Vermont, Mount Mansfield (4,393 feet)
The second day of our New England highpointing adventure was devoted to Vermont.
- Mt. Frissell, South slope (CT) Day 1
- Mt. Greylock (MA) Day 1
- Mt. Mansfield (VT) Day 2
- Mt. Washington (NH) Day 3
- Jerimoth Hill (RI) Day 3
Date of hike: August 10, 2014
Distance: 2.8 miles RT
Time on trail: 1 hour 45 minutes, including about 20 minutes at the summit.
In The Beginning
We had almost a perfect highpointing day in Vermont, but before we could get started, we had to travel over a few dirt roads to pick up our friend, Gretchen. We were diligent about following the GPS, and found it hilarious when, after picking up Gretchen, we learned there was a more direct, paved road to her house. The GPS knows that no highpointing day is complete without a dirt road.
There are quite a few ways to get up Mount Mansfield, and we studied them all during our planning phase. With our intense itinerary in mind, we decided to pick one of the shorter routes. We had our hearts set on riding a gondola up to the top, but the gondola was closed until September. We studied the maps and decided to take the auto road to a trail near the summit instead.
Facing Death In A Prius
We must again give credit to Raina’s husband, Shaun, for not totally losing his mind on the road up Mt. Mansfield. When driving up Mt. Mansfield your first shock comes when Stowe ski resort charges you $19 per car and driver plus SIX ADDITIONAL DOLLARS for each passenger. After you pay your billions of dollars, they’ll give you extra “This Car Climbed Mt. Mansfield” stickers if you ask. I suggest you ask. You’ve paid for it.
The road itself was insanely narrow, unpaved, and busy. I would have been screaming and swearing at each car we passed (actually I did scream at one or several people we passed from the back seat), but Shaun handled it all calmly and got us safely to a prime spot in parking lot A. There are three lots. Parking lot A is at the trail head, but lots B and C add about a mile of walking on the death road. Why don’t more people talk about the death defying gravel roads they have to take to get to trail heads? These things terrify me, and I never feel like I’ve been prepared for them.
We finally made it to the top, and were ready to hit the trail. Mansfield offers port-a-johns in parking lot A. Use these as you will not have the opportunity again on the trail.
The topography of Mt. Mansfield is often described as a man’s face. We parked near the nose, and aimed to follow the Long Trail to the highest point on the chin. It was fun to talk about what part of the face we were on as we hiked. “Have we made it to the lip yet?” “No, we’re probably just at the mustache.”
The crowded nature of the trail, and the need to protect the alpine vegetation meant that we had to spend a lot of time pulled off to the side waiting for our turn to pass. Normally that would be annoying, but the scenery above the tree line was so breathtaking that you barely noticed. Waiting for passing hikers meant more time to take pictures.
This wasn’t an easy hike, but it was an enjoyable one. There were a lot of rock scrambles, and a few narrow spots, but over 1.3 miles you only gain 600 feet of elevation. We saw quite a few people with hiking poles which seemed unnecessary and perhaps troublesome. The only real equipment you need here is sunblock and a bottle of water. After being so largely unprepared the day before in CT, we are proud to report that we came with water, sunblock, and food.
After another death defying trip on the Mt. Mansfield auto road during which we learned that to put a Prius in low gear, you need to shift it to ‘B,’ we decided to check out the local sights. At Gretchen’s suggestion, we started with a trip to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill where we enjoyed free samples of cider, and purchased gifts and treats (including their famous homemade doughnuts!). Next we made our way down the road to the Cabot Annex Cheese Store where we sampled at least 75 types of delicious cheese. Our last stop was the Ben & Jerry’s factory where we took a tour and sampled “Better than Chai” ice cream, a flavor they say has not yet been released to the public.
Full and happy, we returned Gretchen to her home via the unpaved road, and headed to Littleton, New Hampshire, ready for our next adventure. Gretchen, thanks for showing us your home state and for hiking with us! Looking forward to our next highpoint together!