Nancy and I had a delightful hike on Mount Mansfield today. Our hike on Mount Mansfield last month was on the Stowe side. Today's hike was on the Underhill side.
We parked at the Underhill State Park and hiked up the CCC Road and Maple Ridge Trail to the Forehead. From there we hiked north on the Long Trail along the ridge of Mount Mansfield past the Nose, and then down the Halfway House Trail back to the CCC Road and the state park. Unlike our hike last month, we did not go over the Chin, the highest point on the mountain (and in Vermont) at 4395'. Our highest elevation today was the Forehead at 3940':
We were in the clouds on the Forehead. The photo at the top of this post is from part way up the Maple Ridge Trail looking south toward Dewey Mountain (3371'). Lost somewhere in the distant clouds are Bolton Mountain and Camels Hump.
Today's hike was 7.9 miles, elevation gain of 2140'.
The rest of this post is about past and present developments on Mount Mansfield along the route of our hike today.
On the ridge we walked past this marker:
It identifies the "Mount Mansfield Natural Area" as a National Natural Landmark. Not far from this marker is the Summit Station and Mount Mansfield Visitor Center at 3849':
At this location near the base of the Nose, the Summit House offered summer accommodations from 1858 to 1958. Also known at times as the Tip Top House, the Mountain House, and the Mt. Mansfield House, this hotel had 50 guest rooms at its largest extent. Guests arrived originally by horse or foot, later by automobile. The Summit House was intentionally burned in 1964 after falling into disuse and disrepair.
The Summit House was a major attraction in its day, one of numerous "grand hotels" in the mountains of New England.
One distinguished guest, the famous American poet and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, described how in the morning following his overnight stay "a man went through the house ringing a large bell, and shouting Sunrise." In response guests rumbled out of their beds to climb the Nose for a pre-breakfast view of the sun's emergence.
When access to the Summit House was by horse or foot, there were routes on both the east side of the mountain (Stowe) and the west side of the mountain (Underhill). Each route had a Halfway House, which were also hotels – about halfway up the mountain. The Halfway Houses apparently perished in the 1930s, but the routes up the mountain remain: the Auto Toll Road on the Stowe side, and the Halfway House Trail on the Underhill side.
The Halfway House Trail starts on the CCC Road 1.2 miles from the parking area at the Underhill State Park. The Civilian Conservation Corps built both the Underhill State Park and the CCC Road in the 1930s and early 1940s. The CCC Road was not a route up the mountain, but a road along the side of the mountain at an elevation of about 2500'. The road was intended to connect the state park to Nebraska Notch at the southern end of Mount Mansfield, but only a portion of the planned road was built. The project was abandoned when the CCC was ended in 1942 because of World War II. Today the CCC Road is part of the hiking trail system on the west side of Mount Mansfield:
Is the summit ridge of Mount Mansfield more "natural" today than it was in the era of the Summit House? When Nancy and I left the Mount Mansfield Visitor Center at the top of the Auto Toll Road at 11 AM today, the caretaker there had already registered 88 visitors for the day, who arrived either by trail or by the road (the majority). And the trail up the Nose that captured Emerson's attention at sunrise is now permanently closed because of radiation from nearby communications towers:
The signs in the three photos above are all near each other at the base of the Nose. The signs in the top two photos warn of radiofrequency fields. The hand lettered white sign on the post below "Long Trail South" says:
This trail does not go up "the Nose," which is closed to pedestrian traffic indefinitely.
I can remember hiking the short side trail over the Nose (4060'), but it was a long time ago. That trail, called the Triangle Trail, was closed in 1997 when the power of the nearby broadcasting facilities was increased.
I have no photos from today's hike of the antennas near the Nose because we were in the clouds. Click here for a description of the broadcasting facilities in this area (as of 2011). They are impressive. There are several photos at that link.
Mansfield: The Story of Vermont's Loftiest Mountain by Robert L. Hagerman (1971)
The quote about Ralph Waldo Emerson came from this book, page 60. This book has photos of the Summit House and the Halfway House on the Underhill side.
National Register of Historic Places: Registration Form for Underhill State Park (2002)
This source has considerable information about the activities of the CCC at Underhill State Park.