Luskin: Climbing Killington

Oct 2, 2012

(Host) A recent hike with one of her brothers has author, essayist and educator Deborah Lee Luskin appreciating all of Vermont's changing seasons.

(Luskin) My middle brother lives in Colorado, at 10,000feet. When he came to visit recently, he wanted to regain altitude, so we climbed Killington, Vermont's second tallest peak.

It had been most of a decade since David was last here, and more than thirty years since he left Vermont, once his adopted state. Indeed, David's the one who introduced our whole family to alpine skiing, and he was the first in the family to attend UVM. After graduating as an engineer, he worked at one of the machine shops in Springfield, so he could ski.

Working is what David does when he's not on the slopes. Now a commercial pilot,my brother has figured out how to ski twenty days a month ten months out of the year - in Colorado.

I don't know if it's being a pilot that has him glued to the GPS on his iPhone, or some other instinct for altitude and velocity, but before we started up the trail, David turned on an app that monitored our location, elevation gain, and speed.

We hiked the Bucklin Trail, up the west side of the mountain. The first two miles follow an old woods road, and the trail had been recently improved with duck boards, stone steps, and a couple of sturdy bridges across Brewer's Brook.

As pleased as I was to keep up on this wide trail, I experienced a growing unease every time the woman in his phone reported our progress. We covered the first mile in twenty minutes and the second in just nineteen. But I knew this was because we'd hardly begun climbing. The entire hike was only three and a half miles, but our total elevation gain would be more than two thousand feet, most of which was still ahead - and would be steep.

Sure enough, the third mile was nature's Stairmaster, and I was pushing myself to keep up - until David yelled over his shoulder, There's so much oxygen here! This is easy! - and ran ahead.

He waited for me where the Bucklin Trail intersects the Long Trail, which we followed to the spur that led to the summit. If the previous mile had been unending stairs, this last pitch was a ladder.

It was one of those end-of-summer days of high pressure, clear skies and a cool breeze that at forty-two hundred feet was cold enough to merit a fleece, a hat, and some high calorie snacks while we enjoyed the long-distance view from the great slab of rock at the top .

Back in the car, David admired the Vermont landscape, especially the pattern of settlement, with small villages punctuating the narrow valleys. And as we arrived home, he sounded wistful. Skiing's the one sport I'm good at, he said. If only it snowed as much here as it does in Colorado, I could live in Vermont.