The hike out to the car, and DOGSLEDS!
The morning was CONSIDERABLY warmer than even the night before, and I regret to admit: I had left my camera in the car the night before, to minimize weight as I hiked 2.5 miles to the tent, because I was exhausted.
And so I missed the ability to photograph a honest to God dog sled go galloping past me.
Instead, I got to speak with one of the trainers, and get some photos of their lovely custom kennel/truck, and their second team of gorgeous Siberian Huskies! I don’t typically like dogs due to smell and noise… but in this case, they made noises like wolves and LOOKED like wolves. And being of House Stark, knowing that winter IS coming, this was entirely ~awesome~ in my book. I sort of wanted one. Or three. Or a team and a sled, because who can refuse a face like this:
Even the top of the kennels on the truck bed had a dog sledding ornament, the sort of DIY attention to detail which warms my (otherwise icy, cold and dead) heart:
A wonderfuly wintry and NON-hypothermic start to my morning!
Hiking up around/in the midst of Camel’s Hump Mountain
I drove over to the other side of Waterbury, and carefully made my way up the class 4 (again, unpaved and unmaintained DEATH RACE) roads to the winter parking lot. Where I found, of course, another Subaru breeding ground, with several Vermonters either coming back or preparing to hike/ski the mountain!
After a lunch of Ramen prepared on the camp stove out the back of my car, I started up the “View Trail” as it was the only trail I could see… and ended up back in the parking lot. ugh.
I went a different direction, in my microspikes (rather than my snowshoes, which was a bad idea in retrospect, as it was more than 3 foot of snow in a lot of places, not all equally compacted down), and found some kind of shorter trail meant for cross country skiers, and went off in that direction. It WAS headed up towards the peak, and it got me to… another trail, this one groomed by VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) for use by hikers, skiers, and snowmobilers alike. Again, this went up and around the peak of the mountain, but with VERY few trail markers or signs, I went with it. I continued to approach the cloud rooted atop the peak, and got some good views:
The trail kept going 1) up and 2) around the mountain, seeming like it would eventually get me to the peak or at least another trail to the peak… but instead I got to see snowmobilers go zooming past:
In retrospect, while I love my new green Carhartt raincoat, it is not especially good at things like “being seen by people operating motor vehicles on icy surfaces” – but they were all really good about slowing way down once they saw me, to the benefit of the “Mike not dying on this trip” fund:
Eventually I got high up that trail enough to reach the edge of the cloud, and it snowed intermittently onto me as the visibility dropped. Given that I was exhausted, and alone in a snowy and foggy area, and it was 2pm (with sunset forecasted to be at 5:46pm), I decided to turn around and head back to the car. A great hike with some lovely views, and while it is disappointing to not have made it to the peak of Camel’s Hump Mountain, I look forward to getting back to Vermont with other hikers and without dangerous weather, to do a lot more of the Long Trail, in the near future!
Dinner at Maxi’s. for the warmth of both the food and the locals
After the hike, it was around 4pm and I was starving to a crazy degree, so I went back to Maxi’s – where I had dined the night before, it was suggested to me by my friend Emma, and it was *delicious* the night before. But Saturday for my late lunch, they hit it out of the park: a panini from heaven, constructed with turkey, bacon, brie, apple chutney, and curry mayonnaise. And God’s blessing. And it was delicious, I only wish I had room after it (and my chicken coconut curry soup as a starter) to have tried their famous Vermont maple syrup cheesecake.
Perhaps I *have* to go back there, now.
Packing up, heading home
After dinner and the 5.5 hour hike across the wastes, I was very tired, and recognized that I really needed more time than I had billed, to do work for my job and then pack my car for my 10 days of spring break at home in Ohio this coming week. On the way, I saw an outdoor gear shop with “clearance signs” all over every surface, went in (mostly to warm myself out of the wind), and ended up getting a $75 snowshoe bag for… $23! No more worrying about snowshoe crampons tearing the upholstery in my car, or in my life!
Given the above, and having had a great time, I decided to grab the remaining sunlight to go back and tear down camp, to head home 12 hours earlier than planned.
A successful and treacherous drive up to the lower parking lot of Little River State Park saw my hike reduced to 1 mile each way, meaning I tore down camp and got back to the car in time to grab some FANTASTIC shots of the mountains in the background as the sun began to retreat:
The drive home, excited for the next trip
The trip was a roaring success, and as I drove home I reflected on how lucky I am to have gotten my fuel efficient car for such a low price, and friends like Mark and Tom who continue to help me learn how to keep it going and indeed run even better. It was just shy of $100 worth of fuel for nearly 950 miles of driving (including the 2 hours down and then 2 back up, for the observatory), which is 40mpg (including the trailer hitch shelf with firewood, AND the roof basket with shovel and axe). The cost of camping was $0, as the winter is the offseason, so I will continue to be able to squeeze in my final New England Camping Experiences, to complete the set with t New Hampshire and Rhode Island… and then, if there is time, additional trips to states already visited!
Stay tuned, and stay warm.