Pre-dawn, falling snow, first tracks - a recipe for one of my favorite winter adventures. Hiking by wintery night flips every familiarity of the outdoors on its head, exposing the magic of a world that appears only once the lights go out. The forest becomes incredibly quiet and the view stretches only as far as your headlamp. The whisper of wind at the treetops, of snow gently touching down on your jacket, the 15 feet of trail ahead. When paired with an unspoiled trail, and your first ascent upon it, the experience becomes amplified by the excitement of the unknown. The trail narrows, your sense of terrain and its fluctuations vanish, time and altitude only guessed at by the size of the trees and the amount of snow upon their branches.
I wanted to wrap up 2014 with a hike I've had on my list for some time - Camel's Hump in Huntington, VT. Camel's Hump is the 3rd tallest mountain in Vermont, and the only undeveloped alpine area in the state. My good buddy Arlin and I met at the trailhead around 5AM in hopes of catching the sunrise, but nature ended up providing us with one of the most ethereal morning summits I have ever experienced. The heavy cloud cover created a landscape in which land and sky seemed at once the same, interrupted only by the Red Spruce and exposed rock. On a peak that is rarely vacant, the small patch of summit seemed an obscure island amidst the sky.