This post was written by Jocelyn Hebert, Long Trail News Editor.
I take pride in being a native Vermonter, but until I climb Vermont’s highest peak, at 4,393 feet, in winter, I won’t fully feel like one. That’s just who I am—plenty of Vermonters have never stepped foot on Mansfield, let alone Mansfield in winter.
My friend and I set out for Underhill State Park and the Sunset Ridge Trail one Saturday last March—so did a lot of other people. We managed to find a parking spot within a reasonable distance from the gate that closed off entrance to the park and began our trek along the snow-covered Mountain and State Park Roads to the trailhead.
Brilliant snow covered the distant summit, the azure sky its backdrop. Temperatures were warm, and it was a glorious day to hike.
We followed the blue blazes through the woods and past the Cantilever Rock spur trail. It was slow going for me as snow began to ball up under my snowshoes. With each smack of my trekking poles to break it up…twenty steps…smack…ten steps…smack…two steps…smack, I was losing momentum and beginning to sweat from the extra weight of the snow. Determined to make the summit, I pressed on, first removing a layer. I was falling behind, becoming exhausted and increasingly grouchy. My hiking partner wisely gave me space.
I finally reached the open ridgeline where I could sit by a cairn and replace my useless snowshoes with spikes. Up again, now traveling on the ice-covered rocks with lighter feet, I began to make progress. Until the post holing began. With each step, I sunk to my hip. There was no choice but to go back to the snowshoes. The Chin seemed so close, yet so far, in the waning daylight.
A group of hikers cheerfully descended as we kept climbing. Wishing I had some ski wax or something—anything—to keep the snow from clumping under my feet, I did a mental inventory of everything in my backpack: extra clothes, water, first aid kit, snacks. Snacks, hmmm…one of those snacks was a nice hunk of Cabot Private Stock Cheese.
My spirits plummeted as I realized the window to reach the summit had passed. I was curious about the cheese though, so I plunked down at another cairn, pulled out the Private Stock, and smeared it over the built-in metal crampons.
I took a few steps and realized that the snow no longer stuck to my snowshoes! While I’d like to think that my Yankee ingenuity and the help of one of Cabot’s finest cheeses helped, the temperature had dropped, and conditions changed. So, for now, I remain unsure if the cheese saved the day.
I retired my snowshoes and got a new pair, hoping that the next time I set out for the Chin, the Private Stock will be in my stomach where it belongs.