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Monday, August 8, 2022

Hiking Mount Mansfield in Stowe, VT

Monday, August 8, 2022 

Hi Blog!

Where we are camped in Vermont, we were only a short drive from the town of Stowe. We learned that the Stowe Mountain Ski Resort is open in the summer and offers gondola rides to the top of Mount Mansfield.

Mount Mansfield is the highest mountain in Vermont with a summit that peaks at 4,395 feet above sea level. When viewed from the east or west, this mountain has the appearance of a (quite elongated) human profile, with distinct forehead, nose, lips, chin, and Adam's apple. These features are most distinct when viewed from the east; unlike most human faces, the chin is the highest point. We think the nose is on the left and the chin on the right.

The Green Mountains are a mountain range in Vermont. The range runs primarily south to north and extends approximately 250 miles from the border with Massachusetts to the border with Quebec, Canada. They are part of the same mountain range that is in Massachusetts and Connecticut and is known as The Berkshires and the Quebec portion is called the Sutton Mountains. The Green Mountains are certainly green!

For those who wish to summit Mount Mansfield without hiking 2,800 feet of elevation from the mountain’s base, a ride up the Gondola combined with a Cliff Trail hike is a popular alternative. Riding Stowe Mountain Resort’s Gondola Skyride is a great way to get to the top of the ski resort to enjoy 180-degree views of Spruce Peak and the Worcester Mountain Range. From this point you are only about 750’ of elevation to the tallest point in Vermont, the “Chin” or summit of Mount Mansfield. 

The gondola opened at 10:00 a.m. As we looked down, we could see hikers making their way up the ski runs. Based on how far up we spotted them, they must have gotten an early start.

The Cliff House Restaurant is nestled right under the summit.

While the chairs were not red, we did take some time to sit and enjoy some views.

Although the Cliff Trail itself is only 0.8 miles each way, it is an extremely challenging and technical climb and is one of the most difficult and potentially dangerous hikes on Mount Mansfield. This trail is recommended for expert hikers as there are slick, exposed rock faces, crossing deep rock crevices, and scrambling required. 

Sounds like fun!

Since we took the gondola up, we felt we had plenty of time to climb .8 of a mile even if the elevation gain was 750 feet. Slow and steady wins the race. 

It didn't take long to leave the tourists behind. However, we were surprised how many young parents brought their young children up the trail. They sprinted passed us in their sneakers, but we soon ran into them as they carefully worked their way back down, having encountered the steepest part and thinking better of it.

Here, Dave stands atop one of the easier chutes we had to squeeze through.

Mount Mansfield is one of three spots in Vermont where true alpine tundra survives from the Ice Ages. A few acres exist on Camel's Hump and Mount Abraham, but Mount Mansfield's summit still holds about 200 acres. In 1980, the Mount Mansfield Natural Area was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

Krummholz (German: krumm, "crooked, bent, twisted" and holz, "wood") is a type of stunted, deformed vegetation encountered in the subarctic and subalpine tree line landscapes, shaped by continual exposure to fierce, freezing winds. Under these conditions, trees can only survive where they are sheltered by rock formations or snow cover. As the lower portion of these trees continues to grow, the coverage becomes extremely dense near the ground. As the krummholz closed in, we had to look carefully for our trail.

Hiking above treeline can be fun. It can also be challenging. This is the last photo we took on the way up. We had to use both hands and feet to make it further up the trail. No time for photo ops. After trying to work our way up a slippery rock face, we decided the trail was just too technical for our old bones.

We found the way down to be easier than the way up. Gravity can be your friend! A rock face that was difficult to climb makes a great butt slide on the way down.

Before long, we were back at the trailhead. Looking back, we were amazed we made it as far as we did.

Now it was time for our reward! A fresh hot Belgian waffle with melted Swiss chocolate!

After lunch, it was time to hike down the mountain. Many of the gondola riders start down the trail, but soon turn back and ride the gondola back down. Not us! We are training for our hike down into the Grand Canyon. It's over the edge for us.

The hiking trail followed the Switchback Ski Trail. Much of the trail was covered in wild flowers.

As we switchbacked across the face of the mountain, we crossed under the gondola.

This was our last view of the summit of Mount Mansfield.

The trail winds it's way through the forest. We stopped to admire this little mountain stream.

Two miles of downhill in the hot sun can build up a powerful thirst. We stopped at Idletyme Brewing Company to wet our whistle and tell each other tall tales about a tall mountain.


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