The peak of Camel’s Hump ducked in and out of view as we snaked our way through the steep hills around Huntington, Vermont. This peak had been on the radar for a while now – it stands prominently to the East from Burlington. The looming figure of the peak’s two distinct humps provided a bust of energy to a previously slow Sunday morning. The road reduced from a smooth ribbon of pavement to one lane of dusty gravel that headed directly for the distant hump. Higher and higher we climbed as the road grew narrower and the woods around us thickened. If a car came down the hill at this point, an elaborate waltz of reversing lay ahead.
We pulled into the back of a long line of parked vehicles on the side of the road, and instantly knew we were in the right place. Camel’s Hump is a pretty popular hike; throngs of people come from far and wide to experience the stunning views of the Green Mountain state from the peak’s bald summit. We prepared for some packed paths on a clear afternoon in the middle of July. As we tied our boots and tightened our pack, two more cars rolled in behind us. We weren’t the only ones trying to spice up this sultry Sunday.
The first mile was a very gradual slope. We ran into a number of large groups descending the peak, stepping aside as rosy-cheeked, sweat-soaked families trudged through the thick summer air. I started out with the pack, quickly realizing how heavy it was now that it was strapped on my shoulders. We hadn’t exactly packed lightly for this hike. We realized it was a pretty short distance to the top, so we crammed a feast into our pack to enjoy at the summit. Much of the weight came from the liters upon liters of fluids that sloshed around the bag. Nalgenes and Gatorade bottles lined the entire bag; the instant we felt the sweltering air as we stepped out the door that morning, we instantly scampered back inside and filled a few more bottles. The only comforting thought as I lugged this massive bag up the twists and turns of the Burrows Trail, was that it was guaranteed to be noticeably lighter on the way down.
Aside from beverages, our cargo consisted of quite the spread. Appetizers ranged from your average trail foods staples: a variety of sweet and salty GORP’s and multiple flavors of beef jerky, such as my personal favorite, Cajun spice. Once we reach the summit, however, endless sandwich fixings awaited us. A brick of Cabot cheddar, sliced ham, pickles, mustards, hot sauce, almost an entire (squashed) loaf of bread, we even had some sliced peppers and onions from last night’s dinner. Images the masterpiece I would build at the top danced around my head as I navigated a slippery riverbed.
At this point, we were all beginning to feel how hot and humid it was that day. Beads of sweat gathered on our brows, and our arms glistened in the afternoon sun that cascaded down through the densely wooded canopy. Two dark stripes of moisture ran down my chest, where the straps of the pack had rested. Much to my delight, we rotated the pack to another pair of shoulders – the change in weight gave me a rush of energy. I felt like I could sprint up the rest of the mountain without our entire refrigerator bouncing around my back. We cracked into our stash of jerky and GORP for a quick refueling, and continued onward.
Birches into spruces, towering trunks into low lying limbs, these changes that typically mark elevation gains occurred much earlier than I had originally thought. The Burrows trail is just over two miles from the parking lot to the summit; I had imagined that we had covered approximately a mile or so, but I was pleasantly surprised as a cool breeze swept across the trail. Peering through the woods, I could see flashes of blue sky on both sides of the trail; I knew we were moving along the upper ridge of the mountain. The summit must be close. We moved at a pretty quick clip throughout the entire ascent, and were already zig-zagging through high alpine forest after a . After one more quick jerky stop and a rotation of the backpack, we broke out of the tree line and hopped on the Long trail for the last 0.3 miles to the summit. Groups of fellow hikers continued to trickle past us down the trail. At least one encouraging tidbit like “You’re almost there!” blurted out from every single troop.
It’s difficult to capture the feeling of summiting a mountain in a few simple sentences. An elaborate cocktail of sensation surges through you. Miles of uphill trekking have left you exhausted, but you’re invigorated by the open sky above and the unspoiled woods far below. You are drenched in sweat, burning up from that last push to the top, but a cool alpine gust sends a chill down your spine. You’re feeling powerful, accomplished after conquering the mountain under your feet, yet you are dwarfed by the endless vistas that surround you. This strange consciousness is something that I have chased for years. Winter or summer, whether it’s a high peak or a local lookout behind my house, this feeling I think it is safe to assume that many of you who are reading this have shared this same sensation at some point in your lives.
Zack, who was leading the pack, let out an animated holler as alpine grasses gave way to the bare rock of the summit. We were surrounded by a pale yellow glow as the afternoon sun illuminated the thick humidity that filled the air. Champlain and the Adirondacks were barely visible through the opacity of the soupy July sky. We found a sheltered shelf on the southern face of the summit to unpack our pantry and begin sandwich preparation.
As I gnawed on my ham sandwich with cheese, peppers, onions, and a dash of hot sauce, I realized that nothing went horribly wrong on Camel’s Hump. At no point were we stranded, we were never severely exhausted, the weather cooperated (to an extent), no injuries, nothing. This was a great hike: quick, easy, no huge surprises. It was great to have such a straightforward escapade. To be honest, the times when something does go wrong and we’re forced to adapt to our situation are more fun to look back on. To be brutally honest, they’re more fun to write about too. But Camel’s Hump was just what we all needed: a perfect jaunt to start the coming week off right. I know I’ll be back to that stony summit at some point, and I hope the journey is as smooth as that sweltering Sunday.