Taking a Hike – Wild River Wilderness

Wild River Wilderness, NH, from North Baldface mountain.

Day Four – Wild River Wilderness from the Baldface Circle Trail

“Taking a Hike”, my monthly newspaper column, has now been published for November at both The Hour and Hersam-Acorn Arts & Leisure. I hope it gives a flavor of the four-day backpack I took in and around New Hampshire’s Wild River Wilderness in October.

One aspect of a hike like that which the article does not talk about is how very busy your mind is kept. You would think the absence of people, the internet, chores, and work would free the mind for the uninterrupted contemplation of nature – or at least for boredom. But I remember being endlessly occupied with not falling over; not getting lost; not running out of daylight; keeping my gear dry; keeping my camp in order; updating my plans as the weather changed … There were, of course, opportunities to admire the scenery – particularly on the last day – but they were fewer and further between than one might expect.

August’s “Taking a Hike” – mounts Pisgah and Mansfield in Vermont – is now available in full on this site (via the Taking a Hike tab – 2014: “Aug – Vermont Peaks” – or by clicking here).

Taking a Hike – Two Peaks in Vermont

The "Chin" and Summit of Mt Mansfield, VT.

The “Chin” and Summit of Mt Mansfield, VT.

One of the good things I have discovered about writing about hikes is that it keeps them alive for longer. Before, I took a hike, then came home and forgot about it. I exaggerate, but the hikes did go little reflected upon. Now, to take the example of the two climbs that are the subject of August’s “Taking a Hike” column, I went hiking, posted a few notes and pictures about it on this blog, and later wrote a column based on the outings. Then, when the column was published, I re-read it in order to write this post. It has all served to keep the Vermont hikes pleasantly front and center for a month and a half. It might be time to move on. But before I do, here are the links to the column at The Hour and Hersam Acorn Arts & Leisure.

May’s “Taking a Hike” is now available in full on this site (via the Taking a Hike tab – 2014: “May – Norwalk River Valley” – or by clicking here).

Day Hike Notes – Mount Mansfield, Vermont

On the "chin" of Mt Mansfield, highest point in Vermont.

On the “chin” of Mt Mansfield, highest point in Vermont.

On our way home from Quebec last month, as on the outward journey, youngest and I stopped in Vermont to climb a mountain. This time it was Mount Mansfield. Unlike Mount Pisgah, nobody had recommended it. In fact, everything I had heard suggested that Camel’s Hump – VT’s highest undeveloped peak – would be the better hike. We went to Mt Mansfield for the essentially dumb reason that it is the highest in the state. Hey, I’ve now been on top of seven state high-points. Whoop-de-doo!

We lucked out with our weather and accommodation. Torrential rain gave way to sun for our drive into Vermont, and the sun mostly stayed with us on the mountain. Underhill State Park was the real stroke of luck. We drove to it as a name on the map, without knowing if we could even pitch a tent there. At 15 miles off I-89, some of them on dirt, it would have been a long wild-goose chase. The park turned out to be a gem, a basic campground in cool woods hard against the mountain; and right at the start of the trails leading up to the alpine tundra.

DATE: Wednesday, July 30th.
START & FINISH: Underhill State Park campground, Underhill, VT.
ROUTE: CCC Road–Halfway House Trail-The Long Trail-Sunset Ridge Trail.
DISTANCE: 6.8 miles.
TIME: 5-6 hours, with lots of lingering.
TERRAIN: 2,550’ elevation gain to 4,395’ summit. Some clambering on slick rock higher up the Halfway House Trail. Easy going on ridge (Long Trail). A few downhill scrambles on the Sunset Ridge Trail.
MAPS: Simple trail map available from state park office, alternatively “Northern Vermont Hiking Trails” (4th edition) from Map Adventures.

WEATHER: Dry and mostly sunny.
WILDLIFE: Turkey vultures (?) circling the summit.

PHOTOS: Here, including some from our earlier Mount Pisgah hike.
BREAKFAST: Coffee, cereal, odds and ends at campground.
LUNCH: Cold quesadillas, assorted trail food on the way down.
UPS:
– The mountain’s undeveloped and picturesque west side.
– Views from the ridge to Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks.
DOWNS:
– Hearing the sounds of Stowe resort (east side, 2,800’ below) from the summit.
– The busy ridge, made possible by the Toll Road from Stowe.
KIT: Be prepared to put poles away when the clambering starts.
COMPANY: Only my daughter until the ridge, thereafter throngs (well, not exactly Times Square, but thronged for a mountain top).

Sunset Ridge, along which runs the Sunset Ridge Trail.

Sunset Ridge, along which runs the Sunset Ridge Trail.

Day Hike Notes – Mount Pisgah, Vermont

Lake Willoughby from Mt Pisgah, Westmore, Vermont

Lake Willoughby from one of Mt Pisgah’s outlooks.

I started putting this post together two weeks ago, perched above the Saint Lawrence river near Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec. It was before 7 a.m. My youngest was still asleep in her tent behind me. The sun was up and there was a cool breeze. But before I make it sound too idyllic, I’ll add that a few mosquitos were up too – and breakfasting; and that my view of the Saint Lawrence was heavily screened by birch and pine. 

Still, summer roadtrip time had come round again, and that is always good. It was the fourth year in a row that D3 (daughter number 3) and I have hit the asphalt together. This year, we went to Quebec again, with bits of Vermont on the way up and back. After Rivière-du-Loup, I got carried away with the roadtrip, and forgot the post about our hike in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom the day before. So here it is now.

I have to thank Alex for the hike. He builds trails for Timber & Stone LLC, the VT company laying down the Norwalk River Valley Trail in Wilton. I asked him about his favorite hikes in VT as we walked down what was gradually becoming the NRVT last winter. Mount Pisgah was, if I remember correctly, at or near the top of the list.

DATE: Thursday, July 17th.
START & FINISH: Trailhead approx. 0.5 mi south ­of Lake Willoughby on VT Rte 5A.
ROUTE: Up Mt Pisgah south trail; down north trail; return to trailhead on Rte 5A.
DISTANCE: 7.0 miles total, of which 2.8 on Rte 5A.
TIME: 3.75 hour (8:00-11:45).
TERRAIN: 1,500-foot elevation gain to the 2,751-foot summit. The trail is steep in places (including some manmade steps), but well-maintained.
MAPS: Posted at trailhead kiosks.

WEATHER: Sunny and warm.
WILDLIFE: Red squirrels high up.

Mount Pisgah, Vermont

Looking south from Mount Pisgah.

PHOTOS: Just those in this post for now.
BREAKFAST: Half a cold quesadilla before setting out; the other half, plus granola bars, on the summit.
LUNCH: Dube’s Pittstop, Pittsburg NH, many hours and miles later.
UPS:
– Well, the views of and around Lake Willoughby.
– Resting on a rock beside the crystal-clear lake on the final leg.
DOWNS: If I must find one, maybe that the summit is thoroughly wooded, and the views are from a few small outlooks; or maybe the wind farms in those views.
KIT: We set off in t-shirts, but could have used an extra layer when up top.
COMPANY: D3, plus one hiking pair on the way up and another on the way down.