story and photographs by Brian Mohr
The tail end of maple sugaring season is a relaxing time to be in the Green Mountains. Dismissed by out-of-staters as mud season, late spring in Vermont means a break between the busy tourist seasons. And you’re well free of mid-winter obligations like shoveling walkways or winning the race for fresh tracks.
My wife and I might spend the day riding mountain bikes in the Champlain Valley, stopping for a dunk in the river on the way home. Or we throw our skis in the canoe and paddle toward backcountry runs that drop to the river. Mountainside barbeques, a rendezvous with friends on the rock or trail, whitewater excursions on our backyard rivers. Spring brings us closer together. Here’s a primer:
Paddle: Central Vermont’s Mad and White Rivers share similar watersheds, with headwaters just east of the Breadloaf Wilderness Area. But while the Mad River flows north and west toward Lake Champlain, the White heads east for the New Hampshire border. Both rivers pack a punch come springtime, with plenty of Class II and occasional Class III (and IV, on the Mad) sections of whitewater to tackle by canoe or kayak.
Climb: Between Montpelier and Burlington, the town of Bolton is chockablock with accessible climbs, some of which offer rare views of Vermont’s highest peaks. Split into three zones—Lower West, Upper West, and the Quarry—Bolton is an easy place to get on the rock quickly. Tap into a mix of trad, sport, and top-rope climbing, or stay closer to the ground working the many bouldering problems. Raining? Head to the climbing walls and boulder caves of Petra Cliffs Climbing Center in Burlington. No ordinary gym, Petra Cliffs is beautifully laid out and well lit.
Mountain bike: The Champlain Valley is warmer and dries out faster than mountains surrounding most ski areas, making it prime territory for springtime singletrack. A local nonprofit dubbed Fellowship of the Wheel oversees a variety of trails for all abilities, including networks like Sleepy Hollow in Huntington, Sunny Hollow in Colchester, and the Catamount Outdoor Center in Williston. Most trails course through the hardwood forests and drop into shady ravines before straightening out in open pastures.
Ski: For many skiers, spring is the pinnacle of the season at places like Killington, Sugarbush, and Stowe. And with some luck, a blast of winter can have you chasing fresh tracks well into April. After a typical spring night, give the snow some time to soften up with a morning bike ride or rock climb, and then head for the hills. Come May, you’ll need to hike or skin your way uphill. Be prepared to connect receding patches of snow with gaps of grass skiing.
Onion River Sports: A one-stop shop for biking, hiking, camping, and backcountry skiing with the slogan “Muscles, Not Motors.” onionriver.com
Mountain Travelers: Peter and JoAnn Kavouksorian put out a shingle in 1976. Today, their shop caters to skiers, hikers, and paddlers. mtntravelers.com
Earl’s Cyclery: Within Burlington city limits—and even farther afield—Earl’s is the best bet for road and mountain biking needs. earlsbikes.com
Petra Cliffs: The climbing gym is off the charts good, but the outfit also offers guided ski mountaineering and rock climbing throughout the Northeast. petracliffs.com
Clearwater Sports: This all-around outdoor shop specializes in paddle sports, renting canoes and kayaks and guiding trips down the Mad River. clearwatersports.com
From the Spring 2012 issue. Get more “Spring Multisport” here.