I head up to Vermont one fall weekend for a camping trip with a friend from New Zealand who’s been living in Montreal. Peak foliage was apparently the weekend prior most places but I’m hopeful that there will still be some nice patches left for us to explore. The universe must be smiling on us as the Green Mountains put on the most spectacular show I’ve seen from them yet.
The weather forecast reads cold and rainy for the weekend when I start the drive north and lives up to its promise the next day. I’m greeted with pounding rain when I head in to Burlington to meet Dan. The temperature starts low and continues to drop as we convoy to our campsite at Maple Hill. The forecast for Sunday has changed now however and I chatter excitedly about it to Dan as he sets up his tent. It’s going to get even colder than they thought. We might even get a little bit of snow tomorrow!
We catch up on life while we get our hiking gear ready and as we’re talking the light rain turns to light hail until I turn to look at Dan and see the unmistakable sight of slowly falling snowflakes behind him. He’s in the middle of telling me something but I’m compelled to rudely interrupt his story by erupting with giggles and leaping through the snowfall, catching the bigger flakes on my fingertips. It’s not sticking by any means but it feels like such a long time since I’ve seen snow that even a short little flurry makes my day.
Dan hasn’t explored Vermont’s mountains much so I decide to take him up Camel’s Hump, the state’s classic mountain hike. There’s a lot of cloud around today so the view won’t be the best but this time of year the forest alone is well worth a look. On the drive over we come around a corner to one of the best surprises I’ve had in my life. A hillside covered in bright peak foliage is straight ahead of us but a snowstorm is coming in from one side. Trees freshly clothed in white have taken over the upper half of the hill, contrasting beautifully with the bright reds and yellows of their neighbors. Our drive into Huntington takes us straight towards the storm. Dan catches the flurry through the fall leaves on his go-pro with what must be the most ridiculous audio ever. Manic joyful laughter punctuated with exclamations of “OH MY GOD!” as the colorful sugar-sprinkled landscape periodically becomes a little too wonderful for us deal with.
Camel’s Hump is always a nice hike but is extra special today. There’s a light dusting of snow over the fall foliage at the bottom which transitions to thicker snow and spruce as we go higher. The changing landscape makes it feel like we’re hiking the seasons themselves. By the time we make it to the rocky top, a thick cloud layer hides all evidence that it’s anything other than full winter.
The sun’s getting low when we get back to the car park so we head straight to the Mad Taco to warm up with some Mexican food. We call Dan’s girlfriend Catherine in Montreal from the restaurant and try to catch her up on what’s been happening. We’ve been so excited the whole time that it feels like we’ve had a very eventful day but once we’ve explained the whole foliage + snow deal we realise that’s all that really happened. We just kept getting excited about the same thing over and over again.
We go to sleep with clear skies and bare ground but wake up to a winter wonderland. The sun peeks out through fiery leaves to light up the fresh snow on the ground. Full of bemused smiles, we gleefully wander the empty campground before eventually packing up camp to go climb the Stowe Pinnacle. It’s a fairly short hike but the drive home means we have less time today and the weather is changing so rapidly that there’s a better chance of views if we’re not quite so high up.
It’s an easy stroll compared to yesterday but with a huge payoff. It’s clouded in at the top when we first get there but after a few minutes the clouds part like a white curtain revealing the sun streaming over bright orange hillsides with a snow capped Mount Mansfield rising above it all. Stormy white clouds dance at the edges of the landscape promising fresh flurries any minute. Dan is so wowed by the view that I have to explain that although this is always a nice spot, today is particularly impressive. Foliage and snow are both Vermont staples but it’s not every year that they turn up together like this.
With our hike over, it’s time to part ways and go back to our respective homes. I drive back through pockets of snow storms, the leaves slowly dulling as I head further south. To me the most beautiful thing about Vermont, and New England in general, is the dramatic changes in the seasons. Four isn’t really enough to describe the place, everything is constantly in flux. The Green Mountains wont hit you in face with grand vistas like the West Coast’s parks, but they have a beauty through time that is absolutely enchanting. I grin all the way home, amazed that even though I’ve seen them through a full cycle of the seasons now, they can still surprise me in such wonderful ways.
Listening to: Dear Brother – Puscifer
Note: For more eye candy, Sugarbush caught some awesome drone footage from the same weekend that gives much more sweeping views of the snowliage than I could catch on my camera.