Five ways to enjoy Vermont this year
Today’s column is brought to you by the number 5. Here are 5 things to do outdoors in 2010, and 5 ways you can do them.
ONE: Hike one of Vermont’s 4,000-foot peaks. There are five of them.
In increasing order of height, and starting closest to home, Mt. Abraham is 4,006 feet in elevation at the summit. It is not only the lowest 4,000-footer, but also the shortest to climb, with the Lincoln Gap trailhead starting already at 2,424 feet, leaving a vertical climb of 1,600 feet (counting the ups and downs) over 5.2 miles.
Nearby Mt. Ellen, which connects to Mt. Abraham via the Long Trail’s 3.7-mile long “Monroe Skyline” section, peaks at 4,083 feet, as does Vermont’s most iconic peak, Camel’s Hump. Killington rises to 4,235 feet, and the Chin of Mt. Mansfield towers at 4,393 feet.
Don’t attempt these in the winter unless you know what you’re doing. Having said that, one of my most memorable (in a good way) camping trips as a teenager was a winter mountaintop trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There was an old shelter at the top, but I slept in a tent on the snow.
TWO: Fish a section of one of Addison County’s major trout streams that you’ve never fished before. Otter Creek, though by the time it reaches the county is somewhat slow-moving, and more of a cool water fishery than a cold water fishery, has some excellent stretches of rapids and gorges that hold some fat browns easily topping 20 inches. Above and below the falls in downtown Middlebury are two, the dam at Beldon Falls is a third, and the gorge below Beldon at the confluence with the New Haven River is a fourth. The gorge in Weybridge by the Rattling Bridge is fifth spot to find trout.
Along with Otter Creek, the list of five best county trout streams is completed by Lewis Creek plus the three primary tributaries of the Otter flowing down out of the Green Mountains from the east: the New Haven, Middlebury and Neshobe rivers. Pick one of these four and follow it upstream until you’re in a tributary small enough to cross and away from any road, and try to pull out a wild 5-inch brookie.
THREE: Hike up to one of Addison County’s alpine ponds: Silver Lake (there is a trail from the bottom starting near Lake Dunmore and a shorter trail from above off of Silver Lake Road, which is off of the Goshen-Ripton Road); Goshen Dam (a.k.a. Sugar Hill Reservoir); Abby Pond (off Route 116 in Middlebury); Pleiad Lake (near the top of the Snow Bowl, off Route 125); and, the most difficult to find, Gilmore Pond (hint: look along the ridgeline north of the Upper Notch Road in Bristol). Note that the first two of these have good trout fishing, though Abby Pond is probably my favorite hike because of the remoteness of the pond. Also, Goshen Dam is sort of cheating since you can drive to it during the summer; if you want to count it, hike to the southern tip where there is no road.
FOUR: Take one snowshoe trip, one canoe trip, one bike trip, one cross-country ski trip, and one hike someplace in the county you’ve never done before. It could be out your back door, on the Trail Round Middlebury, along Otter Creek — or in it, in the case of canoeing. You needn’t go far to enjoy all five of these. Also, you needn’t own equipment to do these things. Hiking requires nothing other than good shoes, a small daypack, and water bottles. As for the other activities, there are places in the area that rent equipment at reasonable rates, as well as providing instruction and even guide service. Or borrow from a friend. Folks might be hesitant to lend out an expensive mountain bike, or classic old snowshoes, but canoes or modern composite snowshoes are hard to break. Note, though, that two of these are winter activities, so if you want to accomplish this, you’ll need to start soon.
FIVE: Pick berries or fruit at five different farms in Addison County. Here I’m not suggesting picking at only one of five, but picking from at least five. Last year our family picked apples at Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury, strawberries at the Last Resort Farm in Monkton, strawberries and raspberries at the Norris Berry Farm in Monkton, and raspberries and blueberries at the Lower Notch Berry Farm in Bristol. That’s only four of course: our own family’s favorites. There are other wonderful farms throughout the county. (Next year we’ll try for five.)
Not only are these local farms, and our neighbors who run them and work at them — the sorts of places and people we should be patronizing — but supporting local farms helps keep Vermont land in agricultural use (that is, green), plus it’s a great way to spend time outside. Oh, and fresh fruit is really good.