Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mt Mansfield and other VT highpointing adventures

Kim and I were just about to get ready to graduate college and become real adults so we  planned a few weekend trips to get away and experience life while we still had the time.  We had been dating for about three years at this point and were starting to get pretty serious.  I was just about to leave to start training for my life in the Army, and Kim was getting ready to start full time on Pharmacy school.  A lot was about to change for us and this trip was one of our last carefree, college kids trying to be grownups trips. 

We decided to head to Vermont for the weekend to Climb Mt Mansfield, along the way there were a ton of different things to do so we of course stopped a few times along the way.  We didn't want to stay at a hotel and we didn't have any of our camping gear at school so we instead decided to stay at a local Bed and Breakfast, which turned out to be a great idea.  This was the first time we had chosen to stay at a Bed and Breakfast and it was the start of a long line of weekend vacations at them for years
to come.  We love the idea of supporting local businesses, we also love that there is usually an interesting person who runs the place to talk to.  The thing we love the most though, is the breakfast.  Kim has an unusual love affair with breakfast so any time she gets to have a good homemade breakfast she is happy.  You know what they say, happy wife happy life, so therefore I love anywhere that serves breakfast.  It is really a win win.  The Gables Inn in Stowe is where we stayed and it is a convenient jumping off point for this state highpoint.  If you haven't tried staying at a local B&B you should really try one out on your next trip.

We left after class on a Friday and were up and ready to go early the next morning we chose to take the Long trail South and were not disappointed.  We only went to the Highpoint itself (the Chin) and didn't continue along the trail to the rest of the face profile. Mt Mansfield is commonly referred to by these terms, the picture below can show you a little clearer what they mean as the "face" isn't exactly easily recognizable.  The longs trail passes just to the left of the Adams apple on this picture and heads straight for the chin.  If you choose to do the whole Face it is a quick detour from the trail to the Adams Apple  then up to the Chin as I will talk about here and then it adds about another 2 miles above treeline to pick up the Nose and the Forehead.  This could be a really fun hike, but it just wasn't in the game plan for us this time.  Maybe in the future I will head back and pick up the rest of the mountain.

Forehead Nose Chin Adams Apple Mansfield Profile

Mount Mansfield Longs Trail Summit Marker Highpoint Vermont
Beginning of the steep section and first sight of snow
For us on our hike it was about 2.3 miles one way or about 4.6 miles of roundtrip hiking.   It was early in the season so the trail was still partially snow covered but still easy to hike with normal hiking boots. We started off from the Long Trail South Trailhead and meandered through some very well defined and easy elevation for quite some time.  It was still pretty warm so T-shirts were fine and there were already some wildflowers starting to blossom even though it was still only May. Though the views are not very scenic down low on the mountain there are a few bubbly brooks running near the trail and the trail itself is very well marked and maintained.  There is not much elevation gain for the first mile or so and after that the trail gets progressively steeper for much of the rest of the climb.  At about 1 mile in we also started to hit our first patches of snow on the trail.  This made the going a little slower but nothing that was too hard to handle, (although I wish I had brought my waterproof boots!). The trails climbs steadily from here to the Taft lodge where there is an outhouse and running water to refill if you need it.  We stopped briefly to eat some snacks and then kept heading up.  The Taft lodge is a pretty cool place if you want to spend the night though.  It sleeps up to 24.  There is a whole system of these lodges and other shelters and overnight sites along the Longs trail if you wanted to turn this into a multi night backpacking trip without carrying your own tent.  You can read more about that here. 

From the Lodge there is only about .3 miles of hiking left to go but this is where the trail starts to get really steep.  If you add in a little bit of snow and ice it can get a bit treacherous.  I wouldn't say that it is really dangerous but it is definitely a spot to slow down and make sure your footing is good or you may be in for a bad day.

Mount Mansfield Longs Trail Summit Marker Highpoint Vermont
Snow on the trail after Taft Lodge

Mount Mansfield Longs Trail Summit Marker Highpoint Vermont
Some rock Scrambling required near the top

Mount Mansfield Longs Trail Summit Marker Highpoint Vermont
Kim with the USGS Marker at the summit
 We made the top at just before noon and took a few pictures but with clouds in the sky and it threatening to rain on us we didn't stay for long and made our way back to the trailhead.  Some people chose to continue hiking along the ridge to the top of Stowe Mountain Ski resort and take the Gondola down, but to me that feels like cheating (it's also really expensive from what I hear)  so I preferred to hike my way down.  Kim and I's legs were starting to get tired about half of the way down and Kim actually took a tumble.  Note to self:  do not laugh at Kim when she falls, she will not be happy about it for quite a while.  O well, lesson learned I guess.  The rest of the descent was uneventful and we made our way back to the B&B for some well deserved hot tub time and then out to dinner to fill our bellies.


Vermont Highpoint longs trail
Standing at the Summit of Mt Mansfield as the storm clouds start to roll in
Of course the trip wasn't over yet, Kim and I still had one day left of our Vermont vacation.  On the way up to Stowe, we passed signs for the Ben and Jerry's factory.  Now if you have been living under a rock for the past 20 years you probably haven't heard of Ben and Jerry's but if not you know that it is probably the best Ice Cream ever made.  And really, who doesn't love ice cream.  Plus, we just climbed a mountain, we deserved a treat.  We dutifully stopped for some ice cream and took a tour.  It is absolutely worth the trip if you are in the area and a great thing to do if you you are climbing Mansfield.  I hope you enjoyed  If you have any questions or comments let me know!

Ben and Jerry's Factory Tour, Tour Bus, ice cream bus, Stowe Vermont things to do
Ben and Jerry's tour

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