Wednesday, September 4, 2013

#84 Dorset Peak, Vermont 9/1/13

#84 Dorset Peak (3835’) via logging, ATV roads and foot paths September 1, 2013

Mileage:  6.7 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  2,206'

Trailhead: Trailhead is located at the end of Tower Road in Dorset, VT. 
Take Route 30 in Brattleboro to Route 11/30 through Manchester to Dorset. Turn right on Dorset Hollow Road, turning right at the first junction (.8 mi).  Continue on Lower Hollow Road which becomes Tower Road.  Drive to the end of the houses and as far in as you dare; some parking is available about 100 feet beyond on the right - we parked on the side of the road.

The parking area 100' in (Tower Road on the left).

The hike to the peak starts on the Tower Road (which quickly becomes impassable for vehicles). 

Lesson learned:  It pays to get the most recent trail reports!

Hiked with Rich who has been very understanding of my desire to bag the Vermont peaks on the New England Hundred Highest list (a list I am working on).  His chief complaint: distance from our house on the New Hampshire seacoast to the trailheads.  We stayed in Keene this weekend to attend a wedding and made the most of our close proximity to Vermont by driving to Dorset the next day to hike Dorset Peak.

Actually we were going to hike Mt. Equinox but the weekend brought unsettled weather and socked-in summit conditions.  No matter. One of the joys of still having a bunch of peaks left to bag is that you have options. We'll save Equinox for a nicer day.

The Dorset Peak hike is detailed on page 49 of the Green Mountain Club's Day Hiker's Guide  to Vermont.   Note: the trail description is pre-Tropical Storm Irene and indicates bearing right at all forks or turns for the first three miles. There's a washout about .9 miles in, however that requires a diversion via a herd path on the left.  This is not indicated in the Guide.  I'd also read trip reports from Views from the Top, Franklinsites, and It's Not About the HikeI brought these reports and the Guide with me. 

We got a late start and wound up at the trailhead at 11:00 (not a fan of late starts particularly when heading to an officially "trail less" peak).

Much of this hike is on roads and ATV trails; wide and gravelly.  Our walk parallels a brook. The road has easy grades - though deteriorated in places. 

We walked through wildflowers.

About 9/10 of a mile in the road ends abruptly, crumbling into a massive washout.  The Guide simply states that we follow the wooded road, staying right at all forks.  To our right was a jumble of blow downs, clearly no path.  I fished the trip reports out of my pack and sure enough found reference to this washout and to a herd path to the left. We descended into the washout and crossed over to a clearly defined herd path.

The herd path starts across the washout.

I guess you could call the path a "reroute" but there are other small paths shooting off from this one and we became confused. As long as we kept an eye on the washed out area we figured we would find the road again - and we did.

Back on the road only a minute and we came upon the hunting cabin which for me was reassurance we were on the right path.

Hunting cabin coming into view.

The path gets steep. You'd think an old dirt road would make for a pleasant stroll in the woods but this one's steep and gravelly for an unrelenting solid mile.  The humidity drenched us as we continued up, hiking parallel to a ravine.

We saw this cairn near a stream but couldn't figure out why it was there.

The trail levels out and the road intercepts another wooded road. 

Note the small cairn at this "T" intersection. Turn right.

We turned right and headed up (easier grades here) until we reached a fork in the road.  An ATV road heads up to the right and the Guide states we are to go right (there was no cairn).  We headed up the ATV road until we saw a small cairn and a rough footpath heading right, up into the woods. This is the turnoff to the south peak.  I wanted to visit the north peak first (my destination) so we kept walking straight ahead and found ourselves at Dorknob Junction.

I'd seen the pictures and heard so much about the tree with the doorknobs but was surprised at how subtle the knobs are, so brown and low on the tree.  And, the junction feels so remote.  Here we are standing at a four corners with trails on all sides up in God-knows-where. We hadn't seen a soul on the entire trip.  The tired old trees are covered with moss and lichen. The mist creeping in gave such a hush to our surroundings.
Wonder if I would've found the doorknobs had I not been looking.
Plastic sign kinda says it all.
We headed left at the junction through ferns and around mossy rocks.  I kept looking up for some sign of a bump, a height of land that was the north peak. 
We reach another junction, a crossroads of two trails, incredible that such well defined trails crisscross so deep in the woods. 
Old signs at the 2nd junction indicate 2/10 of a mile to the summit.

The path is quite muddy in spots but a small ascent takes us out of that and on to an emerald carpet and finally to the peak.
Thick green moss everywhere.  Has to be the north peak!
We reached the Dorset sign, remains of an old cabin, the pitcher and a pail.  The summit canister is easy to open and we signed the register.  I flipped through the pages while eating lunch. 
'Sup with that summit sign?
The clouds rolled in on us as we packed up and headed back to the junction.  At the junction we went straight to south peak (which is about a half mile from north peak).  As the plastic sign indicates, there are the remains of an old tower in a clearing, with a cool metal ladder on a tree.
South peak. Nothing to write home about.
After a few photos we took that rough footpath down to the ATV road.  There's a big tree in the path that's a fairly recent blow down, no signs of a walk around.   
The blow down in the mist on the path to the south peak.
The trip down was quick, though footing on the steeper gravelly sections was tricky at times.  We passed the hunting cabin and had no problem following the path around the washout, continuing on it until we could see where it crossed over. 

Rich crossing the washout.

We got down around 3:30, jumped in the car and headed to Manchester to shop and eat.  Although the wooded road and predictable terrain are a bit boring, the junctions are cool and paths in good condition. It was fun.