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Best Damn Weekend Ever: Vermont’s Bourn Pond-Stratton Pond Loop

Hike this burly wonder to find out what inspired the Appalachian and Long Trail's founders.

From Douglas Shelter to Bourn Pond, it’s a rolling three miles through head-high goldenrod and prime moose habitat. With 5,000 of these large ungulates now roaming through Vermont’s woodlands, it’s hard to miss their scat and hand-size hoof prints. After a half-dozen stream crossings, you’ll come alongside Bourn Pond. Drop your pack and go for a swim in the cool water, and then let the resident loons provide lunchtime background music.

Air dry, then continue east for 1.8 miles on Lye Brook Trail. Look for wild raspberries among the jumble of tree trunks as you pass through the remnants of a 2003 microburst. Stratton Pond lies over the next rise, just outside of the wilderness boundary. It’s the largest body of water on the Long Trail, more like a small lake than a pond. The hulk of 3,936-foot Stratton Mountain looms large across the water. Head to the south side of the pond and drop your pack at the three-bunk-high Stratton Pond Shelter.

From the pond, it’s a mellow 3.1-mile ascent on smooth trail through dense sugar maples to the top of Stratton Mountain. The fire tower on its summit is a national historic landmark, and is credited with inspiring two of the country’s landmark paths: Vermont’s Long Trail was conceived here in 1910 by James P. Taylor; and Benton MacKaye’s AT vision followed in 1921. From 55 feet above the ground, the tower-top vista extends well into Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York. Return to Stratton Pond for another swim or to cast a fly. State officials stock Stratton Pond with brook trout, which get little pressure due to the trek to get there.

On Sunday morning, take the AT/LT south, back into the Lye Brook Wilderness. From here, it’s a leisurely eight-mile finish as you meander through hardwoods and cross a footbridge over the Winhall River. Then close the loop near Prospect Rock and head downhill to the trailhead.

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