Stratton Pond - October 23rd/24th
This trip was inspired by an article that I found thanks to Google titled "Best Damn Weekend Ever." The article describes a 23 mile loop that includes Bourne Pond, Stratton Pond, and Stratton Mountain - the place where the idea for the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail was born.
My friend Chris had to work an overnight shift at the hospital so we planned on letting him get a couple of hours of sleep before leaving Pittsfield, MA at about 11:30. Things moved slowly, as usual, and after a difficult time finding the trail head (It's on "Rootville Road" not "Old Rootville Road" as described in the article) we arrived at 2:00.
We packed up a day and half's worth of food and headed off to Prospect Rock. Apparently it's a 3.5 mile round trip from the trail head to the rock but I felt we got there rather quickly.
After Prospect Rock, we had a little bit of difficulty deciding which direction to move in because we had a poorly defined route description and the trail actually continued up the road. We realized that we had made the correct decision when we came to the sign welcoming us to the Lye Brook Wilderness.
We headed down toward Douglas Shelter after a brief review of the map at the trail junction. Douglas Shelter is like a Marriot as far as I'm concerned, and it's a good thing we came across it. (More on that later)
We looked at the visitor log for in the Shelter and learned that a Beaver had dammed Lye Brook. Previous visitors warned that fording was difficult and the muddy pond reached a depth of three feet. Chris and I thought "Well, we'll just go around".
The hike to the Beaver Pond was spectacular. Signs of wildlife were quite abundant and we had high hopes of seeing a Moose.
No such luck. :( Which kind of sucks because we didn't miss 'em by much!
We did, however, see a Porcupine!!
After much elation at the Porcupine, we met our fate. The Beaver Pond.
Of course it stretched into an area that was dense with low pine trees that made going around nearly impossible. Not to mention the trees were covered in melting snow which would have drenched us to the core if we tried to go through it. So we decided that the best option, both having extra wool socks and plenty of fire starting material, was to ford it, boots on.
This surprisingly (sarcasm) turned out to be a really bad idea as the pond was frozen further down the trail and much deeper than three feet in places (Like, over our hiking poles deep) so we decided to turn around, book it to the shelter, and start a fire.
Our boots were already soaked so we decided that what better way to deal with a crisis than have a little fun with it.
After deciding it would would be less than ideal to die, we headed back to the shelter and started what turned out to be a very stubborn fire.
I call it the accidental signal fire because all of the wood (even dead wood) within 500 yards of the shelter was greener than Peter Pan.
We tended to our feet for a good hour before setting up shop right inside the shelter.
Chris blazed his sock. Word to the wise - Wool + Fire = Bad. Even Wet Wool + Fire = Blazed.
Drying our drenched boots proved to be more difficult than anticipated so we figured they'd be better off with more heat, AKA throwing them in the fire.
Our minor adversity was complimented by an amazing evening.
After our amazing fire, fresh socks, and a quick moment of relaxation at the edge of the shelter, we battened down the hatches and prepared for a cold night.
We awoke to the sound of birds and the sight of boots frozen solid.
Hiking in frozen boots is generally a Really Bad Idea, if not impossible, so I cracked some toe warmers and started the fire again. After a couple thousand jumping jacks to get warm in the well below freezing cold, we headed off in the opposite direction to Stratton Pond.
The hike to the Pond was characterized by gorgeous rolling hills and bad hair.
The four and a half mile hike to the pond was gorgeous, if not surprisingly long. We took a break at the water and continued on around the pond. We made the decision to skip Stratton Mountain because of our tattered boots. This was unfortunate because I really wanted to see the view from the fire tower but you've gotta be safe.
We greatly enjoyed the hike around Stratton before heading back to the Escape. We Steri-Penned some water on the way back but other than that we just booked it. We enjoyed the view from Prospect Rock again before running into a couple of Southbound AT hikers looking for the trail. Both looked fresh out of town and both had dogs. Very Cool.
After an uneventful but relaxing hike back we finally arrived back at the SUV and headed into Manchester for some goodies. Another weekend, another hike, another joyous experience owed to the hills of New England.
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