Have you ever felt like you just needed to unplug? These days our culture is so clogged with technology. Emails literally at our fingertips, photos and snapchats of who’s doing what, where they went to dinner, how cute their dog is. While these are all great advances in the world we live in, sometimes, it’s just nice to get away. And that is exactly what we did. For this Venture Vermont, we’ll take you on the journey of our peaceful hike into the woods to our picturesque night camping beside Stratton Pond.
We started the journey at the base of Stratton. We gathered our supplies from First Run and North Face in the Stratton Village and took the gondola up to the summit. From there, we hiked to the fire tower and down the backside of the mountain to Stratton pond. See here for a trail map: 150825_CampOutMap
What you’ll learn
A lot about yourself and probably the others that your with. Unplugging means you have to communicate without your iPhone or droid. That awkward silent moment.. you’ll have to deal with it. No pulling out your phone to fill the silence with Facebook likes and text messages. You’ll also learn how to navigate the woods, set up a tent, start a fire, put your food up in a tree so the bear doesn’t get it. That’s not to scare you, it’s just a good precaution to take. There are bears; you’re in the woods, in Vermont. You have to remember to respect who’s house you’re in.
Insight into our trip
For this trip, you’ll need to be a bit more prepared and may need a few more supplies than a normal day hike. We all have camped before but not out of a backpack, so this was a first time for us all. Tom from First Run Ski Shop in the Village gave us some great tips and was able to provide us with almost all the gear we needed including a map. (Don’t hike without one)!
We packed up our gear the night before and set out on this little adventure Sunday afternoon. We decided to take the gondola up Stratton Mountain. I would recommend this if you are not an experienced hiker. Our packs were each 15-25lbs and hiking up the mountain with them was something we wanted to skip. We wanted to ensure we would have enough energy to hike to the Stratton Pond.
Once at the summit, we took the fire tower trail out to the true Stratton mountain summit (.7 miles). We climbed the fire tower for breath taking 360-degree views of four states.
After chatting with a few fellow hikers and the summit care taker, we hopped onto the Appalachian and Long Trail trail down to the pond. (3.2 miles)
This was a gradual down hill hike. It was not a smooth hiking trail, lots of roots and stones, so be sure to look where you are going and take your time. Take breaks. You’re carrying a heavy pack; make sure you are getting enough water and fuel. You don’t have to hurry. We started at 4pm and were able to reach the pond by 6pm without any issue. If you feel like you may enjoy a slower pace, leave a bit earlier to give yourself plenty of time before the sun sets.
Before you actually hit the pond, you’ll come to a fork in the trail. There is a map and a few wooden signs that point you in the correct direction. Here you can visit or stay in the Douglas Shelter that sleeps 15-20 people. Camping platforms are around the north end of the pond, which is where we chose to stay. (about another .75 miles) There is a $5 per person fee for staying the night. It is paid to the caretaker covering the upkeep of the trails, shelters, platforms etc. (Cash and credit cards are both accepted) Pay close attention to the map. It is very easy to take a wrong turn and hike out to Kelly Stand Road. (Wrong direction). The pond is only a short walk from the shelter so if you find yourself hiking another 15 minutes and you haven’t hit the pond, you’ll know you’re going in the wrong direction.
On your hike around the north end of the lake to the camping sites, be sure to look for the Stratton summit. It’s gorgeous and a very different view from the front face we all normally see. Continue on and you’ll reach some wooden signs letting you know where the camping platforms are located. Some sections of the trail are closed due to flooding, but the short re-route is well marked. The camping platforms are a nice touch to sleeping in a tent. They allow you to be slightly elevated off the ground away from roots and insects. Once we reached the platforms we set up our tent immediately to avoid having to do this in the dark. The three-man tent we got at First Run sleeps three people snuggly. If you have more then two people and want a bit more room, I would suggest a larger tent or two tents. But it wasn’t bad. We are all close friends. We just got a little closer that night.
There is a little outhouse with a pit toilet close to the camping platforms, but no running water. We carried our water in, but you do have the option of getting water purifying tablets to avoid the extra weight. After that, we just hung out and enjoyed the night in the wilderness. We started a small fire and ate our protein bar dinner.
We put our food and any trash we had up in a tree. We advise that you do this because in the Vermont wilderness, there are black bears. The majority of the time they want nothing to do with you but this is a very good and easy precaution to take. Once we ensured there would be no furry visitors that night, we stargazed and climbed into out tent for a restful nights sleep.
The loons singing in the pond and a beautiful sunrise over the summit of the mountain awoke us the next morning. We retrieved our food, happy to see it all intact, and had a small breakfast before packing up our tent and gear and heading out making sure to leave no trace that we were even there the night before.
We decided to switch it up a bit and take a different route on our hike out. We hiked back around the pond (.75 miles) the way we came in, continued on the AT/LT, and hiked out to the top of North Brookwood Road, (approximately 5 miles). We continued to follow the AT/LT till it splits a short distance from the pond. AT/LT heads left we stayed right on the Catamount trail. See here for a trail map: 150825_CampOutMap
This was a nice easy hike out. Half the trail in through the woods the other is on an old logging road. Beware that this way is very wet for a short portion. I was able to keep my toes dry but after a day of rain you would be walking through a small swampy area.
The Catamount trail crew has improved this dramatically from what it once was with bridges but there are still some wet patches to go through. Besides that ,this was a nice route to take. It was easy to get back to the resort from the top of North Brookwood. Just take the road to the bottom and follow the access road back to Stratton Village where you began. You have the option of hiking back the way we came – up to the summit (3.2 miles plus .7 miles to the gondola plus 1 mile down to the base if the gondola is not running). However, we thought it was nice to take in some different scenery than the way we hiked in.
We suggest hikers 14 and up and slightly athletic do this hike. Small kids might not enjoy this hike since it is somewhat long and you are carrying your gear. I would also recommend this to people who are a little more athletic and do not have any knee or back injuries. You need steady feet and some stamina for this one.
What to Pack
Gear list – the following list you can get at First Run Ski Shop and in the Village.
- Trail Sneakers – for a hike like this you don’t necessarily need hiking boots, trail shoes will give you the support and stability you need for a shorter hike
- Sleeping bag
- Trekking poles
- Base layers
Gear list – the following list you can get from The North Face in the Village:
- Hiking backpack
- Rain jacket or heavier layer for cooler nights.
We gathered our gear a few days before the trip, which I would highly recommend. On top of this list we brought things like:
- Protein bars (like Quest bars)
- Extra base layer shirt and leggings/pants just incase
- Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste and a small roll of toilet paper matches or a lighter
- Water: we opted to carry in our water but you can get water purifying tablets and fill your water bottle along the way in streams or at the pond.
- Rope to hang our food in a tree at night
My favorite part would have to be the sunrise of the summit of Stratton. It was pretty spectacular and totally worth the early loon wake up call. – Lauren
I loved the 360 view from the Stratton Firetower. So beautiful and easy to get to. – Courtney
My favorite part about the trip was not relying on any technology to guide us where we needed to go. Solely relying on blazes on trees and paper maps was a great experience. -Cassie
About the Author:
Lauren Suriani | Lauren’s been outside since she can remember. Starting her summers as a baby with the family camping tradition in the Adirondacks, being outdoors is in her blood. Originally from Buffalo, NY, Lauren now lives and breathes the mountain air residing in Stratton, VT. In the summer you’ll find her outside doing anything from camping and hiking to kayaking and paddle boarding. Snowboarding and skiing since age two, look to the slopes in the winter and you’ll be sure to find her shredding some pow!
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