One of my favorite things to do is get out in nature and go camping someplace I have never been. This summer my wife and I decided to go to Vermont and camp with one of our dogs. We decided to camp at Gifford Woods State Park. We had narrowed the choice down to two different locations. I decided I wanted to check out Gifford Woods.
One of the main reasons I wanted to camp at Gifford woods was because it was literally right on the Appalachian Trail and that would allow me easy access to explore this legendary trail that I had previously never had the opportunity to check out. I wasted no time doing so. As soon as we arrived and unpacked the first thing I wanted us to do was go see where the Appalachian Trail met the campground and explore a little bit of the trail. As soon as we headed out we quickly learned that not only did the Appalachian trail run through our campground it literally lead right past our campsite. I thought I had spotted trail blazes on trees as we approached our campsite, but I didn’t know what they were for. We saw so many hikers pass by on the Appalachian Trail while we relaxed at our campsite, probably between a half-dozen and a dozen hikers every day. And that was just at the times we were actually at our campsite which was not most of the time, most days. It was quite impressive to see all the hikers.
We had purchased an AMC hikers guide to Vermont and marked off many different hikes we were interested in possibly doing while we were on our trip. There was one hike that we were excited to try out because it was right nearby our campground. We wanted to hike the Deer Leap Overlook hike. It was a relatively short, relatively easy hike with reportedly great views of the area. We followed the directions in the guide-book and parked at the noted parking location and started up the trail head we saw right in front of us. However, we missed one important detail. The trail head we wanted to be going up was across the road from where we had parked. We wouldn’t realize this for quite a while. Once we had been hiking long enough that we were sure we were likely not on the right path we decided to check to see what info we could find on out our phones. We discovered that we were not on Dear Leap but on the Sherburne Pass up to Pico Peak. The next decision was do we keep hiking up or head back down. We didn’t really have a good idea of how long or how far we had gone up or how much farther or longer it would take to reach the top. We didn’t really want to do all that hiking up a mountain without any reward of a nice view. We decided to continue up the mountain taking periodic breaks to reassess the situation and determine if we wanted to kep going and look at maps on our hones to get a sense of how close to the summit we were. We did eventually reach the summit and were rewarded with some nice views. The moral of that story is, if you want to climb a mountain but your wife might not accidental climb the wrong trail because you are both to stubborn to quite once you are out there. My wife said that she would not have wanted to climb the mountain if that was what we had set out to do. We would not have done it. But after having done it she was happy that she had done it and she felt good about having done it.
In contrast to the mountain we climbed we also hiked around a short 1 mile trail at what must have been one of the flattest tracts of land in all of Vermont. There was essentially no elevation change on the trail. It was quite a nice relaxing little hike. This was on the Robert Frost Trail. All along the trail were posted Robert Frost poems to read as you relaxed and enjoyed the scenery which included a beautiful stream, some woodland, and even a more open field like area.
After a nice casual stroll at the Robert Frost Trail we decided to venture on to a more difficult trail. We really wanted to go see what kind of views we could find overlooking some beautiful scenery. So we headed out to a section of the Long Trail noted in the guidebook as Sunset Ledge. This trail definitely had some challenging sections. It was a good workout. After hiking up for what seemed like longer than we should have been we were beginning to worry that we had gone astray again. Fortunately another hiker was headed towards us and when we inquired she said that we were close and that the view is great. She was not wrong. After a little more hiking we arrive at a nice overlook. We sat and enjoyed the view and took some photographs. We relaxed and just enjoyed being out in nature.
One thing that definitely has to be taken into account is that even when you are looking at a guide-book that gives you ratings of how difficult a trail is to hike with rating from easy to difficult you have to be mindful that the guide is essentially all relative. That means that a lot of the hikes are rated relative to the other hikes in the area and when you are in Vermont many of the hikes are mountainous or require a lot of elevation gain or are very long hikes. So a short hike that is rated as easy might still have over 400 ft of elevation which is not necessarily a lot of elevation gain but it feels like a lot more when you are covering that elevation in 1 mile. So the perceived effort of the hike, how you feel during the climbing of the hike can feel harder than one might expect from a hike that is rated as easy or easy/moderate. Also another consideration is the decent. It sounds simple enough to think that the climbing might be easy but coming back down will be easier. This may very well be true but it might also be the opposite. The exertion might feel like it is lessened but it still might be difficult depending on how steep the trail is and what the terrain is like. Going down a large rock surface can pose bigger challenges than going up it for example.
One of my favorite features of the scenery that just happened to be purely chance and not part of the planning was this stream that flowed across the Appalachian Trail right near our camp. It was just a short walk away. I saw that spot probably more times than anywhere else. I stopped and took photos of it multiple times. It is really cool to me when you find these neet little hidden gems that are not predominant features of the landscape or well-known marked scenic spots and you can just check them out and enjoy it.
I also got some running in while out camping and didn’t even have to travel to do it. It is a great feeling to be able to wake up put on your clothes and run off onto a trail without having to drive anywhere. I never did get up as early as I wanted for ay of the runs I went out on. I also never quite got the distance in that I wanted. As I learned quickly out on my runs the AT is no joke and you should not underestimate it. But I did enjoy my time running there and I took some videos and photos while I was running.
When we were in the early planning stages of our trip and had decided to camp at Gifford Woods in Killington, VT we started to check into things and see what else might be going on in the time frame we would be there. I was thinking that I would like to find a trail race to run. As it turned out there was a race going on that same week. The Under Armour Mountain Running Series was at Killington Mountain just a short drive from where we were staying. It seemd like the perfect opportunity. The event featured 5k, 10k, 25k, and 50k distances. The 25k was the only distance that really interested me. However, the cut off time was 4.5 hours and that was the amount time it took me to finish my last 25k that I thought would likely be comparable, so I wasn’t even sure I would be able to finish it if I ran. Also, as the time approached I was not in the healthiest place physically. I also wasn’t sure that I wanted the anxiety and worry that can come with having a race looming hanging over my head on what was supposed to be a fun trip with my wife. I decided not to run the race, but we did go and watch the event and cheered runners on and I took many, many photographs of people crushing their races. It was really fun to sit back and watch and enjoy the event as a spectator. I was definitely glad I chose that route. I was still able to get a goo amount of running in and enjoy the rest of the trip as well as take in a cool event. Win, win, win.
Then in the evening we found purely by chance what I think was the perfect way to round out and finish off our vacation. While at the running event we saw signs for a free outdoor concert at the same location later that night. So we went back that night and sat out on the side of a mountain listening to music and enjoying being outside. It was the perfect relaxing way to end a trip.