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Camel’s Hump State Park

With its distinctive double-humped profile, no other Vermont mountain is so easily recognized—or so often reproduced. Camel’s Hump graces not only the state seal but has recently made the leap to Vermont’s conservation license plate--with good reason. While at 4,083 feet the summit only ties for third highest peak, it is the state’s highest undeveloped summit. Its flanks have been combed by scores of researchers and graduate students studying everything from small mammal populations to soil formation. In fact, some of the most important studies in the nation detailing forest damage due to acid rain were conducted on Camel’s Hump.

Surrounded by roughly 21,000 acres of state park land and another 2,300 acres of state forest, Camel’s Hump is the largest park in the state and one of the oldest pieces of public lands. It was bequeathed to Vermont in 1911 by Col. Joseph Battell, a wealthy eccentric who made his money in publishing and who bought up a substantial portion of the Green Mountain ridgeline from Killington north simply because he didn’t want to see the summits logged. (He gave much of his other land to Middlebury College.)

At first, the state managed the lands so that cutting was strictly limited. By 1969, the legislature created the park and designated lower elevation surroundings as a forest reserve where logging could take place. The mountain summit and adjoining 7,404 acres were protected as a natural area, with strict limitations on camping. Then and now, trail use is limited in the natural area to hikers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers; at lower elevations, the state permits snowmobiling on specially maintained trails.

The summit of Camel’s Hump is made of 550 million-year-old, moderately metamorphosed, grayish-green chlorite schist, called the Underhill formation. This rock type runs in a long band along the northern half of Vermont, and includes distinctive lenses of fine-grained quartz. The quartz bands highlight the schists and outline folds and crenulations in the rock, giving it an almost seersucker appearance. This long band of highly resistant rock, metamorphosed during the Taconic and Acadian orogenies, forms the summits of many of northern Vermont’s higher mountain peaks.

But it is to the glaciers that Camel’s Hump owes its distinctive two-humped shape. The summit is an extreme example of a roche moutonnée, literally "sheep rock," so named by geomorphologists because of a perceived similarity to sleeping sheep. As a glacier advances, it glides over ridgetops, smoothing them over. On the lee side, a steep slope forms as ice freezes into the hillside and plucks rocks away. Thus, on Camel’s Hump, the northern flank of the mountain—the lower hump—is smoothed over, but the southern flank—the taller rock hump—forms a steep rock face.

The craggy summit cone is home to 10 acres of alpine vegetation—the second largest such patch in Vermont. In comparison, the largest patch on Mount Mansfield covers about 250 acres. Common plants include Bigelow sedge (Carex Bigelowii), alpine bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), mountain sandwort (Arenaria groenlandica), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), mountain cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), and Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum). These plants also owe their existence to the glacier, being the last remnants of the tundra vegetation that was widespread in Vermont immediately after the glacier. As the climate warmed, and trees moved in to colonize lower elevations, the only place where tundra vegetation was able to survive was on the few mountaintops where conditions were, and are, extreme enough to keep out competitors.

The harsh, high-elevation conditions don’t just limit plant diversity—animal and bird species are limited, too. The few birds that do survive can be highly visible. Ravens (Corvus corax) wheel and make their funny "quork" call. In the subalpine fir thickets, white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) and dark-eyed juncos (Junco hyemalis) sing their delicate songs.

Red-backed voles (Clethrionomys gapperi), deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), and meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) burrow in the thin plant cover and overwinter under the snow. They feast on seeds and fruits, of which there can be a surprising abundance.

Though the alpine zone is what draws most hikers, the boreal and hardwood forests on the flanks of Camel’s Hump have their own distinct and fascinating story to tell.

Logging, which was especially heavy in the late 1800s, changed the forests of Camel’s Hump forever. The most valuable tree was red spruce (Picea rubens), which was used to make clapboards and shingles for Vermont’s growing population. The Forest Mills Lumber Company, formed in 1859, with a sawmill at about 1,700 feet on the western side of the ridge, cut much of the valuable timber on the peak. Loggers initially selectively cut spruce where it interfingered with yellow birch and beeches, as was typical in forests that once ranged from about 1,800 feet to 3,500 feet. Logging essentially eliminated spruce from this forest type, because when the spruce was cut, the seed source was removed.

When spruce became important for paper pulp, the Forest Mills company, along with other companies established on the eastern side of the mountain, began to cut as high on the mountain as was physically possible. By 1882, loggers were cutting trees as small as 5 inches in diameter, and not just spruce. Pulpwood was so scarce in New England the scarcity spurred development of new paper-making technology. This new process allowed first the use of balsam fir and later hardwoods for pulp. Except for some remote pockets and the highest elevation forests (purchased by Battell in 1891), Camel’s Hump was almost completed denuded by the end of the nineteenth century.

The cutting set the stage for a second catastrophe: a great fire that burned thousands of acres in 1903, sparing part of the western flanks of the mountain but burning almost everywhere else. Except where the state has subsequently planted or logged, many of the trees that now blanket the eastern flanks of Camel’s Hump had their start in the aftermath of the fire.

Starting in 1913, the state planted large numbers of trees on the mountain’s eastern flanks, partly to make up for all the damage from the fire and heavy logging, and partly as an experiment to see what would work. More than 300,000 Norway spruce (Picea abies), among other trees, were planted in groves that are still visible a short distance from the Monroe hiking trail today.

Where the Vermont Forestry Department didn’t plant, nature took over. Most striking is a grove of heart-leafed paper birch (Betula papyrifera var. cordifolia) that covers much of the eastern slopes of the mountain starting at about 2,200 feet until it grades into high-elevation spruce and fir. Look for club moss (Lycopodium lucidulum), mountain wood fern (Dryopteris campyloptera), common wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), and large-leaved goldenrod (Solidago macrophylla) as dominant understory species in this zone, along with hobblebush (Viburnum alnifolium), a shrub with a name that is best understood after a long bushwhack.

Below the birch forest, and interfingering with it, maples and beeches dominate. Look carefully at the beech trees. While some have been severely damaged by a combination of an insect and a fungus (an affliction called beech scale-Nectria complex) others are scarred by more interesting inhabitants: black bears (Ursus americanus).

Look for a series of five dots each about 0.75 inch in diameter, wrapped around the tree as far up as just below the crown. The bears preferentially visit the same trees, typically good nut producers, year after year. Each year adds more round dots to the canvas of the tree bark, with the oldest trees looking like a natural version of a Jackson Pollack painting.

Bears are not the only year-round inhabitants: the park is large enough to provide habitat for virtually every one of Vermont’s larger mammal species. The ledges below the summit cone provide denning areas for bobcat (Lynx rufus), while the forests below provide browse for their favored prey, the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus). Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) also find good den sites in the boulders under the ledges, and their presence makes this a good place to watch for fisher (Martes pennanti). Moose (Alces alces) winter in the high-elevation forests, browsing on striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) buds and mountain ash (Sorbus americana) bark.

Directions: From I-89, take Exit 10 and go south on VT 100 to VT 2. Go east, or left, into Waterbury Village and take the first right on Winooski Street. Cross the Winooski River and then go right on River Road, a dirt road. Go 5.1 miles to Camel’s Hump Road on the left, which follows Ridley Brook. Turn left here and climb 1.4 miles to a fork in the road, bear left and cross a bridge. Continue to climb another 2.4 miles to the eastern trailhead parking. For access from the western side, take I-89 to Exit 11. Go east on US 2 to Richmond village and take a right onto Bridge Street, crossing the Winooski River to Richmond’s historic Round Church. Bear right at the church onto the Richmond-Huntington Road and follow it approximately 8 miles to Huntington Center. Turn left on Camel’s Hump Road, and follow it 3.5 miles to the trailhead.
Activities: Hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling.
Facilities: Three lodges, 1 shelter, 2 tenting areas.
Dates: Open year-round, but trails above 2,500 feet are closed during mud season, typically early-Apr. to mid-Apr. through Memorial Day weekend.
Fees: A fee is charged for shelter and lodge use; camping elsewhere is free.
Closest town: Richmond.
For more information: Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, 111 West Street, Essex Junction, VT 05452. Phone (802) 879-6565 (winter). Green Mountain Club , 4711 Waterbury-Stowe Road, Waterbury Center, VT 05677. Phone (802) 244-7037.

Sidebar: Red Spruce Decline

In late spring, hikers in the Green and other mountains throughout the northeastern region often notice that the needles of some red spruce (Picea rubens) trees are dying. They turn a distinctive red-orange color and eventually fall off, leaving bare twigs near the ends of the branches. This is a result of injury from cold stress during the previous winter.

In the northeastern mountains, red spruce appears to be living at the very edge of where it can live, since it is frequently injured by severe cold or other stresses that are common in the mountain environment. Mountain stands have also undergone a precipitous decline, with many of the bigger and older trees in many stands now dead and down. Early observations of spruce decline on the west slopes of Camel’s Hump raised suspicions that the unusual mortality may be linked to acid precipitation.

At high elevations, forests spend more than 20 percent of the time bathed in clouds, which deposit fine droplets on the needles and other parts of the tree. When the clouds form in polluted air masses from the Midwest, sulfur and nitrogen oxides dissolve in the droplets to form acids that are considerably more concentrated than in acid rain. The pH in these dirty clouds can fall below 3.0.

Extensive research conducted by the University of Vermont and numerous other institutions has shown that prolonged exposure to acid cloud mist impairs the ability of the needles to survive cold stress, already a weakness in this species. The increased frequency and severity of winter injury is enough to push some trees over the edge. In some years, most recently 1984, 1989, and 1993, winter injury is so severe that it may kill off 100 percent of the youngest needles on some trees, putting a deep dent in the ability of the tree to feed itself by photosynthesis and its ability to get ready for the next winter. Repeated injury can put the tree into a death spiral, eventually weakening it enough so that it is vulnerable to attack by insects and fungi, which rapidly finish the job.

Recent evidence gives some hope that spruce populations are recovering from the severe decline of the 1960s and 1970s, perhaps because many of the vulnerable trees have already been killed off. But even among the survivors, at least a small amount of winter injury can be observed every spring.

Hiking trails in the Camel's Hump Region

Although Camel’s Hump is the centerpiece of the state park, the trail system includes a section of the Long Trail, as well as numerous side trails up smaller peaks in the park’s southern end. Backcountry camping is restricted to lower elevations and away from trails. Above 2,500 feet, overnight camping is permitted only in the Green Mountain Club’s shelters and lodges, and at Hump Brook and Honey Hollow tenting areas. Hikers should also take care when above treeline to stay on the rocks and avoid trampling rare alpine vegetation; the Green Mountain Club and the state of Vermont pay several ranger-naturalists to patrol the summit to aid hikers and keep them off fragile vegetation.

This short access trail for the Long Trail is the easiest way to Burnt Rock Mountain in the southern end of Camel’s Hump State Park. Burnt Rock is a bald summit with fabulous 360-degree views, and on its flanks, a geological oddity: a river-carved pothole etched into the side of a bedrock outcrop. The pothole was scoured by glacial meltwater that was either running under the glacier or plunging over openings in the ice to come into contact with the bedrock below.

Directions: From Waitsfield, go north 5 miles on VT 100 to the North Fayston Road. Turn west, or left on North Fayston Road and go approximately 4 miles to a four-way intersection. Take the middle road, Big Basin Road, for 1 mile to the trailhead parking.
Trail distance and configuration: 2 miles one-way to Long Trail; Long Trail to summit of Burnt Rock Mountain, 0.6 mile.
Elevation: 1,400 feet to 3,150 feet.
Degree of difficulty: Moderate.
Surface and blaze: Woods path with steep rock scramble to reach Burnt Rock Mountain summit. Blue blazes; the Long Trail blazed in white.

Forest City and Burrows trails

This pair of hiking trails can be combined for an enjoyable loop on the east side of the mountain; their trailheads are linked by a 0.8 mile connector trail from the Camel’s Hump Road in Huntington. The Forest City Trail is named for a Civilian Conservation Corps camp that was located on this side of the mountain; some people say the name also comes from the Forest City Lumber Company, the early name for the company that logged much of the western side of the mountain in the late 1800s and early 1900s. As it travels up the southwest flank of the mountain, the Forest City Trail follows one of the company’s old logging roads. It climbs to Montclair Glen, named by Professor Will Monroe, trail-builder extraordinaire, for his home in New Jersey. Monroe cut the Long Trail from Camel’s Hump south to Middlebury Gap beginning in 1916. The Montclair Glen Lodge was built in 1948 by the Green Mountain Club and sleeps 10.

The Burrows Trail, the oldest trail on the mountain, travels up the northwest flank of the peak and traverses a University of Vermont research area where much of the early work on acid rain damage to forest ecosystems was conducted. The Burrows Trail also travels through some of the oldest spruce-fir forest on the mountain, one of the few mid- to high-elevation areas believed to have escaped the 1903 fire. Early visitors are reported to have ridden to just below the summit to the Green Mountain House, an overnight lodge built in 1859 that closed a decade later. The Camel’s Hump Club, a Waterbury-based hiking group, maintained three huts near the old location of the Green Mountain House as hikers’ shelters from 1912 to the early 1950s. A bare area at the junction of the Long and Burrows trails is still recognizable as the hut clearing.

Directions: Take I-89 to Exit 11. Go east on US 2 to Richmond village and take a right onto Bridge Street, crossing the Winooski River to Richmond’s historic Round Church. Bear right at the church onto the Richmond-Huntington Road and follow it about 10 miles to Huntington Center. Turn left on Camel’s Hump Road, and follow it 3.5 miles to the trailhead.
Trail distance and configuration: 7.6 miles as a loop. Forest City Trail, 2.2 miles, Burrows Trail, 2.4 miles, Long Trail link between the trails over the summit, 2.2 miles, connector trail linking Burrows and Forest City trails, 0.8 mile.
Elevation: 1,400 feet to 4,083 feet.
Degree of difficulty: Moderate to strenuous.
Surface and blaze: Well-worn footpath with rocky summit climb. Blue blazes.

Monroe and Dean Trails

Named for Will S. Monroe, who cut the original path of the Long Trail from Camel’s Hump south to Middlebury Gap, this trail was built in 1912 and is one of the most popular ways to the summit. The trail climbs through an extensive grove of paper birch (Betula papyrifera var. cordifolia) that dates from the 1903 fire.

The Monroe Trail is popular not only with hikers, but with birders. In its low-elevation hardwood forests, birders have counted 21 species of breeding birds, including barred owls (Strix varia), yellow-bellied sapsuckers (Sphyrapicus varius), wood and hermit thrushes and veerys (Hylocichla mustelina, Catharus guttatus and C. fuscescens), Eastern wood pewee (Contopus virens), white-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), and a number of warblers, such as black-and-white warblers (Dendroica striata), black-throated green and black-throated blue warblers (Dendroica caerulescens and D. virens), and Blackburnian warblers (Dendroica fusca).

A short trail, the Dean Trail, links the Monroe Trail with the Long Trail at Wind Gap, a saddle below the steep southern cliffs of the peak, near Montclair Glen Lodge. The Long Trail climbs from Wind Gap to the summit via a grueling but spectacular route, with good views interspersed with woods walking. About 0.75 mile up the Dean Trail toward Wind Gap, a beaver pond offers breathtaking views of the summit and a potential terminus of a hike for children who aren’t old enough to make the top. The pond also offers good habitat for olive-sided flycatchers (Contopus borealis), ruby-crowned kinglets (Regulus calendula), and mourning warblers (Oporornis philadelphia).

From its junction with the Dean Trail, the Monroe Trail climbs through a few switchbacks in a spruce-fir forest, and then back into a high-elevation band of paper birch (Betula papyrifera). It ends by climbing through stunted balsam firs (Abies balsamea), ideal habitat for the globally rare Bicknell’s thrush (Catharus Bicknelli), until it reaches the rocky summit cone.

Directions: From I-89, take Exit 10 and go south on VT 100 to VT 2. Go east, or left, into Waterbury Village and take the first right on Winooski Street. Cross the Winooski River and then go right on River Road, a dirt road. Go 5.1 miles to Camel’s Hump Road on the left, which follows Ridley Brook. Turn left here and climb 1.4 miles to a fork in the road, bear left and cross a bridge. Continue to climb another 2.4 miles to trailhead parking.
Trail distance and configuration: 6.1 miles as a loop. Monroe Trail, 3.1 miles; Dean Trail, 1 mile; Long Trail link between the trails over the summit, 2 miles.
Elevation: 1,400 feet to 4,083 feet.
Degree of difficulty: Moderate.
Surface and blaze: Well-worn footpath with rocky summit climb. Blue blazes.

Bicknell's Thrush

Once thought to be a subspecies of the more common gray-cheeked thrush (Catharus minimus), Bicknell’s thrush (Catharus bicknellii) was recognized as a species in its own right in 1995 by the American Ornithological Union. Look for these nondescript birds in the stunted spruce-fir forests above 3,000 feet, in the thick forest cover that effectively hides them and their nests. The bird is slightly smaller with a somewhat different song than its gray-cheeked relative, but the easiest way to distinguish it is timing: Gray-cheeked thrushes merely pass though Vermont on their way to northern breeding grounds, whereas Bicknell’s thrushes nest here.

Although Bicknell’s thrushes are not rare in Vermont, their designation as a distinct species makes them globally uncommon. The birds are known only from spruce-fir forests in northern New England and parts of Quebec and New Brunswick. Vermont is thought to have as much as 15 percent of the world’s population. Much of the attention paid to the birds in recent years results from their choice of nesting habitat, which coincides precisely with high-elevation locations where Vermont’s ski areas are trying to expand. Ski areas are paying for some of the research being done on the bird. Look for researchers atop Mount Mansfield, and in southern Vermont, on Stratton Mountain.

Long and Alpine Trails

To its aficionados, the southbound section of the Long Trail over Bamforth Ridge is simply the finest way up the finest mountain in Vermont. The trail climbs from the Winooski River, the lowest point on the Long Trail, to the summit of Camel’s Hump, one of the highest, making this the largest vertical climb on the Long Trail, over 3,600 feet in all. Along the way it takes in a wide range of plant communities and a gradually expanding view of Vermont and, ultimately, parts of New York and New Hampshire.

Still known to many as the Bamforth Ridge Trail, the Long Trail was recently rerouted onto this long and rough but spectacular ridge walk. The Green Mountain Club’s Gorham Lodge, 0.7 mile north of the summit, provides overnight accommodations (there is a fee).

The trail begins easily in a glade of sugar maple (Acer saccharum), with an almost continuous groundcover of silvery spleenwort (Athyrium thelypteroides) mixed with numerous other ferns and herbs of rich forest soils, such as maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) and blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides).

After a mile or so the trail climbs sharply to the rocky ridge crest, where it winds wildly around and over a series of open rock knobs. This makes for a gradually unfolding view of the landscape, beginning with a little window on the Winooski Valley and gradually building to the grand summit view of the entire stretch of the Green Mountains from Jay Peak to Killington, the Adirondacks looming over Lake Champlain and its surrounding lowlands, and the distant White Mountains. On the lower reaches, Mount Mansfield remains mostly hidden behind the bulk of Bolton Mountain, but finally emerges to dominate the view to the north.

The thin soils of the ridgetop, combined with exposure to fierce winds out of the north and west, bring boreal forest communities down as low as 2,000 feet. On convex sections there are large areas of bare rock, scraped clean by glacial ice, and thin organic soils where coniferous species dominate: hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) at the lowest elevations, soon giving way to red spruce (Picea rubens) and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) higher up. Lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) are abundant on the sunnier stretches, and pockets in the rock support microwetlands, dominated by sedges (Scirpus spp.). Look for glacial striations on the ledges, particularly on steep faces where they haven’t been erased by weathering.

In the more protected concave reaches, the ice left a veneer of till, which supports hardwood forests dominated by white and yellow birches, with common ferns and wildflowers such as mountain wood fern (Dryopteris campyloptera), clintonia (Clintonia borealis), and Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) in the understory. Above Gorham Lodge, the trail climbs rapidly through moist fir forests that diminish in stature to subalpine scrub just below the rocky alpine zone around the summit.

The Alpine Trail leaves the Long Trail below Gorham Lodge and makes a long climbing traverse around the east slope of the mountain, crossing the Monroe Trail before making a final steep run for the summit. In the spruce, fir, and birch forests above the Monroe Trail, it passes by a wing section of the B-24J bomber that crashed on the upper slopes of the mountain in 1944. While the Alpine Trail can serve as a foul-weather bypass around the summit when the wind is out of the west, the final section is steep and rugged, so it doesn’t necessarily save much in the way of effort.

For a great traverse, drop a car or mountain bike at the Monroe trailhead, then hike the Long, Dean, and Monroe trails, a total of 9.2 miles, many of them fairly rugged. For cyclists, the ride back involves a thrilling descent of Camel’s Hump Road, then a nice 2.9-mile ramble along the banks and floodplain of the Winooski River.

Directions: From I-89, take Exit 10 and go south on VT 100 to VT 2. Go east, or left, into Waterbury Village and take a right on Winooski Street. Cross the Winooski River and then go right on River Road, a dirt road. Go approximately 7.5 miles to the trailhead on the left, or south side of the road.
Trail distance and configuration: Long Trail from Winoosli River to summit, 5.2 miles one-way. Alpine Trail, 1.7 miles one-way.
Elevation: 400 feet to 4,083 feet.
Degree of difficulty: Strenuous.
Surface and blaze: Mostly rocky footpath and open ledge; can be quite slippery when wet. White or blue blazes.

Sidebar:Airplane Crash

On a moonless night in October, 1944, a B-24J Liberator bomber from Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts on a routine training mission crashed into the eastern side of Camel’s Hump. The collision killed nine crewmembers and left one survivor, who spent two nights on the mountain before rescuers could get him down. PFC James W. Wilson, then a 19-year-old Army Air Corps gunner from Florida, lost both hands and feet to frostbite. He survived and later established a successful law practice in Denver, Colorado.

No one knows why the plane was traveling at 4,000 feet instead of the standard 8,000 feet—some speculate the crew was just trying to stay warm in the cool of the late fall. There had been an early snowfall. Whatever the cause, the plane struck just 100 feet below the summit cone, cartwheeled south, and scattered men and 36,000 pounds of debris all over the snow-covered peak.

Rescuers carried out the bodies of the men who were killed. Souvenir hunters and scrap metal dealers have mostly removed the debris, but more than 50 years after the crash, an untarnished aluminum wing section on the Alpine Trail remains as a telling memorial. A plaque commemorating the lost airmen was dedicated at the base of the Monroe hiking trail 45 years after the crash, on October 16, 1989.

Cross-country skiing in Camel’s Hump State Park

Honey Hollow Trail

A popular but challenging leg of the Catamount Ski Trail, the state’s end-to-end cross-country ski trail (see page xx). It begins at the Camel’s Hump Nordic Ski Center, which is now being run by a cooperative of Vermonters, and ends in Jonesville by the Winooski River, almost 1,000 feet lower than the starting point. The descent from the height of land covers 1,500 vertical feet in a mixture of exciting steep shots and easy double-pole road grades, with a short uphill climb in the middle. You will need to pay a trail fee and obtain a map at the touring center. Although it’s possible to ski it round-trip, the best way to enjoy the trail is to spot a car at the trailhead on River Road in Jonesville where the ski trip ends; this maximizes the downhill part of the excursion.

A section of trail crosses through recently logged areas and its exact location can shift yearly depending upon the logging activity in the area. At its highest point on the ridge, look along the trail for moose (Alces alces) sign. Moose will preferentially scrape the bark off mountain ash (Sorbus americana) in long strips with their lower incisors (they have no upper incisors), leaving 2-foot long, 0.5-inch wide scars on the tree’s bark.

Directions: To the Camel’s Hump Nordic Ski Center trailhead from Huntington Village, go south on Main Street to where it turns a sharp right uphill. Leave Main Street here and go straight on East Street. Follow East Street approximately 2 miles to Handy Road, turn left on Handy Road and look for trail signs and parking for Camel’s Hump Nordic Ski Center. From Richmond Village to the trail junction at the end of the ski, go east on VT 2 approximately 4 miles to the green metal bridge over the Winooski River. Cross the bridge and take your first left onto River Road. The end of the trail meets River Road in Jonesville, approximately 2.2 miles from the bridge over the Winooski.
Trail distance and configuration: 6.9 miles one-way from the Camel’s Hump Nordic Ski Center to River Road in Jonesville.
Elevation: Approximately 1,500 feet elevation change.
Degree of difficulty: Strenuous.
Surface and blaze: Ungroomed backcountry ski trail. Blue plastic diamonds bearing Catamount Trail symbol.

Ridley Crossing Trail

This new ski trail winds through the low-elevation hardwood forests at the base of Camel’s Hump, with glimpses of the summit and ledgy eastern slopes of the mountain. A short spur trail links Ridley Crossing with the Monroe Trail, which is used by snowshoers and by expert cross-country skiers for winter ascents of Camel’s Hump.

Directions: From I-89, take Exit 10 and go south on VT 100 to VT 2. Go east, or left, into Waterbury Village and take the first right on Winooski Street. Cross the Winooski River and then go right on River Road, a dirt road. Go 5.1 miles to Camel’s Hump Road on the left, which follows Ridley Brook. Turn left here and climb 1.4 miles to a fork in the road, bear right and cross a bridge. Continue to climb another 2.4 miles to trailhead parking.

Trail distance and configuration: 1 mile one-way.

Elevation: 200-foot elevation gain.

Degree of difficulty: Easy.

Surface and blaze: Ungroomed snow surface. Plastic trail markers.

Mountain Biking and Horseback Riding in Honey Hollow

The main Honey Hollow logging access road and some side roads are open to mountain bikes and horses on a trial basis. Together with Honey Hollow Road (Richmond Town Highway 12), a dirt road up the west side of Preston Brook, the open trails form a figure 8 with a 5.2-mile lower loop and a 1.9-mile upper loop, with 0.4 miles of paved road between Honey Hollow Road and the trailhead. This network forms the Honey Hollow Multi-Use Trail. Some of the woods road sections tend to be muddy and may be closed in the spring and during and after wet periods. While the area is logged, the state manages it with a light touch so cutting is selective or in small patches. This kind of management makes especially good habitat for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and a variety of forest edge and brush-loving songbirds such as chestnut-sided warblers (Dendroica pensylvanica) and indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea).

Directions: From Richmond Village, go east on VT 2 approximately 4 miles to the green metal bridge over the Winooski River. Cross the bridge and take your first left onto River Road. Honey Hollow Road (Town Highway 12) is at about 1.8 miles from the turnoff, and the parking area and main trail access is at 2.2 miles.
Trail distance and configuration: 8-mile loop.
Elevation: 400 to 1,500 feet.
Degree of difficulty: Moderate.
Surface and blaze: Old road. Sections open to bikes and horses are blazed with orange plastic diamonds.

Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center

Molded into a terraced hillside and bounded by the Huntington River, the Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center is wonderful for anyone wishing to visit a sampling of Vermont’s forest types in a relatively small area. The 230-acre preserve contains a mature hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) forest, a grove of Eastern white pines (Pinus strobus) overlooking a beaver pond, and a working sugarbush with more than 800 taps, where every spring the center collects sap and makes maple syrup. In what has become a rite of spring for many area residents, the center hosts sugar-on-snow parties each weekend during the sap run, complete with pickles, doughnuts, and demonstrations of contemporary and Native Americans techniques for syrup-making.

Part of the reason for the area’s diversity is the deposits that underlie the nature center. The hillside is a kame terrace, deposited during glacial retreat by a meltwater stream running in a pocket between the glacier ice and the bedrock of the ridge. Because the sands and gravels are water-borne, they are sorted by size and weight. Running water can carry fine particles much farther than it can carry heavier stones or gravel, so the largest stones are always closest to the water source. In the case of a kame terrace, this sorting is destroyed to some extent when the glacier melts, essentially removing one side support for the terrace. The center also contains river terraces associated with the Huntington River, which is gradually cutting down through the landscape, leaving behind flat-topped terraces that look like giant stairsteps to the riverbed. The diversity of deposits and associated moisture regimes makes for the diversity of forests. Look for alder (Alnus incana) along small drainages, with northern hardwood species of sugar maple (Acer saccharum), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), and yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) in the sugarbush.

Beaver have also changed the nature center: a beaver pond full of dead trees offers excellent habitat for cavity-nesting birds such as wood ducks (Aix sponsa) and tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). Kingfishers (Ceryle alcyon) work the pond, and spring peepers (Hyla crucifer) make the area deafening in the spring.

Directions: From the stop light in the center of Richmond village, turn south onto Bridge Street and cross the Winooski River. At the Round Church, bear right on the Richmond-Huntington Road and go 5.3 miles. Look for signs and parking on the right; the Nature Center office and additional parking are on Sherman Hollow Road, which is the next right after the lower parking area.
Activities: Hiking, bird-watching, interpretative programs, workshops.
Facilities: Visitor center, shop, nature trails, restrooms.
Dates: Open year-round.
Fees: A fee is charged for special activities and workshops; trail use is free.
Closest town: Huntington, 2 miles south.
For more information: Green Mountain Audubon Society Nature Center, 255 Sherman Hollow Road, Huntington, VT 05462. Phone (802) 434-3068.

Birds of Vermont Museum

Since the late 1970s, self-taught naturalist Bob Spear has devoted his life’s work to carving the 268 species of birds native to Vermont. The carvings are truly extraordinary: some have taken more than 500 hours, and with good reason. Each individual feather, right down to the barbs, has been carved into basswood that Spear preferentially uses. Though Spear’s focus is on Vermont, he’s also made life-sized carvings of 16 extinct, or nearly extinct birds of North America, several threatened tropical species, and the Jurassic dinosaur-bird Archaeopteryx lunching on a small reptile. The two-story antique barn is a perfect setting for the collection, augmented by a huge picture window where visitors can watch (and hear) birds in nearby fields and at birdfeeders that are part of the museum’s 33 acres. Spear’s workshop, and Spear himself, are also part of the visit.

Directions: From the stop light in the center of Richmond village, turn south onto Bridge Street and cross the Winooski River. At the Round Church, bear right on the Richmond-Huntington Road and go 5.3 miles. Turn right onto Sherman Hollow Road and pass the Green Mountain Audubon Nature Center headquarters on your left. The museum is on the right 0.5 mile after the nature center office.
Activities: Hiking, bird-watching, interpretative programs, workshops.
Facilities: Visitor center, shop, restrooms.
Dates: Open mid-May through end of Oct.
Fees: A fee is charged for admission.
Closest town: Richmond, 5 miles north.
For more information: Birds of Vermont Museum, 900 Sherman Hollow Road, Huntington, VT 05462. Phone (802) 434-2167.

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