Generally speaking, most people plan ahead when they hike a mountain. You pack a lunch, wear good hiking boots, bring plenty of water, maybe a small first aid kit. You set out with this wonderful mindset and personal determination, ready to face the challenge. Of course, we hadn’t planned on climbing a mountain at all that day. Granted though, it wasn’t a HUGE mountain, and we weren’t even aware that it WAS a mountain until we got to the other side!
This all happened in beautiful Vermont, July of 2014. I love going camping up there, in the Green Mountain National Forest. The trees grow thick and the road curves precariously like a snake, lazily twisting and turning. You see flashes through the trees of glorious mountain views, log cabins sitting quietly, and the occasional gorgeous new house built on sprawling hills, with bright little for-sale signs smugly sitting by the mailbox. This particular camping trip included myself and three other darling friends. One of them, my closest childhood comrade, had researched a waterfall in the area, Hamilton Falls. It was about a 40 minute drive from our campsite at Grout Pond. So we packed our swimsuits and a few snacks, and headed out.
We were driving down this treacherously thin road, called Turkey Mountain Road. There is barely room for one car at many points, let alone if another car were attempting to come from the other direction! There were quite a few little homes along TM rd. and it was really a picturesque drive. Unexpectedly we came to a point where the road sort of…stopped being a road. It was muddy, rocky, and completely impassable by car. We pulled over and debated for a bit about how to proceed. There was clearly a route through, but it would have to be navigated on foot. We were all in high spirits and excited at the prospect of possibly swimming in a waterfall, so we decided to hike it. We all guessed it would be maybe a twenty minute walk.
Can I tell you how wrong we were? How goodness-gracious-my-calves-are-burning wrong we were? The path seemed to stretch on forever. We were steadily climbing upwards. Now, I’m not out of shape but I’m not a very strong hiker either. I can honestly say this was a miserable stretch for me! But by the time I realized how exhausted my muscles were becoming, it would have been absurd to turn back. How much further could it be, really? Looking back, a lot of this strain was the mental challenge. We didn’t really know how far we were hiking, or if this was even the right path to get to Hamilton Falls. We just pushed forward, and hoped!
It turned out to be 2 to 2.5 miles total. That’s not much on flat ground, but an un-prepped hike, it felt a lot farther! And when we finally reached the falls, lo and behold! We discovered there was a road and parking area right there. Talk about being speechless for a moment! But more than that, we then saw a sign announcing the path we had just exited as being Turkey Mountain. We all marveled at that, and exclaimed over the accomplishment of mistakenly hiking a mountain AND getting where we intended to!
Admittedly, Hamilton Falls was totally worth it.
The falls are 125 feet high. There is a basin 15′ from the top that some brave folks have been known to swim in, but it is highly advised against. This is actually very dangerous, and these falls have claimed over 10 lives. We opted to stay in the pool at the bottom of the falls, swimming and lounging. The water was quite cold! There is also a small river that winds its way beyond the falls and we explored this area for a while. It was breathtaking and I highly advise a trip here if you find yourself in the area. There were a number of locals swimming and picnicking as well. On a hot July day, it is the perfect place to just cool off in the shade of the many towering trees, letting your toes dig into the soft mud. The cascading waters have a gentle roar that mingles in the air with laughter and birdsong.
After enjoying this picturesque area for a couple of hours, we had the trek back to my car to look forward to. The second time around it wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable however, because now we had a general idea of how far we were going rather than blindly moving forward. To be sure, we were all pretty darn worn out by the time we got back.
We finished the day out by getting some soft-serve ice cream before heading back to camp. At that point, we all deserved the sweet treat!