Creating a VT 4k Loop: Escaping the NH Crowds and Stumbling on some Stinging Nettle

By in New England Hiking

Route: Long Trail to Mt Pico > South on Long Trail to Killington > Bushwhack to Mendon > Herd path to road > Catamount Cross-Country ski trail back to car.

My friend Kyle and I headed out for a nice weekend trip in Vermont. This was my first-time summer hiking in the state. Plenty of mountain biking and skiing trips, but I have always stuck to NH, my home state, for hiking. With covid-19 sending a lot of restless Mass residents up to NH for weekend trips, we thought we would avoid the crowds and experience some of the beautiful Long Trail.

We started hiking up Mt. Pico Saturday evening. It was a beautiful 4.5 miles of gradual incline at the most beautiful time of day.

View map of Pico Peak

The fading sunlight hit the spacious forest undergrowth perfectly.

Passing only the occasional day hiker heading to the car, we were able to have the peak all to ourselves for dinner.

Waking up to a beautiful sunrise, we were able to get an early start to Killington after some coffee and oatmeal.

Continuing southbound on the Long Trail we were able to get to Killington Peak with ease. Most of the elevation was done the day prior on our way up Mt Pico.

View map of Killington Peak

Killington had a beautiful view, but we only stayed long enough to get a quick snack in. It was a busier peak and Kyle and I enjoy quiet forests more than crowded summits.

Our next objective was summiting Mendon Peak. There is no official route to the top of Mendon from Killington, so we continued south on the Long Trail until we could make a beeline to the summit. Occasionally finding a herd path, we were unsure whether it was the moose or previous hikers who first ventured through.

View map of Mendon Peak

Once we neared the peak, we stumbled upon a clear path to the top. So far the hike was relatively enjoyable, except for the occasional spider web to the face during our tracking of the moose.

We had gone as far as we planned for the day and began our uncharted trip back to the car. Finding a path heading in the direction we planned to bushwhack, we thought the day was almost over. So much in fact, we decided to stop for a leisurely rest by a beautiful stream we come across.

All that was left was a short 4.5 mile relatively flat hike out to the car via the Catamount Cross-Country ski trail, or so we thought.. This turned out to be a little more strenuous than anticipated.

What looked to be a relatively open and clear path turned out to be a breeding ground for the poisonous Stinging Nettle! After only half a mile in, the open path closed. What began with a light discomfort quickly turned into some of the most unbearable tortures I have experienced. The cuts on our legs from the earlier bushwhack only made the situation worse.

The trail was not as flat as earlier assumed. It was in fact a winding trail up and down the hills surrounding the nearby peaks, possibly surpassing the elevation gain already hiked in the day.

Exhausted and tortured by Nettle, we stopped at every water source to clean our tormented legs. It wasn’t until we were only a mile and a half from the car that Kyle had the thought to put on our rain pants for protection. What an idea! Adding to the heat of summer, they were not comfortable, but at least our legs were able to get some relief.

A few more hills and plenty more nettle, we finally made it to the car, rinsed off at the river, and headed home. What started out as the perfect hike, quickly turned to discomfort, but it will always be one of our more memorable expeditions.

You can check out Kyle’s hiking report and suggested trail routes on Wilderlist.

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