I led a group of rugged hikers up Mt. Mansfield. The night before, I lay in bed listening to thunderstorms rage outside. I wondered if it would be safe to take people through the labyrinth of trails that was our planned route.
The morning dawned dry and sunny, a good day for a hike. We met at 8 a.m. at the trailhead at Stevensville Rd. in Underhill. As we ascended the Butler Lodge Trail, clouds moved in and kept the temperature cool. We covered the first 2 miles quickly and arrived at Butler Lodge shortly after 9:00. The view was somewhat obscured by the thickening clouds. We hung out at the shelter for a few minutes assessing the weather and determined that the clouds were moving quickly to the southeast.
We continued up the Long Trail to the forehead. The Needle’s Eye was entertaining and a good preface to the obstacles yet to come. Soon we got our taste of adventure. We climbed precariously positioned ladders fastened to the rocky mountainside with cables and bolts. An exposed ledge proved challenging and got our hearts pounding in our chests as we made our way across the gap (some slithering across on their bellies) to safety on the other side.
After reaching the Forehead, the hike mellowed to a casual jaunt over the rocky-topped ridgeline. We summitted amidst the clouds, only able to see those rocks within twenty feet of us, and found the summit marker. Woo-hoo!
Based on the minimal slipperiness of the rocks on the way up and the competence of the hikers, I decided to take the group down Subway and Canyon- a challenging descent requiring bouldering and bravery to overcome fear of falling and exposure. I think it’s fair to say that we were all ware of the danger and executed accordingly careful moves as we climbed, shimmied, crawled, and crept through the mass of massive rocks.
We all enjoyed the challenge of our twistedly interesting descent to the intersection of the Canyon and Halfway House where there was also a spur trail that led back to the LT. Our route had become very stream-like, and the going was slow. Upon Rich’s suggestion, we altered our course and hiked back onto the ridge (Long Trail South) to the Maple Ridge Trail which was still quite rocky but hikeable…no climbing required. Although, there was a little matter of a jump across a gap big enough to make a short person look twice before leaping. Then we noticed dark clouds and a rain line moving across the Champlain Valley and kicked up our pace. We made it to the Frost Trail, down off the rocks and under the canopy just as it started to rain. Luck.
After a short mile and a half, damp, jovial, and happy to be alive and well, we headed home. I think I can speak for the whole crew and say that we call carried away that special feeling the mountains give us…one of excitement and adventure…one of connection and camaraderie. Thank you to those of you who followed me up and down Mt. Mansfield for enjoying a good adventure!
Trip distance – 9.5 miles;
Trip time – 8 hours
Trailhead – Arrive and depart from the parking lot at the top of Stevensville Rd. Trails used – Butler Lodge, Long Trail North, Subway, North Canyon Extension, Long Trail spur connector, Long Trail South, Maple Ridge Trail, Frost Trail