Bignslow's VT & NH Vacation (NEHH Hikes, NEK Bike, Rumney Climb)

Help Support

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Active member
Jun 20, 2007
Reaction score
Utah - Avatar: Cirque de Gavarnie
I had to burn some vacation prior to the end of summer so I decided to take the entire last week before Labor Day as a long vacation. Nicole and I wanted to spend some time in VT doing some more touristy things instead of hiking constantly so we decided this was the week to do it.

Thurs 8/25/11 (Drive & Camp):

Left Syracuse after work, because I have a bike addiction I decided to take the long way to VT (via Watertown) to buy a new bicycle. We drove up and across NY 3, taking the ferry at crown point before heading into Vermont and finding our campground for the night (Branbury state park). The park was OK, we stayed on the opposite side of the road from the lake and the campsites were not very tent friendly (lots of sharp hard packed gravel). During the night we discovered our air mattress had a leak (when I say we, I mean that I was on the ground, while Nicole was still on a pillow of air...).

Friday 8/26/11 (Hike Breadloaf & Wilson, 10.4 mi, 2700' gain):

We drove to the Skylight Pond trailhead where we were greeted by a GMC trail crew coming off the trail after a week of work. We thanked them for their hard work and then began our hike. The trail begins on an old woods road and after crossing a few streams it begins to climb. The trail (like most GMC trails) is very well maintained with lots of waterbars and switch backs, and in no time it seemed like we were on the ridge (There were a few clearings in the woods that gave us some false hope of arriving on the ridge earlier than we did, but other than that it was a nice climb). We paid a visit to the Skylight pond shelter which is a beautiful cabin style shelter with a deck overlooking a high mountain pond. After the shelter we began our climb of the peaks. These two mountains reminded me a little of the Catskills where you would have a steep climb followed by a long flat summit ridge (with no well defined summit).

Following the Long Trail north we crossed over Breadloaf before descending down to the view point. The peaks were in a foggy cloud so there wasn't any real view to be had. We made our way back to the LT before descending down to the Emily Proctor Shelter (leanto style). Here we enjoyed some food before climbing Wilson. Wilson had me a bit confused as the topo showed the highest elevation on the southern bump but the "x" with the higher elevation was on the northern bump. After climbing both, I'm pretty certain the southern bump is the higher of the two (it looked and felt higher, and my altimeter agreed). However; it is worth going to the northern bump as there is a viewpoint only 20 yards off the LT.

After bagging both of the peaks we reversed our route back to the car. The mileage and gain don't include side trips to the shelter and views.

While we were at the Skylight pond shelter there was a sticker for Otter Creek Brewery on the door which mentioned that it was in Middlebury, VT. I remembered seeing signs for Middlebury so rather than heading straight to our B&B we made a detour and stopped in for a sampler and to purchase a pint glass. As expected the beer was delicious and we made good use of their free popcorn.

After our snack and beverage we made our way to our lodging for the weekend. Friday & Saturday nights we stayed at a really nice B&B in Stowe, VT (Three Bears at The Fountain). This place was great, the rooms were really nice, and the owners were a former professional chef and baker so the food was delicious as well.

Saturday 8/27/11 (Hike Mansfield, 5.8 mi, 2800' gain):

After an amazing breakfast at our B&B Nicole and I headed out to re-climb Mansfield. We had climbed it as part of our 115 years ago, but it was in a cloud and therefore not very fun. We ascended the same way as last time, climbing up the LT from smugglers notch. We took our time (mostly because we were still digesting our breakfasts) and eventually we reached Taft Lodge where we took a break. After taking in the views from the deck we continued our climb eventually reaching the fun scrambles to the summit. When we had climbed last time, I had no idea we were so exposed (we had next to no visibility). I vaguely remembered the chimney, but I didn't recall all the other scrambling. Nicole and I really enjoy that type of hiking so it made the final ascent all the more fun.

When we arrived at the summit we were disappointed to find it crowded with tourons all talking so loudly they were practically yelling. Rather than hang around and get frustrated we just continued down the mountain a little ways until we found a rocky outcrop to sit on (while avoiding the vegetation). I never realized Mansfield had such a nice rocky ridge traverse available so rather than descend the LT we decided to traverse the ridge and take the Hastleton trail back to the ski area. The walk along the ridge was wonderful and gave you that fun alpine feel. Eventually we reached the auto road and we knew our fun was about to end. The descent down the Hastleton trail is steep but fast, and once we were off the ski trails we made pretty good time to the ski area.

When we arrived at the ski area it was filled with people and event staff, apparently we were hiking on the day of "Race to the Top of VT" where bikers and runners ride/run to the top of the auto road ( It seems like something fun to do some time, but not on this trip.

We were hoping to relax at the B&B for the rest of the day, but with the hurricane coming in on Sunday we had to compress our schedule and do our entire weekend's events all on Saturday. To finish our day we went to Ben & Jerry's for "lunch" and did the tour followed by a trip to Burlington to do some shopping at OGE, followed by a trip back to Waterbury for dinner at the Alchemist brew pub. The food and beer were absolutely amazing. This was one of those places where picking dinner off the menu was almost a depressing event because there were so many good looking choices.

Sunday 8/28/11 (Visit friends, run away from Hurricane):

Unfortunately the hurricane business threw a wrench into our weekend itinerary but we made due. After another delicious breakfast we packed up and bid farewell to our fancy lodging (we're planning on going back though) and went to visit our friend who moved to the area (the one and only procook). After hanging out with Dave for a while, shooting the breeze about hiking Nicole and I decided we better hit the road before things got too bad. Our original plan was to do some tourist stuff Sunday before going to a VT campground Sunday night, but with everything closed for the storm and not wanting to tent out in a hurricane we decided to make a run for it and head for my Grandparent's house in Keene, NH.

We lucked out on our drive as we only got hit with a few torrential downpours, but other than that there weren't any major issues until we approached Bellows Falls, VT when there were suddenly cars driving the wrong direction (on I-91) on the shoulder. We slowed down but before we reached whatever caused the people to turn around we met with another group who was using a U-turn to head north on I-91, we followed suit, using US-5 to make our way down to Keene.

Monday 8/29/11 (hang out, avoid weather):

The house in NH had no damage and managed to keep power so we just sat around and let VT have a day off before we returned. There was 1 tree down in the yard (the top half of a sugar maple fell onto a smaller red maple) so I did what I could with a bow saw to hopefully save the red maple.

Tuesday 8/30/11 (Back to VT, Hike Jay/Big Jay 5.6 mi, 2600' gain):

We left the NH house and drove back to VT to continue our vacation. We didn't encounter any major issues getting up to the Jay area other than some construction/repairs. VT242 was closed at the ski area, but we were told we could drive up a ways to access the LT. The construction staff was very friendly and let us pass (on foot) when it was safe. Despite gaining 1700' in 1.7 miles the climb up to the top of Jay didn't seem all that steep (I attribute this to the excellent trail building on the LT). It was quite amazing seeing the damage from the storm. There was not a single blowdown on the trail (which was impressive) but there was a lot of erosion. It was really interesting to see where the trail had washed out because you would be walking along and the trail would become almost like a sidewalk (hard packed sand/silt/soil) then it would become all pea-gravel, then larger gravel, then large rocks (baseball sized) before you finally reached where the trail had washed out and carried all the materials from.

We were both hiking somewhat slow as driving 3 hours in the car doesn't really give your legs much of a pick-me-up, but eventually we were at the summit. Although the ski area does put a bit of a damper on the experience it is still a very beautiful summit ridge. We took in some views before beginning our descent to Big Jay. I was very concerned with finding the herd path to Big Jay but it wasn't too bad. The LT leaves the ski area at a big fence (meant to keep the wannabe slackcountry skiers in-bounds) where there is a ton of signage regarding BC safety, ethics, rescue cost, etc... After you go through the fence the LT begins to descent, within 40-50 paces (probably a little less) there is the herd path on your left, this is the trail to Big Jay. It was muddy and there was some blow down, but we've certainly been on worse paths. We made our way across the ridge (which kinda reminded us a little of the traverse from Hough to Dix) and eventually arrived at the summit (after a few false bumps). There is currently a ski patrol sled at the summit near the jar (which we didn't open or attempt to sign in because it appeared to be full of crumbled up paper and we didn't want the drama of trying to get it all back in there), I'm assuming the sled made its way down there during the winter as some sort of retaliation between the skiers and the resort or something?

After re-climbing Jay the views had cleared a little bit and we were able to see parts of Lake Champlain, Mansfield, and we could just barely make out the outline of the whites in the distance. The descent was nothing to write home about and eventually we were back at the vehicle ready to make our way to camp for the evening.

That night we stayed at Brighton State Park which was certainly nicer than the park we had stayed at earlier, plus since we were staying tues/weds nights we practically had the place to ourselves.

Wednesday 8/31/11 (Biking Kingdom Trails):

I had heard so much about Kingdom Trails and their amazing single track that I figured it would be silly to be all the way in northern Vermont and not pay them a visit. We decided to rent bikes rather than drag ours around all week and this was definitely the right choice. We stopped in the trails office, paid for our trail passes, got a map, and the attendant helped us plan out a route. We then went to East Burke Sports where we rented 2 bikes for the day (total cost for bikes and trail passes was $95).

The trails were great, but I had such high expectations of the place that I will say I was kinda disappointed (so much hype). The one thing that set kingdom trails apart from other single track I ride on is that these trails actually go somewhere whereas most of my riding is on trails that snake around, but you're never more than a mile from your car. Our favorite trail (so much so that we re-climbed a different trail to ride it again) was the Kitcher trail (or something, i don't remember the exact name) which was a freeride style trail set in the xc trail area (with burms and tabletops).

If I was in the area I would certainly go back again, though I'm also glad I didn't make an entire trip just for the riding. We were happy to have hardtail XC bikes for the riding, I think anything more than a XC bike would be overkill (the bike I bought on the drive was a 6&6 all mountain bike and that would not have been fun for these trails that we rode).

We only rode for a few hours before heading back to camp where we rented a canoe as something to do in the afternoon (only $7.50 an hour).

Thursday 9/1/11 (Climbing @ Rumney):

Our original plan was to drive from VT to Rumney, NH for some climbing, climb as much as we could, and then either camp in the area, or return to the house in Keene. We started out on Rainbow a fun (5.6) as a warm up to try and get on The Big Easy (5.7) a climb that thwarted us last time we were here because I got off route and ran out of energy. Unfortunately, after our warm-up our intended climb was taken and there weren't any available moderates in the area. After waiting 10 minutes Nicole said "F" it, let's just do this one (this one being Metamorphasis a 5.8). Nicole is occasionally a better climber than me, so I said if she wants to lead it she can, but I don't think I can. Nicole did a great job of getting 1/2 of the way up the route before a tough crux came up and she couldn't get the next piece of pro. After she tried numerous times she asked to be lowered and I got a try at it. I made it up to the spot where she was stuck and was able to clip the next piece of gear easily (I'm 6' she's 5'4" so I have a big reach advantage). I pulled through that crux before being thwarted by the last move before the chains. Luckily there was a group of good guys climbing next to us who offered to clean the route (they were rewarded with a 6 pack of long trail ale for their good deed).

Nicole and I were both pretty gassed and disappointed we didn't have the strength left to try the big easy so we headed back to Keene pretty dejected. On the ride home we decided to come back the next day when we were more rested.

Friday 9/2/11 (Climbing @ Rumney II):

We drove back to Rumney and headed straight for The Big Easy. Luckily I knew the route for the first pitch so I easily made it through the crux which thwarted me last time. Nicole climbed to the anchor and I began climbing the 2nd pitch where I once again got off route onto a 5.10 (though I did make it through 1 move of harder climbing, I was unable to get past the crux). I bailed of the incorrect climb and lowered back to the anchors where I found the correct route. Luckily this time I didn't burn all of my reserves and I was able to finish the climb (where we were able to rappel the route and get back the gear we bailed off of). Overall we were very happy to have finally gotten this route done, and despite the debacle on the 5.8, I was excited we were able to do most of that climb as well. We did some shopping in Concord before returning to the house in Keene.

Saturday 9/3/11 (Drive back to Syracuse)

Overall it was a wonderful vacation, it was really nice getting to see some new parts of VT, re-visit some places, do some touristy stuff, and also do some non-hiking outdoors activities. I would highly recommend the B&B we stayed at, as well as the Brighton campground. The Kingdom trails were really fun, but I would not plan an entire vacation around that alone (I bike a lot harder than my slow-and-steady hiking, so I don't have the stamina/strength to ride all day long)
Wow! I'm impressed at all you were able to accomplish after Irene!

Sounds like a great vacation. DH and I are off next week and plan to be "tourists" in New Hampshire. :)

Nice trip report..way to pack it in with the multisport mentality.
Storyland and the Cog are still open for awhile. Also I believe Mudbowl is coming up also.;)
Nice report.

Earlier this summer, Skylight Pond had a pair of perigrines rocketing around over it in the evenings.

It really was a beautiful area. We had our fill of birds at Brighton state park where we could hear the loons on Island Pond throughout the night.

Wow! I'm impressed at all you were able to accomplish after Irene!

Sounds like a great vacation. DH and I are off next week and plan to be "tourists" in New Hampshire. :)

I was really impressed how well the LT held up on Jay. Rumney had a bit of destruction as some of their new paths got washed out (which is a bummer because it was really nice to see the USFS put some work back into the area after collecting the parking fees)

No worries, looks like a cool event.

Doing the multi-sport trips is certainly something new to us after we finished being 100% focused on the 115. The biggest challenge was fitting everything in the car (each sport had it's own required backpacks, shoes, clothes, and helmets). I'm really happy we rented bikes for $30 each it was much more of a convenience than worrying about bringing our bikes everywhere on the rack (not to mention the fuel economy savings)