|The ledges of Mansfield providing dramatic backdrop for the ski resort’s top shack.|
While I’d been inexplicably ill for a little over a week, many great days of hiking had passed me by. Since my girlfriend, Yvonne, and I both have abnormal schedules, we were able to take off for northern Vermont on Tuesday to make up for one of those days I’d missed while incapacitated.
|Walking along the ridge to Mansfield’s Chin.|
Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont, used to be like a close friend to me. When I lived in Vermont, a twenty-minute drive would get me to the base of the mountain, and a few hours of hiking could get me to the top and back, so I spent a lot of time getting to know Mansfield and enjoying the fine views, the alpine rock scrambles, the steep climbs. After leaving the state, I lost touch with my old pal Mansfield, along with several others in the state (Hunger, Camel’s Hump, Stowe Pinnacle). I was able to reconnect with Mansfield this spring, when I did some overly strenuous and sweaty hiking to tag all the Long Trail side trails (not entirely successfully), but it didn’t feel like the mountain I used to know. It was just painful, that time.
|One of my favorite views on Mansfield, looking up at the Chin from just below on the Long Trail.|
Yvonne and I got a much later start than we’d hoped, and only got to the base of the Haselton Trail just before noon. We hadn’t set an alarm, figuring we usually wake up pretty early, but recovering from my week of sickness seems to have messed up my sleep schedule a bit. Anyway, I wasn’t too worried about getting a late start. It would be a short and sweet hike. The Haselton Trail, while exceptionally steep, was the trail I had climbed the most on Mansfield, so I still remembered it well. It’s a rugged climb through the forest between two ski trails, then an even steeper walk on one of the harder ski trails, but then it gets easy and relaxing for the ridgewalk along the summit.
We sweated through the initial climb, the cool morning air having long since given way to a humid and warm day, but once up top the air was crisp and windy again. The sweat we’d poured out earlier dried almost instantly. As planned, the walk along the ridge was a pleasant, relaxing stroll, without even any crowds to get in the way. There were a few other hikers out, but not so many. Since all the popular trail heads to Camel’s Hump are closed because of washed out roads, I’d figured more people would be hiking along the other nearby alpine summit, but maybe a Tuesday before foliage season wasn’t the time for crowds of any sort.
|Yvonne starts down the rock scramble of the Subway Trail.|
It was a fine day as far as views, too. The humidity cut the visibility down quite a bit, so we couldn’t see to Lake Champlain or the Adirondacks or the White Mountains, but there’s still plenty to see. The sky was clear and blue for the most part. The long ridges stretching off from the mountain were just barely starting to show the changing colors of the leaves. Walking through the krummholz, the rich scent of fir trees filled my head. Yeah, it was a lovely day.
After a short lunch at the summit, we headed back the way we came, except for a detour along the Subway and Canyon North trails, which add a little excitement to the standard ridge walk along Mansfield. These trails don’t get nearly enough use, I think, but that’s probably good. On the most crowded days on Mansfield, you can get away from the ridge and pretend you’re far away from the rest of the world.
|There may be a cliff nearby, but it’s not as scary as the picture makes it seem.|
We were back to the car only four hours after we’d started, which meant we spent more time in the car than hiking that day, but it was well worth the effort. Even though the Haselton Trail is a rugged beast, it felt like a relaxing and fun day, getting back to something that I used to know so well. And it was good to see Vermont again, after being turned away from the state by Hurricane Irene. I’ll be back soon, Mansfield!