Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Vermont/NH Trip: Day 2 - Mount Mansfield and Vicinity

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(Map key: point A is our Albany hotel; point B is Moss Glen Falls; point C is Mount Mansfield; point D is the approximate location of our cabin.)

Vermont time! Since we were coming from the west (Albany), we figured this was a good day to visit the westernmost attractions on our list: Vermont Route 100 through the Green Mountains, and Mount Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont.

This was at the Vermont Welcome Center along US-4, near Fair Haven. Vermont isn't a very big state, of course; even the farthest city - which is, coincidentally, where we're ultimately going today - is only 115 miles away.

First stop, Moss Glen Falls.

There are a lot of waterfalls in the Green Mountains, many of which are easily accessible; but due to time and Marla constraints, this was the only one we actually went to. Not coincidentally, this one is located right on Route 100, the road we were taking anyway. Convenient!

Here's a token Route 100 picture:

After that, we kept driving north on Route 100, right by the Ben and Jerry's factory (which was packed, if the parking lot was any indication - see why we didn't stop here?), and through the town of Stowe, which itself had its own small traffic jam. These were the types of crowds I was expecting in early October in Vermont. Route 100 and Moss Glen Falls didn't have too many people (maybe 5-8 cars parked at the falls, less than capacity), but once we got north of I-89 (which is where Ben and Jerry's, and Stowe, are located), the crowds picked up. How many more people would have been up here if the weather was better? (The morning was mostly dry, but the afternoon was mostly wet.)

Obligatory dumb statistics - state highpoints: Our primary goal for the day was to head to the top of Mount Mansfield, which is the highest point in Vermont. It would have been Marla's 3rd state highpoint (Tennessee, Alabama) and my 7th (North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Indiana, West Virginia), but it didn't work out. We did drive up the Toll Road (which cost us $27, I think), but that doesn't get you right to the summit; you have to hike a mile and a half (and up 500 more feet) from there. On a dry day, we would have done it, no problem. But it was just too rainy for us to enjoy it, so we called off the hike about a third of the way up the trail.

Carrying Marla around wasn't the problem. Prior to the trip, Amber went on Craigslist and found a baby hiking backpack for a good price. It worked out pretty well, I thought:

Marla cooperated throughout the whole ordeal, but we just don't have good wet weather hiking equipment. We don't do this sort of thing enough for it to be worth getting good hiking equipment, and quite frankly, it's not like I really enjoy hiking in the rain that much anyway. So, Mount Mansfield qualifies as "unfinished business". We'll be back, and we're making it to the top next time.

I'd like to go back if nothing else to see what the view is like from the top, because on the day we were there, there was obviously no view:

I think that's the highpoint pictured (the "chin"), but it could be one of the secondary peaks, such as the "nose". Hard to tell.

Well, regardless of the view (or lack thereof), it's clear that the folks who own the mountain are a little jealous of nearby Mount Washington (which we'll visit two days later). It's understandable, because Mount Washington is a much more well known attraction, is much busier (Mount Washington was at least 15 times busier than Mount Mansfield during our respective visits), and also happens to be 1,893 feet higher. I say this because they gave me a "This car climbed Mount Mansfield" bumper sticker for taking the toll road, which is a pretty blatant ripoff of the well-known Mount Washington bumper sticker. Have you ever seen a Mount Mansfield bumper sticker on anyone's car? Would you even notice if you saw it? Probably not. I mean, if nothing else, look how much smaller the Mansfield sticker is:

(Another thing that's better about the Mount Washington sticker: no ads or web addresses! By the way, at both mountains, they give you the bumper stickers at the toll booth at the base, before you even climb the mountain. So technically, you don't actually have to climb the mountain to get the sticker; you just have to pay the fee.)

The drive up the mountain was...interesting.

The road up Mount Mansfield is mostly gravel, and has some steep inclines (similar to the road to our cabin, but wider). But I can't really say how "dangerous" it was, because I wasn't looking at the views or the dropoffs; I was concentrating on driving. But I'm not sure what the roadside dropoffs were like because of how cloudy it was.

I should mention, though, that while the road is "maintained" by the owners of the Stowe ski resort, the hiking trails that traverse the mountain are maintained by a local non-profit:

Also noteworthy is that in the winter, the toll road path is used as a Stowe resort ski trail. Ski trail signs were visible throughout the drive. As steep as the road seemed when attempting to drive it, the "Toll Road" trail (that's the actual name) was still only rated "green". Actually, that sounds about right.

And, that's Mount Mansfield. We'll be back. We have to go back. I'm sure Marla will be thrilled.

Obligatory dumb statistics - gasoline: One more thing: that morning, at the Mobil near our hotel in Albany, I paid $4.199/gallon for gas, which is the most expensive gas I've purchased in the United States since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. New York is one of the most expensive states for gas on the East Coast; regardless, it's still cheaper than in California. It's also a lot cheaper than in Québec, where we would have had to pay between $5.50 and $6 (US dollars) per gallon if we had to refuel there. Which, thankfully, we didn't. (We visit Québec on Day 6.)

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