A Treasure Chest of Memories: White Rocks Recreation Area & Camel’s Hump

I grew up camping in Vermont.  While other kids in school were going to Disney World, we would pack up the car and head up to the Green Mountains where we stored a little camper in a place called Camping On The Battenkill.  My memories of this place are of happy times, exploring the trails, tubing down the river, catching frogs in butterfly nets, and crunching through the fallen leaves of colorful autumns.  I wanted to share it with Rob.  He’s heard me talk about Vermont so much that it was time for us to go.  After a cancelled flight and a day and a half lost from our trip, we flew into Manchester, NH and drove over to Arlington where we’d be staying.  As we entered the state I felt like we’d opened a time capsule.  Everything existed in a state of sameness from when I was a kid.  Some small business have closed in Manchester and Arlington looks decidedly older than it once did, but many of the shops are still there, owned by the same people, selling the same little things.  The Equinox in Manchester is just as imposing as it once was, and the availability of artisanal cheese (as in it was made on a farm by people who don’t wear vests and have handlebar mustaches) and maple syrup is quite plentiful.

The first hike did was at a place called White Rocks in Wallingford.  I’ve only ever done the ice beds trail which leads to a small overlook, but I wanted to climb to the top of the White Rocks boulder slide.  This is accessed by taking the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail south.

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The AT through Vermont is a much loved stretch of trail that is spoken of wistfully by Appalachian Trials bloggers, so I was excited to see at least a part of the trail.  You head up the mountain for a ways before you come to a field of rock cairns in the middle of the woods.  At this point, you make a right turn and head into a not very obvious section of trail that will lead you to the edge of the rocks.  There are no sweeping views on this trail, but the forest is lovely and we ran into several people who were thru-hiking the Long Trail.  One woman was with her daughter and was really proud of herself for making it the first 80 miles.  She encouraged us to take the time off and do the trail because it’s a memorable, wonderful experience.  Someday!!!

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Once we came closer to the edge, the woods were strewn with granite boulders, mixed with blueberry bushes and fir trees, until you suddenly took a step and entered into a sweeping vista of the Taconic Mountain range.  We sat on the rocks and breathed, taking it all in and enjoying the cool breezes.

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The next day we headed up to Waterbury to meet up with a high school friend who I haven’t seen in 6 or 7 years to hike the Camel’s Hump, an iconic Vermont Trail that leads to a peak with 360 degree views.  Seeing old friends immediately brings a feeling of home, and seeing Megan after keeping in touch all these years was the highlight of our trip for me.  We headed to the trail, which Ryan was familiar with being quite the hiker himself.   (These two are now engaged!  See happy picture below.  Also note their adorable dog Isla who handled the trail like a pro…and cheese)

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This trail was freaking hard, but so incredibly rewarding.  For the first time since I’ve started hiking, I had blisters on the back of both feet that bothered me the whole way up.  I have no idea how people hike the AT with blisters.  They are miserable and painful and just plain suck.  This trail was incredible.  I’ve gotten used to hiking in the Smokies where the inclines are gradual and go on for miles.  Not so with New England trails.  They basically go straight up and just paint the blazes on rocks.

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We were scrambling up boulders and I eventually gave up on my trekking poles because I needed my hands to grab roots, trees, and rocks to pull myself up.  I also couldn’t breathe, which really ticked me off because with all the hiking I’ve been doing, I thought I was in better shape…not so.

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As we climbed higher, the views became more stunning as the Green Mountains spread out below us and you could even see far enough to catch glimpses of the Whites.  This trail is unreal and I hope I get to do it again sometime.

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We headed back down in an easier direction to go get some food and stop at the Cabot Cheese Annex on the way out of town, an absolutely dangerous thing to do.  I only bought 4 bricks of cheese and have since regretted not just blowing the bucks and getting everything they had.  It was all so delicious and they sold varieties of cheese I can’t find anywhere in the stores down here.  I highly recommend the Tuscan Herb, which is impossible to find anywhere outside of VT.  The day was full and lovely and perfectly sunny, and I was sad to see it end.  Friends, beauty, love…what more does a person need??  My parents were also able to meet up with us on this trip, which was pretty fun too.

There were other parts of Vermont that were equally special, like exploring all the old nooks and crannies of the Vermont Country Store in Weston and running into a girl my age from Southold.  What are the odds?! They have an old mill just off the square and the barn was open so we wandered around and looked at the woodworking tools, marveling at the skills of past artisans.

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We also went to a lovely farm outside of Manchester and got to pet some animals.

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And Merck Forest with its rolling fields and maple syrup house.

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The last day of our trip we went to Hildene, which was absolutely as beautiful as I remember it to be.  They now have a creamery with the sweetest, most adorable little goats, where you can learn about the cheese-making process.

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And before we left for the airport, we stopped at the Bennington Monument and looked out over the mountains for one last glimpse of this lovely place until we return again.

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