The Day After Sandy and All is Well in Southern Vermont

For a region that felt the wrath of hurricane Irene last year, destroying numerous roads and homes along the many areas that rested near any body of water large enough to float a paper raft down, we lucked out with Sandy…big time.

This lucky feeling allowed me to seize the unanticipated opportunity to travel to one of the most well-known trails in all of Windham County, a winding switch-back filled hike, known as Mount Wantastiquet.

Given that I was shocked to see the sun out in the early morning hours, just 12 hours after the full force of Sandy was supposed to hit southern Vermont, I tossed aside my preconceived notion to just go for it.  Instead, I elected to take the cautious approach by taking a long look at the radar in my effort to see if I could fit in the 4.4-mile round trip trek that consisted of 1,100 feet of vertical climb and decent.

Luckily, the forecast gave me a two-hour window that I felt was enough to make the trip, so I set out to witness for myself just how much damage Sandy had done in my backyard.

The great thing about Wantastiquet is that the trail can be used for a variety of recreational activities.  Morning run groups commonly congregate at the base of the mountain during the early morning hours, while leisurely walkers often take their dogs down the flat one mile trail that travels along the Connecticut River.  What is even more appealing is that either the climb up the mountain or flat trip along the river can provide snowshoers with great options to get out there and stretch their snow hiking legs.

Right off the bat, hikers are are greeted with a steep waterfall

On this day however, I was not looking for a leisurely walk where I could stop every ten minutes to gather in the ever clearer view of the greater Brattleboro area that sits to the west of the mountain. I had a deadline to keep, one that I was pretty certain would result in either a near brush with the impending clouds that loomed to my South, or a rain-soaked trip down the mountain where I would curse myself for not investing in that waterproof bag that would have saved my camera from its ultimate demise.

However, no matter how hard I tried to sprint up the mountain to capture the grandiose views from the summit, I couldn’t help but stop on numerous occasions to catch the scenery, which, come snow season, will be further enhanced.

First chance to capture some of Brattleboro from the base of the mountain

For those looking for a great workout in the snow, one that provides the ultimate reward due to it giving them pristine winter views that few other mountain ranges can offer in the dead of winter.  Although Wantastiquet has its fair share of rugged rocks, it is one of the few mountains in Southern Vermont that allow hikers to steadily climb to the top without any death-defying final ascents, which can be especially terrifying if the right combination of snow, ice and rocks are present.

To fully capture everything this mountain has to offer, it is important to take the time to walk the many side trails that lead to areas that give ever-improving views of Brattleboro and beyond.  For every rise in elevation, the view gets bigger and better, providing snowshoers with many small rewards for their effort before they reach the apex of their adventure.

A little higher up hikers get a preview of what awaits at the summit

The modest streams that eroded some of the pathways were no more serious than any other mild rain storm that passes over night.  No trees blocked the path and, as I passed a jogger on her way down the mountain, I realized that at least in our corner of the world, we had been spared from the wrath that our neighbors to South were not as lucky to.

There are certain hikes that no matter how many times you complete them, the view at the top still provide you with a moment of pure awestruck.  Perhaps it is because I can look down on my entire hometown, or perhaps it’s because the mix of mountains and rivers combine to provide me with the ultimate view of our beautiful landscape.  Whatever-the-case-may-be, neither the increasingly strong winds, nor the ominous dark clouds I saw approaching from the South, could take away from the moment of relief that I felt, when I looked down upon my town and saw that my community and this great trail had been spared.

Western view from the top

Northern view from the top

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Evan Chadwick

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