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Abbey Pond: Nature's beauty close to home

Abbey Pond Trail is a perfect escape from the stresses of today's bad news. Personally, I can't wait to get outside and commune with nature; Abbey Pond Trail in Addison County is my ideal place to enjoy nature's local beauty.

My friend Karen Gilmore accompanied me on a recent hike to this popular pond. It's a four-mile roundtrip hike from the trailhead to Abbey Pond, an important bird nesting area.

To get there from the junction of Route s116 and 125 in East Middlebury, take 116 north 2.3 miles to a sign for the Abbey Pond Trail. Turn right on a gravel road that leads 0.3 miles to the trailhead. There is plenty of parking spaces available.

The Abbey Pond area is actually on a mountaintop flat, and it's an ecologically rich locale with marshes and cascades. The foot-only trail climbs 1,200 feet from the trailhead to the pond.

At the start at the trailhead sign it's easy for novice hikers to get discouraged. While the beginning is disappointing visually, the trail soon leads up into the woods and to a welcome change of scenery.

At this point, only 0.2 miles from the trailhead, a bridge spans the outlet brook of Abbey Pond. By foot, it takes scarcely five minutes to reach the brook. Several beautiful but small cascades grace the brook above and below the bridge. Be sure to explore the area completely. It's a beautiful spot.

The first third of this hike is the most enjoyable. There are large boulders that can be scaled if you're so inclined, uprooted trees, and large tree limbs across the trail to climb over or crawl underneath-many of these fallen limbs may be evidence of recent microbursts or the Ice Storm of 1997.

The trail follows the stream and then crosses back over it. You will follow the outlet stream of Abbey Pond. Be prepared to cross the streams, some of which you will have to wade through. After that, it's basically a good cardio workout up the incline with the same views of the same trees. It takes about 1.5 hours up this steady incline. It's rocky, so be careful. For about 0.5 miles it is a calm, even walk-without hills-and so you can rest from the climb a bit. However, Karen and I hiked this trail during a wet time, so the trail was muddy; my foot came out of my poorly secured walking shoe a few times.

Tread softly on the trail. Watch where you step-we came across a blue robin's egg that had fallen from a nest.

At a leisurely pace, it takes about one hour to return to the trailhead parking lot. If you need more information, consult a Vermont hiking guide resource such as "The Day Hiker's Guide to Vermont". On a warm day, be prepared and bring lots of water since the local stream and pond water is not potable without boiling it first.

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