Vermonts Love Their Freedom

The Vermont Natural Resource Council (a private, secretive, non-profit representing a secret client list) does not believe that Vermonters should be free to simply enjoy the great outdoors.  While the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail Committee is struggling to convert an old, decrepit railbed into a 94-mile recreation trail, the VNRC is throwing up barriers because it believes that runners and cyclists will pose an environmental hazard.  But Vermonters are not standing for it.  We're gathering in Senator Bartlett's office on Thursday, April 1 (April Fool's Day) at 9am to debate the issue.  On one side, the VNRC is arguing that this should be a highly regulated project with the same strict controls that are imposted on waste-treatment facilities.  On the other, the Citizens of Vermont are pleading that this is just an existing railbed, that just needs a fresh surface.

Where do you stand on the issues?  Contact the VNRC and to see their position paper.  Contact Senator Bartlett or you local congressman and tell them you want to take back Vermont's Great Outdoors from the Zombie Obstructionists!


Francona Ridge: The Iceman Cometh

Spanky and I did the Falling Waters/OBP loop (Pics Here):

  • The monorail is developing nicely
  • Trail is bare on F.W. in patches in the deciduous forest low down, but where there's cover, it's hard ice until a little elevation is gained.  
  • Snow is as deep as its ever been up in the conifers.  Off trail, snowshoes aren't necessary at this point - soft snow on firm re-frozen base.
  • The ridge is an icy hell.  Crampons everywhere.  Chose micro-spikes on the ridge.  Crampons necessary from Lafayette summit all the way back to car.  Only exceptions were a few burned out south-facing spots up high in the ledges, totaling about 100ft.  Down low in the woods, lots of bare spots - but sporadic.
  • Windy as hell.  Had a hard time breathing on the Lafayette descent.  Had to drop and hold onto the dog when winds got really high.  Felt like sustained over 30.  Hard time walking - wind picked up snow off windslab - felt like sleet.


Cross-Vermont (Lamoille Valley Rail) Trail Opposition: The VNRC?

A minor controversy erupted in Vermont in the last month over the Vermont Natural Resource Council's (VNRC) opposition to a railbed conversion project which will create a recreation trail.  The "Cross Vermont Trail", also known as the LVRT ("Lamoille Valley Rail Trail") is going to be a 94 mile, 4-season trail across three counties in northern vermont.  I'm on the board of the conversion committee.

Why does the VNRC oppose the project?  Their mission, in part, from the VNRC website:  "From the State House to your Town Hall, VNRC keeps Vermonters informed on the environmental issues that you and your family care most about. We keep a constant presence in the Vermont State House to promote a vision of a Vermont that is healthy and sustainable. We empower our members to take action when the voice of concerned citizens is needed to make a difference."

The VNRC is having their lawyers try to delay and/or scuttle the project, however they have not published a position on the project.  This is causing quite a stir because even though technically, the railbed is 'railbanked' which could allow for it to revert to rail use, we have a 99-year lease on the railbed and our goal in creating a recreation trail is to promote a vision of Vermont that is healthy and sustainable, and to prevent ATV's and motorized use of the trail in all seasons but winter (when it opens to snowmobiles).  Our management plan (already approved by the state dept of transportation) includes use policies and law enforcement - features that are missing on the trail currently, which is used by ATV's, used for dumping trash, etc.  This is a grassroots project and we're almost done with the permitting.  We have wide support from all the landowners (except one).

Lately, a series of posters have been making the rounds (see pic at right for an example) that, perhaps unfairly, characterize the VNRC as jack-booted thugs, hell-bent on crushing the very people it claims to serve.  The authorship remains unknown, however it is clear from the VNRC's lack of response that rumors have surfaced that one of the board members is being paid by a single landowner to scuttle the project.  Rumor has it that this organization also has close ties to folks that are trying to open public land to ATV's, which are expressly forbidden on the Cross-Vermont Trail.  There is also talk of close ties to housing developers (hit hard in the last year) and hush-money.

These are rumors, and completely unfounded, however the VNRC's aggressive (and unexplained) opposition to a project that is entirely in keeping with their stated mission goes on unabated and they refuse to explain the rationale to their financial supporters, members and the public.  This is so weird.

If you live in Vermont, feel free to contact a board member (see this list) or a state legislator and ask for an explanation.  Tell them you want the trail.

Winter-Spring Transition: Variety is the spice of life

Everyone was off and running in their own directions this week.  For whoever posts a TR in the comments I'll repost the TR here on the main page.

Mutha's Trip Report (Pics Here):  The Chic-Chocs and Burt Ravine Ski
Drove for 9.5 hours and skied for three days and out there you only ski what you climb.  We hit Champ de Mars, Hogsback and a long ski into the bowl of Mt. Albert.  For the latter, a storm blew in before we had time to ascend the flank and we had to ski back out the 7k long drainage.  Scenic, but not epic (except for distance).

For the two summits we successfully ascended, skiing down included finding glades or sections that we could yo-yo.  On Champ de Mars we found a glade that we (or at least Greg and I) skied 8 runs at least (kind of lost count).

Conditions were challenging (snow cover was melted out on some summits and in the heat of the day the snowpack (varying from 1-5ft) turned real soft.  With the storm arriving, it rained all night and we cut the trip short a day early to head down and hit Mt. Washington.

As for Mt. Washington and Burt Ravine, well, let's say my skills were not up to it.  I skied  down from the summit down into the top of Burt and pretty much called it a day.  I skied back to the cog and headed down on a more comfortable angle.  Minor disappointment, however, since the Blue-Bird day was cause for celebration on its own.

Interesting note:  in the Cog parking lot, there were bats out - flying around, crawling on the ground and the snow and on the building.  Probably white-nose fungus infection - and they're no doubt dead by now - but the ground wasn't littered w/ dead bodies so perhaps that was the first day of slaughter.

Tragic loss:  One fellow on the Mt. Washington trip dropped his snowboard (he had removed it to traverse an ice/rock section near the summit).  The board landed flat and shot across the surface and over the edge and down into the Great Gulf.  I'm kind of tempted to go in and look for it as a little spring snowshoe project.

4 days of quad-burning workout.  I'm tender, although I could certainly ski more.


The Semi-Pemi Pummel

Well, we tried it.  We made it to just into treeline on the Garfield Ridge after cranking up the Osseo and banging across Franconia Ridge.  Our 2am start got us to Flume at sunrise at 6:15 and a mere 5 hours later were in the trees on Garfield Ridge.  Some memories (more as I remember them):

Mutha's trip report (pics here):
  1. Hunting for the trail on the Osseo:  "Anybody see anything?"
  2. Taking 10 minute turns breaking trail on Osseo.
  3. tMail hogging all the summits.
  4. MadDog getting grabbed and held in place by the demons that live under the snow.
  5. Me, dropping one leg into a hole deep enough to require tMail and MadDog to pull me out
  6. Anxiety about the Flume Slide as we crossed the start zone (or rather, DIDN"T because I was bushwacking in the trees)
  7. Standing on Lincoln and seeing the PM skiing on Sugarbush
  8. Being faced with the 'Turn Back or Keep Going' decision at 11am!!!!
  9. Sardines and Barenjager at Greenleaf
  10. Having Sue and Jill pick us up and drive us to the truck.  BAM!
tMail's Trip Report (pics here):  What can be said on one hell of a day!  Some things that stick out from memory:
1.  Sleeping outside on Mutha's screen porch in my new zero bag...sweet I woke up once and thought I was in Morocco.
2. 12.00am wake up call, load the car and lessons on where the north star is from Dr. Mutha
3. En route conversation was around surgery's, recovery, what the doctors really know and what is relative.
4. Lincoln, NH at 2.00am scary, people walking the streets.
5. Osseo trails blows!
6. Aimlessly walking and saying we are not on the trail.
7. seeing the pre morning dawn red sky light up everything.
8. getting the body to work between the hours of 3am - 6am not easy.
9. the sun is a magnificant booster of energy, i got my second wind and felt fantastic on flume.
10. flume is a cool mountain i like the snow cornice on the ridge coming out of the woods, magnificent.
11. MadDog spending 1 nano second on each summit
12. MadDog falling in hip deep in a spruce trap, me digging his snowshoe out and still not being able to get it out...claustrophobia setting in and then freedom!
13. MadDog received a fashion ticket for not having the straps on his pack correctly latched to the male and female end of the bucket.
14. Using and icicle to credit card my arse to give it a cleansing after a money dump.
15. MadDog shattering a pole on the ridge, falling backwards, rolling, moaning, getting up and saying, "I'm good"
16. Mutha and his networking of calling people, G$$$, Sue, Travis, Nick, Jill.
17. I owe MadDog a follow up Dave's Taxi is the closest service provider out of Littleton, NH
18. Jetboil??????
19. MadDog eating snow
20. Mutha and his bear hunting liquor and sugar coated donuts, by the way the liquor was absolutely delightful.
21. Sue and Jill for picking us!!!
22. REI for taking the pole back and asking how did this happen? Tmail "it just gave out I think it was defective".
23. 14 hours in the mountains with great friends!
24. great weekend in Muthaville with all the members of the crew including non-humans.
25. Connor you sound like a weird bastard for just showing up on the back deck.

MadDog's Trip Report: