Recently I became a GMC hiking leader and this was the first successful hike that I have organized since I started. Around 9 a.m. we all met at the southern point of 108 near the Stowe resort, where the section of the highway is closed for the winter. Cantaloupe was offered as a snack before we walked up 108 to the LT trailhead, where our hike began. The trail was covered in snow and the weather was just above freezing temperatures (35°F).
Our first obstacle was a shallow stream with stepping-stones to safely cross without wetting our feet. Our accent was rather steep with quick elevation change. The trail was a little slippery for those without micro spikes and was completely covered in ice at some spots toward the top of spruce peak. On our way up, some parts of the trail had fresh fallen trees and were free of footprints, causing us to occasionally question our direction. However the trail markers were often enough, failing to get us lost.
Once over Spruce peak our pace picked up as we hiked along our first ski trail, soon we passed a partly frozen Sterling ponds and skiers as we passed the ? top of the notch?. We reached the Shelter around 12 p.m., with clear sky ahead we chatted, snacked, rested and by 12:30 we were back on the trail on our last stretch upward to the top of Madonna. As the noon sun rose, the air warmed but thick cloud and fog cover blocked the sunshine. Two hikers went ahead to the last ski trail and I slowed down to ensure the slower hikers were catching up.
We all grouped up again before the last uphill on the ski trail, leading to the peak beside a patrol hut and seat lift. These obstructions seemed to take away much of the solitude often found on summits in the Green Mountains. It does however allow our local economies to rely on our forests and mountains in other ways than just, ?cutting it down?. After a brief paparazzi session and moment to appreciation of our accomplishment we were all ready to make out way backwards before the sunlight was gone. The snow cover made it much easier hiking downward, as it protected the soil and plants if one wanted to slide parts of the way. Two hikers went ahead as the four of us finished out the hike in a united pace. Instead of hiking back south on the LT we chose to hike down the Sterling ponds trail, a quicker descent to 108.
Along side the trail, it was a shame to see a few large mountain/paper birches that were sliced bad with knifed graffiti and holes from the pocking of hiking/ski poles. As we approached the base of Spruce peak near 108 the absent foliage allowed the view of east side of Mt Mansfield to dominate the visible landscape. Once off the trail and back to the road we slowed out pace and enjoyed the last mile of the hike. Looking up at the steepness of the mountain sides from the bottom smugglers notch we were reminded in the difficulty of the steep climb up earlier that day and how puny humans are compared to the complexity of the natural world.
Adam Heckle (leader), Catherine Hinojosa, Dandy A., Melissa Bainbridge w/dog, Wesley Volk, Thomas Smith.