Dan and Hannah Climb Camel’s Hump in Vermont

Vermont map

A shout out goes to our friend Jerrod Hall who responded to my Facebook posting looking for a Vermont hiking recommendation.  Turned on to Camel’s Hump, I am reminded that while he and our son Will were roommates at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, they hiked this third highest mountain in the state.

Eaton's Sugar House in South Royalton, Vermont

Eaton’s Sugar House in South Royalton, Vermont

Leaving home in York, Maine at 6A on this Monday in early September, we know we have a three plus hour drive to Camel’s Hump in north central Vermont.  Our friend Liz Marshall suggested Eaton’s Sugar House in South Royalton, VT for breakfast.

Picnic tables at the Sugar House

Picnic tables at the Sugar House

Ideally located within a half of mile of I-89 off exit 3, Eaton’s Sugar House looks like something out of the 19th century California Gold Rush.  Once inside, we are greeted by our waitress Charity and select one of the fifteen picnic tables on this quiet Monday.

The Original IQ Tester

The Original IQ Tester

Opting for blueberry pancakes, I wait for them trying my skill at the IQ Tester peg game.  Leaving just two pegs means I am above average; which totally confirms what my mother always told me.  Hannah chooses the two egg, bacon, home fries, and homemade bread toast with coffee special for $4.95.

Hannah's Hyundai Elantra arrives at the trailhead for Camel's Hump

Hannah’s Hyundai Elantra arrives at the trailhead for Camel’s Hump

Carbo loaded, we drive another hour to exit 10 on I-89 and wind our way through the town of Waterbury, VT; shadowing the Winooski River we see signs for Camel’s Hump which eventually guide us to the trailhead lower parking lot suitable for twenty cars.  The upper lot can handle 20 more for what many believe is the most popular (and no fee) hike in all of Vermont.

VCU Rams are ready for the Monroe Trail

This VCU Ram is ready for the Monroe Trail

It’s 11A as we put water bottles, sandwich fixings, gorp, and energy bars in our fanny packs for the climb to the top.  Even on this workday Monday there are ten cars in the lot and no shortage of people hiking.

The forest canopy shades the Monroe Trail on the way to Camel's Hump

The forest canopy shades the Monroe Trail on the way to Camel’s Hump

The Monroe Trail is a 3.4 mile ascent that has us hiking to the summit of the only undeveloped peak over 4000 feet in Vermont.  In guide books there are two prominent trails up the mountain: the Burrows, shorter at 4.2 round-trip, and the longer Monroe at 6.8 miles round-trip with its 2600 feet of elevation gain.

Vermont woods

Vermont woods

In 1.3 miles through the heavy forest, we see the turn for the Dean Trail to the top but we opt to stay on the Monroe Trail since we don’t know how much the elevation gain will take out of us.  As a trail that is rocky and constantly rising, it’s really a climb/hike through hardwoods and pines.  As “here for the physical challenge” hikers (as opposed to “stop and smell the roses” hikers), Hannah and I are loving the climb as we pursue a great workout.

Never does the Monroe Trail seem perilous nor does it have the steep rock faces that its sister climb across the valley has (Mount Hunger in Center Waterbury).  Rarely do we have to grab the stone mountainside for balance.  It’s a challenging nearly two hour hike but not daunting; clearly with all the stones and rocks, it is no mountain to climb in even light rain.

On this 60s day, we hike in shorts and tee shirts, sweating much of the way.  A hat for protection from the sun, even sunscreen is hardly necessary as we are shaded for 95% of the hike.  The trail is well-marked and easy to follow.  Climbers up and down provide for a moment of connection.

Approaching the summit

Approaching the summit

A clearing just 0.3 miles from the top is the convergence with the Long Trail and the Burrows Trail as we prepare for our final assault.  By the way. going along the mountain tops of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada, the Long Trail predates the Appalachian Trail.

From atop Camel's Hump

From atop Camel’s Hump

Once at the summit, we have panoramic views of the Vermont countryside.  With dogs aplenty at the top, we hikers are all admonished to walk just on rocks and stay off the grassy portions of Camel’s Hump due to its fragile arctic alpine vegetation.

Check out the video from the windy mountain top.

 

Barefoot hiker's imprint

Barefoot hiker’s imprint

While the descent taxes our knees over jutting rocks and roots, we are soon passed by a barefoot hiker.  While our hiking boots allow us to step on the sharp edges in the rocky trail, he navigates in and around them quite effortlessly.  When we ask, he says if you walk properly and care for your feet, it’s not hard to do.  And then he’s gone.   We’ll stick with hiking boots.

The many trails of Camel's Hump

The many trails of Camel’s Hump

Once back at the trailhead there is a feeling of satisfaction.   Checking my watch I see that it took us just as long to descend the mountain (1h 50 minutes) as we did to climb it.  Camel’s Hump is Vermont hiking at its best.

For directions and description of the Camel’s Hump hike try:

Vermont Hiking: Day Hikes, Kid-Friendly Trails and Backpacking Treks by Michael Lanza

Hiking Vermont by Larry Fletcher

(Both I found on interlibrary loan in the state of Maine)

Click on this link for an excellent trail map.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Long Trail near Killington, Vermont

Long Trail in Vermont

Long Trail in Vermont

Throughout the night, rain splatters on the window of our top floor room at the North Star Lodge in Killington, VT.  Fortunately, the forecast calls for this rain to stop by the time we hike later this morning.  We’ve come to Vermont for a “couple’s retreat” to hike and talk about our marriage.

G D at Butternut Inn

Before hiking the Long Trail, we breakfast again at the Butternut Inn; but it is what happens after breakfast that surprises us and reaffirms that life is good.  As I am packing up our Hyundai Elantra, Hannah returns to thank the “Living Large” cook Craig for his positive energy during our two mornings at the Butternut Inn.  Yesterday, he was our waiter and cook and so full of life that he brings to mind our dynamic dear friend Big Steve.

As she finds Craig, Hannah thanks him and, among other things, mentions that she’s saving her rye toast from breakfast to make a sandwich.  Craig says, Why don’t I make you a sandwich with that toast before you go?  What would you like?  Five minutes later he returns with a tomato, bacon, spinach, cheddar cheese, and horse radish sandwich for Hannah.

What goes around comes around.  Hannah dishes out goodness all the time and goodness finds its way back to her again and again.

Morning fog over Killington Mountain

Morning fog over Killington Mountain

And in fact the rain has stopped, but a cloud remains on the rise of route 4 by the Inn at Long Trail just a couple miles from our overnight stay.

Morning fog over the Inn at Long Trail, obscuring Deer Leap Mountain

Morning fog over the Inn at Long Trail, obscuring Deer Leap Mountain

Fog engulfs the Inn as we look from the parking lot across the highway at 9A, with 50F degrees and “high seas” west winds.

Sherburne Pass at the rise of Route 4 at our trailhead

Sherburne Pass at the rise of Route 4 at our trailhead

Though the wind whips through the trees, we will soon be protected by the forest cover on this late October morning.

Hannah hiking the blue blaze trail to the Long Trail

Hannah hiking the blue blaze trail to the Long Trail

The side trail (blue blazes guide us) leaves from the east end of the Inn at Long Trail parking lot heading into the Vermont  woods.

It’s a steady half mile climb to the Appalachian Trail as we skirt Deer Leap Mountain.

October in Vermont

October in Vermont

Soon we meet Origami, the trail name of a one-time AT thru-hiker and currently hiking the Long Trail south.  When asked if he is a thru-hiker he said, I’m likely a “through” thru-hiker.  It’s rained the last three days.  After sleeping on the wet ground in a soaked tent and been hiking for five hours already this morning, I’m going into Rutland (five miles away down route 4) to decide if I am going to continue.  In fact, he tells us that a few days before, he fell and broke his iPod.  He adds in  a self-effacing but not self-pitying way, That meant I’ve had to pass the time with only what I have between my ears.  And let me tell you that leaves much to be desired.  He does sound resolved to get off the trail.

Asked about his trail name Origami, he says, I fold dollar bills for tips.  I left some at the Inn at Long Trail pub years ago and am going down to the bar to see if they are still there.

Thru-hiking can seem glamorous from afar, but Origami has lived the other side of the story over the last few days.

Heading north on the Long Trail

Heading north on the Long Trail

At the junction of the AT and LT, we head north on the Long Trail that goes for 272 miles from the Massachusetts border to Canada along the main ridge of the Green Mountains. If we had gone south, we would have been on the  AT and LT as one trail for the next 100 miles.  The Green Mountain Club, guardians of the Long Trail, make sure we take the correct path.

It certainly looks like a trail

It certainly looks like a trail

Without the white blazes of the Long Trail, it would be anyone’s guess where the trail would be as fallen leaves cover our path.

White blazes guide our way

White blazes guide our way

This 44 second video captures what much of the trail looks like.

Within twenty minutes, we meet Lazarus, a hiker out for the coming week.  We do not probe about the genesis of his trail name.  When he mentions his trail name, he smiles and nods to himself as much as to tell us that he’s been back from the dead.  We exchange email addresses.  Do you know how?  By typing them into our smart phones!

Lazarus and Shootin'

Lazarus and Shootin’

His comment on hiking with a cell phone proves wise.  Lazarus assumes that when he would most need a cell phone, he wouldn’t have cell service.  So he never counts on his cell phone.

Clearly not a rolling stone

Clearly not a rolling stone

After 90 minutes of hiking north, we turn back for the trailhead. Other than the steep climb to the AT at the start, our hike today is a leisurely, gently rolling one along the ridge of the Green Mountains.  Throughout the time we talk more about our couple’s retreat questions.

Do we have enough quality and quantity time?

What was our best date this year?

What are our best memories of the past year?

What are three romantic dates we can plan for the coming year?

What are two things that would improve our marriage?

Girl of my dreams

Girl of my dreams

41 years together and still counting.