pack was a custom made McHale Sarc Pack made in a heavier fabric than Spectra. These are excellently made packs and will no doubt last the users lifetime.

I used a Nunatak quilt and was very pleased with it and continue to use Nunatak quilts on most trips.

I used the Tarptent Contrail, this was the original version and found it to be light and airy and roomy for one, perhaps my main complaint was entry and exit with the pole in the middle at the front, but setting it to the side slightly made it much easier. If you are looking for such a style of tent then the Tarptents are definitely worth a look.

Soon I will return with my report on my trip through the White Mountains in New Hamsphire.