Most local hikers think they know Mt. Philo as well as they know their own backyards. Judy Chaves, a North Ferrisburgh resident and avid hiker, knows it even better than that.
For two decades, she has explored the mountain as a hiker, and now has written a guidebook about the popular destination.
“Secrets of Mt. Philo: a guide to Vermont’s first state park” was eight years in the making and now that it’s complete, Chaves is looking to get the work published.
Current visitors to the park are left to figure out the trails and woods on their own, which Chaves hopes to change. She is currently raising money on a GoFundMe site online in the hopes that with financial backing, the Vermont Historical Society will be interested in publishing her book. The managing editor there gave her an estimate that its publication budget would be approximately $10,000; Chaves hopes that raising this amount independently will convince the historical society of the demand for the book.
There were 46,268 visitors to Mt. Philo state park last year during the park’s official season, according to Rochelle Skinner, a sales and service manager at the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
Chaves said that if “Secrets of Mt. Philo” were available to all of those visitors, it would serve two purposes: increasing awareness of the rich history and layers of enjoyment available to visitors, and emphasizing appreciation for state and even national parks today.
She writes on her GoFundMe page: “With national parks and monuments under siege these days, it is an increasingly important story for us to know. We cannot afford to take places like Mt. Philo for granted. Plus, knowing where to find the mountain’s secret treasures makes a visit to the park far more fun!”
Chaves has assembled information for the book including photos of the park and mountain from the past century to maps, poems written honoring the mountain, and two treasure hunts for adventurous hikers.
She has a favorite fun fact about Mt. Philo that dates to when the park was being built: “The 1938 Civilian Conservation Corps plans for the park included a ski trail. There’s some fairly convincing evidence on the mountain that the trail was, in fact, built,” she noted.
So far, Chaves’ site has raised over $8,000 in just over a week’s time. After working on her guidebook for eight years, she hopes the historical society will share her donors’ enthusiasm for the project and help produce a volume allowing Mt. Philo’s tens of thousands of yearly visitors to learn about and appreciate the park and mountain’s rich history, geographical significance and natural beauty.