I left this one as a “don't care, let's hike” decision, but when Killington came up, I was gently pushing for it versus Camel's Hump. It was a lot closer, and in fact, it's very close to me. What joy I would acquire from meeting in my home town versus the 1,200,000 millisecond drive to Bow! As a special bonus, Desi would be joining us today. She hadn't seen me in some time, and the long hair was a bit of a surprise to her. :)
We went out Sunday thanks to crappy Saturday weather. A small dumping of snow followed by rain. The drive up was nice (as I looked longingly at the sight of the Long Trail Brewery going by), and as we headed deeper in, I started marveling at the hills and woods. Steep, but very few softwoods. What is this magical place?!
We turned down Woodsville Rd. and came to the trailhead, which was empty. More joy as we saw this area apparently escaped the 8” of snow we had here. It was a thin layer of snow. It didn't take long to leave the snowshoes behind. Surely we won't need them, as this trail is ever so packed out! HA HA HA! I'll never learn.
Coming to the kiosk 0.2 miles away, we were informed that the trail is closed. We informed the non-existent sentry tough boogers. Lots of footprints heading on, and so did we. Before long we had confirmation as to why. Irene had swept out a portion of the trail. Look carefully, and you'll see a blue blaze on one of those leaning trees.
We followed the whack tracks across and beside the brook, before spotting the trail again on the other side some ways up. The grade for quite some time was awesome, and while leisurely, we were making great time. This has to be an old logging road, though I'm suspicious it might have been an old rail bed. Checking my altimeter told me this fun must end at some point. And, like all things that must end, it ended. Gradual at first, but definitely up. All the while, I kept looking left and back at the views, and to the right at amazing open hardwoods. So this is what everyone raves about in Vermont. I would say it's steely claws were sinking into me, but it was more a motherly embrace.
We climbed higher (amazingly, when one climbs, one also gets higher, go figure), and the woods started changing to softwoods. Still, wide open!
OK, now it was less of a motherly embrace and more of I need some more heroine after that first hit (and no, I'm only guessing that's what it's like, I hate needles...). This was insane. And to think I always poo poo'ed the mountains of Vermont, the home of my mother's side of the family. No, there was something very, very special here. There would be much bushwhacking in my future here.
OK, back to climbing. It was a slow but steady slog, following mainly some showshoe tracks, and then before the Long Trail junction, they were gone. What? You lazy bum! How dare you give up, especially when we have no snowshoes! Yeah, the snow was deep here, but the trailbreaking wasn't too bad. I think. Greg was the one who did it. We plodded along, trying to keep to the trail in the open woods, and finally came to the junction. Time for a break. Here, at least, some ski tracks had come down the trail, and the surface was decent underneath. Good deal.
We were getting close now, and after some food, went back to it, occasionally breaking through the ski tracks. We heard voices,then noticed the cabin with a bunch of skiers in it. It quickly became clear in winter this was Cannabis Cabin. Well, it is Vermont after all. We moved right along, and saw to the left a nice packed ski trail. To the right, untracked hiking trail. So of course, we went right. Now the snow was knee deep and the breaking much harder. I think. We still let Greg do it. We wouldn't argue with him after all. A couple weak suggestions to turn around and go up the trail were ignored, so we plodded ahead, knowing only 0.2 miles lay between us and the summit.
Plodded. Yeah, that's a good word. Then there was the summit cone. A very, very steep summit cone. The tower looked so close, but it never looked closer. Lots of ice, and very hard to get any grip. Maybe 50 feet from the summit, I heroically relieved Greg, just so I could say I broke trail. That and I had poles which were helpful to moving forward. Kind of. Three days later we broke out on the summit, and it was a stunner, even with the cloud cover.
Hardwoods, hardwoods, everywhere. Lots of rolling hills all about. OK, I'm doing the VT 3000 footer list. Done deal. The Whites were sadly obscured by clouds, but I did manage to see Kearsarge (once Brian pointed it out), always a treat to say, there's home. I also knew I would definitely come back here on a clear day to really suck in the views.
We were not relishing going back down the way we came, and our answer came by the way of a skier or two coming up a path to the right. A very short jaunt led us to a ski trail next the top-most lift, and so I jumped right on it and butt slid until the first leftward break in the woods, a wooden walkway. That brought us to the top of another lift (and a tempting snowmobile with the keys in it), and we took the first “trail” left again. Out of Bounds signs screamed everywhere, but clearly, this was well used, and in short order we were back by the cabin, the smell even stronger now.
“My, THAT was quick!” Greg made the claim to wanting to mix things up, so he won that point. :) No harm done, and it was interesting. The speed picked up now, despite the occasional posthole, and I was now looking forward to getting off the steeps, which happened soon enough. Time to relax a bit as I didn't have to watch my feet so much, and the trail was better tramped out. The guys noticed a pink and black flagged road heading away from the washed out area, so we decided to follow it. It started annoying enough, climbing the hillside over several berms, but once the plateau was reached, was pretty pleasant, save for some minor ups and downs.
It was becoming clear this was a likely reroute of the trail. I prefer they'd just relocate along the flat section (where there was plenty of room), but it was a nice change of scenery. A short trip to the lot, where weirdness occurred. First, a car pulled out when we got there, leaving some lovely trash behind. Maybe a coincidence, but suspicious. Then a lady pulls in, saunters to the trail head, and just kind of stands there. We left, and the car started moving, but I never saw it pull out. Maybe innocuous, but my suspicion meter was riding high.
On the way back, I was now looking at every hill with great interest. This looks to be an extremely ledgey area, very interesting. The hint of stopping at Long Trail for lunch stuck, unfortunately, they were mobbed. Much as I love their beer, I was in no mood to wait at least 25 minutes just to sit down, so we went on to Lebanon and chowed down at Chili's. Forty minutes after we left, I was home. Yeah, Vermont, that's the ticket.