Trail: Signal Mountain from L.R. Jones State Forest|
Date Hiked: 3/10/07
Conditions: Route details in Comments, below. Road to the Spruce Mt. trailhead is plowed, and the Spruce Mt. Trail is well packed by snowshoes and skis. After that, it was approx. 3.5 miles of untracked powder and remote backcountry to the summit. Fortunately the deep snowpack from Valentine's Day had consolidated and crusted, so after sinking through about 1' of powder my skis settled nicely on that older layer (conditions have probably changed somewhat now due to rain and warm temps). As the day warmed up the snow got wetter and balling greatly increased the exertion level. From the Signal/Burnt Mt. saddle to Signal's summit the woods were too tight for me to ski so I snowshoed the final 1/2 mile, which worked very well. That final 1/2 mile is the most difficult and slowest part of the trip due to dense woods and steep ledgy terrain; it's so thickly grown that you really can't see more than 150-200' so a GPS is highly recommended to find the true summit unless you want to spend a lot of time thrashing around up there. The gradient for about 1 mile beginning just below the saddle is ideal for a quick but manageable ski descent; after that it's back to a lot of kicking and gliding, but my own tracks helped immeasurably on the way out!
Special Required Equipment: Skis & snowshoes - you could take just snowshoes but it would be a lot slower. Detailed map, compass and strong backcountry navigation skills; a GPS is strongly recommended, and you may wish to study some satellite photos beforehand (check www.terraserver.com).
Comments: Signal Mountain is the Caledonia County Highpoint, for those who track such things. Details on my route, which includes two bushwhacks and a long section of old logging road, can be found here: http://cohp.org/vt/vermont.html#Caledonia. BE WARNED: THIS IS A DIFFICULT TRIP DUE TO THE REMOTE LOCATION AND LONG MEANDERING APPROACH. Because I'm (alledgedly) masochistic and stubborn I went the whole way from the Spruce Mountain trailhead but you can cut off a couple of miles round trip, and one of the two bushwhacks, by driving up Gore Road to a gate and asking the landowner's permission as described in Fred Lobdell's COHP post. No views from the top, but there are some restricted views to the west and north from just above and below the Signal/Burnt Mt. saddle. On this, my second visit to Signal Mountain I actually found the true summit and also the remains of the nearby "Harris 2" marker shown on USGS topos.
Submitted by: Jay Meyer