The five of us met at the Underhill State Park for hike start time of 8 am. When arrived at main parking lot nearest the pay booth at 7:40 am about half of the parking spots remained and filled up within 5 minutes. Another parking lot near the trailhead sign-in board exists so plenty of parking available for our hike start time. After a review of the hike guidelines while proceeding to the trailhead, we started up Eagles Cut Pass at 8:15 am.
The first mile is a mild ascent of 600 foot elevation gain to beginning of Laura Cowles Trail which has a ~2,000 foot elevation gain in 1.7 miles to its intersection with Sunset Ridge, just below its intersection with the Long Trail, near the summit of The Chin. We arrived at the Sunset Ridge/Long Trail intersection at 9:45 am where we took a brief break to add a layer due to brisk breeze up near the summit, a quick picture of the group, and decision to continue on to Subway versus heading up to The Chin.
Temperatures were approximately 55-60° F with mostly clear skies and just the right amount of sun on this beautiful Fall day. Began trek to Subway on LT South for a short 0.2 miles beginning Subway trail at 10:15 am where the up and down crawling through the rock formations and some lemon squeezers between Subway(0.1), Canyon North Extension(0.3), Canyon North(0.3), Canyon(0.3) & Lakeview(0.3) Trails. Time to get through Subway was ~10 minutes as arrived at Canyon North Extension sign at 10:20 am.
These trail sections are awesome as I love crawling through these types of configurations. Some fun moments were had with shimmying through the small spaces while trying to not remove your backpack. Marcus and I were the sweepers but I believe everyone made it through without removing their packs except Marcus. Marcus had to perform the Osprey shimmy out of his pack halfway through an opening due to the replacement belt clip not releasing after replacing the clip from Osprey Company. Some saucy theme music began for a new shimmy in a caving lemon squeezer for the record books! I only had to have Marcus unclip one side of my pack harness because one of my trekking poles was hung up on the rock above. Somewhere early on this section Jill found the first chunk of ice on a cliff wall so we know what is coming soon. Some slick spots due to natural runoff of water down the cliff walls facing west but overall trail conditions were dry thus only slips that occurred were on some of the narrow trail sections of loose soil.
David did not have any slide/tumble down 8 feet like last August, thus all was well. David is a valuable guide as good at recalling difficult sections of the trails. Arrived at Lakeview Trail section at 11:50 am and met up with LT North at 12:15 pm. Short distance hike to visitor center where we decided was a good spot to break for lunch(~12:30 pm) as we found an empty rock formation for sitting in front of visitor center, eating our lunch, and maintaining a physical distance as all the leaf peepers who drove up to the parking area or took the ski gondola ride up the mountain where milling around. Began our hike again at ~1 pm heading through a narrow section of trail with heavy traffic thus we were all masked up due to the having briefly navigate section where encountered a hiker with the now famous baseball style cap facemask. Who knew that a baseball cap was considered an effective face covering (WOW!). Rock formations on east side of Mansfield, Cliff Trail, were just as adventuresome and did not disappoint as notable long, narrow section near an area that had a gondola trail loop connector on each end. This section had an area where you could lean on one wall with hands and placing your feet strategically on opposite wall ledges if able to get the right leverage for moving across the space. Times are a little wonky here but I noted we arriving at LTN about 2:30 pm with recollection of heading down Sunset Ridge Trail at ~3 pm.
The skies were starting to turn a little gray as the weather forecast predicted for some chance of slight rain at 3 pm and possible thunder at 4-5 pm. We took a brief break as 4 out of the 5 of us wanted to use our hiking poles for the descent. As heading down Sunset Ridge we heard some faint thunder so our timing was good and we arrived into the non-alpine tree covered area at lower levels before any concerns. Paused at intersection of LT and Cantilever Trail intersection to ensure group reconvened before heading onward. We arrived at Eagles Cut Pass at 4:15 pm for final leg of hike and a brief light sprinkle of rain occurred but lasted a few minutes. Returned to trailhead parking lot at 4:30 pm. I now have a second favorite hike along with Rock Garden.
Thanks for all who came on this hike and making the hike a success. Hike On!
Hike participants: Jill George, David Hathaway, Tom Mowatt, Marcus Keely, and Dale Schmit(leader). Photos: Dale Schmit, Marcus Keely, David Hathaway, Jill George.