Continuing with our theme of inexpensive fun in and around Burlington, I present to you Mt. Philo State Park. Roughly forty-five minutes south of Burlington, it’s a hike that’s not too long or difficult, or even hard to find. Simply drive south on US Rt. 7 (Shelburne Road in Burlington) and then turn left onto State Park Drive. You’ll see signs for Mt. Philo State Park. Once there, it took my buddy and I (always bring a buddy) about a half an hour both to climb and descend the trail. At the summit are views of the Adirondacks, Lake Champlain, and the Green Mountains (all well worth the climb). There is a modest entry fee: $4 for adults. I found it to be an experience well worth my money.
Despite the fact that “normal” is a myth, I believe there is a standard deviance from the average within which lie people who have fewer strange experiences. I feel rather sincerely that I lie outside that deviation. Part of it is dumb luck; part of it is diagnoses I received when I was very young. Either way, I prepped a backpack with some things I’d want during or after the hike, including wool hiking socks. After all, I didn’t want to drive in my hiking boots. After parking and getting my bearings, I went to don my boots, but discovered that only one sock had made it into my backpack. I began to search my car just a bit frantically, hoping that I’d have some stray sock hanging out in my trunk or something. No such luck. So what was I to do? My knees being as weak as they are, I couldn’t justify climbing a mountain in flip flops, let alone walking back down. Plus, everything was damp, and even expensive flip flops aren’t known for their incredible traction. I’d dragged a friend this far, so we weren’t going back without seeing at least one vista. I had to think of something.
The solution turned out to be quite the throwback. One of the bags I’d packed to move in was my high school backpack, and in it was an elastic book cover. It had somehow escaped the backpack and was living in my trunk, so I tried wrapping it around my foot and ankle before lacing up my boot. A test walk felt no huge difference (besides the different materials against my skin), so up we went.
This was my first hike since injuring my knee over a year ago. I knew it wasn’t going to be as easy as I remembered hiking to be, but I hadn’t thought to check the weather. It rained as we drove there, so the whole ground was damp. Damp rocks are not to be trusted, so we had to take great care where we put our feet. It did not rain on us as we walked, but I was still drenched when I reached the top. The muggy air was quite thick, which made breathing harder than it needed to be, which paired nicely with my out-of-shape lungs. Even still, it only took a half an hour to reach the top, where there was a nice breeze and clearer air. The views are surprising, considering how short the trail is, and there is a well-developed picnic area within view of a couple different mountain ranges. Also at the summit of Mt. Philo is a parking lot, as a toll road climbs the little mountain. A fairly flat gravel path runs between the parking and picnic areas.
We were back in Burlington before four hours had passed, and we’d taken our time. I had breakfast before leaving home, and lunch at the Five Guys in South Burlington after the hike. We’d needed something hearty after expending all that effort outdoors, and it doesn’t take long to get back into Burlington from the State Park. Despite the weather (and being out of shape) my buddy and I had a great deal of fun; I’m confident so will you.