Mt. Mansfield

During the “stick season” in Vermont, I am spending much time anticipating the start of snowboard season. We’ve seen a few sings of Winter so far but nothing quite as promising as I’d hope. I need to make some turns, soon.

One way to pacify this itch is hiking. And living less than a mile from Mt. Mansfield and the Long Trail, plenty of hiking exists. Saturday morning I set out to summit Mt. Mansfield. I had spent the previous day in Burlington so I missed the snow that fell all day in Stowe. But the snow didn’t even cross my mind; after all it was just a dusting – this ability to brush off nature is the Pennsylvanian in me. It’s not that Vermont is much more rugged but there is just a different way to go about things here.

About 1 mile up the 2.5 mile hike I realized crampons will be my next investment. Heading South on the Long Trail from Smuggler’s Notch, I quickly reached elevations where the snow had been more than just a dusting. 3-4 inches has fallen in these higher altitudes and much of the melt turned rocks into sheets of ice. At this point, I hadn’t even broken the tree canopy or reached the alpine environment.

Soon, the trees thinned and I was able to see the valley below. Seeing the snow-capped mountains from below ignites my snowboard-itch; seeing the stick-filled valley is a nice precursor to the view I’ll have in a month.

Breaking the trees left a quarter-mile to the summit of Mt. Mansfield. Things got dicey through this section. I contended with icy ledges, overly geared-up Canadians and high winds. Of the three, the Canadians made me the most nervous. They could have stood next to Edmund Hilary and fit in. Seeing their gear, ski poles, fancy jackets, crampons, hand signals and hearing them speak French made me question my decision to climb this mountain in jeans, boots and a flannel shirt with a vest.

As any American would, I just kept going despite the steep, ice-encrusted rock. Going up wasn’t too bad, but I was pretty nervous about coming back down and slipping to my death in front of a bunch of fancy Canadians.

Well, I didn’t slip. I made it to the top. It turned out my only spill was after being back in the forest and deciding to munch an apple while going back downy he icy trail – I slipped and slid a few feet on my ass.

I took a break after my slip at the Taft Lodge. The fall wasn’t so bad it required a break at the lodge but I felt I needed a good transition to this paragraph. I actually went to the lodge to just see what it looked like. Here is what it looked like:

While at the lodge, someone I had talked with while on top of Mt. Mansfield walked past. He was going bushwhacking through the woods to take an alternative, quicker route down through Stowe Mountain Resort. Seeking to avoid the icy trail heading down, I joined Wolf, the name he gave me. So Wolf, his dog Betsie and I blazed a trail through the woods to the resort. It’s not as cut and dry as it seems: we stumbled down a creek bed, fought through thick underbrush and almost got lost. Thankfully, Verizon & AT&T’s voracious competition left the nation blanketed with 3G cell service.  Deep in the Vermont woods, we located the ski trail with the swiss-army knife of every day life: an iPhone. Once on Stowe’s trail system, it was a simple hike down through snow-covered grass.

The idea behind these photos stems from my admiration for Ansel Adams’ work in Yosemite. Adams got his start hiking into the mountains of Yosemite and capturing the valley’s aesthetic. The Stowe Valley lacks the starkness of Yosemite but the Green Mountains’ possess a unique allure that can not be overlooked. Plus, the woods are always good for a hike.

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