It was a year ago that we visited. I wrote about it back then as a destination to revisit. The summer ski slopes of Stowe, the winding, twisting roads of Smugglers Notch, and the peak of Mount Mansfield. A year ago we turned back as the afternoon caught up to us and my wife's body betrayed her, lungs heaving, legs burning. We vowed we would return. The mountain has haunted us for all that time, daring us, taunting us, always calling.
Again, as in our previous road trip to Vermont this year, our time would be abbreviated but we knew what to expect and what needed to be done. We would arrive at night to ensure an early start and also a good night's sleep, along with a hearty dinner to fuel our hike. Prohibition Pig was more than expected, a wonderful BBQ menu of locally-sourced everything paired with some of the finest local beer and cider. The feast brought the contented sleep that only a full belly could and dreams filled with happy dinner plates would follow.
The morning breeze welcomed us to Smugglers Notch and we collected some geocahces as we waited for the mountain road to open. This area is an outdoor mecca even during the summer months, with bouldering, hiking, biking of all sorts, kayaking, and canoeing, all in large supply. The quick searches for geocaches with their mini-hikes served as a warm-up for the morning's goal. And, so, we were ready.
The road to the upper parking lot was the same. The trail keeper's house was still the same. The trail signs were still the same. But, quickly, the trail had become different. Within 20 minutes, the landscape had changed. My wife could not believe that in such a short amount of time we had covered the section of mountain from last year and were on our way to the summit of the mountain. There were some scrambles and some narrow ridges and some steep walking. There was bugs and breezes and sun and clouds and views in every direction. We had lunch above Stowe and looked out at Canada and Lake Champlain. We had reached this summit and then left it behind. A filling mid-afternoon Reuben, fresh cider to celebrate, and a stop for Vermont cheddar would complete our day.