|Hiking Trail Conditions Report|
||Mount Mansfield - Adam's Apple, VT|
||Bear Pond Trail (abandoned), Adam's Apple Trail, Hell Brook Trail|
|Date of Hike:
||Saturday, October 22, 2022|
|Parking/Access Road Notes:
||Hell Brook parking lot has space for about a half dozen vehicles at least. |
||Dry Trail, Wet Trail, Wet/Slippery Rock, Standing/Running Water on Trail, Mud - Minor/Avoidable, Leaves - Significant/Slippery |
|Water Crossing Notes:
||Water levels don't seem especially high right now. |
|Trail Maintenance Notes:
||The Bear Pond Trail is abandoned - the lower part since the 1980s and the upper part since around the 1990s. The lower part seems to be informally flagged with pink tape and the trail corridor (cut branches/logs, etc.) is frequently visible, though difficult to see in more open areas, making it easy to lose. The upper part, from Lake of the Clouds to Bear Pond, is still relatively easy to follow, though blowdown and marshy areas near Bear Pond make it difficult to see where the trail begins ascending Bear Head if you happen to reach Bear Pond from below.
Adam's Apple and Hell Brook trails are in good condition. |
||Don't bring your dog on these trails! |
|Lost and Found:
||This trip's main purpose was to find the old Bear Pond Trail from Smuggler's Notch up Mount Mansfield, billed as the "steepest half-mile in Vermont". I gathered beta from an old hiking guide and from a couple VFFT forum threads. One of these had a photo of the purported route - up a gully in the cliffs that I identified as Easy Gully, a popular rock/ice climbing area. Since the Bear Pond Trail had been wiped out by a landslide in the 1980s, and Easy Gully has a prominent talus slope below it, it seemed like a natural location to probe first.|
I climbed up from Smugglers Notch at about 9am, and once in Easy Gully I found chockstones blocking a straightforward ascent. I determined not to risk it, but since I didn't see any evidence of a trail (blazes, etc.), I was wondering if the trail was in fact somewhere else. Kudos to the guy from VFTT who apparently climbed it - there is much exposure and damp rock, and it's easy to get cliffed out beyond your abilities.
I diverted my attention to the smaller cliffs on the N end of the Notch (which some of my beta seemed to lead to). A path led up from below the information center, and I found a cleft in the rocks and an old log bridge below the cliffs. The "trail" went along under the cliffs, then turned left at a smooth slide and summited the cliffs over easier terrain - awesome views into the bustling Notch from there. As noted above, the trail was flagged every now and then and its corridor was frequently visible. However, the trail was still easy to lose in more meadowy areas - which I did 2 or 3 times, choosing to keep bushwhacking up till I hit it again (this was largely above the main cliffs).
Once on top of the ridge, I quickly picked up the trail, which had ancient moss-covered bog bridges. It was not too hard to follow to Bear Pond - a nice, remote tranquil location. However, my work wasn't done yet - it was difficult to see where the trail led up Bear Head due to blowdown/marshy spots, and the cliffs/rocks looked tough to navigate. I was forced to the south and had to bushwhack through some gnarly terrain to reunite with the trail, which was easy to follow after that. Those going to Bear Pond from above should not have this problem (?)
I had originally planned to summit Mansfield, but the lateness of the hour led me to content myself with the Adam's Apple - still a great viewpoint. Some haze prevented the views from being limitless on this warm late October day.
I descended down Hell Brook, and can see why it's not recommended for descent - lots of slabs and very steep ledges requiring care. However, being on an actual maintained trail was so nice. I got back to my truck at twilight.
This is a hike only for those very experienced with bushwhacking/scrambling.
||Dan Saxton |
Disclaimer: Reports are not verified - conditions may vary. Use at own risk. Always be prepared when hiking. Observe all signs. Trail conditions reports are not substitutes for weather reports or common sense.