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A Hor with a Heart of Gold

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

A Hor with a Heart of Gold

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autumn leaf
Mount Hor has a terrible name. Apparently, Mount Hor is also a mountain in the Bible, and I suppose it was named after that; I haven't been able to find anything about the history behind the name and can't fathom why you'd name a mountain "Mount Hor" without precedent. So Mount Hor is like the poor kid in school who gets assigned a storied, ancestral, and absolutely awful name: Benjamin Dover or Michael Hunt or Richard Lipshitz. And amid the teasing and the alienation that comes from a decision completely outside his control, he has to deal with the "But your great-great-grandfather the Civil War hero was named Benjamin Dover!" LIKE THAT MAKES IT OKAY. (I got relentlessly teased for the last name Walls, for pity's sake! Kids are senseless and cruel!) So poor, poor Mount Hor.

All this to say that yesterday, Bobby and I hiked Mount Hor. It is in what I term The Willoughby Complex but have since learned has the official name of the Northeastern Highlands of VermontTM. This means that they are not technically part of Vermont's Green Mountains! We have already hiked the two larger mountains in the area--Bald Mountain and Mount Pisgah--and I hiked Haystack Mountain* with my school.

*Which, until I learned its real name, I had named Boob Mountain because it looks like a boob in profile! The Willoughby area brings out the middle-schooler in the best of us.

The Willoughby Complex/Northeastern Highlands of VermontTM easily offer the most dramatic landscapes in a region of dramatic landscapes. The gap between the mountains Pisgah and Hor was ripped open by a retreating glacier, leaving Vermont's second deepest lake (the deepest being Lake Champlain) and dramatic cliffs pressing the lake shores on both sides.

The hikes to the summits of Pisgah and especially Bald Mountain were rather steep and rugged. (They are considered "moderate" in our Vermont hiking book, lol!) I expected much the same of Hor, but the mile-long (1.6 km) ascent to the summit was steep but not nearly as rugged, which made for a much nicer climb. I can pace myself on long ascents--this is why I'm good at snowshoeing--but scrambling rocks makes me tense and fatigues me very quickly. The hike to the top offers three different views: to the south and west from the summit overlook (looking toward the Greens) and two overlooks looking to the south of Willoughby and the northeast of Willoughby that are accessed by a flat trail that runs along the lake-facing edge of the mountain. This hike was pleasant enough that it's one I would strongly recommend for the Mereth Aderthad, because it is doable for someone in moderately good shape, even without experience hiking in the mountains. (For the truly adventurous, Bobby and I will take you to the fire tower at the top of Bald Mountain! :D)

All photos are by Bobby (except the picture of him that I took!) and stolen with permission from his Facebook.

The leaves are really beginning to change, especially at elevation. Vermont has a lot of maples, which makes for vivid color.

 photo MtHorLeaf_zpsc23f8xju.jpg

On the lower parts of the hike, the trees were only beginning to hint at the autumn color that will follow in the next few weeks.

 photo MtHorTrees_zpsyzmfprj5.jpg

Vermont is home to many edible mushrooms. Unfortunately, we don't yet know what those are--but we are hopefully taking a course in a couple of weeks with our neighbor!

 photo MtHorShrooms_zpsath3jdkl.jpg

We did the full mile climb right off the bat, to the summit. The overlook here looks west, over several ponds and toward the Green Mountains.

 photo MtHor2_zpskzc5ifbv.jpg

This picture of the valley shows the blush of color that is beginning to creep over the landscape.

 photo MtHor1_zpsf7yzqe5l.jpg

You know these people!

 photo MtHorDawn_zpsbyncr93m.jpg

 photo MtHorBobby_zps0xptxhq7.jpg

From the summit, we doubled back the way we'd come for a third-mile downhill climb, then following the other fork in the trail, which runs for close to a mile along the edge of the lake-facing side of the mountain.

The south end of Willoughby and South Beach. I love this picture because the tiny dots along the water are houses, and the tiny dots in the water are sailboats, so it really gives a sense of scale. The Willoughby area always feels larger than life to me.

 photo MtHor3_zpsjnu3cost.jpg

 photo MtHor4_zps91feyyxr.jpg

Panning north, this is Mount Pisgah, the companion to Mount Hor (they would have been a single mountain if not for that dratted glacier). Mount Pisgah is a little higher elevation and one of the few mountains in Vermont where arctic and alpine species make their home at the summit. The sheer cliffs are nesting sites for the endangered peregrine falcon (as are the cliffs of Mount Hor, which are below you in this picture!) You can really see here how the trees at the top of the mountain have changed much more than those at the bottom.

 photo MtHor6_zpsqk14nhni.jpg

Looking north, toward the northern end of Willoughby (which is 5 miles/8 km long), toward Coventry (home!) and Canada.

 photo MtHor7_zpsne3fuvxm.jpg

 photo MtHor5_zps4zgjrxry.jpg

This little guy made an appearance at one of the lake overlooks. Judging by his interest in Bobby's camera backpack and his boldness around us, he has been fed. Lake Willoughby is a huge tourist attraction in the summer. There are nine black duck ducklings that will mill under your feet as you sit on the beach because they've become so tame from being fed by tourists. It makes me sad but is one of those things that no amount of effort or education will probably ever stop. So we can enjoy the cute close-up Bobby was able to get of him, right?

 photo MtHorChipmunk_zpscvutpclt.jpg

Having now hiked four of the mountains in the Willoughby area, Hor was by far my favorite: a strenuous but not scary hike rewarded by three stunning views!

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • Oh, I just LOVE that scenery. Thanks for taking us with you!
    • It's really beautiful! We're expecting to return when the leaves are fully colored.

      You're welcome. :) It's fun to do these things and then share them.
  • Bobby out did himself this time. These are terrific shots. I love the one with the shadows of clouds on the mountains. Fantastic. Sounds like a wonderful experience.
    • It was! Uphill climbs are hard for me. The reward of the view at the top makes me do them. (Next summer, I am planning to do the mile-long climb on Mt. Hor at least once per week until I get my climbing muscles in better shape. I need them now that I live in Vermont!)

      The partly cloudy day made for some dramatic views of the cloud-shadows moving across the mountains and the water. It was a spectacular day.
  • Other people drool over attractive people; I drool over mountain landscapes.

    This hike was pleasant enough that it's one I would strongly recommend for the Mereth Aderthad, because it is doable for someone in moderately good shape, even without experience hiking in the mountains. (For the truly adventurous, Bobby and I will take you to the fire tower at the top of Bald Mountain!)

    So: are hiking boots needed or would walking shoes be okay? And what would you call "moderately in shape?" (Am I using the MA to force myself to start exercising again? Oh yes.)
    • Oh you will LOVE Vermont! We have some amazing mountain vistas throughout the state but especially here in the Northeast Kingdom.

      I think walking shoes would be fine as long as they have decent grip on the ground; Mt. Hor doesn't have a lot of rocks to scramble but there are places where, especially descending, you want to have a good grip on the ground.

      (I sometimes see people doing these hikes in flip-flops and water shoes, but I personally think they're nuts.)

      Mt. Hor requires a minimum 3/4-mile uphill climb. The last third-mile, to the summit and the southwestern view, is optional. Based on my own not-very-impressive climbing speed, I would say that if you can manage an uphill climb for 40 minutes or so, you'd be fine. And of course one can stop for breaks. :) It's a three-mile hike, total, if one does all three views.

      Given your love of mountains, if you could do the Bald Mountain hike, I know you would adore it. It has the fire tower at the summit, which gives spectacular 360-degree views of the Greens in Vermont and the White Mountains in New Hampshire. That's a more challenging climb, but if it works as motivation ... ;)
    • So I'm guessing my LL Bean hiking shoes would work? :^)

      ETA: I would say that if you can manage an uphill climb for 40 minutes or so...

      This should motivate me to be more consistent at the local YMCA!

      Edited at 2016-09-25 08:50 pm (UTC)
      • I'm sure they're better than mine! (I hope to have new hiking shoes by next summer. I really need them. My feet should not hurt after just three miles!)
        • So far, these shoes have served me well. They're shorter than a hiking boot, so there's the liability of no ankle support, but they're also lighter and firm enough for good support and traction for rocky trails. I always wear them with a thick pair of Smartwool socks. They're also Goretex-lined, which is handy for cold rain and snow.
      • I understand the motivation too. In Maryland, I was torturing myself with a climb on the elliptical every time I went to the gym so that I wasn't TOO humiliated hiking mountains here! :D I'm horrible at uphill climbs, so I need that motivation too.
    • I'm jealous. On the other hand, I'm going have to get over my fear of driving in the mountains… Even being a passenger freaks me out sometimes.

      Hmm… I'll probably need new walking shoes by then, so if so, they'll have a good grip. Or maybe I'll look into hiking shoes. (Flip-flops? On a mountain? My head hurts.)

      Right. Now to figure out how to get into climbing shape when I don't have and won't get a gym membership… :)

      Getting up in the fire tower wouldn't be a problem (ignoring the hike required to get there); it's getting me down! :P But gah. Yes, it's motivation. Huge motivation.
  • I'm with Oshun: Bobby outdid himself with these photos. The best yet, I think. That blush of Classic Vermont Maple Crimson™ is quite the harbinger of autumn. The drought down here is likely to make our fall foliage more dull this year, so I intend to get vicarious thrills from your photos. And if the EffDeeEh (or rather 3 post-marketing requirements we're working on) didn't have me in iron shackles for the next 3 (!) months (esp. Sept and Oct) you better believe I would have made a long weekend trip up to the Northeast Kingdom to say howdy, eat, drink, and be leaf-peepy merry!

    I keep eyeing those 2 inns you recommended. Have we settled on dates for Mereth yet?

    This reminds me that I need to buy more VT maple syrup from Ackermann's booth at the Rozzie Farmers' Market next weekend. We're running low on our current stock. I find I'm using maple syrup for more than just pancakes and waffles.
    • Everything in Vermont has maple syrup in it. EVERYTHING. It was hard to get used to at first because I kept expecting people to be ironic about it, but they were very serious. Like pizza with maple syrup! A cheeseburger with a drizzle of maple syrup! Most of the time, I have found that it is surprisingly delicious. It pairs great with spicy and salty flavors and a lot of our local cheeses.

      Bobby has started to replace the cane sugar he uses in cooking with maple sugar as well.

      I need to post about the Mereth dates and also take a final pulse on what format people would like. I have it on my mind and hope to get it done this weekend because we do need to have a date and, now that the first arduous weeks of the school year are over, Bobby and I can work on securing any sites we might need, etc.

      I have emailed Bobby the link to the goat farm event too. We think our schedule is free but just want to double-check. If it is, we're totally down, assuming you can slip out of those shackles for a day! :D
      • Vermont maple syrup is truly iconic, and Vermonters have every right to take is Very Seriously.

        Like pizza with maple syrup! A cheeseburger with a drizzle of maple syrup!

        Y'know, that would be good! Especially a pizza with a good sausage. Pork pairs beautifully with maple syrup. Ackermann's has a recipe on their site for maple-bacon chicken that looks pretty awesome, too.

        It pairs great with spicy and salty flavors and a lot of our local cheeses.

        In Tuscany, pairing cheeses, esp. Perorino Toscano, with honey is traditional. Stands to reason that maple syrup would haromize with Vermont cheeses, especially the firm, salty types.

        I'm making a Moroccan tagine for dinner tonight: chicken with dried apricots, rosemary, ginger, and a couple of jalapeños. The recipe also calls for a couple of tablespoons of "runny honey." Heh. Well, given the topic here, guess what I'm going to substitute? :^D

        I have emailed Bobby the link to the goat farm event too. We think our schedule is free but just want to double-check.

        I'd love to do this! Big Picture Farm's candies look amazing! It'd just be a day trip for me. However, I'll need to make the decision a few days before that weekend so I can gauge how far along we are with the 2 draft* protocols we need to submit to the EffDeeEh at the end of October.

        * The Agency will receive the protocols, red-ink them, and tell us what they think we should be doing. Final protocols are due at the end of the year.
  • Gorgeous pics! And your mountains have more interesting names than mine. ;) (Though I did just find out there's a Cathole Mountain in Connecticut... not sure how it's pronounced, but either way, I've got an unpleasant image in my mind now!) We're getting some gold and tinges of red down here, too. I've got to figure out where to go hiking the next few weekends to enjoy the foliage before it's too cold. I bet that scenery up there is going to be stunning with more vivid colors.

    I'm certainly enjoying the chipmunk--s/he's adorable! We don't directly feed our chipmunk neighbors, but some are shy and others apparently have no problem with sniffing around right next to our feet. It's a relief when they bolt away when I move and that they don't beg though.
    • Cathole Mountain is far worse than Hor, I think! Hor is actually kind of funny. It's mostly (entirely?) in the Willoughby Forest preserve, else I'd consider buying a vacation cabin and renting it as The Hor House.

      Maybe this was a naturally gregarious fellow then! He just went straight for Bobby's backpack, which made me think he was used to human food.
  • How lovely. Our leaves are also starting to turn - lots of reds and maroons to balance the green and some gold. Unfortunately, today was a day of rain, so no great photos on my part. I'll just have to live my current autumn through your lovely environment.

    I keep thinking about coming to visit next summer for MA, and seeing the area would certainly be one of the positives. I'll have to wait and see if things work out for my schedule, but you've certainly moved to a stunning area of the country and I would love to see it in person.

    - Erulisse (one L)
    • It's pretty amazing here! It's definitely worth seeing if you can swing it, for the MA or some other time. :)

      It's cool to see how the leaves change from day to day. We have pretty foliage in Maryland too, of course, but nothing like here!
  • (no subject) - metamorphage
  • Such awesome pics, and such a great time you've had! :D Thank you for sharing so much of your new home and this beautiful country.
    One of the first times I learned about life in the U.S., countryside and climate was with reading Understood Betsy when I was 8 or 9, and I loved it to pieces. "Vermont" became a kind of very special (part of a) country for me.
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