Soaking Up the Forest Pheromones in Vermont

We were so excited to get to Vermont. Not only were we excited to see some bigger mountains and explore a new-to-me state, but we were also being joined by Will’s sister and her partner. We have loved camping and hiking with them over the past few summers, so we knew we were going to have a great time.

Before we arrived in Vermont, a former co-worker of mine sent us an amazing list of hikes and things to see and do in the area. He and his family just so happen to live about 5 minutes from where we stayed, so getting their inside knowledge and having a chance to catch up with them for dinner was a special treat.

One of the recommended hikes was to Sterling Pond. We did a little research and knew it was going to be a challenge, but we also knew from the reviews online that it was going to pay off. We only slightly coerced Will’s sister into going with us, but they agreed and away we went.

The drive to the trailhead was gorgeous. We stayed in the Lake Champlain valley, so we had views of the mountains from the beginning and enjoyed seeing some new countryside. As we wound our way up the mountain, we drove through narrow passages with rock formations towering over us on either side. We already knew we were in for a great hike.

The hike to Sterling Pond is only 1 mile, and the hike to Smuggler’s Notch is only about 0.25 miles beyond that, however, in that distance, the trail gains over 1,000 feet in elevation, which is why it is a bit of a challenge. As soon as you step onto the trail, you start up a seemingly never-ending set of rock stairs. The steps are a nice touch and make it seem like it will not be too terrible, however, the stairs eventually give way to a rocky and uphill trail that requires sure-footing and concentration. As we gained elevation, there were a couple of places where the trail was fairly narrow and was pretty far down. As Will was navigating himself and Daisy while carrying Little Bird on his back, he heard me say at least a thousand times to be careful.

The trail is a rather popular hike, so I was not terribly surprised when we arrived at the pond and found it to be rather busy (at least by COVID standards), so we continued around the pond knowing the trail met up with the Long Trail and there was much more to see. We made our way up a less than convincing flight of wooden steps and up a nicely graded hill for another 0.25 miles or so until we crested Smuggler’s Notch. It was a little strange standing at the ski lift on a beautiful summer day and knowing that a) we had climbed up the back of the mountain, b) there was a much easier way to go about getting to the top, and c) people actually propel themselves off of the mountain top and ski down this hill in the winter.

We made our way along the notch to one the top of one of the slopes and relaxed and had some lunch. Because not many people knew about this extra leg of the hike, it was very quiet at the top of the slopes and we were in no rush to eat and let our bodies rest and prepare for the descent.

The hike back down went a lot easier than going up (as it always does). It did not hurt that we refueled at the top and knew we were headed to Ben and Jerry’s as soon as we got back to the car. Even though this hike was challenging in so many ways, it was incredibly rewarding as well. Knowing that we climbed the equivalent of 100 floors (One World Trade Center has 104 floors) in one continuous hike was an empowering feeling. I can foresee us doing a lot more equivalent hikes, though Daisy is not sure we should aim higher any time soon.

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