This post was written by Rachel Adams, backcountry skier and mountain enthusiast.
After hearing about Vermont’s backcountry huts, we had to check one out! We’d never been to the Lake Willoughby area in the Northeast Kingdom before so we decided on Hadsel-Mares Camp, a rustic cabin on the shores of Wheeler Pond operated by the Green Mountain Club. The January weekend we booked ended up being very chilly, with lows around -10 F. Thankfully, the cabin was stocked with ample dry wood and the stove kept us comfortable – with sleeping bags, we were very cozy!
That evening, we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over the frozen pond- and even better, a midnight jaunt outside to see the stars! Even though the moon was less than half full, it was so bright on the snow that we didn’t need to turn on our headlamps – it was so peaceful and quiet.
I was really happy that we packed a couple of bright battery-powered LED lanterns to hang on the hooks available for that purpose in the cabin. They made it easier to see inside while hanging out at night, but headlamps are also definitely recommended for tasks like cooking and trips to the nearby outhouse. Camp slippers or down booties were another great addition – the floor was bit chilly until the stove really got going, and after a day in ski boots it was nice to get comfortable.
During the day, we explored local skiing. The backcountry and cross country ski trails in nearby Willoughby State Forest (a 22-minute drive away) were awesome! They are well maintained by the NorthWoods Stewardship Center and the Northeast Kingdom Backcountry Coalition, signed/mapped, and the views of the Willoughby cliffs are well worth the uphill slog!
I’ve done a few winter camping trips before, in snow caves and tents – Hadsel-Mares cabin was a great alternative, especially in very cold weather. You get all the perks of being out in the winter (serene landscapes and fewer people!) but you have a warm, dry place to sleep – and you can dry out your layers and climbing skins so you’re warmer for the next day’s adventure. We would love to visit again and check out some of the snowshoeing or summer hiking accessible directly from the cabin.