Trekking North into Vermont: The Snow Hole
Taking aTrailside Rest
Ever New England: Trekking North Into Vermont
I write not of our delightful drive along the Molly Stark Trail from Bennington to Brattleboro stopping at Marlboro College spreading through the woodlands in old farm buildings, nor do I write of Equinox Mountain in central Vermont that turns into myriad colors by the time of the autumnal equinox, nor do I write of a delightful second-hand bookshop in Rutland called CharlesTuttle's where one can find literary treasures for very reasonable prices. Rather I choose to write of our trek north on the crest of the Taconic Mountains into Vermont with the destination of the Snow Hole.
Hiking the Taconic Range
As my wife, Maura, and I got out of our car in the Taconic Range at Petersburg Pass, New York, occasional clouds floated overhead in a bright blue dome of sky in late-August. We climbed up the steep Taconic Trail winding back and forth over a grassy slope lined with once-pink azalea bushes overlooking the green and fertile valleys of New York and Massachusetts. The trail leveled off at about three miles from Vermont. Our destination? --the Snow Hole some three and a half miles away and perhaps twenty degrees cooler than sultry Petersburg Pass. We doubted very much if any snow could possibly be left after a terribly hot July, but we were intent on proving ourselves wrong.
After about a quarter mile the trail dipped down into some densely mixed woods of maple, birch, spruce and pine with a thick undergrowth of maple saplings. A bit later the trail emerged into another open meadow affo0rding a broasd view to the wset of the Helderbergs and Catskills of New York. We chose rest rest Higher up on a wooded mound where willows swayed in refreshing breezes. Every now and then the call of a white-throated sparrow interrupted the silence of the meadow below. Again the trail entered dense woods of gray-barked ashes and white maples with leaves tinged slightly yellow. Little chipmunks scurried across the dried leaves of the previous fall, and brown toads hopped about until they suspected their being noticed. At this point they would freeze and hope that we would not even see their camouflaged bodies.
Crossing the Vermont Border
As we crossed the border into Vermont trees looked a little different with extended branches to the lea side of the wind. Apparently winter winds are even more fierce up here. Meadows dropped off more severely into the valleys below. Our trail followed along a much narrower ridge line not more than thirty yards wide with New York on one side and Vermont on the other.
One open field in particular, some two and a half miles north of Petersburg Pass dropped off so sharply that I felt as though we walked along the roof of a tent. From here we could see seventy-five miles into the Adirondacks of upstate New York. The wind, now, had become cool and crisp and remained continually filled with the fragrance of northern forests. We soon discovered hundreds of blueberry bushes laden with coal-black berries having a taste as wild and ambrosial as any on Earth. We sensed that the Snow Hole could not be too far away as we entered a forty-foot high Canadian maple forest. And there it was--a sign saying SNOW HOLE pointing toward a short side trail.
The Snow Hole
We descended some fifty feet until we came across angular gray rocks that sloped down rapidly into a deep pit. As we trekked to the edge of the hole covered with thick growths of fern and moss, the air temperature dropped. We suddenly heard voices and soon walked up to an old Vermont couple who sat at the entrance way. The white-haired gentlemen said that when he was a young boy his father carried him on his shoulders to this very spot and that practically every year sine, he made it his business to pay a visit.
As they talked, we held on to the roots of a big ash tree just above a forty or fifty foot hollow filled with white snow! The Vermonters suggested we go down for a closer look. Each ten feet we descended, the temperature dropped a degree. No ferns or moss grew way down inside. Finally we stood on about three feet of hard-crusted snow where the temperature must have been only forty five--a full forty degrees cooler than Petersburg Pass! We could even see our breaths in the frosty air. I day-dreamed until Maura hit me with a snowball. As we climbed back out the heat of summer gradually took over. The old Vermonters seemed delighted with our joy.
Slowly, we ambled back to Petersburg Pass through forests barely tinged with fall color. Thanks to this encounter with summer snow, we couldn't help but think about the oncoming of colder seasons that would produce a blaze of fall color and whispy piles of fresh snow. that surely could inspire future artists the likes of Winslow Homer or Robert Frost.
This is the southern most snow cave in Vermont which has hundreds of other snow caves, some considerably larger.