(Wednesday, August 6, 2014)
It was time to leave the North East Kingdom of Vermont and head toward the resort area of Stowe. We checked out of the LynBurke Motel, stopped at a Cumberland Farms convenience store for coffee and pastries and then headed west.
Before we reached Stowe we took a short detour to the tiny town of Cabot to visit the Cabot Creamery. I am, quite literally, a cheese-aholic and when we were in Quechee we went in the Quechee Cabot store where we were able to sample nearly every cheese they sell. I had vowed we would not leave Vermont without buying plenty of Vermont cheese to take home, but we didn’t want to buy it too early in our trip and then worry about keeping it cold.
Cabot cheese is very, very good and the samples they have out at their stores are extremely generous. I was in heaven! For a couple of dollars you can tour the creamery and see how the cheese is made, but we didn’t do the tour because we had other Big Plans for the morning. Instead we made our cheese selections and got back on the road toward Stowe. I was hoping there would be a cool cow statute or something interesting outside the creamery to take a photo of, but there wasn’t.
We did, though, find ourselves stopped in traffic a short while later due to cows crossing the road. This is not something we see in Michigan every day.
When we arrived in Stowe we still had several hours before we could check into our hotel. We found a Subway and got a couple of sandwiches to take with us as we headed north out of town toward Mt. Mansfield.
Mt. Mansfield is the highest point in Vermont at 4393 feet. The gate for the toll road is within Stowe Mountain resort. It costs $19 for a vehicle and driver and $6 for each additional adult passenger. The toll road is unpaved and use of 4-wheel drive is encouraged. Mark liked that! There were more tight switchbacks to the top than there had been on Mt. Washington. If you don’t want to drive the toll road up, you can take the ski lift which lets you off about 3/4ths of the way to the top and then you have to walk the rest of the way.
We parked near the ski lift and hiked a short way on a trail there.
At one point the trail turned into a river with little waterfalls. It made the footing just a bit more treacherous. I tried to get a photo but the camera just couldn’t capture the true image.
Mt. Mansfield has no state park at the top. There is no visitor’s center, souvenir shop, observation deck or restrooms. (Although there are a couple of porta-johns.) One of the local college kids (who I assume is majoring in one of those crunchy fields like mountain recreation) was there to answer questions but we found her to be fairly devoid of both personality and information.
I admit I fell down on the job a bit when planning this outing into our itinerary and I didn’t do nearly enough research on Mt. Mansfield so we weren’t adequately prepared. First off, let me try to explain that Mansfield supposedly looks like a man’s profile – horizontally – as if the man was lying on his back. The parking lot area I believe is near his nose. The Long Trail which goes from the border with Canada all the way to Massachusetts runs along the ridge of Mansfield. The summit of the mountain is his chin and it is 1 1/2 miles from the parking area. We hadn’t brought a backpack and didn’t hydrate ourselves before getting out of the car. For me, with my physical/digestive issues, I need to be mentally as well as physically prepared for a long hike.
Most of the path to the summit is marked by white slash marks atop the rocks. There are also areas where string is supposed to keep you off delicate mountain greenery. It is rocky and some parts of the path are quite narrow. I could not believe the number of young families that were climbing to the summit with small children and little girls wearing ballet flats. (I guess I wasn’t the only one unprepared – although we were wearing our hiking boots.)
The weather was constantly changing, one minute it was dark and cloudy and damp, the next it was windy and cold, then it was sunshine. We started getting warm as we went up and had to peel off our jackets eventually. The views were breathtaking!
We weren’t sure how far we would try to go. I have a fairly significant curvature of the spine and I’m very “crooked”. If you look at me straight on you will see that my right shoulder is lower than my left and my lower body curves to the left. My pelvis is tilted and twisted and my legs aren’t even. This means I am often a bit off balance – I’ve developed a strong core to compensate – and I have to be extremely careful with my footing. (I trip a lot when walking. 🙂 ) Mark was awesome about going down the really rocky, uneven spots first and making sure I could navigate them safely.
At one point we came upon a young family trying to get a photo so I volunteered to take one of all of them together. The woman then offered to take a photo of Mark and I together. Except for a couple of selfies, I think we only got two photos of us together the entire trip!
I am sad to say that we didn’t climb all the way to the summit. I think we made it as far as the lips. I felt really bad and guilty because Mark wanted to go all the way to the top and had I been better prepared, we would have done it. We rested here at this spot and I waited for the clouds to clear so I could get a good shot of the summit.
I also got the best photo of Mark of the trip. This is one of my favorite photos from our vacation.
To be honest, it was more my colitis issues than my back problems that kept us from going to the top. I just told Mark I was getting tired. It wasn’t until later that I admitted my real reason for chickening out on going the whole way up. He was understanding and said he wasn’t upset about it. But I know he was disappointed.
On the way down we stopped again near the ski lift and ate our sandwiches. After eating we walked up to the ski lift and watched people getting off. (Crazy! I could never do it.) There is also a small café at this point and restrooms. Also some very nice views.
I was trying to get a shot of the entire ridge. I wish I could have done it without the snow thrower things in the way. We started our hike to the far left of this photo and ended at the third bump from the left of the summit toward the right. I think. 🙂
I believe this is the nose of Mt. Mansfield. If you look close, it has a creepy face all its own.
The last photo I took was near the bottom of the toll road, of the Mountain Chapel. They actually have services in this tiny chapel at 2 p.m. every Sunday.
By time we came down off the mountain, it was late enough in the afternoon that we could check into our hotel. I had made our reservations at Sun & Ski Inn and Suites, a mid-priced hotel for this area. I can’t tell you how much I LOVED our hotel!! We had a wonderful king-sized bed that was so comfortable. Our room was really nice. The hotel is situated along a river and we had sliding glass doors out to a small deck and view of the river. There was also a lovely pool area inside a screened lanai and also a hot tub. After we checked in, I couldn’t wait to go for a swim! I’ve been a fish since I was a little girl, but Mark’s never been big on swimming. The pool felt wonderful after so much exercise.
In the evening we drove into downtown Stowe, found a parking spot and went in and out of the shops until it was time for our dinner reservations at 6 o’clock. I had made reservations at Harrison’s, a trendy, popular place right in downtown. The food was fabulous!
After we returned to the hotel we sat in a couple of Adirondack chairs by the river, eating chocolates from the Laughing Moon Chocolate Company and watching the sun set. I didn’t want the day to end!
In case I didn’t put in enough mountain photos, here’s one more to close out this post! 🙂
Tomorrow we plan to explore Smuggler’s Notch.