This was my last trip of 2018! If you read the previous entry on my June trip to Colorado you may recall that one was supposed to be my first ever solo trip. It was half solo, so this one became my first full solo trip. Now you may think to yourself what is so special about this area? Well…there really isn’t anything! But, I was looking into a fall whitewater rafting option and came across the Deerfield River in Western Massachusetts. There are only so many fall rafting options to be found and they are almost all dam release, like this one was, and that means sporadic days are available to raft. A quick bit of research found a Southwest airport in Hartford, CT, and a quick drive up to the Shelburne Falls, MA area where this company, Crabapple Whitewater has a spot and some weekend rafting trips! I didn’t pick the area just for that. My research into the area showed a driveby of New Hampshire was possible, a good hiking option in Burlington, VT, and a loop to another mountain spot in extreme Western Mass.
After flying into CT (is there a point for this state to even exist?) I headed north toward Shelburne Falls, MA. It was a surprisingly pretty drive! I have been to Boston a couple times, but never out in the main part of the state. Very pretty, indeed. My Airbnb was right on the Deerfield River, near a local landmark called the Bridge of Flowers. I spent the afternoon and evening in the quaint little river town. A good spot to here a brew and some surprisingly good homemade bar food was the West End Pub and if you are looking for a more high end sit down experience check out Blue Rock Restaurant!
The following morning was an early start to the rafting company. I was a little nervous about the whole situation due to being solo. I ended up getting lumped with a group of early 20s Granite Staters (I looked that one up!)….and these dudes looked the part, let me tell you! The rafting experience was fun! As I learned along the way a dam release river starts off pretty tame, but gets progressively more challenging as you go down stream. This one basically started with baby rapids and culminated with a big class IV at the end. There were some new experiences this time though! Our guide found places where we could actually get the boat to stay in one spot in a rapid while the raft dipped down into the water to …flood?..it was pretty neat!
After the river experience it was off to Burlington! I had never been to Vermont or New Hampshire and the road north from MA north into Vermont before cutting over to Burlington basically straddles the state line so I had to make a stop! I do not remember the name of that town at all…but it was very New England looking, big white church in the middle of the town and all. I stopped at a bar and grill and had a burger and some New Hampshire beer and called it a new state!
The drive across Vermont to Burlington was very pretty. The whole area is actually very mountainous. Despite being fairly short they looked just as big as any I had seen (low base elevation of the land)! Driving into Burlington you could see the big 4000 footer overlooking the town that I had picked to hike. It is called Camel’s Hump, is the second or third highest point in the state, but at that particular location it is high enough to have a tundra summit. How bizarre! Burlington was a really cool place but expensive. It’s about Asheville size, has that same eclectic vibe, but is clean and fancier rather that dirty and grungy. I got there Saturday afternoon and the entire downtown was blocked off into a big pedestrian event. I wandered into a couple pubs for live music and a beer. I found out pretty quickly how “interesting” Vermont people are. I asked a bartender about the Magic Hat Brewery and was quite surprised at the “we don’t talk about them” response I got. How weird. More on that later. It was an early night for an early hiking start the next morning.
So the next morning was the Camel’s Hump hike. I took a trail called the Monroe Trail which connected with the Long Trail (this is actually a part of the AT) that hits the summit of Camel’s Hump. I started around 6 or 7, early enough to be ahead of most people on the way up. It was very serene, very quiet, and the weather was pretty perfect! At some point I decided to take a side trail to find an old plane crash, but unbeknownst to me I went the wrong way and the section of trail I was on…not one human was spotted. I actually slipped pretty good down a small rocky opening, no problems, but be careful! Had I been hurt, who knows how long I would have been there! Eventually my side trail got me to the Long Trail and I was able to make my way to the summit. It ended up being about a 10 mile trip! The top was disappointing due to weather. The tops of these mountains are anything if unpredictable with weather. The last 1/8 of a mile or so on the ascent, the temperature plummeted, the wind picked up, and the fog was pervasive. Usually there are spectacular views across the state from up there. I could see about 25 feet. Oh well, win some, lose some! It was still an awesome experience for me. Afterward I came back into town STARVING. I found a delicious menu (but expensive) at the Farmhouse Tap and Grill. Note: You will not find any chain merchant in Burlington. I think I saw a Dunkin Donuts, and that is it. Everything else was a local place, which is super cool!
Other things I discovered in Vermont included the answer to my Magic Hat question, the world’s tallest filing cabinet and a neat park called Red Rock point. Let’s start with that filing cabinet. So, randomly, seemingly in the middle of an open grass lot in the town sits a very tall filing cabinet -well, set of filing cabinets attached to each other. There is thick graffiti on it up to a certain point. There also happened to be a brewery adjacent, Switchback Brewing Co. Sitting down for a beer I noticed normalish sounding beer names but then “Connector IPA.” I chatted up the bartender about this beer’s name. He informed me that right next to the brewery was to be an end point of a highway to alleviate Burlington traffic (it might smallish but yes, there were traffic problems). And due to red tape of some sort or another it never got done. Ah. That filing cabinet? Yep. Every 4 years that passes without a road they add another 4 drawer filing cabinet on top. It’s about the most damned Vermont thing I can possibly think of. I also asked him about that Magic Hat situation and learned that they sold out to a bigger regional brewery, so essentially Magic Hat was/is dead to them! Ah, Vermont. (I did make it to Magic Hat, by the way and I still liked the beers :))
Red Rock Point is a pretty cool spot. It is right on a point overlooking Lake Champlain with view out into the New York Mountains. There are a couple miles of hiking trails in the park, and is very easy, but nice, and the part along the lake is very nice. It is elevated maybe a good 50 feet off of the surface of the lake so don’t do anything stupid!
The next morning I was off toward the Adams, MA area and Mt. Greylock for my last hiking stop. On the way I got sidetracked and found some neat old fort ruins at a spot called Crown Point Historic Area right on the NY/VT border.
From there I decided to audible my day through the sticks in New York. And after having a near gas shortage experience in a huge area of no cell signal in the middle of nowhere NY I managed to make it North Adams, MA. My Airbnb was actually really close to Natural Bridge State Park. I had planned to hike Mt. Greylock the following morning, but there was road up to the summit and I was very sore after the Camel’s Hump hike, so that afternoon’s drive up was good enough. And then the following morning I hiked around and explored that state park. Neat spot, but nothing awe inspiring. Finally, my big loop took me back through my first couple stops, I found the Yankee Candle factory back near the interstate and I had an hour or so to kill exploring historic Deerfield, MA. Then, it was back to Florida and the last trip of 2018 was in the books!
Overall impressions: Pros: The whitewater rafting was very fun, if not super challenging. The hike at Camel’s Hump was great. Burlington is worth a second look for sure and I would definitely consider another Vermont/Burlington Trip Cons: There wasn’t really anything super amazing about any particular part of this trip. If I ever find myself up in this part of the world again, it would probably be just Burlingtown and maybe other parts of VT.
The Adventurer Final Word:
Four Stars! Rafting and hiking and a cool visit to Vermont!