Sadly, this is one time the meteorologists got it right, except that it was all so wrong. Predicted clouds and rain was all we saw. Lots of clouds and way too much rain. Oh, the colors of fall were all there. Mile after mile on any drive, we were constantly amazed by all the color. It just did not pop in the mind-blowing way that the flattering light of early morning or late afternoon would have on rich hues of the endless forest that surrounded us.
We still enjoyed every minute of our time with Kelly. The state of Vermont is so small that getting any where really takes no time. After last Saturday’s rugby match, we cleaned up and drove to Woodstock. This was not the Max Yasgur farm that hosted “three days of peace and music” in 1969. That was New York. This was Vermont’s Woodstock, a small hamlet famed for its beauty. Budweiser chose Woodstock as the perfect place for their massive Clydesdale horses to pull the brewery’s wagon through the snow-covered village for one of its commercials. The Rockefeller family calls Woodstock their summer home.
All this was great, but even Kelly knows that Laura and I can go only so long without some exercise. She suggested we tackle a trail running out of South Royalton. We needed fuel for our Sunday climb and the Sugar House delivered. Pancakes. Kelly’s favorite food.
The Sugar House is a classic. What that means is that it is old, rambling and filled with lots of junk that keeps customers entertained while waiting for a table. We picked out a stuffed moose to take home to grandson Jake, but passed on all the rubber band guns I wanted to pick up for him. The idea behind the first Cracker Barrel chain restaurant had to have come from the Sugar House. Since it was October, Laura and Kelly topped pumpkin pancakes with real Vermont maple syrup. Then we were off to climb a mountain.
Our plan was to hike to Kent’s Ledge. We had no idea what that meant but off we strode in the rain. The actual climb was only two miles, but we immediately encountered steep pitches on the heavily tree rooted trail filled with huge chunks of slate rock. Soon after, Kelly realized for the first time that the climb was not going to be a gentle walk. She called for the first of numerous breaks.
Knowing this was her idea, Kelly could only lament, “I can’t even blame this on you.”
Laura and I wanted to fly, but this was a family effort, and I wanted to take many photographs, so we waited. The canopy of trees sheltered us from the worst of the rain. Since there were bear warning signs on most of our Vermont travels, Laura cranked up the volume of her iTunes on her phone. She even selected songs by the short-lived but very good Topeka garage band The Bears to scare off any bears.
That led to one of those Jacobsen classics where out of the goodness of my heart I promised I would throw my old body in front of any charging bear to spare their young lives. Immediately Kelly picked up on this and started plotting appearances on the Today Show, Jimmy Kimmel and with all her other favorite television stars to discuss her father’s selfless act and the whole back story.
“Who knows, it might even make a 127 Hours type story and movie about this climb,” she said. “Who would play you in the movie, Dad?”
Before I could answer Laura jumped in to say she wanted current 007 star Daniel Craig to play me.
“Yea, and you will make sure you get to play all the love scenes,” I let her know. “At least I would want to be the body double,” Laura gushed.
Kelly’s last casting plea was for some creative licensing to make sure she was married to Ryan Gosling in the movie.
“And, I would just be dead,” I added as we brought that conversation to a close.
As we moved along enjoying the fall color, Laura suddenly realized we had climbed into the clouds. That color was now muted in a shade of pale. The idea of climbing into the clouds would make you believe our elevation really had soared. However, a check later helped us understand the wonder of the mountains in New England.
We left South Royalton at an elevation of only 492 feet. Topeka’s elevation tops that at 945 feet. The summit of the climb at Kent’s Ledge is 1,479 feet. That does not seem like much of a feat, but the steepness of those 1,000 feet reminded Kelly that friends told her the ski mountains of Vermont were not a good place to learn because of their steepness.
Finally, we reached the ledge that sticks far out into what was a white abyss thanks to all the heavy clouds. That was the one great disappointment. We stood on the huge slate rock ledge knowing that on a clear day we would be looking down on all of God’s glory stretching out as far as we could see.
Before we could get caught up in the missed opportunity, Kelly piped up, “I’m proud I didn’t puke up my pumpkin pancakes.”
Well said. Time to head home. We roared down the climb with Kelly now invigorated enough to tweet “Today I hiked into the clouds.”
Despite all her moaning and groaning, Kelly’s woes were only in her head due to the uncertainty of what lay ahead at the start of the climb. That is unusual for Kelly who has proven with her course of studies and the jobs she has held that what lay ahead is the opportunity to make positive change and the world a better place to live.
We are proud of her for that effort just as we are of the effort her sister, Julie, is making to raise our beloved grandson. The hike to Kent’s Ledge proved again that it is never bad to hike into the clouds.
Come spring, Laura and I intend to make that climb in Vermont again, and blitz it hopefully without a cloud in sight as we creep out to the edge of the ledge again.