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.
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.
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.
Fog engulfs the Inn as we look from the parking lot across the highway at 9A, with 50F degrees and “high seas” west winds.
Though the wind whips through the trees, we will soon be protected by the forest cover on this late October morning.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
41 years together and still counting.