Hiker Madness! In our haste to take advantage of the 5 or so days of perfect weather forecasted for our 6-day vacation, our first day’s hike turned out to be a pretty hefty one (as in straight UP) hike just a few miles from Smitty’s family cabin, at Groton State Park, near Peacham, VT. Views were great but ouch, my heart-rate was sky-high more than once, as we trudged on a seemingly endless, giant Stairmaster up, up, up a mountainside in the northern section of Groton.
Our butts were draggin’ seriously when we got back to the cabin after a 4-hour excursion. I was hungry enuf to eat a bear, but instead put the teriyaki-marinated chicken tenders on the grill, sat down on the cabin porch, and enjoyed the narrow view carved through the towering trees of Harvey Lake, seen from atop the steep hill where the cabin is perched. Knees, calves and quads objected strenuously when I tried to lever myself up from my perch to turn the chicken. I didn’t sit down again until I was sure I wasn’t gonna hafta move for awhile. Talk about stiff and sore!
Our arrival day was hot, humid and hazy as we drove the 3.5 hrs up to the cabin from Logan airport in Boston. A gentle cold front came through, with little rain, and for days afterward we enjoyed temps in the low 50s at night, awoke to 55 degree mornings and by 10am we were hiking in shorts and sleeveless Cool Max shirts. Crisp, cool, fresh air- what an amazing (and welcome) respite from the unrelenting heat wave in the south, now well into its 4th month with no end in sight!
Nights and days the Loon pair hooted and cried their mournful cries out on the lake. I thought it an unusually quiet summer, with less traffic on the lake than I’ve seen in the past, to which Smitty and her sis Cynthia agreed. They should know, they’re both in their 80s and have spent summers here throughout their lives.
Staying in this simple frame (non-winterized) cabin is, to me, a pleasure. I like the turn-of-the-20th-century ambiance and how very, very little the entire region has changed (relatively) since the early European settlement period, circa late 1700s! Check out the pix here!
However. Simplicity and ruggedness only go so far when 4 women share one very recalcitrant toilet! This turned into a real, er, “issue” for the first 3 days of our visit. We managed to make do by visiting Smitty’s cousin’s nearby cabin for relief stops, but that place had its own problems- no water pressure! Eventually the old toilet and tank were replaced by a 21st century low-flush fixture that worked (thankfully) like a charm.
Meanwhile, back at the hiking, after fortifying ourselves with a hearty breakfast at Polly’s Pancake Parlor, and enjoying the magnificent views of the Franconia area of the White Mountains, NH from Polly’s parking area, we headed on into the notch.
That old familiar, slight queasy feeling of being squeezed between towering peaks struck me again as we drove within this section. I believe this is one of the most beautiful, awesome and breathtaking 10 vehicular miles or so of mountain scenery to be had this side of the Rockies. At the northern end, one is bracketed by majestic massifs with near-vertical faces on one side and a huge rock slide down almost the entire side of a towering mountain on the other side. I’ve been up and down this section of highway year after year, in rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog and hot, hazy sunshine and it never fails to move me. Many times the ceiling has been a mere 100 or so feet above our vehicle, and driving through the lowered ceiling at such times compounds the squeeze effect, yet somehow makes me feel cozy, so closely hemmed in and bound to a given geographic spot.
But I wax goofy. The whole effect simply can’t be captured in still pix or video, or apparently, in words.
The hikes, however, continued to tax our physical reserves. Although we try to “tune up” for hikes in the north Georgia mountains near our home, hiking at these elevations, in this steep terrain, remains difficult and demanding. But, we push ourselves and, time and again, are rewarded by incredible experiences and breathtaking views or waterfalls or both. And, to me, the final payoff is sitting in the car after the hike, sweaty, breathless, thirsty and often ravenously hungry, just knowing that we are young enough, fit enough and (likely) stubborn enough to make it, often well within the “average” estimated round-trip timetable for a given hike. OK so we aren’t 20-somethings running up and down mountain trails like goats, and the stiff and sore joints and flare-ups of old injuries remind us there’s a price to pay for our basically sedentary lives. But it’s a price we’re happy to pay, for as long as we can.
View pix of this trip Here. More detail about Harvey Lake, Smitty’s family cabin, and previous hiking in the area, along with photos, can be found in an earlier post entitled “New England Drenched Summer”.
What a way to start a vacation. I came down with a nasty chest-then-head cold 2 days before we left so I was a mess. Robin caught the thing the 2nd nite we were there. It rained for 5 days, hard, night and day in VT and NH. Creeks and rivers flooded. We did manage to squeeze in a coupla short hikes in-between showers and managed to get thoroughly soaked on another hike later in the week. Mostly we hung out at my surrogate mother’s family cabin on a mountain, overlooking a lake in a lovely corner of what’s known as The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. We spent a lot of time coughing and blowing our noses and going thru 5 boxes of Kleenex (!) Smitty didn’t catch our cold, thank goodness– she had one 2 weeks earlier and I think she was immune. Good thing, because at 79 years young, she didn’t need to catch a cold.
One always eats well, considering there are fresh veggies from local farms available every day, and fresh berries ripening all over, in every ditch, beside every road, and along every hiking trail. I grilled on the hibachi every nite, we had chicken and locally-grown steaks. We did a good job catering to Smitty, cooking and buying groceries and washing and putting up dishes. She really enjoyed our company and being treated with the respect she seldom gets from her kids. Also, since she had surgery on her knee last summer she’s pretty limited in her mobility so we took care of stuff that needed to be taken care of in the cabin, which is 100 years old this year!
We all read books and I kept the fireplace going on the cool nites until bedtime (9pm latest). It was soooo quiet, the only sounds at night were the rain drumming on the roof and the Loons calling out on the lake, which was a real treat to hear again. Two nites it rained so hard they didn’t call at all.
We spent time up in the town of St. Johnsbury VT, about a 30 min trip up the Interstate, and the nearest town of any size. We found a cute bookstore/coffee house where we hung out, drinking lattes and reading books. I spent more $ on novels than anything else (besides gas) the entire trip. I did hafta buy a foul weather jacket (bright yellow) from the Army store cuz I discovered my light windbreaker was just that, hardly rain-proof. Of course I had to discover it in the middle of a hike when it started to pour. It was raining harder under my jacket than outside. Sheesh.
I think it was Tuesday when we went to Groton State park near Smitty’s cabin- it’s in the Green mountains of VT and has some good hikes. We started out around a lake but suspected it would be really wet and muddy. Well, not only was the trail a muddy morass, we soon ran into a mess of bear tracks going and coming on that trail, which was full of ripe blueberry bushes on both sides of the track. I took some pix of the tracks next to my boot then it started to rain harder so we headed back to the car, but not before I signed in “Bear” a mere 5 mins behind our outbound time in the official trail sign-up notebook. If anyone bothered to read the thing they might get a chuckle.
The weather did break by Friday so we got a short hike in that morning at a place in the incredible Franconia Notch area of the Presidential range of the White mountains in NH, which is about an hour’s drive from Smitty’s cabin. I’ve been on this Falling Waters trail lotsa times. But not after a week of hard rains. It was so wet I slipped and fell on my right hip and got a huge strawberry on my upper leg, ouch. After that I was kinda shaky on my feet, didn’t trust my boots any more (I need to replace them- worn soles). The wet-foot river crossing I recalled had turned into a raging torrent, no surprise.
We didn’t dare try to cross on the soaked and slippery tree logs that were rocking in the blasting water and foam so we went back and off on a different hike nearby to Lonesome Lake, gaining over 1,000 ft in elevation across 1.2 miles of terrain. It nearly killed us but we made it up and over that mountain in 1:30, only 15 mins behind the average time, so I was proud we could do that, considering we were both still coughing and hacking and blowing noses. Beautiful place and photos made it worth the climb up and all the clambering back down the slippery trail.
Sat. morning we said our goodbyes to Smitty very early and were on another trail by 8:30am, up another mountain. This trail was fairly dry and, while steep, not like the one up to Lonesome Lake had been the day before. Nice views of the surrounding White mountains rewarded us after climbing up a long crack on a mountain bald. Then we headed on back to Boston, which was about 2.5 hrs drive. We ate at the famous Clam Box in Ipswitch, Robin’s newest favorite New England restaurant. (I had lived in Ipswitch for a couple of years). Then we hung out in Newburyport, just up the road from Ipswitch, down at the river, watching boats and walked around an art show, then headed to the airport to turn in the car and wait a few hours for our delayed flight to take us back to Atlanta.
All in all it was good we had the forced relaxation to recover from our colds. Plus we spent more time hanging with Smitty, which was nice. We never got to swim in the lake, even tho I got into it in my underwear to save a piece of Smitty’s cousin Lorna’s dock when it tried to float away in the flooded lake. I gained a few points for that effort, even if the photo of me in my underwear makes me look ridiculous.