Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hiking The Tallest Mountain In Vermont: Mt. Mansfield

I grew up in a small town near Burlington, VT. The Green Mountains have always been kind to me. They have taken me on incredible adventures to gorgeous hilltop vistas and snowy peaks. I've always enjoyed my time spent with nature, but one of my best hikes was the time I climbed Mt. Mansfield.

I remember it like yesterday. It was a warm sunny day and my friend Keith and I were strapping up for the hike of a lifetime. We packed clothes, cooking utensils, food, a tent, sleeping bags and everything else one would typically pack for a camping adventure.

As soon as we began the 2.8-mile hike I could tell I packed WAY too much. My bag must've weighed at least 30lb, and for an amateur hiker that was quite a lot, especially for the steepness of the trail.

Behold! The Chin of Mt. Mansfield!

The trail was called "Hell Brook" and rightly so as the majority of the trail was
unbelievably precipitous. At one part of the trail we had to climb up vines because it was too steep to simply walk up the rocky slope, and at another part, there was a massive stone structure in the path with metal bars embedded within to form a ladder for the hiker to climb. Numerous cliffs lining the path added to the thrill and to our possible fate, but we persevered. Looking back it was a fairly dangerous trail and with my 30lb of added weight constantly trying to topple me over, it was potentially life threatening.
Every 100 feet a beautiful vista such as this one would make an appearance, making the hike very susceptible to breaks.

After about 4 hours of hardcore hiking, we finally made it to what Mt. Mansfield hikers call "the chin". Let me explain: Mt. Mansfield is derived of 4 summits; the forehead, the chin, the Adam's apple, and the nose. That is why it's called Mt. "Mans" field because from a bird's eye view it looks like a person's face. And the highest summit being the chin, of course, that's the one we went for. Go hard or go home right?
Keith looks out at the view as we near the summit.

So we reached the summit, and a wave of glory swept over me, for I had just reached the highest point in Vermont, and it was beautiful. A spectacular display of views greeted us as our heads turned in circles trying to take it all in. We could see all the way to New York in the west and New Hampshire in the east. Canada was deeply in view to the north and the legendary Lake Champlain was visible in full. In fact, from the chin of Vermont, Lake Champlain looked like a tiny pond. It was in this moment that the world stopped and shrunk to a level I've never experience. The world felt so small. The Green Mountains of Vermont surrounded us, and boy was it green.
This ridge leads to the local weather station which you can faintly see in the center of the photo.

That night we set up our tent on the north side of the summit facing the town of Burlington. We watched the lights of the small city light up with life as we cooked by the fire and listened to the coyotes howl at the moon. The celestial sky is in prime view, as we were in a spot that had very little light pollution, and were closer than anyone else in Vermont to the night sky. We even had an unexpected (but nice) fireworks show.

After freezing our butts off all night we got special dibs on the first view of the dawn which was at about 4 am! We took one last look, packed our things, and made our way back down the mountain.
This is me looking almost straight down with my camera!

The hike from yesterday took a huge toll on me that I didn't really experience until I was about a tenth of the way down the mountain. And then it hit me. My legs started shaking and fatigue started creeping, I wasn't in a good spot.

After struggling down the cliff -ridden trail, climbing down the rock ladder, and sliding down the vines, we finally made it to the bottom. The struggle was very real on this hike but it was well worth it in the end. I got to experience the trek of a lifetime and saw an indescribable view that will be forever burned in my memory. And to me, that's what hiking is all about.

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