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Devil's Gulch, Mt. Belvidere, Hazen's Notch

  • Start: Spruce Ledge Camp
  • End: Hazen’s Notch Camp
  • Approx Miles: 13.6

We take our sweet time getting out of camp this morning as the sun shines through the trees over Mount Belvidere.

Right out of camp we pass through Devil’s Gulch, a dense, mossy area full of scrambles and rock caves. Really beautiful, it’s supposedly kind of like a mini version of Mahoosuc Notch on the AT. I fail to get many good pictures unfortunately.

We pass through some regular flat forest hiking, and then a frustrating PUD, before crossing Route 118 and hitting the real climb up Belvidere. Along the way I see a HUGE TOAD, probably the biggest I’ve ever seen. Also another small garter snake on the trail that I had to step over; he was scared of me ๐Ÿ™.

You can't tell from the photo but this guy was enormous.

The first half is easy, clear trail and a relatively gradual climb, reminds me of Stratton and Killington. We stop for a break and make some comments about how it’s not that bad, then immediately hit the second half, which is much steeper and scramblier ๐Ÿ˜›.

Still, we make it to the top without issue, and then it’s a short 0.2 mile spur trail to the summit, which is BEAUTIFUL. Amazing views of the fall colors all around, this is the first time they really wowed me. A few day hikers around. Fire tower too with 360ยฐ views.

You can see the old asbestos mine peeking out behind the trees on the right.

Stiltz tries to bully Hang Ten into climbing the tower to cure his fear of heights, but he only makes it to the first landing before turning back ๐Ÿ˜. I take a bunch of photos and Stiltz takes one of me by the view.

We eat lunch and speed down and easy 2.5 miles of trail to Tillotson Camp. I’ve been out of water since the peak, I’m so thirsty! I’ve definitely been a little fast and loose with the amount of water I’ve been carrying. Feels like I’m still calibrated for the trail conditions a few weeks ago, when it was raining more and there were more frequent sources.

Tillotson is really nice. Near a beautiful pond with a lookout view.

Lockwood Pond
The gang

The gang stops for the day and I’m tempted to join them, but decide to press on. And I’m almost immediately so glad for the decision! A few minutes into hiking solo and I’m just so satisfied, it just has a completely different feel.

It’s a little after 2pm and I have six miles to go to Hazen’s Notch Camp, some of which is pretty difficult according to FarOut. I figure it’ll be a little tight with the daylight, but I’ll make it.

I cross paths with a day hiker shortly after leaving Tillotson who also warns me about the difficulty of the descent into Hazen’s Notch. Apparently it’s incredibly steep, and very dangerous to descent if it’s at all wet.

Traipsing through the woods at some point after this, I don’t see so much as hear my first large wildlife of the trip. I hear some crashing in the underbrush that definitely sounds too big to be the usual chipmunks, but also doesn’t sound like a grouse1. I pause, look, and listen for a minute. Again I hear the sound and see a brief glimpse or impression of… something… bounding further off into the trees. It looked to have about the size and agility of a dog. No idea what that could be2. It seemed more lithe and agile than a bear cub.

This spooks for a little while, not knowing what it was. Gets me thinking about the spectrum of ways you can appreciate hiking, from a Vandermeer-esque beholding the unknowable beauty and horror of the wilderness on one end, to the “FKT, how fast can I do the AT” technical vibe of treating it like a sport. There’s a place for both I think.

Anyway, I have a relatively easy hike up Haystack Mountain, where there’s a nice view of Belvidere and the fire tower to the south. They look so far away already!

Six miles to go
The view from Haystack Mountain. The peak in the top left corner is Mt. Belvidere

I have cell service here so I post on the GMC Facebook page about a ride from the northern terminus to Burlington for Friday. I still can’t believe it’s almost over, but I feel like today I’m just trying to appreciate the beauty and sublimity of every moment. So much amazing stuff out here, so lucky with the weather. And so much of it impossible to capture with a camera. I see a tiny purple flower poking out between two rocks on the trail and think how beautiful the little pop of color is by contrast to its earth tone surroundings. But there’s no way to really capture what I like about it in a photo.

I arrive at the bad-reputation descent to VT-88 in Hazen’s Notch. It’s steep, but not as death defying as I’d been led to believe. I can see how it would be very challenging in the rain. VT-88 is a quiet dirt road. There’s a big marker stone near the trailhead that reads:


I cross the road to climb up the last 1.5 miles out of the Notch. Evening sun bathes everything in this warm light filtering through the trees. I laugh out loud and whoop for joy. It’s just a random stretch of woods, but my mood, the weather, and the timing make it one of the moments of pure magic that sticks with me after the trip. Impossible to capture with a camera, but something truly special.

I hike over one more small hillock to get to the shelter. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but tough at the end of the day. A sign nearby informs me that Canada is only 17 miles away.

Along the spur trail that leads to the shelter the stupid strap on the bottom of my gaiters falls off! What a dumb design with the strap going under the sole like that. I thought they might have been shot but I was able to reattach it. I also fall clean into the stream while getting water. I guess that’s why you’re glad to have non-waterproof shoes…an hour later they’re nearly dry.

I arrive at Hazen’s Notch Camp just as it’s getting too dark for comfort. Amazing feeling. Somehow I just like hiking for a full, tiring day.

I’m sharing the shelter tonight with a not-very-talkative SOBO from Connecticut named Gem. The quiet suits me fine. I eat mac and cheese with bagged chicken and the last of the smoked pepperoni I bought at the general store in Jeffersonville. So good. Hoping to pick up a few more snacks at Jay Peak tomorrow. Jay is supposed to a pretty big resort, and a relatively easy climb. Man, only two more days ๐Ÿ™.

  1. Grouse are a really common sight along the LT. They’re big-ish birds that like to sit in the underbrush alongside the trail until you’re about to hike past them, then suddenly burst into the air with a flurry of loud wing flaps, leaf noises, and cooing. Terrifying every time. Then they fly 100 yards up the trail, plop themselves down, and do it all again a few minutes later ๐Ÿ˜‘. ↩︎

  2. Reflecting on this now, it was probably just a deer. ↩︎