Monday, August 6, 2018

Lye Brook Falls - Manchester, Vermont

Lye Brook Falls – Manchester, Vermont – 10/16/17 – 4.6 miles

It’s good to have friends who have cabins in the woods. Looking for a long fall weekend destination, Jim and I went way past our distance comfort range for the free use of a friend's vacation home deep in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Fly to Boston, rent a car, drive through the charming countryside, turn up the gravel driveway…and enter a skier’s dream home that sleeps a dozen or more.  I’m okay with that.

We explored the small towns and back roads of southwestern Vermont, and yes, it does look just like the coffee table photography books. We stopped at roadside apple orchard stands (two words: maple creemees!) and visited the Robert Frost Stone House where he penned his poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Great food, delicious beer and cider – so where’s a hiking trail?  Oh, yeah, besides the Appalachian Trail, which is four miles from Manchester…

Robert Frost Stone House

Lye Brook Falls was the ticket for a picture-perfect crisp fall morning, 60’s and sunny.  A heavily logged area in the early 1900’s, Lye Brook Wilderness is protected as part of Green Mountain National Forest. The trails in Lye Brook Wilderness are enjoyed by the local folks, and as a first-time visitor it was wonderful to find this gem to explore. I am very grateful for the people with vision to set aside, steward and protect natural areas.

At the start, the rocky path was covered with newly fallen leaves, making me long for my hiking poles (left them at home as I only had carryon luggage). My broken shoulder trauma this year has raised my caution flags high for stumbling and falling.  Soon the trail changed to a bed of pine needles…then it changed again to rocks…then leaves…

A glimpse at the next mountain over

In a couple of miles the trail climbs 900 feet, then drops 200 feet down to the base of the waterfall.  We were early enough to have a few minutes to ourselves. (Someone did show up to take a photo of us, though.) Lye Brook Falls is 125 feet high, one of the tallest in Vermont.  It wasn’t flowing fully today due to a stretch of dry weather, but still lovely.

When you sit with a waterfall, listening to the rushing water, watching swirls and miniature cascades, following a leaf as it floats by, glimmering pools, teensy lizards darting over rocks, it’s impossible to tell where you really are on the east coast – North Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont.  And it doesn’t really matter, does it? 

As we hiked back down the mountain, the masses had arrived, families, kids, lots of dogs.  Everyone looked happy, including us, because we early birds got the solitude – again. 

In the afternoon we checked out the Saint Bruno Viewing Center of the Charter House of the Transfiguration, a Carthusian monastery on the slope of Equinox Mountain.

The Charter House of the Transfiguration

The Charter House is the only Carthusian monastery in North America. It is not open to visitors.  The viewing center does a great job of explaining the foundation of the order and the monks who commit their lives there.  The monks live in silence in individual rooms, eat meals alone, spend the day alone in prayer and study, and the schedule of the day is very strict.  Family members may visit once or twice a year.  The monastery is not open for personal retreat.

At 3,855 feet, Equinox Mountain is a principle peak of southern Vermont. The land is part of the Equinox Preservation Trust and a toll is required to drive up the road to the summit where the viewing center sits.  There is one hiking trail that goes up the mountain, called the Blue Summit Trail (about 3 miles one way). There are also short trails leading from the viewing center parking area to Lookout Rock.  The views even from the parking area, and at pulloffs along the roadway, are spectacular.  Jim and I didn’t try out the trails – but maybe on our next visit?

How fortunate we were to spend a magnificent weekend in the Green Mountains of Vermont!  I hope that I pass through again one day while hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Until then, I will dream about:

“Fall, the time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ~Lauren DeStefano

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