Pretty Foliage, Great Skiing, Hiking, Oh My!
Sometimes we overlook the beauty and experiences that places offer, similar to how Esha Samajpati feels about Vermont and the lack of focus on it’s hiking opportunities in . What is the first thing you think of when you think of Vermont? Is it hiking? As Esha Samajpati realizes, Vermont is more than a pretty foliage site and a great skiing location. Indeed, Vermont has more to offer than origionally thought when it comes to hiking experiences.
Right after checking in at the Inn, we drove off to the Stowe Mountain Resort, from where we took a luxury Gondola to the Cliff House Restaurant, set against the backdrop of Mount Mansfield at an elevation of 3,625 feet. The morning showers had made the rocks slippery. We had to crawl through gaps, walk on ledges and climb up boulders. The trail refused to level out for even an inch.
The 0.7 miles to the ridgeline of Mount Mansfield seemed to take forever. We knew that the ridgeline is accessible from either this challenging Cliff Trail or the Auto Toll Road. Obviously, we had thought this trail to be far more fun than the Toll Road but apparently it wasn’t. The air continued to get thinner and the trail trickier. Finally, I gave up. Graded “DDD” or “very difficult” by the Mount Mansfield Visitor’s Guide, this trail was not a good idea on a rainy day.
Mount Mansfield’s summit is Vermont’s highest peak at 4,395 feet above sea-level.
It resembles the reclining profile of a rather gnarly man which explains why the parts of the mountain are named Forehead, Nose, Chin and Adam’s Apple. Close by the Visitor Center, we found a sign pointing towards the Long Trail which traverses the Mount Mansfield ridgeline. The Long Trail runs 272 miles from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts line.
We strictly followed the white blazes and did not disturb any of the rocks on the trail as we came to know that the trail vegetation is rare and quite fragile. Further research (by research I mean listening to the audio CD) revealed that the Mount Mansfield ridgeline is a unique alpine eco-system, a remnant of the last glacial ice-sheets that retreated from the Northeast about 13,000 years ago. It is an Arctic-Alpine Tundra environment, the largest of three in Vermont.
We began trudging uphill, surrounded by views of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacks, the White Mountains and the Green Mountains. The rays of the sun had begun piercing the morning mist which is why we were blessed with all-round amazing views. Breathing in the crisp mountain air, I looked down at the steep drop beside me. Well, some parts of the trail are not suitable for anyone with fear of heights.
Standing at the summit, taking in the panoramic view of mountains and valleys and lakes for as far as we could see, we felt closer to nature. Blissfully quiet, the peak imparted an unparalleled feeling of joy and contentment, making everyday problems seem so very insignificant. We could have stayed there all afternoon but with a five-hour drive ahead of us, we had to retrace our steps to the parking lot.
As I said, I was pleasantly surprised. I had always imagined Vermont as laid-back and charming, perfect for a fall or winter trip. Now I know better. Hiking Vermont’s mountains in summer can be just as rewarding.