On a brisk MLK Day morning, Yvonne, another friend, and I headed to the Stratton Pond area for some more time playing outdoors in the snow. This time, though, was something very different for Yvonne and me– Cross country skiing instead of snowshoeing. Yvonne had found a used pair earlier in the season, and I snagged my brother’s pair from my parents last week, so it seemed like a good time to test them out.
After several years of my only winter activity being on snowshoes, strapping a pair of long boards to my feet doesn’t feel the least bit natural, but I can see why people like them. Gliding over packed snow is effortless, once you learn how to balance without falling over. Of course, that takes plenty of time and practice in itself.
I’d never been to Grout Pond, mostly because Stratton Pond and Mountain are so close by and offer fine hiking opportunities. But this day it seemed like a good plan to head south from the Kelley Stand Road instead of north, going along a snowmobile/ski trail to the edge of the pond, then along the edge of the pond’s perimeter.
Cruising around the pond, we had some nice views up to Mount Snow and Stratton Mountain, despite the overcast. It’s funny to think about, but the area near Grout Pond is pretty similar to near Little Lyford Ponds, where I worked in northern Maine for a winter. There are a bunch of nice, tall mountains, remote ponds, and generally few visitors. Grout Pond certainly had more traffic on skis than northern Maine, and the sight of ski resort trails would have been out of place at Little Lyford, but there aren’t many places in Vermont with so many undeveloped bodies of water– Grout Pond, Stratton Pond, Bourn Pond, Branch Pond. You could have a hell of a time wandering around this remarkably flat area on skis for a few days.
The only gripe I had about the day was my new Panasonic Lumix TS4, a Christmas present that I just can’t get the hang of. The camera gets rave reviews all over the Internet, but most of my landscape shots have been turning out way too dark (see all pictures from this trip). Yvonne has the same problem with her Lumix DMC-ZS8 that she got last year. We both switched from using Canons for the past several years, so I wonder if it’s something that we got used to while using the Canon cameras and is fundamentally different in Panasonics. I know I always aim a little high with Canons to make sure the sky isn’t totally washed out. Any Panasonic users out there want to help me figure out what’s wrong with me?
The day was relatively short– neither Yvonne nor I have totally developed the muscle sets for cross country skiing, so we started falling more and more as the day drew on. Looking at the map, though, I was super excited to come back for some more skiing. With the Catamount Trail running right by Grout Pond, and connecting it to Somerset Reservoir and Stratton Pond, along with plenty of snowmobile trails to make for easy skiing, I can imagine myself killing a whole lot of this winter getting used to the new mode of transportation.