Long Trail Day 3 - Hazen's Notch to VT 118

Posted on August 8, 2017 by Chris Lumens in .

The third day of our Long Trail backpacking trip marked the halfway point. Sarah picked us up at the end of the day for resupply and spending the night in Stowe. We were originally supposed to have spent four days out before the resupply but it rained so much on Saturday we didn’t even hike. This ended up being the toughest day of the hike.

Kaitlyn left the Hazen’s Notch shelter before me so I could take my time eating breakfast and getting my gear together. Nothing dried out in the damp shelter, so I had to put on yesterday’s wet clothes again. At least it would be a lot less stinky once I got moving.

We knew it would be a long day and we had to keep moving to meet Sarah at 6pm. I was out the door before 7:30am. It wasn’t raining, but it didn’t matter. It had rained so much overnight and the trail was so narrow that everything got wet. It was a cloudy, misty, eerie morning right from the beginning.

The 1.5 miles from the shelter down to the dirt road in Hazen’s Notch passed quickly, but then it was almost entirely downhill. This piece of trail was especially bad: a rocky, eroded stream bed. I noticed there were no erosion control structures in place.

From the bottom in Hazen’s Notch, I saw how much farther we had to go today.

And then of course the trail went directly back up the other side of the notch. The trail took us right up the ridge of Haystack Mountain, occassionally very steeply across bare rock slabs. It was all pretty slippery, and we got very wet brushing up against all the undergrowth.

Somewhere along this steep part, I filled up a couple water bottles from a stream on the other side of this cleverly blazed boulder:

We kept climbing and climbing on already tired legs, through increasingly damp and dense overgrowth. At a northern knob of Haystack, I pulled my phone out of airplane mode to show everyone a picture of how much fun I was having. Kaitlyn kept hiking while I did that, and I did not catch up to her again for an hour or two.

From here, the trail really got crappy. The famous Vermont mud started making much more frequent appearances. I probably spent as much time in the trees on the side of the trail as I did on the trail itself. I averaged about one mile per hour through this entire part. Luckily despite how wet I got, all my stuff stayed dry.

I took the side trail to the summit of Haystack. I had intended to activate it for SOTA, but it was now raining a little bit and looked like it probably would a whole lot more. I also wanted to keep moving to stay warm.

The next couple miles were a blur of clouds, wind, rain, and mud. Somewhere on one of the many bumps between Haystack and Tillotson Camp, I caught up to Kaitlyn. The sun even started to come out. The mud managed to get even worse, somehow.

At Tillotson Camp, the sun finally came out for real. We had a late lunch and tried to dry our shoes and socks out. It didn’t help much. There was a good view towards Belvidere Mountain, which looked like it was very far away. I talked to Sarah a bit to confirm what time I thought we would be to the road and make sure she was getting ready to head out to meet us.

The trail went around a little lake and started climbing the long north ridge of Belvidere. This was the nicest thing we’d seen all day.

A trail crew was just beyond the lake, installing a couple rock steps. I appreciated their hard work but given how rough the past several miles had been, it seemed a little pointless. A little farther ahead, the trail turned into a more typical New England hiking trail which let us make better time and boosted morale.

Before too long, we started hearing lots more people and knew we must be close to Belvidere, a popular spot for day hikers. Kaitlyn dropped her pack and we ran up the short side trail to the summit.

There was a group of four or five annoying girls already up there, but I didn’t mind much. The view from just the summit was nice. Too bad most of the photos I took were too out of focus to keep. We could easily see bcak to Jay Peak, ahead to Mansfield, and pretty much everything else.

The view from the fire tower was obviously better.

After a while I got out my radio gear and actually had a really good activation. I even managed to get a contact with a guy in the Czech Republic - not bad for three or four watts. I had changed out the battery before this activation, so I think that must have been it. I certainly didn’t put a lot of effort into putting up the antenna. It was really exciting to finally have success with the radio.

The trip down went fast and I didn’t really take pictures. Kaitlyn had gotten ahead of me again while I was on the radio, so I had some catching up to do. The first mile or two was pretty rocky but nothing out of the ordinary. After that it really flattened out and I caught up to her. It got so easy we could have run it, if we’d had the energy. We passed a lot of day hikers in both directions, but we remained the only southbounders.

Before I knew it, we were down and done with the first half.

Sarah met us about fifteen minutes later with junk food, drinks, and towels. We were really glad to have all those things. Then it was just a quick matter of going to our hotel in Stowe, buying more groceries, and getting real dinner.

This ended up being a tough 11.5 miles, taking almost 11 hours once meals and radio time were factored in. With the exception of the couple miles at the very end, it was the roughest terrain we had seen.