Camel’s Hump: The Best Laid Plans of Weekend Backpackers

A few weeks ago my dad and I set out on a little over night hiking trip in Camel’s Hump State Park.

Despite the weather being pretty dismal, I decided that it would be best to hike to summit southbound via the Long Trail, since I had hiked the other, more popular routes up already. This section of the long trail is a 6.2 mile climb to the top of Camel’s Hump, Vermont’s third highest peak, standing at just over 4000 feet.

“6 miles ain’t bad.” My dad had been on what some (sane) people would call a crazy venture the past fall: running Rhode Island’s North-South Trail.

The North-South Trail in the ocean state is about 80 miles of trail and road hiking which my father and his co-worker, Jake, accomplished in about 2 days of fast-packing.

So just a little over 6 miles to get to the top, and another 2 or so to reach our camp for the night seemed like a morsel of an adventure compared to that. But the highest elevation you reach on Rhode Island’s North South Trail is probably about 600 feet or so, and we would climb up to 4000.

And this was the Long Trail.

After about an hour and a half of steep climbing and scrambling up roots of huge trees that didn’t seem to mind about growing out of granite slabs, we reached a sign: “4 miles to summit”.

“I guess these are Vermont miles!”

My dad hadn’t climbed a mountain in a while, but he remained pretty strong through the tough Long Trail terrain. In fact, he was practically on my heels most of the time, and I had climbed Camel’s Hump several times already this summer.

At the intersection where the sign stood, we heard a hiker coming down from the summit, “Looks like a couple of friendly hikers!” It seemed that he saw us before we saw him. Another hiker was with him who didn’t seem as enthused to be slogging through this soggy morning on the LT.

After sharing a quick conversation about our separate plans for the day, they wished us luck in actually getting a view from the summit. I wasn’t too hopeful of getting any sort of views on this day; the mountain was practically in a cloud, but they said there were some breaks in the weather and it was possible to take in some landscape at the top.

It had been an hour and a half since we started, and we had only gone about 2 miles. It only gets tougher towards the top.

The Long Trail can get weird and dangerous. The last few miles up to the summit include sections of craggy granite boulders and root ladders. Take these already sketchy elements and add water, the result is a mixture of treachery that you don’t want to fool with.

The ghost of the foothills; unfortunately the most we would see.

After scrambling up some of these hectic sections, we reached a couple of the first opportunities for sight-seeing.

Unfortunately this wasn’t looking good for the summit. At this point we already knew that we wouldn’t want to be up there very long.

Realizing that this hike isn’t going to be filled with many views…

We went on anyway, because we had already gone so far, and because we could. Just because we couldn’t get views of the green mountain range didn’t keep us from wanting to get over the mountain and pitch a tent in the woods for the night.

So, we took our time, stopped to cook some lunch, and kept slowly making our way over rocks, mud, and roots until we finally made it to the summit.

The face of “I’m glad we made it but this really sucks”

The summit: a place meant to be a surreal reward for the effort you put into the hike up a mountain. After all, isn’t the point of all that hard work in the first place? But what if you know the top is going to really suck?

You can turn around if you want. Go back down to the car, drive home and be bummed out about the missed opportunity.

Or, you can be bummed out and miserable in the mountain. That’s what we chose to do. And because of that, it wasn’t all that miserable in the end anyway.

We reached camp after a nasty summit, made coffee that would make your neck hair stand up, and cooked a hot dinner that cured our zero-visibility depression. Yea, we didn’t get any great views, but we were in the woods, thrilled over little things like hot coffee and rice and tuna. And we got a camping trip out of the whole deal.

That’s better than any other option I can think of.

We hung around camp and went to bed early. I stayed up most of the night paranoid about bears since there had apparently been multiple incidents at that campsite during that month alone.

In the morning, I woke up probably more tired than the night before, and made some more strong coffee to shake my not-so-good night’s sleep.

We decided that it would be best to take a different set of trails back to the car which would all be downhill. We didn’t think that heading back up to summit again would be worth it, and we deserved some easy terrain. So we took the Dean Trail to Monroe Trail which led us back to the road and served our legs a little rest.

We finished our road march back at the car in just a few hours, and drank the sugary sodas we left for ourselves the morning before.

(If you’re wondering, this is ideally what you’d like to see on the summit of Camel’s Hump)

 

Stay Lost,

Tom

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