36 Hours of Adventure: Slopes and Summits

Contrary to popular belief, those of us working at Expedition Portal and Overland Journal do actually exist outside of our jobs. Much like young students assume their teachers magically vanish into some other dimension after class, many of our readers seem to think that if we aren’t typing away at our keyboards or out on some grand adventure that we simply roll into a corner somewhere and power down. Thankfully, that’s not the case. We do have other passions and interests outside of work, and they don’t involve napping in a corner—most of the time. To prove it, we’ve pulled up a little adventure from last January when we set out with the boys from Main Line Overland to explore the hills of Vermont and New Hampshire by skis, snowshoes, and yes, four-wheel drives.

Day 1

I’m convinced that like the laws of physics, there are laws of travel that always hold true. For example, it seems that for every action taken to leave on time for a trip, there is an equal and opposite reaction to delay you. I can only conclude that this is true because no matter how far in advance we prepare for a weekend camping there always seems to be a last minute rush to get everything ready. On this trip, our pre-departure rush revolved around installing Main Line Overland’s new GTS Suspension on Eric’s Quicksand Tacoma. We wanted to try it out with a Four-Wheel camper for a few hundred miles, and this Vermont getaway was the perfect opportunity. While Eric and his team were hard at work on the install, Tom Henwood and I set out on a vital support role, grabbing lunch from one of the local hotspots, Robies General Store.

This small store has been around since 1822, and over the years it gained quite the reputation as a campaign stop for governors and even presidents. Its covered porch has witnessed the changing of transportation from riverboats to trains to cars, a myriad of political speeches, and generations of families and friends gathering in the New Hampshire countryside. Unsurprisingly, a lot of memorabilia has ended up inside the cafe over the years, and you can walk around the dining room to soak it all in. Vintage campaign posters, old fly and tackle gear, and countless other antiques cover the walls. It’s fascinating, but if history isn’t your thing, don’t worry, their food is excellent as well. I’d recommend the Reuben.

After returning with the vital lunch supplies, the Tacoma was ready to go, and we decided to load up and take it for a quick test drive, you know, for safety purposes. An afternoon on the snow-covered trails would do the trick. We pulled out a map, found a nearby road, and set out.

I know it’s difficult to have a bad time driving through a snow-covered wood, but this drive was especially peaceful. There was no one else out on the trails, and only the lightest breeze rolling through the trees, accentuating the soft crunch of the snow beneath the tires. We were all lulled into a state of complacency until the crunch of snow suddenly echoed with a crisp crack. Eric applied the brakes, and we peered out of the window at our mistake.

Underneath the layers of snow was a frozen creek, and we had rolled right on top of it. We were lucky, it didn’t look to be that deep, and the ice seemed firm. We proceeded with caution, listening to the crackles and pops while feeling the truck lurch as it broke through the top layers. Few things will make you suck up your seat cushion like the thought of the ground giving out beneath you. Fortunately, it didn’t, and we were soon back on dry ground on our way toward the ski slopes of Vermont.

We made it to Killington far later than expected. A rather unintentional detour had delayed us, and now conditions were less than ideal. For starters, it was dark, which made finding the approved camping lot rather difficult. It was also windy, really windy. The gusts would cause the entire truck to pitch and roll like a ship, and the gales coming down the mountain hurled snow and ice at us with a vengeance. There was no chance of hanging around outside, so we popped the top on our Four-Wheel Camper, turned on the heat, and quickly melted into the seats while wrapping up the day’s work.

Day 2

We woke up a little late the next morning. The warmth of the camper made it far too inviting to simply stay under the covers, and we didn’t drag ourselves out onto the snow until nearly 9:00 a.m. By that time, the wind had died down, and the clouds had parted, revealing a perfect day for skiing. Most of the guys loaded up their skis and boards and headed for the lift, but I was recovering from back surgery, so I picked up my snowshoes and made my way toward the woods instead.

Over the next few hours, I’d be taking a slow stroll towards the summit of Ramshead Mountain. At 3,600 feet tall it’s far from the Rockies, but it would be a perfect hike to break in my Tubbs Wilderness 30s, and a fun way to continue building my strength after therapy.

 The hike up started as a fairly disappointing journey along the edge of the ski slope. I spent most of my time being made fun of by snowboarders on the lift yelling that I was “going the wrong way.” I’m not too proud to admit that I felt rather bitter toward them, slogging my way up the slope in an injured state, but when I eventually passed the upper limits of the ski lifts and entered into the woods, I felt like they were the ones missing out. The splendor of Vermont’s wilderness above the slopes was truly something to behold. A deep powder lay across the ground, which seemed to muffle all sound, and the trees hung heavy in their white coats, their branches draped with icicles that shimmered like diamonds in the midday sun. It was beautiful enough to make even the hardest soul wax poetic for hours on end, but fortunately for everyone reading this, some snowboarders showed up to change the mood.

Instead of the silent peace of a snow-covered mountainside, I was now capturing the adrenaline rush of three friends carving down a fresh hill.  I was more than a little jealous watching them. In fact I’d say it was torture, but as they vanished around the next bend, I turned toward the peak with a new determination to make the final climb. At least, what I thought would be the final climb.

As I reached the “top,” I suddenly realized that the actual peak was still above me, and there seemed to be a small path leading through the trees toward it. I clumsily stumbled my way up the trail, waddling like a duck, trying not to get a face full of snow. It worked about as well as you’d expect (poorly) and I fell into deep drifts twice before getting the hang of it. When the trees finally began to clear, and the ground leveled out, a handmade hut came into view, with a board rack, benches, and a fire ring to boot. It was quite the mountain escape, but the coolest part was the crow’s nest. It was built in the branches above the hut, and could only be accessed by a wooden ladder held together with ice and paracord. The climb up to it was less than pleasant, but the view from the top was well worth the effort, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of satisfaction looking at the slopes far below. I may not have been able to go as fast as everyone else, but I certainly went higher.

With the summit reached, the only thing left to do was to make the long hike back and grab a hot cup of coffee in the camper, something I desperately needed. I half walked, half slid my way down the slope while wishing desperately that I could simply ski my way down the hill, and eventually reached the bottom. By then it was already afternoon, and my inbox was slowly filling with tasks I’d need to tackle for the coming week. The Henwood brothers had plenty of work on their plates as well, and we decided it was best to part ways early and get a head start on the new week. As we exchanged farewells and hopped in our trucks, I reflected on just how much of an escape a weekend can be. Sure, it’s not enough time for a grand adventure, but when the stress of your work week threatens to overwhelm you, it can give you just the right amount of fresh air and clear perspective to tackle the tasks ahead.

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Chris didn’t receive a real taste of the outdoors until moving to Prescott, Arizona, in 2009. While working on his business degree, he learned to fly and spent his weekends exploring the Arizona desert and high country. It was there that he fell in love with backcountry travel and four-wheel drive vehicles, eventually leading him to Overland Journal and Expedition Portal. After several years of honing his skills in writing, photography, and off-road driving, Chris now works for the company full time as Expedition Portal's Managing Editor.