Sunday, June 29, 2014

Killington and Camel's Hump 2014-06-29 and 30

Killington 2014-06-29

Compared to my usual 2.5 hour drive to the Adirondacks, Killington is a stretch at nearly 4 hours (plus an another hour to get out of Montreal on a Friday afternoon). I camped at Gifford Woods state park which has large sites set in mature woods. It was built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) and the Appalachian Trail runs through the campground.

I still had an hour of daylight so I drove to the base of Killington's ski resort to familiarize myself with the area. I was glad Brian (Pathgrinder) had chosen to ascend via the opposite undeveloped (western) side because it would've been less interesting to hike along the ski runs.

After a good night's sleep (aided by earplugs because some campers don't care about "Quiet Hours") and a hearty breakfast, I met Brian at the Bucklin trail-head, on Wheelerville Road at 8:45 AM. The Bucklin trail rises gently to a junction with the Long Trail then proceeds to Cooper Lodge. "Lodge" is a bit of a misnomer because the structure is more of a cabin.

The trail climbs more steeply beyond Cooper Lodge and ends on Killington's developed summit. Bristling with antennas, a fire-tower, and a ski-lift station, the only thing lacking on its check-list is a parking lot. Nevertheless, it was a lovely cool day with a tolerable number of black flies and decent views of the countryside.

Brian and I spent at least an hour and half on the summit. We watched the gondola bring hikers and mountain-bikers to the summit. We chatted with an AT thru-hiker ("Trademark") and he recounted a few of the highs and lows of his journey. By amazing coincidence, he and I would cross paths later in the day at Gifford Woods!

The descent was a breeze and we capped off the morning with lunch at McGrath's Irish Pub, part of the Inn at Long Trail which welcomes thru-hikers. By mid-afternoon we had our fill of Long trail Ale, had made tentative plans for other hikes to chip away at the NE115, and it was time to part company. I headed back to the campsite to clean up and make supper. I turned in at sundown and was serenaded by loons in nearby Kent Pond.

Around 1:00 AM I was awakened by the call of a Barred Owl. "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" is such a delightfully spooky sound in the still of the night. I lay there with a big grin and enjoyed every moment of the owl's song.

Photos of Killington.

Camel's Hump 2014-06-30

The next morning I took Brian's advice and drove north along route 100 (instead of I-89). It was a very scenic tour of rural Vermont and I especially enjoyed the section through Granville Gap. I also made a a mental note of the intersections for Lincoln Gap and Appalachian Gap because I'd be returning in the future for a thru-hike of Abraham and Ellen.

I had been to Camel's Hump thirty years ago but the details were foggy. Using only a Vermont state road map, I blundered westward from Waterbury along route 2 (currently gravel due to pavement replacement). Eventually I realized I was living the Vermont farmer's maxim "You can't get there from here." I stopped and asked for directions and was told to return to Waterbury and head west on Winooski Road.

I left the trail-head at 8:45 AM and decided to make the trip a "workout". I chose to ascend via Monroe to Dean then from Wind Gap along the Long Trail to the summit. It seemed like the most "sporting" route as well as the most scenic. I was not disappointed.

A few minutes in along the Monroe trail, a passed a hiker jogging back to the trail-head. He had no pack and was dressed casually in bermuda shorts and a buttoned short-sleeve shirt. I didn't think much of it at the time.

Upon reaching the bog along the Dean trail I paused to photograph the ridge leading to Camel's Hump (route of the Long trail) as well as the peak's imposing southern face. I paused again to photograph the trail junction in Wind Gap and, hearing someone behind me, turned to see the casual hiker jogging past me. I greeted him as he began the steep scramble up the ridge.

Sensing an opportunity to follow a strong pace-setter, I tried to keep up with him. He was moving briskly and it wasn't long before the gap began to widen. At one point he mentioned that he was trying to catch up with his pregnant wife! Upon reaching the top of the ridge, I paused to catch my breath and appreciate the scenery I was passing. I lost sight of him.

I caught up a few minutes later to discover him with his 6-month pregnant wife. I congratulated her for her stamina and continued on to the summit. Wow!

The hike along the ridge is gentle and then climbs steeply to the summit. I paused below the southern face at the junction of the Long Trail and the Alpine trail (a foul-weather bypass that skirts the peak's eastern side). The final stretch was on open rock and very enjoyable. I reached the summit 95 minutes from the trail-head.

Being a hot and hazy day, there were no views of the Adirondacks or the Whites. However, the surrounding countryside was beautiful, the peak had few other hikers, and bugs were almost non-existent so, all in all, it was fine day to be atop Camel's Hump.

I spent about 45 minutes on the summit, watching hikers and their dogs come and go. I implored a group of three young ladies to keep off the alpine grass but they seemed to have trouble differentiating between it and rock. A nearby hiker shrugged and raised his hands in a gesture saying "What can you do?" Camel's Hump could benefit from a Summit Steward.

After I had my fill of the scenery, I stuck to my "workout" goal and began a speedy descent along the Monroe trail. I was glad to have ascended via the Long Trail because I found the Monroe approach to be less scenic. I arrived at the trail-head fifty minutes after my departure. After a sponge bath and a change of clothes I was ready to return to the big city. I spent the balance of the day lounging about Burlington and enjoying the last day of June.

Photos of Camel's Hump.

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