Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vermont adventure

"I want to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains!" -Fellowship of the Ring

It sounds ridiculous, but having lived my life in northwestern NJ, among the rounded hills of the Appalachian Mountains, I had never seen mountains with peaks before this past weekend's trip to Vermont. While there, I visited the area's must-see museums, farms, and food-related attractions (Ben & Jerry's factory!), but the highlight of the trip was hiking Vermont's tallest mountain, Mount Mansfield.

I love the outdoors and was game to take on this mountain, even though it was a lot tougher than anything I was used to in New Jersey. I prepped the day before by going to an outdoors store on Church St. in Burlington and buying a Camelbak and fleece, as well as hiking boots for future hikes (they need to be broken in first).

It turned out that I didn't need the fleece. The weather was unseasonably warm, and the air was dry and clear - perfect for hiking.

Half-way up the Sunset Ridge Trail when we popped out of the trees and saw the amazing view for the first time.

Trail marker with fantastic scenery

Almost at the top! The rocky ridge in the background is the trail we had just hiked.

A small pool int he rocks along the ridge near the summit

The summit!

View from the top

It was a perfect day for a hike, and everyone else thought so too!

We relaxed and ate our lunches of peanut-butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches, apples, and Sharkies.
The Saucony Progrid Ride 2s didn't do too badly as hiking shoes.

At the summit, in addition to about a hundred other hikers, we were greeted by a member of the Green Mountain Club who stays atop the mountain to inform people about the wildlife and make sure hikers don't do too much damage to the delicate alpine vegetation. When we picked our way to a spot to sit and eat our lunch, one of these mountain keepers reminded us not to step on the grass. We were careful, and I didn't know that we actually did step on any grass, but I'll be extra careful in the future.

When we were finished eating and taking in the view, we pointed it downward and began the scariest part of the hike. I was so afraid of slipping on the rocks that I used my hands and climbed down crab-like a lot of the way. I slipped a little a couple of times, but it wasn't anything to worry about. Once we got below the tree line, the going became a lot easier, and we picked up speed.

By the time we reached the smooth and slighter inclined trail in the last mile before reaching the car, I felt amazing and had the urge to run. I hopped up on rocks and jogged along, practically skipping. The 6- or 7-mile hike took us about 4 hours total to complete.

Mount Mansfield is in a very pretty section of Vermont (ok, almost all of Vermont is very pretty), and we left the mountain for a scenic drive on the way to grab some cider donuts and to visit the Ben & Jerry's factory.

Smuggler's Notch Pass, which looks suspiciously like Rivendell...

We spent one more day in Vermont after our hike, and although I was a little sore, I felt remarkably good. The weather continued to be perfect, and I'm looking forward to my next visit there.

Battery park in Burlington, looking over Lake Champlain

Since I've been back home, I've been wearing my hiking boots around trying to get them broken in. I hope to wear them this winter both hiking and snowshoeing (although I still need to buy some snowshoes). I had tried running in snowshoes for the first time last year (the post about it can be found here) and wanted to buy a pair of my own, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to use them much without anyone to go with. Now I think that I'll have plenty of opportunities, and I can't wait. Here's to many more hikes and outdoor adventures!

Oh, and what vacation would be complete without a visit to the local library?

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