Monday, October 28, 2013

#85 Pico Peak, Vermont

Pico Peak, VT (3,957') via Sherburne Pass and Pico Link Trails October 26, 2013

Mileage:  5.8 miles (RT) - took us just over four hours

Elevation gain:  

Trailhead:  Trail begins at height of land at Sherburne Pass, across the
street from the Inn at Long Trail, 709 Route 4, Killington, VT (past Killington Road and before Pico Mountain Ski Resort).

Lesson learned:   Don't lock yourself in the cabin!

Hiked with Rich today.  Pico Peak is not the smallest peak on the New England Hundred Highest list but it just may be the easiest with just over 2,000' gain on a mild 2.9 mile route. 

This was my last "listed" peak bag for the calendar year; #85 seemed like a good stopping point. We arrived at the parking lot around 10:30, surprised and delighted to see other cars in the lot (always nice to meet others on the trail).   

Parking lot is well marked, can't miss it!

The Inn at Long Trail across the street.

To the right of the Inn is the entrance for the Long Trail northbound.  At one time the Sherburne Pass trail was the Long Trail southbound but now hikers must travel .8 miles west on Route 4 and cross the road to pick up the trail (which at the time of the reroute must have really been depressing for the owners of the Inn!).

Most hikers we saw today were wearing orange - lots of it. Since New Hampshire's hunting season doesn't get rolling until the first of November we weren't too worried about it and half-heartedly brought an orange hat and red jacket.  Good thing we did.  We found out later that this was Vermont's opening weekend for hunting. 

Pico ski resort has a webcam which we viewed the day before so we knew there'd be some snow. We headed up the blue blazed trail.

First half of the trail is quite mellow.

The snow cover thickened as we traveled.

The trail is well established and ascent gradual; we barely broke a sweat. Trail maintenance crews were out (in orange vests) digging run-off channels. One asked if we saw the sinkholes; limestone has been washing away for years in one area by the trail called Sink Hole Brook - at 1.1 miles. We would check this out on the way back 

At about 2 miles we came to the ski slope with the beautiful views.

One moment we're in the woods, the next we're on a ski slope!

Some hikers go no further, enjoying the view from here.
After a few photos we walked the few hundred feet up the slope where the hiking trail re-enters the woods - on the same side (the trail does not cross the ski slope).  
Up the ski slope.

Duck back in (same side).

Some people avoid this next section of trail, opting to go straight up the slope toward the summit which cuts .4 mile from the trip.  We decided to continue on via the hiking trail which I can only describe as uninspiring. The path follows the contour of the mountain (no up, slight down) and it's rough and rooty most of the way to Pico Camp.

This ho-hum section of trail does have some cute "spruce-let" fields!

Cabin sleeps about 10.
Several people were already in the cabin when we reached Pico Camp. We stepped inside for lunch out of the cold wind and started a conversation with three hikers from Germany (they were touring New England). We shut the sticky door hard when they left which apparently locked it FROM THE OUTSIDE (the hook was in just the right position and engaged when the door shut).  Once we realized we were locked in, we became two crazy people yelling, "help! get us out of here!" from inside the cabin. 
The nice couple hiking down the mountain who opened the door for us must've wondered how we got locked in! 
Once outside - and feeling pretty foolish - we made our way to the summit. Directly behind the cabin is the Pico Link trail. Thinking this trail is really steep I put on my microspikes and I was getting cold too so I put on my ski mittens.

The trail does steepen and pops out onto a maintenance road and it's clear where the trail crosses the road and ducks back into the woods.  Soon it pops out again, this time on the Forty-niner ski trail.  As recommended in Day Hiker's Guide to Vermont we noted where we came out of the woods to find our way back easily. 

A short hike up a windy slope brought us to the lift and the "Information" building.

The "Information" building. Not as cold and windy as anticipated.

Reports indicate the summit marker is a blue blaze on a rock several yards behind the information building. We climbed the stairs and started looking for it but with the snow cover we couldn't see rocks or a blue blaze.  I walked all around the summit, settling on a pile of rocks near a water pipe that appears to be on the height of land.

Quite the dramatic view of Killington from Pico (Cell tower to the right). 

After traipsing around the summit, taking a few photos and giving up on the fruitless attempt to find that blue blaze, we started back down by way of the Forty-niner trail.

You can also head down the 49er to Summit Glade & pick up the Sherburne .4 mile down.

Where you come off of 49er trail (if taking the Sherburne Pass trail down).

Where you cross the maintenance road in to the woods.

Frankly I'm amazed Rich went back into that cabin on our way back. We made sure we didn't shut the door this time! He changed his shirt, had a snack and met me outside to continue the hike down.

Back on that short walk on the ski slope, duck in by the red sign.

The trip back was uneventful; we stopped for a bit where the hiking trail meets the ski slope (views are breathtaking).

Fairly close to the trailhead parking, we heard laughter and passed several people playing in Sink Hole Brook. There we spotted the second sink hole nearby (hard to miss, not sure how we did on the way up).  

In no time we were back at the car, taking off our muddy boots and heading east to the Long Trail Brewing Company for a beer sampler.  Our waiter kept bringing over glasses of different varieties for us to try.  What  friendly place and great ending to this mellow hike. (Can't wait to continue my NEHH list next year!)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Big Slide, NY (ADK 2/46) 9/28/13

Big Slide Mountain, NY (4,240') via the Brothers, Slide Brook and Phelps Trails September 28, 2013

Trails 15 (Big Slide), 13 (Slide Brook) and 1 (Phelps) in the ADK Mountain Club High Peaks Trails Guide.

Mileage:  9.5 miles (loop)

Elevation gain: 

Trailhead:  Trail begins at a popular parking area called The Garden, 1.6 miles west of the village of Keene Valley.  Route 73 to Keene Valley and heading east you'll see signs shortly after passing Marcy Field, take a right and follow the road to the end.  The Garden parking area is small and fills up quickly (sometimes by 6 a.m.).  Hikers park at Marcy Field, a well marked overflow parking area on Route 73, taking the shuttle bus up to the Garden (a few miles' distance).  Parking is free at Marcy Field (there is a fee at the Garden of $7); shuttle fee is $5.

Lesson learned: Remember to pick up the other car before driving all the way home!  

Hiked with a reluctant Rich. Rich was not reluctant to hike, or to try someplace new, or even to get away for the weekend.  Rich dreaded the 5 hour drive that preceded this hike, a complaint you'll see in previous hiking reports.  But Lake Placid was actually only four hours from where we worked and I convinced him if we left directly from work, it'd be an easier ride.

So Rich picked me up at work and we headed up to the Adirondacks, fully intending to pick up my car on our way back on Sunday.

If there's an easy way to get from New Hampshire to the Keene Valley/Lake Placid area I'd like to hear about it.  Once we left I-89 we were on smaller roads dealing with slow cars and even a few mountain notches.  After a long work day and four hour drive, the beer at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery was most welcome!

The plan was to hike Big Slide via the Brothers on day 1, and Cascade and Porter on day 2; a good start to my ADK list, and the last leg to completing my Northeast 111 (actually 115 peaks).

The Garden parking lot

It was a beautifully clear and slightly cool when we got to The Garden around 8:00.  The lot was full (no surprise).  We drove back down to Marcy Field and took the very timely shuttle up to the Garden and the trailhead.  

We registered at the kiosk and then headed right, up the trail.

The trail begins with easy grades; plastic disks nailed to trees lead the way.   Sometimes I wished there were more of these disks particularly in several areas with herd paths.  Being used to blazed trails (a shock of paint on a tree), looking for the disks took some getting used to.

The trail was very crowded, not surprising - the forecast for this fall weekend was warm, windless and clear and foliage was peaking.  The trail steepens -we hopped up and around a few slabs. Wasn't long before we were partially out of the trees and seeing amazing views, particularly of Giant Mountain. 

One of the views on the Brothers.  

The terrain changes to what I would call easy rock scrambling.  Many hikers of all ages were out and we seemed to be somewhere in the middle when it came to pace.  We envied the slender Quebecois, dressed in black who blew up the slabs with ease; we politely passed those in sneakers and a few well respected old timers with their "46er" patches.
Never did know exactly when we were on each of the three Brothers.  I looked for some sign, a cairn or something and after a while I just assumed each viewpoint or bump was one of them.

Shout out to my LaSportiva's - you guys were very sticky on the steeps!

More slab walking, a few scrambles.

Turns out each bump was the Brothers and we reached the trail junction with tired legs.  That's where the fun begins.
Johns Brooks Lodge is actually left, away from Big Slide.

The pushed up the cone ("final very steep clamor" as 100 Classic Hikes of the Northeast calls it) enjoying each little challenge.  There are small scrambles and a few diversions (small paths that lead to a view of the slide). One spot where we headed left by a large rock turned out to be a viewpoint.  When you get to this spot (seems the natural pathway) head right - unless you want to view the slide (a steep rock face). There are stairs too, not quite ladders in my book, let's call them hybrids.
There are two hybrid stairs; one new and one not.

The top was C-R-O-W-D-E-D! We met a mom and her teenage daughter and between bites of our sandwiches we talked about making this trip a loop, going down Slide Brook and Phelps trail (our original plan was to go up and back the Brothers - it's shorter mileage-wise and the views going down are to die for!).  

Crowded summit on this beaut of a day!

We were loving this hike!

Although over a mile longer, the Slide Brook trail is a tad more mellow than the Big Slide trail and we found the mellow part more appealing than going back over the Brothers.

So we returned via the Slide Brook and Phelps trails, making a 9.5 mile loop. This trail is very mellow with a not-so-steep descent at first, breaking into a very moderate pitch.  There are at least six water crossings on this trail (all the same brook!).  This area is tricky.  

Keep an eye out for cairns, footprints, survey tape and obvious paths.

We saw some disks indicating where the trail continues over the crossing.

The path seems to melt into the brook and we searched around for the trail. Some of the trail is the brook (the side of it) and in some spots our only clues were wet boot prints and worn earth. There are disks on trees in this area but it took some looking to find where the path went and one area had a cairn and surveyor tape where I felt a disk should be. A walk about 100' down that path confirmed we were on the right track. 

The Phelps trail is flat for the most part and we zipped along toward The Garden, skipping a visit to the John Brooks Lodge. We got back mid-afternoon, took the shuttle to the car and went back to the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery for a beer.  

Rich wasn't feeling up to hiking the next day (we were out of shape!) so instead we canoed Lake Placid, had lunch at the Noon Mark Diner and headed home.

Yes I was disappointed we didn't hike Cascade/Porter but who doesn't love a good paddling!

Our trip home was leisurely - we took our time, had ice cream, bought apples, went to dinner.  A bit too leisurely - we realized when we arrived home and opened the garage door that we'd left my car at my place of work! We weren't about to drive the 50 minutes back; I was able to catch a ride with a friend the next day.  

Big Slide via the Brothers was an excellent choice to start my Adirondacks. The hike gave us a workout with fun scrambles and lots of view-reward.