The call had been made Friday evening to go ahead with the hike in the face of 50% chance forecasts of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and rain. And although the forecast probability had fallen to 30% by Sunday morning, I was doubting that earlier decision after seeing significant sleet falling upon awakening that morning, but it let up on the way to meet at the Richmond Park & Tide, and after a call confirming that our one missing participant wasn’t just late, but had decided to skip the hike, Dan, Dean, and Dave got into Dave’s car and drove to Stowe.
Dean had also brought along Flat Stanley, who was in Vermont for a visit and a few photo ops during the hike. The snow surface was pretty hard, but we brought snowshoes in case the forecast warming during the day softened up the snow enough to make them necessary (it didn’t). The sky was overcast but there was no wind or precipitation falling as we started up 108 at 9:30. We soon reached the picnic area where the Long Trail north branches off to the right, crossed a couple brooks and then climbed up to where the trail starts slabbing across the slope above the northeast side of Rt 108. Dan and Dean opted for microspikes, but since we didn’t run into any real ice, Dave did without. As we approached Elephant’s Head the wind picked up significantly, so we put back on the shells we’d taken off earlier.
We took the side trail down to the vista point at the top of Elephant’s Head, walking very carefully, as there was a little ice right next to the edge. We then headed back up to the trail. We’d been following tracks from previous hikers to this point, but we started reaching sections where the wind had obliterated them, and we also started running into a lot of ski tracks that were not on the Long Trail. So we managed to briefly get lost a couple times and came out on the wide road / ski trail a little south of the actual Long Trail.
We reached Sterling Pond around 12:30, at which point the sun came out and we all donned our sunglasses. It was still windy, so we opted to wait for lunch, and quickly made our way down the Sterling Pond Trail to the notch. There we ate lunch in the shelter of the information booth, then headed down Rt. 108, reaching the car around 2 PM.
Trip leader: David Hathaway Participants: Dan Hildebrand, Dean Wiederin, Flat Stanley