Sterling Pond Hike, Stowe, VT

by Aidan King

The day was brimming with beauty up until – and even after – the storm rolled through Smuggler’s Notch this Sunday. My mother, brother, and I absconded to Lamoille County in our beloved and boxy neon orange Scion. We were armed to the teeth with apples, cheese, trail mix, water, and bug spray. The fanny packs were loaded and secured, our boots tied tight, and our trek up the mountain to Sterling Pond was underway. 1.2 miles to the top, 1.2 miles back down. Short, but not so sweet. 

A vertical climb of nearly 1000 feet awaited us. But we could handle it.

The trail was busy, teeming with men and women of all ages, children, back-pack-riding babies, dogs, puppies, and a bearded man who looked like he was a direct descendant from the Norse God, Odin. The path started with a steep stone-like staircase, weaving around trees and boulders. A green blanket of oak, pine, and birch leaves was on my right. On the left was a cliff, overlooking a foliage-filled valley. On and on we went, the path clinging to the side of the mountain. But The Fear (and any sense of impending doom) never found me. I felt safe. Secure. Surrounded by columns of sturdy bark and thousands of outstretched, tree-branch arms. 

The initial steepness mellowed out, and we picked up a fairly balanced pace, with some snack and drink breaks in between. We aren’t one of those crazy, “can run a marathon up a mountain and not break a sweat” families that everyone envies, but the path was still very manageable nonetheless. Our ascent continued, meandering over tiny brooks, around majestic tree trunks, and stepping between all the beautifully twisting roots that lined parts of the path. As a kid, I would pretend that the dirt was lava, and would hop and skip from one stone to the next, tiptoeing along logs and roots, and using walking sticks to propel myself like a pole-vaulter. As an adult, nothing has really changed. I’m just a lot less limber, and my antics garner many more puzzled looks.

Soon enough, we reached the top. The trees opened up overhead and rays of sunshine darted through patches of clouds. A sparkling, clear pond lay nestled, undisturbed, surrounded by trees and rocks. Some fishermen – taking advantage of the well renowned trout abundance – were lined up on the far side of the water; a puppy was splashing about in the shallows; and a baby had just been bitten by a mosquito, square on the nose, and was wailing accordingly. Despite the commotion, and the relatively popular shoreline, I was soon embraced by a wave of calm. 

Quickly, the sky darkened. I felt a drop of water on my shoulder. It was time to leave, despite how much I love an all-natural shower after a hot hike. The path on the descent was slick in places, and all hikers should definitely be wary at all times, whether it’s wet or dry. But once it starts raining, proceed with additional caution. 

Much to my surprise, we passed many hikers still going up the trail, even as the rain fall grew heavier. Evidently,  the allure of a Vermont vista is strong enough to trek through rain and mud, and I don’t blame them one bit. 
The whole experience was very surreal, in a way. I’m not talking about the grizzly man, or the rapid shift in weather, or the beautiful landscape. Rather, the diverse medley of intrepid travelers all brought together under a united ideal: immerse yourself in nature. Take a break from the hustle and bustle of “the real world.” In my mind, it doesn’t get any more “real” than that – mountains, lakes, trees, and wildlife. Surround yourself with good company in a good environment, and, naturally, good things will follow. 

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