This is no hike. Mount Hunger is a serious C-L-I-M-B! But let me tell you, it’s a worth-the-drive-from-anywhere kind of climb.
Rated “Advanced” and “Difficult” in various hiking guides, Mount Hunger is smaller than its sister, Camel’s Hump, across the valley. That said, Mount Hunger at 3500 feet has 2300 feet of elevation gain over its 2.1 mile ascent. On this 58F Tuesday morning in early September, there is no fee to hike this trail . Or on any morning for that matter.
After an overnight with friends Phyllis and Wally in Burlington, we have a simple 30 minute drive south on I-89 to Waterbury, VT. Taking exit 10 north past the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Complex towards Stowe on route 100, we hang a right on Howard Avenue to Waterbury Center and eventually work our way to a left onto Sweet Road. A a mile and a half later we arrive at a designated parking area; coincidentally we park next to a car with Maine plates.
Immediately the trail gets your attention as it steadily rises towards the summit of Mount Hunger. With Hannah in the lead, we hike along a trail of gnarly roots, stones, and protruding larger rocks. The forest canopy covers us nearly completely and will do so until the last few hundred feet of the trail to the summit.
Breathing heavily and stepping on and around rocks, we hike steadily through a forest of pines and hardwoods. Crossing small mountain rivulets, the trail climbs higher and higher with its Adirondack switchbacks (i.e., the trail goes straight up the mountain).
Soon the rock facing sides of the mountain have us scrambling as we engage in hand-to-stone combat. Meeting up with the couple from Maine with their golden retriever, we think there is no way that their pooch can make it over these slick stone facades to the top. Surely, they will turn back.
We do banter with them long enough for me to ask them if they think there are antennas on the summit. They think not, but my question is just a ruse to launch into the story of two antennas meeting on a roof, falling in love, and getting married. The wedding was just okay, but the reception was terrific. Surprised and pleased, they smile and we as strangers relax in each other’s company.
It’s a challenging but not perilous climb; worthy of its “difficult” rating. Soon we begin to see the first glimpses of blue sky through the leaves, knowing the summit is at hand.
On schedule within 200 feet of the top, we have a panoramic view of the Vermont countryside looking west to the Green Mountains. It’s real and it’s spectacular. An hour and twenty minutes after starting we have climbed the two miles up and been richly rewarded.
Within minutes the couple from Maine arrives with their golden retriever! Duly impressed, we want dog lovers to know that Mount Hunger is accessible for your canines, but it will be just as challenging for them as it will be for you. Later we learn that some dog owners carry their pets over some of the rock facades.
The top is windy and my sweatshirt warms me from the steady cool wind; Hannah wishes she had gloves. We have a 360 degree view with the Green Mountains to our west and the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the east. Surveying nature’s stunning beauty, we know a steep descent awaits. While the hand holds on the rock faces make the climb up manageable, what about sliding down these stony facades?
As we leave the summit, we immediately approach the rock faces, and it’s butt scraping time. And then it all seems quite manageable. In fact, this expansive rock face that we climbed up twenty minutes ago is easier coming down. Clearly it is no climb to do in wet conditions.
We soon meet an affable local with an Alaska hat; easy conversation follows. Feeling at ease, I ask if he has jumper cables. He shakes his head no, which offers me the invitation to tell him that a pair of jumper cables goes into a bar. The bartender says I’ll serve you but don’t start anything. He loves it. And I love that he loves it.
As we part, knowing he will see the Maine couple at the top, I say, Ask them about antennas. With this light-hearted interlude, the door opens for us to be a momentary community of hikers.
The hike down is slow going as our knees and toes in our boots take the brunt of our descent. Hannah is nimble and agile over the rocks and shows me the safest way down.
It turns out the hike down takes ten minutes longer (1h 30m) than the climb up. Though counter intuitive, in the beginning we are bursting with that start-of-the-hike energy. Coming down the mountain we are more cautious and mellow.
At 1P we return to the trailhead, de-sock and de-shoe for our sandals, agreeing with the guide book that calls Mount Hunger one of New England’s ten best hikes.
Heading for home, we pass the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Complex. How can we pass up this opportunity to go on the factory tour. We are right here!
Well, there are two reasons: Owen and Max. How much better would it be to take our grandsons on the tour with us. Owen and Max, put it in the calendar of your future iPhone 12s: Omi and Boppa are taking you to Ben and Jerry’s.
For more information about this hike, try Hiking Vermont by Larry Fletcher (Mount Hunger pp. 145-147 for directions and description)