|The CHC crosses many high-elevation wetlands, perfect for snack breaks.|
My skis glide onto the edge of an alpine wetland. A dark rocky cliff face looms high above and a layer of spruce trees cuts into the grey sky. I’m about halfway in to my 13-mile ski tour, and the boulder at the opposite end of this frozen water looks to be the perfect spot to rip open my Snickers bar. In those first few bites, I’m rewarded with the sweet taste of chocolate peanuts and cold-hardened caramel, and the sweet feeling of being self-propelled over great distances of Vermont’s backcountry.
I’m skiing the Camel’s Hump Challenge (CHC), a tour that circumnavigates the summit of Camel’s Hump by traveling through both private and State forest. A knee injury left my partner at the halfway point, where some nice folks will walk out with her and give her a ride back to our car. I'm on my own on a long tour, on a big mountain. And it's pretty cool.
|So happy to see each other.|
The CHC route affords access to established birch glades, fragrant spruce-fir forests, and strings of upland wetlands not typically visited by hikers or skiers. It’s beautiful, but it’s earned. With many miles of climbing, dotted by sections of smooth tracking and fast dips in elevation, this route is both challenging and rewarding.The forests I've seen today flash in my head. Birch glades out of a story book; spruce forests that hang heavy with the scent of pine. It's all been so beautiful.
There's a greater cause bringing me out here today. As CHC board member Bruce Beeken puts it, “The purpose of this event is to enjoy this extraordinary ski tour and to raise money for a good cause.” In order to be here, we each raised $125 or more in donations from friends and family to support education and family support programs at the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.I don't know this during my ski, but I will later learn that together all skiers raised $22,000 - a new record.
Later in the day I will ascend and descend Wind Gap (a feat I am still amazed I did on my own) and then beautiful Bald Hill - a ripping fast descent that had me grinning ear to ear the whole long way down. And I will ski up to my friends. My dog will run out and greet me, hugs will come from all directions, and beer will taste better than it ever has. For now, I taste the melting chocolate again, and savor the fresh air, my health and vitality, and every minute of this beautiful backcountry.
Also, for a look into behind-the-scenes preparation for the CHC, see:
- Clearing the Way