Nature’s Best

Up, up and away, 3,235 feet up to be exact. The Equinox, which towers over the town of Manchester, VT, is the largest mountain in southern Vermont and the second largest in the state behind Mt. Mansfield. It’s a long way to the top (if you want to rock and roll.), 5.2 miles up a (long), steep winding mountain road that seems like a stage of the Tour de France.I’ve visited Equinox quite a few times in my day. Having gone to high school at the base of the mountain, this was a giant that I saw daily. This daily occurrence in turn had led me to lose interest in Manchester’s largest wonder. My recent trip back, however, had a renewed sense of excitement having been more than a year since my last visit.

It was the perfect day to be at the top of any mountain. Sixty-five degrees, complete sunshine and a cool, crisp breeze. The journey to the top began at the tollhouse, which sits at 630 feet above sea level.

The $12 entrance fee may seem a little steep, (no pun intended) but well worth the price. As we climbed higher and higher we could see the ever-present views through the trees. The peak was so close we could almost taste it. As our car broke the tree line the rolling mountains of Vermont raced to our eyes. I brought a friend along with me for this trip and he brought with him a renewed sense of wonder to those things I found old and boring.

The landmark my friend found most interesting was the Carthusian charterhouse that sits deep in the valley behind Equinox. This monastery was built in the 1950’s to hold the monks who practiced this religion. Their practice forbids them to have any outside contact with civilization so this was a more than proper spot for it to be constructed. The monastery is a beautiful stone building that best resembles an ancient castle. It is a site that you don’t see often.

At the summit of the Skyline Drive sits the abandoned Inn Atop Equinox. This used to be one of the most unique inns in all of New England, but in the past 10 years has closed. The only purpose it serves now is a climbing structure to gain better views of the surrounding area. At first the views are overwhelming. There is so much to see that you are visually overloaded.

The best part of visiting Equinox is the half-mile hike to lookout rock. To me, lookout rock has the best view on the mountain. It gives you a sense of being on top of the world. You can look around and see the surrounding ski resorts- Stratton, Bromley and Mount Snow- and the town of town of Manchester below you. I’d say my friend got a better experience than most because I knew all the surrounding mountains and could name all the building below us.

Just as in times past, it was a difficult task to leave. The peace, the quiet, and the beauty beg you not to leave. It’s hard to turn and leave something that is so beautiful. Leaving the woods is like snapping out of a fantasy world. The views of mountains that overloaded your senses, now turns back to a parking lot full of cars. There is still one more journey that you must make before your experience is over. The descent! This is a car’s and brake pads’ worst nightmare. The steep grade tests your willingness to apply the breaks at all time. The 5.2-mile journey down is much less exciting than the way up.

Equinox is full of history and beauty. It highlights a town that already has so much to do. This is a must visit destination for all those who live or pass through Vermont. The views are spectacular and the overall experience is one that you must see for yourself.

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