We took a big road trip this summer to visit my family in New Hampshire and my wife’s parents in Vermont. My wife had a lot to discuss with her parents, so it was a good opportunity for my son (Cody) and I to head out into the woods.
A little background…
Willoughby State Forest is a 7,600-acre alpine forest with a lake cut out by a glacier. The lake has a maximum depth of over 300 feet. The glacier left behind steep cliffs and some jagged peaks as it cut the Willoughby Gap which became a National Natural Landmark in 1967. The cliffs are home to the rare peregrine falcons. The CCC was involved in constructing the first road through the forest and the first “bridle path” up the side of Mount Pisgah in the early 1930’s. Their camp was just south of the forest near Dolloff Ponds.
(My info/planning came from “Northeast Kingdom Mountain Trail Guide” by Luke O’Brien/NorthWoods Stewardship Center and the GMC Northeast Kingdom Hiking Trail Map. See www.northwoodscenter.org and www.greenmountainclub.org for more info.)
Also added as attachment below.
The plan was to set out from the Moose Mountain Trail at Wheeler Mountain Road around 2 PM. The drive up Wheeler Mountain Road was pretty steep and well rutted from the previous nights storm (heavy rain and wind). My wife wasn't looking to thrilled about the drive back down alone , so about ¼ the way up I stopped and turned around. We unloaded the gear and Cody stood guard as I drove my wife back to the main road. After my wife drove away, I turned and looked up the road. I was 1.2 miles and 500 feet from the TH, and it was 3:15 pm, not a good start.
I caught up with Cody, we loaded up and headed up the road. My pack weighed in at 21 lbs with food (2 days for both of us) and 1.5 L of water. We decided to take the Wheeler Pond Tr instead of road walking, so we headed past the GMC Camps to the trail. The rain started about ½ way around the pond. The sky was gray and everything else was green; very lush area.
Actually, the Wheeler Pond Tr is also accessed from the Gnome Stairs Tr, which is the way we went. The signage went downhill from here.
We made the summit of Moose Mountain about 4:30 pm, but not before snapping one of my trekking poles as it plunged through the duff next to a root. Lesson learned. We had climbed about 800 feet from the TH. For the rest of the day the trails stayed between 2300 to 2200 feet.
We cruised over to the Willoughby Lookout Spur on pretty flat trail. Not much to see through the vegetation and mist. Probably more picturesque in the fall. We motored on down the Brookside Tr/Mt Hor Tr and veered off to the North Lookout. The rock crevasses were not that wide (3’) but the ground on both sides was “springy”. I thought back to my trekking pole plunging through the same type of surface.
L-R, Goodwin, Bald & Haystack, w/Hedgehog in the foreground.
We headed back to the trail and crossed a brook where we loaded up with water. It was 6:30 pm and we made camp a little further on. We had done about 6.5 miles. I was about a mile short of my target, which included an up and down from Mt. Hor.
Back on the trail at 9 AM and headed for Mt. Hor. The temps were in the mid to hi 70’s and the early hiking was good. The climb up was about 400 feet and provided only a limited view. We headed back down the Herbert Hawkes Tr to the CCC Rd. After an unplanned section of road walking (read wrong turn) we made it to the base of Mt. Pisgah and the South Tr. The next 1.7 miles seemed like it was all rock steps as we climbed about 1400 feet. Very leafy overhead at the start but it turned into a short spruce forest on the top. I almost lost my lunch on the way up, but it was worth the views.
The cliffs of Mt. Pisgah
NW from Pisgah
The cliffs of Mt. Hor
We headed down the North Trail and more rock steps. We came to a nice creek and loaded up with water. We headed off trail to make camp about 5 pm.
BMBH UL, Baby Orca, Full IX, HG Cuben w/ HG Lite Summer Burrow inside. Low was 50* and windy the first night.
We took our time in the morning and had a long breakfast under the tarps. It was humid and would be raining before we were packed up. We made our way out to the TH, took some pictures and waited for our ride. We drove down to the north end of the for a picture of the Gap, and the surrounding area. Then we headed off to the Robin’s Roost/Taphouse Restaurant for a couple Black Spruce IPA’s (just me) and some food.
Looking south at Willoughby Gap but the clouds moved in.
Vermont is a beautiful place. It was a terrific hike with my best buddy. Looking forward to the next one.