Monday, October 17, 2016

Chasing Summits

     It was a year ago that we visited.  I wrote about it back then as a destination to revisit.  The summer ski slopes of Stowe, the winding, twisting roads of Smugglers Notch, and the peak of Mount Mansfield.  A year ago we turned back as the afternoon caught up to us and my wife's body betrayed her, lungs heaving, legs burning.  We vowed we would return.  The mountain has haunted us for all that time, daring us, taunting us, always calling.
     Again, as in our previous road trip to Vermont this year, our time would be abbreviated but we knew what to expect and what needed to be done.  We would arrive at night to ensure an early start and also a good night's sleep, along with a hearty dinner to fuel our hike.  Prohibition Pig was more than expected, a wonderful BBQ menu of locally-sourced everything paired with some of the finest local beer and cider.  The feast brought the contented sleep that only a full belly could and dreams filled with happy dinner plates would follow.
     The morning breeze welcomed us to Smugglers Notch and we collected some geocahces as we waited for the mountain road to open.  This area is an outdoor mecca even during the summer months, with bouldering, hiking, biking of all sorts, kayaking, and canoeing, all in large supply.  The quick searches for geocaches with their mini-hikes served as a warm-up for the morning's goal.  And, so, we were ready.
     The road to the upper parking lot was the same.  The trail keeper's house was still the same.  The trail signs were still the same.  But, quickly, the trail had become different.  Within 20 minutes, the landscape had changed.  My wife could not believe that in such a short amount of time we had covered the section of mountain from last year and were on our way to the summit of the mountain.  There were some scrambles and some narrow ridges and some steep walking.  There was bugs and breezes and sun and clouds and views in every direction.  We had lunch above Stowe and looked out at Canada and Lake Champlain.  We had reached this summit and then left it behind.  A filling mid-afternoon Reuben, fresh cider to celebrate, and a stop for Vermont cheddar would complete our day.
     Our journey home would have us visit the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, a place of joy my kids have not visited since they were in strollers and the tour never disappoints.  It would swing us by Dakin Farms and a bag full of smoked snacks for the miles pointing south.  A few more waypoints would steer us on to the highway and the happy snores of a successful trip.  It was short.  It was sweet.  It was filling for the body and the soul.  It was another trip to remember but it was also a trip to reflect on.
     A year ago we had left the mountain and headed home, somewhat defeated.  My youngest daughter vowed to return at some point, with or without us, and hike to the top.  She pleaded with her mother to be better prepared the next time or, perhaps, stay in the car so that my daughter would not be forced to turn back.  Months later my wife returned, 60 pounds lighter and determined to achieve the summit with her daughter.  This was more than a morning hike, it was a year-long journey which has seemingly transformed into a longer quest.  Upon that summit my daughter and my wife talked of reaching other summits on other mountains in other states.  Some we are already planning to visit while others may well take a lifetime to reach.  But this one little mountain with a short hike has already left its mark.  I am proud of my daughter for being so resolute and so motivational.  I am proud of my wife for being so determined.  They are both an inspiration.
     And so we begin to chase the next summit.

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