Mt. Mansfield cost us $60 and it was worth every penny
It’s Monday morning and we are sitting on the porch of a coffee shop overlooking the Winooski river in Burlington, VT. Over-caffeinating ourselves to the point of nausea, neither of us are looking forward to the yoga class we have planned to attend in a few hours. It’s few and far between when we get to really sit down and use the internet on this trip so when we do, we always have a few distinct items to address; social media, correspondence with friends and family, and figuring out our next location to go to.
We had just left an amazing four days in the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont and the plan was to set a course to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Burlington was only a slight detour and the promise of yoga and people watching was too hard to pass up. While we were pouring over maps and reading highlights of nearby areas online, our researching pushed us in the direction of Mount Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont. The time to get ready for yoga was imminent and we ran out of time to full investigate camping and trails in the area. After quickly choosing a campsite (Smuggler’s Notch State park) and a route (Long Trail to the summit) I hurriedly shut the laptop and changed into some workout clothes.
Yoga was good despite the fact that I felt quite queasy the entire class due to a stomach full of coffee and not much else, and when we got out we made haste to the largest parking lot within eye shot (which happened to be a shared lot between a liquor store and Chinese take-out) to make a quick lunch on the tailgate of the truck. Full of hummus and sprouts, we ventured to downtown Burlington and bought some used books and perused the local gear exchange for deep clearance items to no avail. After a shockingly difficult search for a good laundromat we set a course to tend to our overflowing bag of dirty clothes. The laundromat was terrible and what we assumed would be another hour of internet and relaxation turned into a stressful ordeal full of screaming children and machine malfunctions. We left Burlington in a rush, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and mindful of the fading day light we made a quick stop at a grocery store and set course for Smuggler’s Notch.
Smuggler’s Notch State Park is in Stowe, Vermont which we would learn is a popular tourist destination year-round. When we arrived at the campground it was a lot more full than we anticipated which left our options limited. Since it was already dusk and we had no backup plan in place we chose a “lean-to” and went up to the Ranger to pay for our stay. Two nights totaled $60. I was kind of appalled to be honest. A State Park with coin-operated showers and no real amenities should never cost more than $20 a night, throw in “processing fees” and I get annoyed quickly. Feeling stuck, I paid for two nights, asked a few questions about trail choice and went to help Amalie set up camp. Since we rented a lean-to shelter we decided to use the ground tent rather than our luxurious abode on top of the truck. Our tent still smelled of dog food after our friend’s dog threw up in the tent back in August, it made for a bunch of jokes about bears eating us due to the aroma of our domicile. During the course of the night a nocturnal beast of some nature chose a perch above the truck to eat chestnuts and regularly drop the casings onto the metal hood, it was quite the treat.
Our alarm went off at 4:00AM and neither of us were pleased about it. We hit the snooze button a few times before finally getting up to make coffee and gripe about the hike we were about to embark on. The trailhead was about a mile away and poorly marked causing us to question, more than once, if we were even going the right way. The last 24 hours had been a miserable combination of cities, unexpected expenses, and a general feeling of being rushed. That’s a bad combination for two people who are about to begin a hike that has three thousand feet of elevation gain over three miles.
This was our first real hike in New England, we had done a few four or five mile hikes but with no real elevation gain or difficulty. The hike was hard and somehow managed to increase in difficulty as we neared the summit, eventually turning into a scramble and a borderline exercise in bouldering with no room for error. Finally, we reached the summit about two hours after sunrise. The light was perfect, the clouds were amazing, and the view was unbeatable. We had the summit mostly to ourselves other than Grant and his dog Tiso who had been up there since sunrise shooting footage for a local company.
It was at this point that we realized it didn’t matter what had happened in the day prior. The only thing that truly mattered was were there, on that summit, at that time. When we left Oregon we lamented the fact that stunning mountain vistas and uber-challenging hikes were behind us. The Green Mountains and Mt. Mansfield proved us very wrong in only a few short hours. We spent a lot of time at the summit, basking in the pure joy that can only be felt above treeline and seemingly in the clouds.