Mt Tom State Reservation, New England/Metacomet-Manondnock Trail, Massachusetts

Easthampton from the trail

Easthampton from the trail

Last weekend we were in the Berkshires to celebrate Fielden Stream’s birthday with friends at their lake house.  While the girls were off enjoying a Yoga and meditation retreat, I headed for the mountains once again. The goal this time was to check out the Mount Tom State Reservation for the first time. In the process, I could also contribute towards my miles for the #Hike50Net challenge. This is the challenge to accumulate 50 points in the calendar year on the New England National Scenic Trail by a combination of hiked miles, sharing images, writing Hike-u’s and volunteering.

Walking among the ledges

Walking among the ledges

As you may remember I brought my brother out on part of the Mattabessett trail section in Connecticut earlier this summer. Here in Massachusetts the N.E.T is comprised of the Metacomet and Manondnock trails, stretching from the Massachusetts state line to its finale atop Mt. Manodnock on the New Hampshire border.

As I didn’t have anyone along with me or a shuttle arranged, i did an out-and-back from the south side of the park, so I will have to go back another time and do the same from the north end to complete the section sometime in the future.  No problem. Not only should it be an easy one to convince someone to come along on just for the views, but its no more than five miles out and back from the north end so not too bad mileage-wise either.

Plenty of scrambles

Plenty of scrambles

There seems to have been some re-routing off the road which wasn’t on my map, but to make sure I was sticking on the route in my tracker, I did the .4 road walk at the beginning and end. I see now why it was re-routed, but it was also much further into the woods in that area, and I had limited time.

It was a very steep climb up from the base of Mt. Tom to the summit, over a mile of loose, basalt scree. Basalt is the red volcanic rock prevalent along this trail’s ridgelines. It was slow going both up and down the big climb for this reason. I realize it probably helps prevent erosion, but it felt like being on roller skates sometimes. There were not many switchbacks to ease the ascent, but fortunately it was only about 7-800ft tops.

Name that flower

Name that flower

Once at the summit of Mt. Tom, there were many hikers enjoying the long views in all directions. This used to be a ski area when I was a kid and I remember seeing its trails lit up for night skiing whenever we would pass it on 91 north on our way to Vermont. There are a bunch of large radio towers up there as well as old foundations for the ski lifts and infrastructure. I don’t know if there are any old ski buildings left on the other side. I believe they have a winter park there for tubing and such, so they may have left the lodge.

The NET follows the western ridge so this was the steep side with no trails. There are trails that go along the front and I imagine there are traces left of the ski trails. At some point I will do those as I would be interested to see that. I never did ski there, which is a shame.

The trail along the ledges

The trail along the ledges

For the entire ridge line, the trail hugs the cliff edges, with the occasional dip back into the woods here and there. But this was not to ease an ascent or descent – there were plenty of those along the steep ledges. This is similar to the sections in Connecticut as well, so it was not new for me by any means. These trails are where I cut my teeth and faced my fears in preparation for similar terrain on the Appalachian Trail. The basalt however is looser and broken in many places, making it all the more important to take your time.

It was encouraging to me to realize that over the miles of cliff walks I needed to do on this hike, I have come a long way in facing my fear of such things, and it made me feel strong and confident. I hiked over three peaks and back: Mt. Tom, Deadtopp, and Whiting Peak. Next time I will conquer the remaining three in the range from the northern end.

Ledges with the Oxbow beyond

Ledges with the Oxbow beyond

Another highlight was I was able to view the Oxbow in the famous Thomas Cole painting from the ledges. That painting was actually made from the ledges of nearby Mount Holyoke in Northampton, however.  You can see it in the last photo.

Miles: 6.6

(with a short .4 out and back in the wrong direction at the start!)

— Linus

Advertisements

Ridgerunner weekend #4

The northern view from Lions Head

The northern view from Lions Head

My latest ridgerunner weekend was over the weekend of Sept 22nd. I went back to cover a favorite section, the Riga Plateau. It was an amazing weekend but turned out a bit differently than planned.

I invited my brother along as he was free and we wanted to do another hike together. I told him all about the amazing views up here, so he was willing to do the almost two-hour drive, like mine, to Salisbury.

Pointing out some views on Lions Head east view

Pointing out some views on Lions Head east view

The weather couldn’t have been better for it. I originally planned to leave my car at the Undermountain trail and then drive up to the Lion’s head trail lot in his car, so I could take him up to Lion’s head and Riga shelter and back to his car easily. And then I’d also have my car setup closer to where I was camping for the night. Well actually it was about the same distance, but this would allow me to go farther north and still make it back to my car when I needed to and not cover the same ground over and over.  When we got to Salisbury things changed a bit.

Rocky scramble up to Lion's Head

Rocky scramble up to Lion’s Head

Because it was family hiking day, and this being the most popular hiking trail in the state, that lot was a madhouse and there was only road parking available. While I have the necessary signage to probably not get towed If I parked overnight there, I don’t like to take advantage and so I left my car at the main A.T. lot 3 miles south in town on Rt 41 which was also beginning to fill up quickly. No problem, done the hike this way many times.

We headed up to the Lion’s Head lot on Bunker Hill road and got the last spot there. This trail passes a few homes before a brisk climb up to where it joins the A.T. From here it gets a bit more rugged in typical A.T. fashion, and then it’s a steep scramble up a rock face to the first viewpoint.

Me and my brother on Lion's Head

Me and my brother on Lion’s Head

There is a bad weather trail, and this was much appreciated when I recommended it to a group of older ladies from our own AMC chapter who were doing a hike up there this morning. My brother and I took in the views while I also pointed out a few landmarks to a section hiker we met there.  We then took in the glorious northern view which on this day included Mt Greylock, 50-plus miles north in Massachusetts near the Vermont border!

My brother enjoying Riga shelter view

My brother enjoying Riga shelter view

We proceeded to Riga shelter and had a snack while also taking in the fabulous view there.  Luckily the shelter and campsite were clean, and the brook was raging from recent rain. This was all good because I planned to stay here for the night.  Perhaps even in a shelter for the first time! I know, I know. I’m just not a fan of bugs and mice, and my tent protects me from both. From there as promised I took him back to the junction of the A.T. and Lion’s head trail.

The bog trail

The bog trail

As I hadn’t taken the bad weather trail before we went down that way, and I knew I’d be doing the scramble on the way back anyway. We got back to the junction quickly and said goodbyes. I took a quick snack break before heading on my way back to Riga to set up camp. On the way I met a few section hikers and a flip-flop thru hiker on Lion’s head. The thru asked about the next camping or town options and then told me the caretakers tent at Sages Ravine was blown far off the platform and almost off the hill entirely. We’ve had some recent large storms in this area lately. I called my supervisors and asked if they were going to be there for the night or if I should stay there instead. As phone coverage in some trail areas is spotty I knew it could take a while so I went to Riga to wait for a response. I took out my notebook to update my notes and have another snack. When word finally came in to head to Sages, I took off in a hurry, leaving my notebook behind!

One of the bog trail signs

One of the bog trail signs

By the time I realized I was 2 miles north and had 2 to go. I opted to take the Bear Mountain road and Bog trail past the Northwest cabin so I could get there in time to assess and repair the damage if possible. The Bear mountain road was completely flooded in several areas and I had to do some tricky negotiating around long deep puddles of trail. But it was nice to finally see the bog trail with its nature-center style signage identifying trees and plants and natural features, as well as the cabin up close. That’s a reservation-only property, and I have never seen it so up close and personal. There was at least one family tenting there so I got on my way quickly past it. The northwest road was also quite flooded but I made it quickly down to the campsite, covering the 4 miles from Riga in 1.5 hours! To be fair, this was mostly level trail and I went this way for a reason.

The caretaker tent in disarray!

The caretaker tent in disarray!

When I got there, the tent condition was quite accurate. It was off on the side of the hill, scrunched up, with the contents tossed about inside. It had a few tears, and was full of water.  Unfortunately this also meant the caretaker journal and many of the books were soaked through. I managed to get the tent and its contents back on the platform and stake it down until it could be packed up by the supervisors the following week.  I set out the contents to dry, especially the books and journal, and used a tarp that was dry to set up my sleeping bag on on the drier side of the tent. I had gotten most of the water out but it was still pooling on one side due to a very slight downhill slant of the platform.

After I restored the tent

After I restored the tent

At this point many people were coming in, some that I knew would be from meeting them earlier in the day.  One scout troop was already there when I arrived. When all was said and done we had almost 30 at the campsite. It’s a very popular one due to its beauty. So it’s a good thing I ended up here as only 4 ended up spending the night at Riga (I found out the next day).

It was a beautiful night at the campsite and I had nice conversations with several of the hiking groups and helped late arrivals find their party’s campsites as dark was setting in.  I fell asleep to the sound of the rushing brook. It got down to the mid 40s so it was a little cool but otherwise no complaints.

Morning at Sages Ravine

Morning at Sages Ravine

Morning in the ravine was a beautiful fairy tale forest as always, with the sun shining through the trees onto the shimmering brook. I packed up and after a quick meal of a protein bar (skipped the coffee) I went for the big strenuous climb up the rocky north side of Bear mtn. While I was quite cold at camp, by the time I reached the summit a mile later I was sweating and removing layers. I met several hikers at the top and took in the view from the summit tower.

The always exciting climb up Bear

The always exciting climb up Bear

I was above the clouds at this time, so the summits of Mts Race, Everett and Greylock in Massachusetts to the north, as well as Mts Prospect and Canaan Mt to the southeast in Connecticut, were all peaking above the clouds. It was magical. As I headed south, the peak of Lion’s head was doing the same. I ran into the section hikers from yesterday and said a quick hello. I pointed out to them where we met the day before on Lion’s Head and then made a dash for Riga, hoping to recover my notebook. As I passed Brassie Brook shelter, I stopped into sign the register and packed out some trash left behind by hikers. As I approached Riga I passed a group of 2 kids and 2 moms who mentioned they had stayed there when we stopped to chat.

Above the clouds on Bear summit

Above the clouds on Bear summit

I asked them about the notebook and they had found it and left it in the shelter for me! They thanked me for my work and I headed back to Riga to pick it up. They also reported that the shelter and campsite were clean and campfire-free which I appreciated and confirmed. I had one more snack with the famous view and headed back south towards Salisbury. I met a few more hikers along the way, both section and day hikers, enjoying another gorgeous day on the first weekend of fall. The leaves weren’t really changing yet but will be any day.

Looking south, Lion's Head summit above the clouds

Looking south, Lion’s Head summit above the clouds

The last few miles down to Rt 41 via the A.T. pass through some beautiful forest areas, with as many ups as downs. This bit I’ve decided is as much effort in either direction! I passed a few more backpackers struggling up the long climb from the road to Lion’s Head, and when I arrived at the parking lot I ran into one of the groups that were at Sages Ravine with me the night previous. We had a nice conversation and then I headed home, stopping at the hot dog stand in Kent for some nourishment!  It’s always a pleasure to hike the wild corner of Connecticut.

Miles day 1: 8.2

Miles day 2: 7

– Linus

 

 

Mattabessett Trail and Lamentation Mountain, Connecticut

Climbing up to the ridge

Climbing up to the ridge

Today I visited the Mattabessett (and by extension the New England National Scenic Trail) for the first time in many years. I’ve been obviously very focused on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon. But I am privileged to have not only part of the A.T. so close by but also, over 800 more miles of hiking trails in my state including the Mattabessett and Metacomet trails, now part of the NET. The New England National Scenic Trail was officially established in 2009 and runs from Long Island Sound on the Connecticut coast all the way to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border where it ends on Mount Monadnock. Since the trail is relatively new there’s still a good number of road walks and not many shelters or campsites. So while doing a proper thru is a little tricky right now, it’s in its early stages and more sections are being routed off roads as often as the land can be acquired.

On the ridge with view north to Hartford in distance

On the ridge with view north to Hartford in distance

Land management and acquistion and re-routing is a lot of work and I’m sure over time it will become more like the other national scenic trails in those ways. I was considering doing some backpacking yesterday and staying at one of them but it was .1 from a road and there was no water source that I could tell besides possibly the use of a spigot on the nearby house (who built the shelter and campsite on their land).  I’m also not sure if there was a privy not that that’s a game changer but is a little awkward when the latrine is someone’s property. I have to research it more maybe there is a porto-potty. I was also honestly still sore from the epic Massachusetts finale last weekend.

With Meriden's hanging hills in the distance

With Meriden’s hanging hills in the distance

I had planned to do this hike with my brother today either way so I decided it would be best to listen to my body yesterday and I did. I got all my log sheets out for these trails and for their Hike 50 Challenge. As it’s the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Act, there are many challenges this year on many long distance scenic trails to celebrate it.

I already completed the Connecticut AMC’s hike 50 challenge, which of course with my being a Connecticut AMC volunteer and summer ridgerunner, wasn’t really hard.

Victory pose looking west

Victory pose looking west

So I decided it would be fun to do the New England Trail challenge. I also have been meaning to hike with my brother again who lives outside Hartford. I knew he would like the amazing views and ridge walking, and it’s even closer to his house than mine! If possible we are going to try and complete the challenge together but either way we had a great time. You can earn points in many different ways, from by the mile, to trail work, trail events, social media shares, writing a hike-u, and more!

My Hike-U

My Hike-U

These all help to get the word out and draw attention to the trail.  It was a gorgeous day and the humidity was mitigated by the breezes along the ridge. We saw many others out enjoying it today, including one very large group who apparently each brought their own car and filled up almost the entire lot. Bad form, people. Car pool or limit your group size. No one should have to park illegally so you can do your group hike. But I held my tongue because after all a bunch of folks were out enjoying nature and excercise in my favorite way, and my only issue is with the leader.

My classic shot

My classic shot

Starting off we did about a mile road walk from Berlin Turnpike where the Mattabessett portion ends and then the trail turned and headed southbound into the woods for another half mile along the bottom of Lamentation Mountain. This is the mountain whose western ridge we’d be climbing and following all the way back to Guiffrida State park where we left our other car. The first 1/4 mile was littered with rusted out cars and a tire or two. It was a bit muddy and slightly overgrown as well but as it was an old road these things weren’t particularly an issue or totally out of character. The blazing could use a little bit of work here because there’s a few turns this way and that and not all were easy to decipher without walking down one way a bit. Anyway, I’m grateful to have the trail here. This whole northern end of Lamentation Mountain was closed for a few years by a property owner so the CFPA who manages this trail had to reroute it to get it back to completion.  I appreciate this effort and this new route, and I’m sure it will soon be much nicer.

Ledge Notch

Ledge Notch

There was a brisk little climb up to the ridgeline then the views began to open up one after the other. We could see the hanging hills of Meriden and Castle Craig, farther west to Southington and the Tunxis trail region and north to Hartford. I taught my brother about the basalt trap rock ledges and their unique geology and even almost rolled an ankle coming down from the ledge on one of the little pebble size ones! Up there we also saw hawks soaring overhead, and the new CT Rail train across the lake making its way north to Hartford and Springfield. (We later ate lunch at a brand new train station along the new line in Berlin). I love trains, so it was a treat watching a brand new train line chug along its brand new route, especially from a mountaintop!

At Guiffrida Park

At Guiffrida Park

The final portion of the hike was a walk along the Hubbard reservoir in the state park, which had a small entrance for wading in and views of Chauncey peak hovering above to the east. We will be back to do that one and the remainder of the section south to where I left off north of Mt. Higby. Then we will head south to Durham for the TriMountain section and then move on to complete the eastern spur, though I’ve done about 5 miles of that. I’m also working on completing the whole Mattabessett so these are the parts I’ve yet to do.

I’m looking forward to more hikes with my brother and this fun little challenge to help keep us at it. Stay tuned for more adventures on the New England National Scenic Trail.

Now to plan the next Appalachian Trail overnight. Hmmm, more Jersey?

Miles: 5.1

— Linus

Appalachian Trail, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, DAY 6

July 5, 2018

We finished the last section of our A.T. hiking in Shenandoah National Park this morning. We had a few curveballs thrown at us along the way.  But we adapted and we endured and I think made a lot of prudent decisions that we had the luxury to make as section hikers. I wish we had done the overnight but seeing our third bear in the park on skyline drive near the hut we would have stayed at helped me feel a little better about not doing that! We also saw another bear right behind the lodge (photo below).

We did our biggest number of hikes in a single week so far and that’s another milestone.  This will help us prepare for 4-5 day overnights as well which is another reason we wanted to stay all week and do multiple hikes. 

After we got off trail and finished our A.T. section, we headed for the Lewis Spring falls lot so I could go back and finally see the real view of the falls (photo below). It was another 1,000ft descent and ascent but this route was only 1.8 miles round trip vs the 3.4 mile route I took from the lodge last time. It was a tough climb down and up but worth it. And now it won’t bother me for the next year. Fielden Stream and her dad were waiting for me at the lot with a blackberry milkshake from the wayside, which sure hit the spot and helped revive me after the climb. They saw more bears at the wayside while getting me the milkshake — a mom and her two cubs in a tree.

Rain has finally come and the heatwave is breaking. I thought about running back up to the park (we’re in Luray now) and hitting Mary’s rock from Thornton Gap as its so close. However if its raining on that steep trail, and there’s no view because of the rain, I’m not sure I’m going to do it. I’d like to visit the outfitter in Luray and explore the town a bit. I’m proud of what we’ve done this week.

A.T. miles with Fielden Stream: 3.2

Lewis Spring falls trail miles (out and back): 1.8

– Linus

More bears!

More bears!

Lewis Falls

 

Shenandoah National Park – Days 3 and 4

July 2&3 2018

You’re probably worried I saw another bear and got eaten, and that’s why you haven’t heard from me for 2 days… Well not to worry! While some of the hiking plans were sidelined by poison ivy and insect attacks resulting in some fun swelling and a run to town for Benadryl and bandaids, we are alive and we have done some more hikes though a bit shorter these last two days. We took Fielden’s parents and sister up to the stunning view on Blackrock Summit (the one at Big Meadows not the mountain of that name farther south) yesterday and then had our postponed picnic at the Big Meadows picnic ground. We also visited the Byrd visitor center to get our A.T. passport stamped and do the museum exhibit, as well as doing all of our laundry at the campground. We stopped at the wayside to check out the shop and get some charcoal for the BBQ. How did I forget to get a blackberry milkshake there! Not to worry, that will happen before we leave.

Today Fielden and I made the painful choice to skip the backpacking overnight on this trip to let the wounds heal and stay as sterile as possible to avoid infection. However we will be doing two more A.T. section day hikes tomorrow and Thursday.  Today she went to a museum down in the valley with her family and I did the A.T./Lewis Spring Falls loop from the lodge as I was going stir crazy and came here to hike! This loop is right behind the lodge and had a 1,000ft descent and climb back up. It started and ended with the great views at Black Rock summit as that trail leads down to the A.T. From there I followed the A.T. about .3 miles north before the turnoff and a 1.2 mile descent along the ridgeline on the Lewis Spring trail.

There is a viewing area of part of the falls, but I am a little annoyed with myself because I missed the farther viewing trail that showed the falls cascading off the ledge and instead I was just at the top of the drop-off where they had a waterfall safety sign. I had thought this was the viewing area and wasn’t very impressed. Well I’m gonna blame the trail posts there as they were very hard to read and it was not at all clear I was supposed to continue along across the brook to see this view! I figured there had to be more to it than what I saw, and now that I’m looking it up, well, I feel pretty dumb. I was supposed to go further to a viewing platform, and I never did because I thought that was the end of the path. Bummer. After that it was a long tough 1.4-mile climb up including the last mile of the A.T section we did on Sunday,,,  

But it was a beautiful hike nonetheless… next time I will go the extra distance. Heck I might just have to go back and see it before I leave if there’s time. But just in case there’s not, Google it if you want to see what I was supposed to see.

Time for a beer and a snack. Tomorrow we will fill in the gap from Swift Run gap to Lewis Mountain Campground and Thursday morning we plan to do from the lodge up to Hawksbill Gap.

Miles: 3.4

– Linus

Hiker humor, Blackrock, Big Meadows

Hiker humor, Blackrock, Big Meadows

Lewis Spring Trail

Lewis Spring Trail

Wild rose

Wild rose

Lewis Spring upper falls (I missed the lower!)

Lewis Spring upper falls (I missed the lower!)

2018 Ridgerunner Kickoff weekend

It was great to be back out on the trail again in my ridge runner role! I really love the job, I wish I could do it year round! I met several thru hikers, many of them flip floppers who started mid trail and are heading north to Katahdin first, then back to do the southern half in the later months of summer and early fall. They do this to minimize overcrowding at Springer in Georgia and have the quiet walk in the woods experience intended. And also to not have to worry about hitting Katahdin too late in case of an early winter in Maine.  I also met a few Northbound (NOBO) thrus and a Lasher (Long-a**-section-hiker) doing a several-hundred-mile portion in New England. Of course there were many day hikers out enjoying the trail, especially on Saturday. Saturday was hot and humid but I took my time and enjoyed a break at all the scenic spots along the way. All the brooks were running strong, and the rain held off until Sunday afternoon so didn’t have to deal with it much. I did have a log I stepped on roll under my foot when crossing Guinea Brook, so my left foot/sock/shoe got soaked, but it was quite refreshing in the heat.  Sunday was cool and overcast with strong breezes bringing rain around midday.  I saved the easier portion of trail for Sunday should the rain hit early and I was hiking all morning and early afternoon in the rain. Steep rocky surfaces are not as fun or safe when wet.

I took the Mohawk Trail up Breadloaf Mountain to reach the A.T. Saturday morning.  When I was a boy scout in the 1980s this was still the A.T. and it is still a quick steep climb! But it had amazing views from the top like Pine Knob. Both were worth the effort.

I camped with many great people at Silver Hill campsite, and my first freezer-bag-cooking test with a Knorr rice sides (a half portion) was a huge success as was my peanut butter and Nutella tortilla wraps for breakfast! And my new (used) tent’s maiden voyage with me was also a success…. It’s so light to carry and had plenty of room. I need to work on my pitch a bit, and though my feet were touching the end wall, I looked it up and realized I didn’t extent my trekking poles to 130 cm as advised which probably explains that!  I saw a doe grazing on the banks of the Housatonic River early Sunday morning, as well as a family of Geese. It seemed to be mating season as the chipmunks were frolicking in pairs throughout the forest.

Day 1 miles: 5.5 (1,834ft elevation)

Day 2 miles: 8 (335ft elevation)

  • Linus
One of our beuatiful new signs

One of our beautiful new signs

Pine Knob

Pine Knob

Silver Hill from Breadloaf Mtn

Silver Hill from Breadloaf Mtn

Linus on the trail

Linus on the trail

Hatch Brook

Hatch Brook

My Lightheart Gear solo

My Lightheart Gear solo

Freezer bag cooking - using the pot as a cozy

Freezer bag cooking – using the pot as a cozy

Knorr Rice sides w/Sriracha

Knorr Rice sides w/Sriracha

The "trail" up Silver Hill

The “trail” up Silver Hill

Doe on the Housatonic

Doe on the Housatonic

Liners Farm

Liners Farm

Name that flower

Name that flower

 

Pre-Season Newly Acquired Gear Testing- Part 1

Lightheart Gear solo quarter vented

Lightheart Gear solo quarter vented

As we get ready for the 2018 backpacking and my ridge-running season, I took advantage of the beautiful spring conditions on Easter Sunday to test some new gear I purchased over the winter. Of course it was snowing the next day and we ended up with half a foot of snow on the ground. April Fools a day late. (Easter was also April Fools day). As of this writing there were two more snowstorms followed by warm spring days since! Good old New England.

Lightheart Gear solo half vented

Lightheart Gear solo half vented

The first item is my new (used) Lightheart Gear solo tent. I bought it from a hiker on Whiteblaze.net. I am always researching gear, and especially great lightweight solo options for my ridge-running and volunteer weekends. Last year I bought a new REI Quarter-dome 1 for a great price on sale, and which at 39 ounces is a super-light option.  And I love the tent. They have since tweaked the design again. I guess my one issue with it was that the weird pole design always left me a little confused at set up time. And when you’re tired after a long day and setting up camp, you don’t wanna be fidgeting with the poles too long. Especially if its in the rain or the dark, or both. I did get used to it but there were still some times when I was doing it in a situation like those and did it backwards the first time. Plus its rather embarrassing when you’re fussing so much with your own tent when surrounded by other campers! The unusual design of that tent pole setup allows for a wider interior in the tent so it’s worth it but I just wanted something a little more of a no-brainer. And more room if I could get it.

Lightheart Gear solo fully vented

Lightheart Gear solo fully vented

On my many nights on the trail I see just about every tent design and model out there, and often ask the hikers about their tents. I then go about reading or watching reviews online and asking questions on hiking groups and forums as well. The Lightheart Gear solo is one of many ultralight options from cottage manufacturers on the market. They also make a slightly longer one for taller hikers called the solong.  I explored other options from Zpacks, Mountain Laurel Designs and more. When I saw the listing on whiteblaze I quickly did more research and found it to be not only a full 12 ounces lighter than my REI tent, but also more spacious and easier to setup. And it was at a great price so I jumped on it.

REI Passage Aluminum trekking poles

REI Passage Aluminum trekking poles

It uses trekking poles rather than included poles to pitch, but you can buy those if you don’t hike with trekking poles. This helps cut down on the weight. It’s also all one piece so you can set it up from the inside without the interior tent getting wet. While I know many 2- piece tents have a feature where you can first rig just the ground sheet and rainfly to avoid soaking your interior tent in the rain, I have to confess I’ve never tried that and it didn’t seem completely full-proof. I got this tent for about 45% off and it was in great shape. It has tons of room and is high enough to sit up in, as well as the ability to be quarter/half/three-quarter or fully vented. The manufacturer advised against spraying it with permethrin spray as did many on the online forums as this chemical doesn’t adhere to sil-nylon and voids the warranty. So I did not spray this tent like I do my others. Seam sealing is recommended for this tent, but the previous owner had the manufacturer do it at purchase. It costs a little extra ($35) but is worth it having a pro do it right the first time. The only negative feedback I’ve heard on this tent is that at 133″ long and 65″ wide, finding a camp spot can be tougher, as well as setting it up on a platform as it is also not fully free-standing. These things I will test in the field.

Stake-off (L to R): Zpacks, Vargo and MSR mini groundhog

Stake-off (L to R): Zpacks, Vargo and MSR mini groundhog

Regarding the trekking poles: As you know from my last hike, the handle broke off one of my poles on that hike so I had bought a new pair at REI the next day. So it was time to test them, and this tent together for the first time. Well I didn’t test them by hiking but I did expand them and compare all the features to other brand models at the store to make my decision. I know these REI poles last a long time and that the cork was the weak spot and so I replaced them with poles with hard plastic/rubber handles- the Passage model.  They are not super light but that’s the reason I bought them as well as price. I found the super light super expensive poles to not support my weight as well.

The only ding with the tent purchase was that the stakes I got from the seller were a bit heavy, and when the tent requires ten stakes to fully pitch it, you want lighter ones. I didn’t expect him to send me his best, lightest stakes at this price. He didn’t even charge me shipping. He just wanted to pass it on to another hiker who would enjoy it and make some of his investment back.

This Dove came to check out my tent

This Dove came to check out my tent

So I ordered a set of four more super light titanium stakes from Zpacks, with their microfleece beanie (which I will review later) to make my set of ten. I find these hook-shaped stakes more effective than my MSR groundhogs for guylines. Or at least, they are my preference. I still use the mini groundhogs for staking out the 4 corners of the tent. The other hook stakes I had previously purchased from Amazon — they are Vargo. They are close enough in size and this setup overall should take the stake weight down a bunch. In the process of deciding how many more stakes I needed,  I also spent a while in the garage gear closet to take inventory and make sure all my other tents have the right number of stakes in their bags.  I don’t want to loan one out and we realize later I had taken the stakes from it!

The Lightheart Gear Solo packed up

The Lightheart Gear Solo packed up

I love the Lightheart tent and everyone who saw it set up on Easter and then got to hold it in their hands and feel how light it was packed up were as impressed as I was. Fielden Stream laid down in it for a minute and tested it too. I enjoyed reading “Balancing On Blue” from thru-hiker Fozzie while lying in it and trying out another new purchase. That’s in part 2: Kylmit Massdrop Pillow and JetBoil JetGauge. A dove even came to visit me in my yard and checked out my new tent!  I will keep the QD-1 for a while and if the LHG solo pleases me as much on the trail as it did in my yard, I will return the karma and sell the QD-1 to another hiker. I have one other solo tent which I like because you can pitch the fly like an awning. So even though its less roomy on the inside and a little heavier, Its very convenient if you need to cook when its raining. So I will keep that one for now.

Lightheart Gear Solo Tent Specs

weight: 27oz (before seam sealing)

floor space: 30 sq ft.

head room: 43 in

width: 65in at center

length: 133 in

single/double wall: double

doors: 1

Full specs and more info from the website

— Linus