Dan and Hannah Hike a 3-Pack in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

Annie Creek at Mazama Village

  1. Crater Peak:

Just past Vidae Falls on the Crater Lake Rim Road on an early August Monday,

CP SIGN

we turn right on a winding gravel driveway down to the trailhead for the Crater Peak Trail.

A lonely car is in the lot at 9A, but no one is in sight at the height of the tourist season.  In one trail guide description of the Crater Peak trail, it says a highlight of the trail is the solitude.  Labeled a strenuous hike of 6.8 miles round trip, it is the first of today’s three hikes and the most demanding.

On this 57 degree morning, we start at 6700 feet on a trail that steadily meanders up through a Douglas fir forest.  Despite its name, Crater Peak has no view of Crater Lake itself.

Fact is, this is not an amazing hike.  It’s pedestrian.  It fills the bill as a satisfactory morning of exercise as we breathe noticeably, heading to the summit.  Maybe the smoky conditions from the wildfire have colored our impression.

Hannah hiking at 6800'

Hannah hiking at 6800′

Heading for 7200 feet this morning, we hike relentlessly on a dry, packed dirt trail. Though easy on our feet, the trail means Hannah and I kick up clouds of volcanic dust.

Hannah lingers at a pine that brings back memories of her father's Christmas Tree farm of her youth

Hannah lingers at a pine that brings back memories of her father’s Christmas Tree farm of her youth

Over the last mile to the summit, the rocky trail steepens as we navigate around a mountain meadow.

Mountain meadow near the summit of Crater Peak

Mountain meadow near the summit of Crater Peak

After 70 minutes of hiking to the top, we see the smoke which hovers over the park from the Douglas Complex fire, which is 17% contained, 50 miles to our south.  Covered with a lava/pumice rocky mix, the summit, though unsuitable for lounging, offers expansive and yet murky views of the Klamath Basin to the southeast.

Returning for the trailhead, for the first time on any trail in the national parks that we’ve hiked in the West, we spot trash ten to twelve feet off the trail.  Two nasty Red Bull cans litter God’s good green earth.  It’s truly a sacrilege.

Crater Peak is a “check off the to do list” kind of hike, nothing earth shaking.  If you have the choice between Crater Peak and Garfield Peak (see my blog for September 20, 2013) , in a hiker’s minute choose the latter for its heart-stopping views of Crater Lake.

  1. Plaikni Falls

Open to the public in 2011, the brand, spanking new Plaikni Falls Trail is off the Crater Lake Rim Road near the turn off to the Phantom Ship.

Notice the snow pole to the left of the sign.  When winter snows come the snow pole guides the snowplows to stay on the road.

Notice the snow pole to the left of the sign. When winter snows come the snow pole guides the snowplows to stay on the road.

Though “serious hikers” may scoff at a one mile hike, Plaikni Falls delivers with a “whoa” just around the bend view of a waterfall.

pf trail explanation

Described as an easy hike, we walk on a level graded trail for a mile to the falls themselves at 70 degrees on this midday Monday. Named by the Klamath Tribes, Plaikni mean from the high country.  The falls tumble over a glacier-carved cliff from a spring at 7000 feet.

Hiking through an old growth forest, we wind and really just stroll along.  You can call this a hike, but it’s really a walk through the woods as the first three quarters of the trail are wheel chair accessible.

Plaikni Falls Trail

Plaikni Falls Trail

Being a mellow hike, the Plaikni Falls trail has many walkers and none of the solitude of the Crater Peak, which is not a bad thing at all.

Plaikni Falls

Plaikni Falls

Plaikni Falls

At noon today twenty to thirty people celebrate at the falls; mission accomplished for we “family” of out-of-staters.

Enjoy this 49 second video of D and H at Plaikni Falls

Above us the sky is bright blue, but in the distance, smoke from the wildfire whitens the sky.

It’s a delightful 45 minute hike in Nature’s Sofaraway From Home.

 

  1. Sun Notch

SUN 1 SIGN

The Sun Notch Trail is another simple one mile loop with some 150’ of elevation gain to 7050′ at the rim of Crater Lake.

As a short trail, it draws many visitors to see the Phantom Ship, a volcanic cone arising from Crater Lake.  This short uphill walk begins in a forest of Mountain Hemlock, then passes uphill through an open meadow of pumice to the very rim of Crater Lake.

Phantom Ship of Crater Lake

Phantom Ship of Crater Lake

The Phantom Ship is a natural rock pillar which derives its name from its resemblance to a ghost ship, especially in foggy and low-light conditions.

Heading for the trailhead on the Sun Notch Loop

Heading back for the trailhead on the Sun Notch Loop

It’s a gentle walk down from the lake that completes a most pleasing three pack of hikes.

At 2P, with our cabin at Mazama Village just twenty-five minutes away, we have time to relax before an evening hike to Annie Creek (see my blog of October 19. 2013).

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Dan and Hannah Hike Caleb’s Peak on the Appalachian Trail near Kent, Connecticut

If you didn’t know it before, you know it now.  We are early morning people!   Four hours from home in York, Maine lies Caleb Peak on the Appalachian Trail near Kent in western Connecticut.  To beat the Hartford, CT commuter traffic two and a half hours away, we set our alarm for 4A.  Off by 430A, we will not see sunrise til well after 7A  on this late October morning in New England.

State of Connecticut (We hiked in the western green section of the map.)

State of Connecticut (We hiked near Kent in the central part of the western green section of the map.)

Sailing through Hartford on I-84, we are quickly dumped onto suburban roads heading west.  Just after 7A, the school buses are out; parents driving kids to school line up to turn left into the school lot.  Dunkin’ Donuts, Cumberland Farms, and traffic lights keep us well under the 35 mph speed limit.  Patty’s Restaurant in Litchfield, CT, thirty minutes from our trailhead in Kent, CT, is our breakfast destination.

Ordering two eggs (over easy for me, over hard for Hannah), home fries, and toast for $4.25 each, we have ourselves a very basic breakfast; one that is hard to screw up.  And they don’t.  What I am reminded of is that a good breakfast does not make it a good breakfast experience.  Hear me out.

Dan and Hannah at Patty's Restaurant

Dan and Hannah at Patty’s Restaurant

For me, a good breakfast experience is complete with an engaging waitress.  On this morning, there are customers at only one other table in a restaurant of 12 to 15 tables.  So the waitresses have time to engage.  They are nice enough and attentive, but they don’t know I love to interact.  They are not mind readers!

It is I who blow it big time by not initiating the conversation and giving them the cue to fully engage with us.  I can make the excuse that I am groggy from driving 190 miles in the predawn, but a mirror shows who dropped the ball; so Hannah and I are filled but not satisfied.  I’ll do better next time.  I promise.

I am amused when I go the men’s room.

1 Patty's gnome

Just 30 minutes from our trailhead in Kent we wind along rural roads, appreciating the country homes out in the woods; and so very thankful that we live near town ourselves.

Kent, CT on the banks of Housatonic River

Kent, CT on the banks of Housatonic River

Arriving on Route 341, we blink and miss the town of Kent; we then cross the Housatonic River and turn right on Skiff Mountain Road at the playing fields of the Kent School.

1 kent school

It’s a mile on Skiff Mountain Road to a right turn on River Road, which we have been warned is not paved but gravel.  (We get excellent directions at this link – Caleb Peak Trail).

What we saw turning right on the gravelly River Road

What we see turning right on the gravelly River Road

River Road hugs the Housatonic River, and about a mile later Hannah’s eagle eye spots the very small AT sign at the trailhead.

AT symbol on a trailhead tree

AT symbol on a trailhead tree

Today will be my 9th of 14 AT states.  Previously (going south to north), I’ve hiked the AT in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  By the way, Hannah has run on the AT in North Carolina and is one up on me.

Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine

Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine

Though it’s only 1.2 miles of hiking to Caleb Peak, we see a mountain of stone before us; the guidebook promises 99 steps to make our way to the summit.  Heading south on the AT towards the looming mountain across from the Housatonic River, we are here in late October and most of the leaves have fallen.

Trail to Caleb's Peak in late October

Trail to Caleb’s Peak in late October

Our sometimes rocky trail is covered with brown leaves, but the white blazes (painted 8 inch splashes of white paint) on the trees and rocks guide us without fail.  On the slowly rising ground our foot placements are deliberate and steady due to the leafy-covered trail.

The trail gets stony along the massive stone face

The trail gets stony along the massive stone face

Within 0.2 of a mile we are climbing by grabbing rocks to maintain our balance.  The rocks are irregularly placed and in no way seem like the advertised 99 steps.  Breathing heavier, we drop the conversation as I follow Hannah onward.  Fortunate that we only need fanny packs for our water and gorp, I can’t imagine lugging and balancing a 40 pound pack (common for AT hikers) up this precipitous rocky mountain edge.

And then we hit the 99 stone steps.  They are a godsend in negotiating this mountain wall with steady, sure, solid foot plants.

Looking back on some of the 99 steps

Looking back on some of the 99 steps

It’s hand-to-hand combat as we assault the mountain to the St. John’s Ledges which looks over the river valley; in 25 minutes we’ve gone just 0.5 of a mile.

Soon the trail levels out and our conversation begins again.

The trail levels out above the 99 steps

The trail levels out above the 99 steps

It’s an easy 0.7 mile further up the mountain to the lookout at Caleb’s Peak.

The Housatonic River from Caleb's Peak

The Housatonic River from Caleb’s Peak

As hikers know well, the trail down is tougher than climbing up.  Ascending has us sweating beneath our shirts, but climbing down we are wary of sliding on rocks, especially this time of year when the trail is entirely covered with dead yellow and brown leaves.  Often we climb down side saddle or even backwards to maintain our balance.

Stony trail down the mountain

Stony trail down the mountain

And then it happens, first I slip on my butt, then Hannah does; each time we bounce back up, fortunate not to have twisted an ankle or knocked a noggin.  Our guardian angels are working overtime today.  We don’t see another hiker all day and it is clear that this would be no trail to climb in wet weather.

In just under two hours we are back at the trailhead and still want another hour of hiking.  We head north on the AT now, which is the aforementioned River Road.

Heading north on the AT on River Road

Heading north on the AT on River Road

In less than a mile the road becomes a trail along the Housatonic River.  It brings to mind another era of tire swings, rafts, and fishing poles.  A nostalgia that I did not experience growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1950s.

The photographer got lucky with this dream shot

The photographer got lucky with this dream shot

We hike out 30 minutes and return 30 to reach our goal of three hours of hiking today.

Weary from the 4A wake up call, traveling four hours to this point, and hiking for three hours, we take country roads back to I-84 and eventually to Mom’s apartment in New Jersey two hours away.

Dan and Mom in New Jersey

Dan and Mom in New Jersey

Mom is a pretty sweet journey’s end.

Dan and Hannah Hike the Long Trail near Killington, Vermont

Long Trail in Vermont

Long Trail in Vermont

Throughout the night, rain splatters on the window of our top floor room at the North Star Lodge in Killington, VT.  Fortunately, the forecast calls for this rain to stop by the time we hike later this morning.  We’ve come to Vermont for a “couple’s retreat” to hike and talk about our marriage.

G D at Butternut Inn

Before hiking the Long Trail, we breakfast again at the Butternut Inn; but it is what happens after breakfast that surprises us and reaffirms that life is good.  As I am packing up our Hyundai Elantra, Hannah returns to thank the “Living Large” cook Craig for his positive energy during our two mornings at the Butternut Inn.  Yesterday, he was our waiter and cook and so full of life that he brings to mind our dynamic dear friend Big Steve.

As she finds Craig, Hannah thanks him and, among other things, mentions that she’s saving her rye toast from breakfast to make a sandwich.  Craig says, Why don’t I make you a sandwich with that toast before you go?  What would you like?  Five minutes later he returns with a tomato, bacon, spinach, cheddar cheese, and horse radish sandwich for Hannah.

What goes around comes around.  Hannah dishes out goodness all the time and goodness finds its way back to her again and again.

Morning fog over Killington Mountain

Morning fog over Killington Mountain

And in fact the rain has stopped, but a cloud remains on the rise of route 4 by the Inn at Long Trail just a couple miles from our overnight stay.

Morning fog over the Inn at Long Trail, obscuring Deer Leap Mountain

Morning fog over the Inn at Long Trail, obscuring Deer Leap Mountain

Fog engulfs the Inn as we look from the parking lot across the highway at 9A, with 50F degrees and “high seas” west winds.

Sherburne Pass at the rise of Route 4 at our trailhead

Sherburne Pass at the rise of Route 4 at our trailhead

Though the wind whips through the trees, we will soon be protected by the forest cover on this late October morning.

Hannah hiking the blue blaze trail to the Long Trail

Hannah hiking the blue blaze trail to the Long Trail

The side trail (blue blazes guide us) leaves from the east end of the Inn at Long Trail parking lot heading into the Vermont  woods.

It’s a steady half mile climb to the Appalachian Trail as we skirt Deer Leap Mountain.

October in Vermont

October in Vermont

Soon we meet Origami, the trail name of a one-time AT thru-hiker and currently hiking the Long Trail south.  When asked if he is a thru-hiker he said, I’m likely a “through” thru-hiker.  It’s rained the last three days.  After sleeping on the wet ground in a soaked tent and been hiking for five hours already this morning, I’m going into Rutland (five miles away down route 4) to decide if I am going to continue.  In fact, he tells us that a few days before, he fell and broke his iPod.  He adds in  a self-effacing but not self-pitying way, That meant I’ve had to pass the time with only what I have between my ears.  And let me tell you that leaves much to be desired.  He does sound resolved to get off the trail.

Asked about his trail name Origami, he says, I fold dollar bills for tips.  I left some at the Inn at Long Trail pub years ago and am going down to the bar to see if they are still there.

Thru-hiking can seem glamorous from afar, but Origami has lived the other side of the story over the last few days.

Heading north on the Long Trail

Heading north on the Long Trail

At the junction of the AT and LT, we head north on the Long Trail that goes for 272 miles from the Massachusetts border to Canada along the main ridge of the Green Mountains. If we had gone south, we would have been on the  AT and LT as one trail for the next 100 miles.  The Green Mountain Club, guardians of the Long Trail, make sure we take the correct path.

It certainly looks like a trail

It certainly looks like a trail

Without the white blazes of the Long Trail, it would be anyone’s guess where the trail would be as fallen leaves cover our path.

White blazes guide our way

White blazes guide our way

This 44 second video captures what much of the trail looks like.

Within twenty minutes, we meet Lazarus, a hiker out for the coming week.  We do not probe about the genesis of his trail name.  When he mentions his trail name, he smiles and nods to himself as much as to tell us that he’s been back from the dead.  We exchange email addresses.  Do you know how?  By typing them into our smart phones!

Lazarus and Shootin'

Lazarus and Shootin’

His comment on hiking with a cell phone proves wise.  Lazarus assumes that when he would most need a cell phone, he wouldn’t have cell service.  So he never counts on his cell phone.

Clearly not a rolling stone

Clearly not a rolling stone

After 90 minutes of hiking north, we turn back for the trailhead. Other than the steep climb to the AT at the start, our hike today is a leisurely, gently rolling one along the ridge of the Green Mountains.  Throughout the time we talk more about our couple’s retreat questions.

Do we have enough quality and quantity time?

What was our best date this year?

What are our best memories of the past year?

What are three romantic dates we can plan for the coming year?

What are two things that would improve our marriage?

Girl of my dreams

Girl of my dreams

41 years together and still counting.

Dan and Hannah Hike to Thundering Falls, Vermont on the Appalachian Trail

Inn at Long Trail with Deer Leap Mountain in the background

Inn at Long Trail with Deer Leap Mountain in the background

Driving just two miles from our top floor room at the North Star Lodge in Killington, VT, we park across the street from the iconic Inn at Long Trail on Route 4.

Killlington, Vermont

Killlington, Vermont

Established in 1761, Killington was a rural town of farmers, raising crops and tending sheep.  Now it is known as a hot spot for ski bums and bunnies.   Killington’s voters have twice voted to secede from Vermont and join the state of New Hampshire; Killington is in fact 25 miles west of the NH border.  The movement comes from a frustration with the amount of taxes Killington sends to the state of Vermont. The votes are largely symbolic since secession would require the approval of both states’ legislatures.

The Appalachian Trail in Vermont near Killington

The Appalachian Trail in Vermont (and New Hampshire) near Killington

Today we hike east on the Appalachian Trail towards Thundering Falls.  Before we head out, we check in at the Inn lobby.  The accommodating morning clerk gives us a map of both the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail.  Today it will be the AT, tomorrow the LT.

The blue blaze side trail to the Appalachian Trail

The blue blaze side trail to the Appalachian Trail

Starting a the east end of the Inn at Long Trail parking lot, we take to the blue blaze trail (8 inch splashes of blue paint on trees and rocks indicating a side trail) which will lead us to the main trail with its white blazes; immediately we are climbing, breathing heavier, and skirting the side of Deer Leap Mountain to our left.

The climb is rocky and parallel to Route 4 for one half mile.  The golden and brown leaves cover the trail; that said, the blue, and later the white blazes of the AT, keep us confident that we are on the right trail.

TF Hike 3

Our mid-October morning is 50 degrees and we are protected from the mountain side winds by the thick forest.  The climb is steep, our attention focused on the climb so our plan to discuss some of our couple’s retreat questions will have to wait.

This is my 8th of 14 states which the AT crosses.  Previously, I’ve hiked the AT (going from south to north) in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.  By the way, Hannah has run on the AT in North Carolina, making her total nine.

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Quickly the trail descends some 800 feet over the next 20 minutes.  As counterintuitive as it may be, it’s more challenging to hike down a mountain than up.  True we burn more calories climbing up, but we must step carefully to maintain our balance as we inch down.  My heavy Timberland hiking boots with three pairs of mixed blend wool socks give me a firm foundation in descent.

Shortly we are rolling into Gifford Woods State Park.

Across from Gifford Woods, the AT is a delightful meandering level trail that allows us to resume conversation and make it a walk in the park along Kent Pond.

Kent Pond on the AT

Kent Pond on the AT

We resume our “couple’s retreat” discussion of our marriage.

What should we do more together? and What do you enjoy most about me as a spouse?

With few leaves on the trees, peak foliage has passed.  Last night’s rain has brought down even more leaves.  It is ideal hiking weather with not an insect to be found and still no bear to be observed.

TF Hike 8 TF sign

We don’t expect to see any thru-hikers today since northbound hikers on the AT are still 485 miles from Katahdin.  By this mid-October day, Mount Katahdin has closed for AT hikers because of wintery weather.

Thundering Falls in October

Thundering Falls in October

After an easy hour and three quarters of hiking, maybe 3.5 miles, we come upon a short blue blaze trail to Thundering Falls.  These falls cascade some 60 feet as we watch from an observation deck elevated two stories above the Thundering Brook.

Check out this 41 second video shot at Thundering Falls.

It’s a perfect day for hiking with Hannah now in the sunny mid-50s but entirely under the forest canopy.

TF 9A H at AT sign

Heading for home on the level forest trail, I bring up more marriage questions to give verbal substance to our hike.

How do we do spending and giving away our money?  How can we deepen our physical relationship?

And then we come upon the Mother Lode: Fullspeed (trail name because he always leads their two-person hike) and Notso (always following behind), section hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

Fullspeed, Hannah, and Notso

Fullspeed, Hannah, and Notso

Since 1984 they have hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail in one and two week “sections,” generally in the fall and winter when the trail is less crowded and the bugs are minimal.

Today they have begun another week long section of the AT minutes ago at Gifford Woods.  In nine days their shuttle will pick them up further north in Vermont.  Their packs are stunningly big and heavy at 65 pounds.  Notso estimates 10-15 pounds are water and will be gone by day’s end.  All told they have completed 1700 miles of the 2179 miles of the AT over 29 years.

They ask about our trail names.

2-Ply and Shootin'

2-Ply and Shootin’

I mention mine is Shootin’ because I like to stop and Shoot the Breeze with fellow hikers.

Hannah explains her trail name of 2- Ply.

As we were about to leave for home after a lovely weekend of hiking and spending time with dear friends, I ran up to the bathroom for one last visit. Just for fun, I came back down with a strip of toilet paper hanging out of the back of my waistband. George, in an effort to “save” me, sidled up to me and tried to remove the strip so others wouldn’t see (there were others in the room whom we didn’t know all that well.) In short order, I let it be known that I had, on purpose, left the strip hanging…  Just for fun.  I guess my performance that morning “earned” me my trail name: 2-ply!!

Though we’ve been on the trail for three hours, we are more energized now because of our interactions with Fullspeed and Notso.  I don’t envy their evening accommodations in a tent or a shelter.  For us, it’s off to the North Star Lodge for a nap and then a glass of wine to toast our forty-one years together.

G North Star sign and Killington Mt

PS  For your viewing pleasure here is a 17 second video with Hannah at the Thundering Falls filled with irony.

Dan and Hannah Discover Killington, VT Thanks to Groupon

Ever been a little bit skeptical about Internet deals?  We’ve been.

VRBO

VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) was one such deal.  But we gave it a shot and rented a house in Virginia for a weekend family reunion.   There was no catch and no gotcha.  The Family Rothermel had a fabulous weekend in large part due to the home where we stayed.

Groupon

Groupon?  Its website offers daily specials, often vacations, for a discount.  Our daughter Molly has successful weekended through Groupon so we decide to give it a shot.

Killington, Vermont

Killington, Vermont

Offered two nights at the North Star Lodge in Killington, VT in October or November, before the ski season, we find that sounds perfect for our plans for a couple’s retreat.  Focusing on our marriage by journaling and talking together in a setting away from home, we think this an ideal “getaway.”  With rain in the forecast, we won’t be able to hike and will have plenty of time inside to journal and talk as a couple.

Couples Retreat

Couples Retreat

At $109, our North Star room seems just a little pricey until we see what they throw in to sweeten the deal.

North Star Lodge with Killington Mountain in the background

North Star Lodge with Killington Mountain in the background

We get a $40 voucher each night towards any meal we would like or two lobster dinners.  Now, you may wonder as we did, maybe the meal is $100 and the $40 is a mere token.   A family member told us of a time when he and his wife went on a Groupon and their voucher paid for basically two-thirds of one meal.   But we’ll never know, will we? until we try it out.

And that’s not all.   We get breakfast vouchers for each of us each morning.   Easily worth $40 total ($10 per breakfast), which makes it quite a $109 package per night, wouldn’t you say?

G VT sign

Ever been to Killington, VT?  Coming from our daughter Robyn’s in Cazenovia, NY, we drive through Rutland, VT on Route 4; ten miles later the Killington Road is there on our right.

G North Star entrance

From the outside, the North Star Lodge looks like condos quickly built during the 1980s building boom.   Our room has a queen bed, room to walk around in, a two section bathroom (small sink in one area, shower and toilet in the other), and believe it or not a 15” bulldog of a TV from, you guessed it, the 1980s.

The room is fine, not luxurious.  We don’t need luxurious for our couple’s retreat on this Wednesday and Thursday in mid-October.  It’s serviceable and not 1950s depressing.  It’s not depressing at all, just not fancy.

So far so good and no gotcha.

Killington loves their hay bale art.  These are everywhere.

Escargot

Escargot

I have gone to the Internet to find couples retreat questions to write about as we think about our marriage.

  1. Do you have enough quality and quantity time?
  2. What are we most proud of in our marriage?
  3. What two things would improve your marriage?
  4. What should we do more together?
  5. What do you enjoy most about me as a spouse?
  6. How can we deepen our physical relationship?
  7. What three romantic dates can we plan for the coming year?

But our retreat is for tomorrow and now it’s on to our Groupon dinner.

Charity’s is the restaurant where we can use our dinner voucher, and it is a mile down the Killington Road toward the mountain.  It’s off season now in October and the restaurant is half-filled.

G Charity's

It’s a classic ski pub.  Young, shaggy, athletic dudes at the bar, some with dates, some not.  It has a dark interior with a log cabin feel with many booths.   Tonight is pasta night.  Specials starting at $12.95.  Two times that is well below our allotted $40.

My chicken parmesan (fine) and Hannah’s shrimp dijonaisse over bowtie pasta (superb) mean we have $14 still to blow.  I with a side salad and Hannah with carrot cake get us close to our $ limit.

Two things with these Groupons.  One, we must pay the state meals tax (no biggie) and two, what is left over on the voucher does not go to the waitress.   Tips are paid separately (understandable).

But that’s not the best part.  As we are being led to our table, I notice the couple in the next booth who are the ones who arrived just before us at the North Star Lodge.

As we pass their table and notice they are just finishing their meals, I comment Aren’t you the folks with the Jersey plates we saw at the North Star?  I explain my Bergen County (northeast Jersey) roots and we hit it off.  They are Grouponers, too.

Bergen County, New Jersey

Bergen County, New Jersey

We plan to meet tomorrow for a meal

And the next morning we breakfast together.  Meeting Len and Joyce breaks down the isolation that motels can foster; in contrast, B and Bs have us interacting like we love to do.

G D at Butternut Inn

Breakfasting and dining with Len and Joyce, we find them both interested and interesting.  Lives in Jersey are the focus of our conversation.

It’s funny the turnaround Jersey has made.  When I was growing up in the 1960s, New Jersey was the butt of late night TV jokes.  The smells from oil refineries and hog farms in Newark when driving on the Jersey Turnpike became what the rest of the country thought of as New Jersey.

Now it’s a badge of honor to be a Jersey Boy or Jersey Girl.

Queen Latifah, Jersey Girl

Queen Latifah, Jersey Girl

Bruce Springsteen, Jersey Boy

Bruce Springsteen, Jersey Boy

I’m sure Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Jack Nicholson, Dan and Jean Rothermel, Dionne Warwick, Victor Cruz, Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas, and Meryl Streep have something to do with it.

Breakfasts at the Buttermilk Inn are $12 to $14.  Seem expensive?  Not for us Groupon holders.   Again, the meal is huge and there are no catches.  Our skepticism of Groupons has faded away.

Hannah Knows Breakfast

Hannah Knows Breakfast

For $12 we get a meal skiers would love: two eggs, two pancakes (blueberry if you want and good size), two pieces of bacon, two pieces of sausage, orange juice, and coffee or tea.  If not that, their omelets are loaded with meat or veggies and a mound of home fries.

King Arthur's Camelot

King Arthur’s Camelot

It turns out Killington is Camelot (i.e., it only rains at night, or at least when we are here.)  So rather than journaling in the lodge this Thursday, we succumb to our trail DNA and are off to hike the Appalachian Trail to Thundering Falls.  Instead of journaling, we’ll talk about our marriage on the trail.

Playing Hooky on the Appalachian Trail

Playing Hooky on the Appalachian Trail

Flexibility!  One hallmark of a good marriage.