I made it to the top. Sterling Pond Trail is 1.3 miles uphill to one of the highest ponds in Vermont.
This would normally be an unworthy achievement except for the fact that I did it alone (my first difficult solo hike) and it was all uphill and I normally don’t do hills.
This crazy idea started yesterday.
I went to the Green Mountain Club to ask if there were any easy hikes that are safe to do alone. A woman and a man recommend numerous trails, assured me some people do them “barefoot” although this technique is not recommend for beginners and that at this moment there were women hiking the long trail solo and overnight.
She highlighted a few maps I purchased and as I left, a man with REI gear on said ” you must do Sterling Pond! It can’t be missed ” then he smiled at me so convincingly that I decided at that moment I would.
I woke up late, pass 10, partially because I knew I would hike today and dragged myself out of bed. I took a long shower and put on jeans, packed my white purse from Spain, put on sunglasses and knee high fashion boots, if they were good for snow, they were good for hiking, right.
I looked up the address online and typed it into my GPS and drove the 45 minutes to a site filled with parked cars off the highway. I got out the car and immediately I was disoriented. I panicked and asked a couple “where’s um… Little pond?” And they looked confused and said they had no idea, but told me there was a fantastic waterfall down the trail across the street that I simply ” must not miss” so I headed there. It was an easy 1\4 mile downhill and suddenly, I was surrounding by the sound of rushing water and children’s laughter.
It was magical. I climbed down the hill and sat by myself on a rock and just took in the immense beauty of it all. I could have stayed there for hours, just breathing. But I remembered I had to go to Little Pond, The Pond, Pond at the Mountain or whatever it was called.
I reluctantly huffed and puffed my way up the hill and to my car. I looked over the maps, realized it was called “Sterling Pond Trail” and Googled the directions. To my horror, I realized the trail was not “easy” but rated as “difficult” and was described as an uphill climb, slippery when wet, take care with small kids and the elderly.
My heart started pumping but I decided to drive there anyway, hoping, that, maybe, I could drive to the pond? Maybe?
When I arrived at the parking spot it was full of families with young kids, preteens who lacked smiles, and women in their golden years. Clearly, it could not be that bad.
I parked down the road and walked to the post after a quick bathroom break
My first thought was “wtf”. There seemed to be endless rock steps leading to god knows where. I quickly turned to the first people I could find and asked ” is it like that the whole way? ” They looked me up and down, and I became very aware that not everyone hiked with a purse and fashion boots. Then they smiled and lied “No honey. You can do it. It gets better. ”
So I started up my way. Kindergartners and ladies passed me as I exhausted my way up. Once pass the stairs which seemed like eternity and out of breath, a woman in yoga pants with an iPod passed me while running, sweetly she yelled “see ya at the top”.
Maybe, the top was close. I yelled ” see ya on the way down!” And continued. It became suddenly flat at a bend and I thought “this can’t be bad” then around the bend, another endless hill. I climbed and walked. A family passed me going the opposite way and out of breath I asked “is it worth it?” They guy said the view was meh. The trail at points became a steam, but if you like climbing, it’s worth it.
“I hate climbing.” I thought.
At that minute a group of ladies in their 40’s and 50’s passed me, asked me how I was getting along with my boots. I said “terrible” and they said “see ya at the top”.
Fine. I decided, they would see me at the top, even if it kills me. Besides, I signed in, so if I go missing, they would know I was here. I kept going.
I stopped every so often, sweat rolling down my back to ” take pictures ” as not the to be embarrassed. And I kept up a slow crawl. After 30 to 40 minutes I stopped being able to feel my legs. I put my hands on then to remind me they were moving.
An hour and I was totally out of breath. “How much more should I suffer through this uphill battle?” The scenery had ceased to be breathtaking in my mind. All I thought of was the end. A girl passed me running down. “How long?” I asked. ” 20 to 30 minutes,you look like you have a good pace!”
Me? A good pace. Did I look like someone who knew what she was doing? I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was 30 min from my goal or the fact that she thought that I had a good pace. But the blood rushed back to me. I felt brave. I was so close! I’m going to see those ladies at the top!
I went on, sometimes slipping on the wet rocks which were the path and the stream. 20 minutes later, a lady, in her 60’s passed me going down “5 more minutes! If I can do it, you can do it!” I thanked her through my labored breath. 5 more minutes! My god, am I that close. Suddenly, I remember. “How do I know I am there?” I yelled. ” when you get to the clearing, turn left, go down the hill”
WTF. Another hill. I thought. I stopped for a moment, wondering why nature hates me.
But it was five more minutes. I kept going up that damn hill, “I hate you mountain”. I thought. Finally, I dragged myself to a clearing. I felt totally relieved. Victorious! Like Rocky. I did a little dance! Took pictures of the sign. The pond was only 0.1 miles away downhill. ” I got this ” I thought.
The two older ladies who had encourage me in the beginning said “See, I told you, she’d make it”. Despite the realization that I may have been a part of someone’s bet, i waved enthusiastically ” I did!” I said full of excitement! “Yay!” I walked down to the pond.
My God, it was worth every ounce of sweat. It looked like a cut out from a calendar. I wasn’t tired anymore. I was taken over by the profound beauty in front of me. The woman who had runup the hill before me said “see, I knew you’d make it” and asked me to snap a picture of her near the pond. We chatted a bit and it felt like a reunion with all these strangers who had one thing in common, we conquered Sterling Pond Trail.
I stayed for awhile. Took pictures. And then started my decent down. Now it was my turn to tell people “you can do it!”.
I told a man drenched in sweat that he was five minutes away and he’d feel like Rocky at the top. I gave instructions to two teenage boys. I got passed by preteens with good manners while walking down. I didn’t care. I took in nature, snapped pictures. Noticed trees I had missed on the way up. Red mushrooms and bird. ” fuck yeah” I thought. “I’m a badass”
When I made it to the final stretch of stairs, the two old ladies from the beginning ended up behind me. I let them pass, apologizing for holding them up again. One lady replied:
“Oh please, forever you will be known in Vermont as the woman who conquered Sterling Pond in fashion boots and a purse.”
The other one chimed in “You proved it could be done.”
BEST DAY EVER