Sunday, June 15, 2014

Double Hit-and-Run to Close Out Vermont - June 8, 2014

Hike 1: Dorset Peak (3770', NEHH - #89)
Route: Logging Roads and Herd Paths
Mileage: 7 miles
Elevation Gain: 2420 feet
Book Time: 4hr 45min (actual 3hr 45min)

Hike 2: Mount Equinox (3850', NEHH - #90)
Route: Blue Summit Trail
Mileage: 6.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2800 feet
Book Time: 4hr 30min (actual 4hr 40min)

This was a pair of hike with the AMC Boston Chapter led by some hiking friends Pam and Bill. The goal was to hike 2 individual hikes, both New England 100-Highest Peaks in Southern Vermont. Both hikes are only a short distance away from each other and in theory are very attainable in one day. Plus, we were camping at the Emerald Lake State Park, which is on the side of Dorset Peak, though a 20 minute drive from the trailhead (don't ever be in a hurry to get somewhere in Vermont! The scenery is always great though!)

Dorset Peak was first, being the Northernmost peak of this duo. The standard approach is from Dorset Hollow to the South via a series of old logging roads and snowmobile trails and there is actually a solid description of the route in the Green Mountain Club's Day Hiker's Guide to Vermont. Parking is tight at the trailhead, which is basically where the road becomes impassible (high clearance vehicles may be able to go 1/10-mile further to a grassy clearing). From there, we continued up the road alongside a brook until the road became washed out and we crossed the brook and continued up the road on that bank. Soon the road begins climbing in earnest, passing a rather run-down cabin along the way. Reaching a saddle on the ridge, we turned right uphill (the road continues ahead down to the other side of the mountain), and took another right shortly thereafter to continue uphill.

Mossy Falls along the lower road
After a little while, we reached the ridgeline and continued straight ahead until reaching the infamous "Doorknob Junction" (see the pictures). Turning left here (there are a few rough signs on the ridge, follow the ones for the North Peak) we soon reached the peak and the summit canister. On the way down, we took the short loop over the South Peak (also indicated by signs) where there are the remains of an old tower. As we had another hike to do, and the black flies were also horrendous on the ridge, we booked it out of there and were back to the cars in short order. This was a pretty easy hike, there are a few steepish stretches, but nothing we weren't used to, and the footing was pretty good and so we made good time on this one. Off to Equinox!

Is that a doorknob on a tree? Yup!

Doorknob Junction

Main summit of Dorset Peak

The footpath to Dorset

Old pitchers on the Dorset summit

South Peak of Dorset. Old fire tower and a barbeque.

Equinox was our second hike of the day, and was supposed to have good views. However, those views come at a price. It is a steep trail, gaining 2800 feet in about 3 miles, but that doesn't tell the whole tale as the beginning and the end are fairly flat. This sucker was steep, and of course it was our second hike of the day, plus it was hot and humid. All of that combined to make this a fairly difficult hike, but I suspect if we were doing this first thing in the morning it would have been easier.

We lost one member of our hiking party before this hike (the person didn't "need" this peak, and had to drive all the way back to Maine), but the remaining 8 of us struck out on the Blue Summit Trail in the early afternoon (this is the only trail to the top, though there is an Auto Road to the summit too). Pam's 10-pound poodle had hiked to Dorset with us in the morning, but she seemed to be limping at the start of this one. Trey offered to carry her in his pack for a while, though luckily for him after an hour or so she started walking again without a limp and seemed content to walk the rest of the way up and then down on her own.

Poor Sophie - she thought we were finished when we got back in the cars after the first hike!

Easy stretch of the Blue Summit Trail down low - flat and wide before the steeps and rocks
This is a fairly straight-forward hike, though steep and not surprisingly rocky, and eventually we did make the summit (after many, many breaks), which has good views to the North and the South, though the summit area is sullied by a sizable visitor's center building and a large parking lot. The views were also pretty hazy on this day, all of which combined to make this a bit of a disappointment. I'm not sure why, perhaps I need to revisit it and give it another shot. We hung out at the top for a while before eventually heading down (the black flies were out and about up here too though not nearly as bad as on Dorset in the morning). Then it was time for the long drive home, but I had another state completed on the New England 100-Highest! There was great company on both of these hikes, it's great to hike with friends both old and new on days like this. Off to Maine to finish the NEHH, hopefully sometime in August!

There are a bunch of large marble slabs stood up on the summit of Equinox - this one was about 8' high!

Views North from Equinox

What we are looking at to the North (Killington is mislabeled however)

View South from Equinox

Stratton Mountain (the tower was just barely visible on the left peak)

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