Sterling Pond & Spruce Peak | 9/3/22
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
Today was a rare hike. Not because of the terrain or the company, but because I walked more miles last night when I went out with friends, boasting 20K steps solely from cruising up and down Burlington in search of one of UVM’s famed “basement concerts.” What was supposed to be a couple of hours visiting friends turned into me finding out I liked funky blues. The problem with this is that I also really like getting 8 hours of sleep. Sometimes that doesn’t happen though.
My alarm rang at 5:45 and the stakes were high. It was my first time leading a hike for my college unsupervised and I had to get a van, get ready for the participants, and then scoff down a Bobo Bar and a Yerbs- the official breakfast of a Vermont college student.
My partner for the day, Lily, arrived just a couple of moments after I did and we eagerly waited for our participants to arrive at 7:15 am. But then it was 7:20, then 7:25, and I genuinely feared no one who signed up would show up. Thankfully, I was wrong, and our party showed up just in time for our 7:30 departure. Typically, we wouldn’t have started this early for a school trip. But, on the first weekend of September on one of the sunniest Vermont days I’ve seen in a minute, we weren’t messing around.
After a crunchy-music-filled drive, we got the very last parking spot at the Sterling Pond trailhead and got pushing uphill. In my short time doing it thus far, the hardest part about guiding for me is pacing. My goodness for someone who was the “slow runner” in cross country for 8 years I apparently hike really fast. So much so that Lily informed me to not let me lead because of my pace- this was entirely valid.
Much to my surprise, even going at my upper limit of talking pace, I got outpaced! Hell yeah, I was rocking with this group hard. As we pushed up past the beautifully well-maintained stone staircase, the group discussed all of our favorite backpacking trips which ranged from right in our backyard in the Whites up to Denali. Never know who you’ll meet on these things.
When we stopped for water the first time, we were 20 minutes in and 0.63 miles up. I became pretty aware we’d need to extend the hike beyond Sterling Pond at this point and was very excited about it. The next push-up to the junction with the Long Trail was significantly easier and gentler than the first 0.2 or so and continued to be very well taken care of. I <3 the Green Mountain Club.
After just a couple more steps to the left, we had arrived at Sterling Pond and only had to share it with the lovely caretaker before we continued to the top of Smugglers. With both our participants being from Massachusetts and not having done much skiing in Vermont, they sure were impressed by the views and grades going down from Smuggs.
After covering the left, we got to go see my favorite viewpoint on Stowe Mountain Resort- if you stand right in front of the Spruce Line sign, you get the best view of all the trails on Mansfield right in front of you. It truly never gets old.
After covering this familiar territory, we made one last stop and summited Spruce Peak, and then ventured to the lookout. I was shocked I’d never stumbled across this spot before- just a tad further up the access road past where you’d turn towards the pond is the most stunning outlook that gives an excellent perspective of the ridge’s face. Despite being in New Hampshire so much lately, my dad’s love of Stowe made sure that I grew up on Mansfield, a mountain that’ll always mean so much to me.
Unsurprisingly, we got down even faster than we got up and ran into a party after party on the way down. I sure was glad we had arrived so early. Even in the parking lot, there were all sorts of demo sales and lots of people bouldering, before we left we stopped to watch a guy destroy a V10 which was especially awesome for those of us who’d never been in the notch before!
The Sterling Pond Trail is probably my new third favorite hike in Vermont! This is no insult though- as #1 and #2 are the magnificent peaks of Jay and Abraham. Though I’ll probably still be in the Whites for half of my weekends at school this autumn, I couldn’t be happier to be exploring some new terrain with new friends.