Emma on the Long Trail
Mount Abraham 4006' and
Mount Ellen 4083'
12.6 Miles 2600' Elevation gain
Kevin, Judy and Emma
We love Vermont. We have always preferred the rural setting of it's mountains in comparison to the crowded highways that cut through the notches of New Hampshire. The country store settings as opposed to the money making tourist traps. Don't get me wrong, we love New Hampshire too. We avoid the distractions and head for its less traveled roads, but there is something about the quiet, rural settings in Vermont that appeal to us. Herein lies the problem. Apparently Vermont does not feel the same about us as we feel about it. Two years in a row we have spent our September vacation there and two years in a row Vermont has thrown some of the nastiest weather our way that we have ever had to deal with on our camping and hiking trips. Well, we understand that every trip can't be an Indian Summer walk under bluebird skies, but it would be nice to get to see the sun shine on some of those gorgeous hillsides all saturated in their autumn glory.
Along Rte 100
Last year we at least got enough decent weather to drive to the top of Mansfield before we drove home on our last day. We had climbed both Mansfield and Camel's Hump in pea soup fog on that trip. This year we didn't even get that, though the clouds did break enough to get some views for a while on each day. Of course, similar to last year, we endured torrential rains and even thunder and lightning in between the breaks. We had planned on hiking Killington and Pico as well, but the prospect of another twelve mile hike in fog and rain kept us near camp. Now the campground was nice enough, with plenty of hiking right out of our site. Gifford Woods State Park is near where the Appalaichan Trail and the Long Trail make their split and go their separate ways. If we followed the AT north from our campsite it wound around Kent Pond and if we followed it south it led us to Deer Leap Mountain with great views across Sherburne Pass to Pico and Killington Peaks. My only complaint about Gifford Woods would be that it is too close to Rte. 100 and the sounds of the road were annoying. I was surprised at the amount of traffic along this section near Killington Corner and it definitely lacked that quiet, rural atmosphere I had been looking forward to. All right, enough. The hike itself was, as it always is, enjoyable despite the feeling of being inside a cloud for most of the day. We easily found the terailhead in Lincoln Gap and were quickly on our way to the summit of Mount Abraham. Visibility was about a quarter mile, so we moved on all the time hoping for some break in the weather, but determined to make the best of it at any rate. We soon found ourselves crossing Little Abe and rising up to Lincoln Peak where there are some radio towers and an observation deck just above the top of the skilift for Sugarbush South. From here we hiked along the "Monroe Skyline" section of the Long Trail on our way north to Mount Ellen.
Autumn Bunchberries Cornus canadensis
After crossing Nancy Hanks Peak and following along a ski trail for a while the trail entered the woods again and made its way along over several more bumps to the unmarked Cutts Peak, just shy of Mount Ellen. After another short hike over a few more bumps we arrived at the summit of Mount Ellen. We stopped long enough to refuel before heading back south along the Long Trail. While sitting there I was surprised to hear the sound of a truck and was amazed to think we were close enough to Appalaichan Gap to hear it. Well, the sound grew louder and I realized it was much closer than Rte. 17 that runs through the gap. Looking north along the trail I could soon see the truck coming up an access road to the ski area and a work crew got out and started doing maintenance about a hundred yards from us. So much for the quiet rural settings of Vermont's mountains. It didn't matter. We were in the mountains and we still had plenty of hiking to do to get back to our car. We were still holding out hope that the clouds would break and we'd get some views. It didn't take long to get our wish. As we clambored back over Cutts Peak we could see beyond that the fog was starting to roll off the hillsides and that some views were opening up into the valleys below us. As we made our way back along the Monroe Skyline we were treated to partial glimpses into the surrounding valleys which made our patience with the weather more worthwhile. It was as though the mountains had said, "Well, they endured the hike over in the fog, they deserve something for their effort." Emma seemed to enjoy it the most, perching on a boulder to stare out at the colorful tapestry of hills below us. From Lincoln Peak we were finally able to get a good look back at Mount Ellen and see what she looked like. To our south her brother Abraham rose up and tickled the belly of the overcast skies and we knew we had to make our way back over him to get to our car beyond. The hike from here went better with renewed energy from the ocassional moments of sunshine and glimpses into the valleys. We were soon back at the summit of Abraham who chose to continue his brooding and wouldn't pull his head out of the clouds. Ah well, some other time when you're in a better mood, Abraham. That night and the next morning brought more rain and plans to go to Killington were killed.
Emma on Deer Leap
After the thunder and lightning the rain stopped long enough to hike up to Deer Leap where the weather was forgiving enough to give us some good views over to Pico and Killington. We'll be back!