Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Signs of any kind

The subject Cee chose for this week’s Black & White Photography Challenge was “Signs”. I’m reminded of this trip

We just finished spending an excellent weekend in my hometown in Vermont where we both went to the Tunbridge World’s Fair with a high school friend of mine. On our way home, the mountains of Vermont catch my eye – and one in particular: Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in Vermont.

In my teenage years and early 20’s I climbed this mountain several times. At 4,395 feet / 1340 metres, it was the first big mountain (well, big by Appalachian Mountain standards – I see those of you who have seen the Himalayas looking at me that way!) I had ever climbed. There is something exciting about starting a hike on a normal hot summer day in a forest of tall trees and then, as the hike goes on, feeling the heat disappear and the trees shrink until they are also gone until you are the tallest thing around.

I’d always wanted to do a hike like this with Daegan but we definitely don’t have time for this today. We have a nearly eight hour drive (plus whatever rest/food stops) ahead of us. But then it occurs to me: There’s a toll road we can take to within a 30 minute walk of the summit.

We divert a bit from our route and head up the road. It’s a narrow dirt road with many switchbacks. We pass a few cars on their way down and we slowly inch by each other.  After about fifteen minutes, the fog closes in around us. We’re deep in the low clouds. Eventually we get to the parking lot. We have to leave our car behind.

Along the way we pass a helpful sign that points us in the right direction to get to our home country.


We hike further through the mist and can only see a few feet ahead – just enough to see the white trail markers painted on the rocks every few feet. Doubtless, the spacing of these paint stripes is designed to be close enough together so that we don’t lose the trail on a foggy day like this. After all, there is no more dirt – there’s no packed down trail or space between trees to follow.

The air feels moist and I can feel the water in the cloud we’re in condensing on my coat and face. It even sounds different here in the clouds. It’s as if there are no more echoes at all. Everything feels muted. Occasionally we see another hiker or two but we’re always surprised as we can neither see nor hear them until they’re within a few feet of us.

Then we come to another sign:


Though I know that this is the name of a trail, it really seems like the sort of thing I might dream: “And then Daegan and I were hiking on a misty mountaintop in Vermont and we saw this old wooden sign that said ‘Subway'” We followed it and ten minutes later we found ourselves at an odd little station. Down the stairs we went and saw that we were on a subway line we never knew about. We went down to the platform and in 30 minutes we were home. It wasn’t until we got in the door that we realized we left the rental car in Vermont.”

We make it to the summit but we’re still in the clouds. Normally we would be able to see all the way to three different states and in to Canada but today, we can’t even see each other if we get more than a few metres apart. Still, it’s beautiful in it’s own way. Eventually we head back down. We still have several hours yet to drive to get home. The subway isn’t running yet.

A few more photos from that day are below:

We start off with a few small trees. These are the tallest trees around and are shorter than me.
Looking at this photo reminds me of the smell of this spot – a bit damp and with lots of pine smell. It smelled like Christmas.
Eventually the trees are gone but you can sort of see where the trail goes.
And now you need the markings to find the trail.
A year later we would pass by Mount Mansfield again. Even on this beautiful, sunny day, the summit was still covered in clouds.

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