Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Summer Vacation Part VII: Northern VT

Back on the road with my two little munchkins in the back seat.  They are champion road-trippers, and while we all miss Alexe when she skips out on the long drives and flies home, I love pointing the car in a direction and just going.  Annaliese and Caspian snooze, chatter with each other, ask random questions, bop around to music, or merrily watch Pinky and the Brain as we roll along.

We made it to Underhill and settled into a.Natalie and u.William's house before heading over to a.Caitlin and u.Jim's for dinner.  (The kids came by way of u.William's farm, where they spent a couple hours in the barn doing real farm chores with a bona fide herd of 60+ dairy cows.) There was some bathing, a tasty meal, and the kids stayed up late watching a movie while I chattered with my big sister. We didn't get them back to their bed until waaay too late.

And yet, the next morning when I woke up and came downstairs, they had apparently been up for some time, and found plenty to do.

u.William still has all his childhood toys.  And he likes to share.

a.Natalie was intent on taking a hike, and she had picked the steep approach of Smuggler's Notch.  We suited up, filled the water bottles and backpack with snacks, and headed out.

The steep approach is a collection of stone stairs, some assembled by lots of human effort, most simply a series of boulders that can be scrambled up.  Caspian led the way, often with a 50 yard lead.  William marched along without (for the most part) mentioning how pointless hiking is if you're not looking for moose sign or tapping maple trees. Annaliese whined constantly about going back, mostly because she knew it annoyed me.  a.Natalie, climbing for 2, and managing a diabetic system that takes pregnancy as an opportunity to #$%&^ with predictable blood sugar reactions, methodically worked her way up with many rests, and only one pee break.

The destination at the top of the mountain, this lovely pond.

Expectant parents.  They dream big, and are stubborn enough to make things happen in the face of all sorts of challenges.  They're going to be great.

Alexe had arrived back in MS, and reminded me that it was blistering hot at home, and the water would be warm and brown.  It inspired me to jump in every cold, clear body of water I saw for the rest of our time in the North.  The kids took some cajoling, but they came in eventually. (I'm the head out in the middle.)

From the pond we went up a little further to the top of the ski lifts at Smuggler's Notch.  The view out towards one of their water reservoirs, used for making snow.  I love land that undulates like this.  Oddly makes me feel the size and shape of the earth more than the wide open and flat expanses of the South and West. 

The kids had never seen a ski lift before.

We may remedy that this winter.  After all, there will be a cousin to visit in Vermont in the winter months!

We made it down the mountain without incident, and lots of whining from little ones who were forced to hold my hands on the dangerous spots.  

Like everything in Vermont, it required celebrating with full fat soft serve.

We headed back to a.Caitlin and u.Jim's house for yet another delicious meal.  This is the second of three nights they graciously fed the clan at their house. 

a.Caitlin rocked a series of Doctor Who and Sherlock shirts.

The parents arrived, slightly delayed by a flat tire on the interstate.  The delay might have been slighter if their spare had been inflated, or if they had a cell phone, or if they had an AAA membership.  Luckily a good samaritan saved their day.

This could have been a conversation about gun control, or Bernie Sanders, or something else where opinions differ.  We're a hard headed crew.

We learned our lesson and the kids were taken back to their bed and tucked in at a semi-reasonable hour.  They beat me out of bed again, and I came down to find them with Natalie and William making maple sugar candies.

We took a short trip to u.William's latest expansion project, his very own Sugar House.  Up to last year he was working his 150 acres of sugar woods and wholesaling the sap.  This year he took the plunge and built a state of the art boiling operation to produce his own syrup.

This is his shiny reverse osmosis machine that removes a good percentage of the water from the sap before boiling.  It saves a great deal of energy cost on the boiling side.  

And this is the super-duper boiling rig.  I hope we'll be up here to see this all in action one year.

We loaded down the Volt with liquid gold, headed to the shelves of the BTC.

We regrouped with the rest of the clan and headed to a nearby water fall.  

Two and a half generations here:

We did a little swimming at the waterfall, and headed back to a.Caitlin's house where we were joined by Dan and his kids.  A few members of the troupe fell asleep.

Others of us suited up and headed up the nearby mountain.

Where we visited the perfect Vermont swimming hole.  Shaped like a seashell, it descends to over my head where the water flows through the narrow canyon it has worn away in the rocks.

Caspian came right in, once.

Annaliese took a little convincing.

But eventually she made it.

The walk back down the mountain was delayed by attempts to create a stick-themed hair-do.

And then:  Goodbyes were said to the grandparents before they headed home. A final meal was prepared by a.Caitlin and u.Jim and consumed by us all, and we headed to bed early.  The next morning, (Monday) everyone headed back to work, and the kids and I hopped back in the Volt and started for home.

We drove across the top of New York and down through Ohio.  There were a few stops, mostly for fuel and family hang out time in rest rooms.  (The outside world is not as safe as Water Valley, so when one person has to go to the bathroom, that means we all get to hang out, for as long as it takes...)

And before we knew it we were somewhere between Cleveland and Cincinnati, and it was late.  We passed a clean looking hotel and called to reserve a room while we went around the corner to a steak house for dinner. 

For a late night meal in a fancy restaurant, these two were good company.

When we walked into the hotel room Caspian declared, "Home sweet home!"

We did some sleeping, woke up, and headed downstairs for an early morning swim.

Back upstairs for a bath.

Dressed and ready for the road, we had some hotel breakfast.

And then drove 800 miles.  Like champions.

We stopped an hour away from home for dinner at a sushi place...

And rocketed home.  

Where everything I ever wanted was waiting.  

Summer Vacation Part VI: Southern VT

What to do when you're in Vermont.  First thing's first, leave the kids with their grandparents, and take a long drive with your girl to explore all the produce/farm stands and country stores!  The shelves in this one merit a picture:

u.William and a.Natalie came down to the parent's house for a short evening visit. Another event Caspian had been waiting on, seeing u.William.  (Apologies to ourselves and everyone else: Fishing and u.William are above us on Caspian's list of favorite things.)

That right there is my little sister, by 7 years, with my very first nephew in her belly!!!

And full-fat chocolate-vanilla-swirl soft serve.

u.William.  There will be many more of these two...

!!!  That little guy will be Annaliese and Caspian's first first-cousin.

The next day Alexe and I headed to our cabin in Shrewsbury, VT, leaving the kids with their grandparents while we took one night to prepare the cabin and enjoy each other's company in the peaceful Vermont mountains, sans children.

The guardian angle of our family, h.u.Harry (honorary-uncle), followed us up to our access road with a four wheeler he lent us for the occasion. (While our Volt is still the car of my dreams, we weren't ready to pit it against the 700 ft of class 4 road that stands between civilization and the beginning of our driveway.)

As we toodled down the half mile of our driveway, we realized h.u.Harry had cut the year's worth of grass on our driveway and around the pond in preparation for our 2 day visit. He's amazing.

Our little cabin, almost 10 years old now, built in 30 days, is aging very nicely.  A little sweeping, 20 minutes spent tinkering with the gravity-fed water system, and we were up and running.

The fountain, (see the summer of 2012 for pictures of the kids helping build this,) functions as the outlet for the water system when the shower or sink is not in use, a lovely source of background noise, and our refrigerator.  The water is freezing cold, piped from the inlet to the pond.

The screen porch, looking south over the mountains.

Water lines go to the solar water heater on the roof of the porch.  It doesn't heat the water so much as take the bone-chill out of it.  Unfortunately it's nearly impossible to get an iphone camera to capture the endless view of the mountains that appear here as a white fog.

A view from the pond shows them a little better.

With the cabin squared away we drove into the little town of Shrewsbury, population right around 1,000, and hit up the co-op for two days worth of snacks.  We retired to our little cabin retreat, and enjoyed a lovely evening.  

We were joined for lunch the next day by Grandmaman and Grandpapa, and two very happy little kids.  We had lunch at the cabin, and walked to the pond for some swimming.

Well, the kids tried.  They made it to their belly-buttons this year.  It is indescribably cold water.

(Alexe did her annual swim across the pond after the grandparents left, I had done mine the night before.)

The grandparents.

We talk about having a four wheeler of our own, but can't come up with a reason to buy something that costs more than a decent used 4 wheel drive toyota pickup, and has a much smaller set of practical uses.  They're still super fun to play with.

Later Grandmaman told us how fun it was to ride behind her husband for the first time since they cruised around on his BMW motorcycle, before they had kids, 40+ years ago.

We settled into cabin life with the kids, for the short time we had carved out for this.  Annaliese and Caspian know their way around, and were far more independent than they've ever been.

We packed in all the cabin-activities we could, with many snacks, fires, and wood wanderings.

A new activity we found was suddenly fun and possible, was picking a direction and heading out into the woods for a hike.  Our property borders the Appalachian Trail, and we always knew it was over there somewhere on the other side of the stone wall that borders our property on that side, but we had never gone looking for it.  300 yards into the government land, and we found a little foot-path leading straight up, (or down) the mountain.  We followed it up to the top of the mountain, and kept going in what we thought was a Westerly direction, which would have taken us back above our cabin.  A little while later I pulled out the compass and found we were headed in the opposite direction, and we did a little back-tracking.  I still don't know how hiking up to the top of the mountain and turning left got us so turned around.

Anyhow, the trail is nicely maintained, and a hoot to walk and ponder all the feet that have walked it in the past.  Caspian had a little trouble staying on the trail.

We packed up, said goodbye to our little cabin, and headed back to my parent's house for an overnight stay.  The next morning I took Alexe to the airport, (she had to be home in time to cook the Saturday breakfast shift,) and I circled back to pick up the kids.

On our way out of town, (headed north to visit the aunts and uncles,) we stopped at h.u.Harry's house to say thank you.  He had been hoping we would stop, and has set up a playground for the kids.  The toy was a bulldozer.  He spent 3 minutes showing each of them how to run it, (forward/reverse, two track controls, and the blade lifting joystick,) and set them loose.

And they drove around for 10 minutes each in a bulldozer.

At first Caspian's leg wasn't long enough for him to push the gas pedal.  He repositioned, and suddenly he was doing donuts.

They both really liked it.  Caspian maybe a little too much.

Hugs and smooches were given and received, and we packed into the Volt for another couple hours on the road.