To celebrate Jana’s birthday, Joanne, Larry, Bill and I joined her and Tom at their vacation home in Vermont this weekend. We drove up Friday night after work, stopped for a quick bite, arrived around 10:00. We talked and watched TV until, one by one, we all drifted off to our rooms to catch some shut-eye.
I woke up Saturday morning, made my way downstairs to join the others for breakfast. I arranged an apple cinnamon bread, bananas and bowl of clementines on the dining room table. Jana scrambled eggs and fried up some bacon for the few that eat meat. Larry sautéed onions, then tossed potatoes he had cut into neat cubes into the pan, making the best home fries I’ve ever eaten. We drank orange juice, coffee, tea.
Tom worked on a crossword puzzle, Joanne read from her kindle, the rest of us scanned the newspapers and magazines littering the table, all the while talking to each other. Larry and Tom planned their gym workout, Joanne and Jana their walk, Bill and I our snow shoe route. We were staying in a condo at the base of Mt. Ascutney; the mountain’s been closed for four years but it didn’t keep kids from sledding and tubing down the slopes and it wouldn’t keep us from scaling them.
It was a slow start, none of us in any hurry to leave the warmth and comfort of our digs. Breakfast digested and caffeine coursing through our veins, Bill and I carried our shoes and poles up the road and across the street to the base of the mountain. Stepping into our shoes, poles strapped to our wrists, we started our trek up. Forgoing the trails we cut our own path, followed what was left of the North Peak Express High Speed lift. The chairs were gone, the cables too, but we used large cement blocks that jutted out of the snow and had once supported steel towers as a landmark, followed them up to the Catwalk.
We dressed warm, layering sub-zero tights under our pants, wicking shirts under our jackets, glove liners under our mittens. Our hats covered our head to the top of our eyes, gators protected our neck and mouth but when the wind blew it felt like tiny needles pricking our cheeks, the only exposed part of us. It was slow going, the pitch was steep; we stopped often to take pictures and see how high we were. We stepped over trees and shrubs, naked for the winter, dug into the icy patches with our spiked toes. It was clear and crisp, a great day to be breathing in the cold fresh air.
Following Catwalk we stumbled onto the Sunrise Chair lift; the forgotten rows of double chairs, with cracked leather seats and rusted hinges were frozen in time. Back at the condo Tom told us the other lifts had been sold but Sunrise, not worth anything, had been left behind.
Not wanting to miss an afternoon trip into Woodstock, we backtracked to an access road we had crossed and started our descent. Looking up and out we saw Okemo Mountain in the distance, blue skies, white clouds. Looking down and around we saw clusters of buildings amid large expanses of snow-covered land. Without a map or guidance, and limited time, we got about halfway up Mt. Ascutney. Now that we know what to expect, we’re looking forward to snow shoeing our way through more of the mountain and its trails on our next visit.