Dan and Hannah Climb Camel’s Hump in Vermont

Vermont map

A shout out goes to our friend Jerrod Hall who responded to my Facebook posting looking for a Vermont hiking recommendation.  Turned on to Camel’s Hump, I am reminded that while he and our son Will were roommates at St. Michael’s College in Vermont, they hiked this third highest mountain in the state.

Eaton's Sugar House in South Royalton, Vermont

Eaton’s Sugar House in South Royalton, Vermont

Leaving home in York, Maine at 6A on this Monday in early September, we know we have a three plus hour drive to Camel’s Hump in north central Vermont.  Our friend Liz Marshall suggested Eaton’s Sugar House in South Royalton, VT for breakfast.

Picnic tables at the Sugar House

Picnic tables at the Sugar House

Ideally located within a half of mile of I-89 off exit 3, Eaton’s Sugar House looks like something out of the 19th century California Gold Rush.  Once inside, we are greeted by our waitress Charity and select one of the fifteen picnic tables on this quiet Monday.

The Original IQ Tester

The Original IQ Tester

Opting for blueberry pancakes, I wait for them trying my skill at the IQ Tester peg game.  Leaving just two pegs means I am above average; which totally confirms what my mother always told me.  Hannah chooses the two egg, bacon, home fries, and homemade bread toast with coffee special for $4.95.

Hannah's Hyundai Elantra arrives at the trailhead for Camel's Hump

Hannah’s Hyundai Elantra arrives at the trailhead for Camel’s Hump

Carbo loaded, we drive another hour to exit 10 on I-89 and wind our way through the town of Waterbury, VT; shadowing the Winooski River we see signs for Camel’s Hump which eventually guide us to the trailhead lower parking lot suitable for twenty cars.  The upper lot can handle 20 more for what many believe is the most popular (and no fee) hike in all of Vermont.

VCU Rams are ready for the Monroe Trail

This VCU Ram is ready for the Monroe Trail

It’s 11A as we put water bottles, sandwich fixings, gorp, and energy bars in our fanny packs for the climb to the top.  Even on this workday Monday there are ten cars in the lot and no shortage of people hiking.

The forest canopy shades the Monroe Trail on the way to Camel's Hump

The forest canopy shades the Monroe Trail on the way to Camel’s Hump

The Monroe Trail is a 3.4 mile ascent that has us hiking to the summit of the only undeveloped peak over 4000 feet in Vermont.  In guide books there are two prominent trails up the mountain: the Burrows, shorter at 4.2 round-trip, and the longer Monroe at 6.8 miles round-trip with its 2600 feet of elevation gain.

Vermont woods

Vermont woods

In 1.3 miles through the heavy forest, we see the turn for the Dean Trail to the top but we opt to stay on the Monroe Trail since we don’t know how much the elevation gain will take out of us.  As a trail that is rocky and constantly rising, it’s really a climb/hike through hardwoods and pines.  As “here for the physical challenge” hikers (as opposed to “stop and smell the roses” hikers), Hannah and I are loving the climb as we pursue a great workout.

Never does the Monroe Trail seem perilous nor does it have the steep rock faces that its sister climb across the valley has (Mount Hunger in Center Waterbury).  Rarely do we have to grab the stone mountainside for balance.  It’s a challenging nearly two hour hike but not daunting; clearly with all the stones and rocks, it is no mountain to climb in even light rain.

On this 60s day, we hike in shorts and tee shirts, sweating much of the way.  A hat for protection from the sun, even sunscreen is hardly necessary as we are shaded for 95% of the hike.  The trail is well-marked and easy to follow.  Climbers up and down provide for a moment of connection.

Approaching the summit

Approaching the summit

A clearing just 0.3 miles from the top is the convergence with the Long Trail and the Burrows Trail as we prepare for our final assault.  By the way. going along the mountain tops of Vermont from Massachusetts to Canada, the Long Trail predates the Appalachian Trail.

From atop Camel's Hump

From atop Camel’s Hump

Once at the summit, we have panoramic views of the Vermont countryside.  With dogs aplenty at the top, we hikers are all admonished to walk just on rocks and stay off the grassy portions of Camel’s Hump due to its fragile arctic alpine vegetation.

Check out the video from the windy mountain top.


Barefoot hiker's imprint

Barefoot hiker’s imprint

While the descent taxes our knees over jutting rocks and roots, we are soon passed by a barefoot hiker.  While our hiking boots allow us to step on the sharp edges in the rocky trail, he navigates in and around them quite effortlessly.  When we ask, he says if you walk properly and care for your feet, it’s not hard to do.  And then he’s gone.   We’ll stick with hiking boots.

The many trails of Camel's Hump

The many trails of Camel’s Hump

Once back at the trailhead there is a feeling of satisfaction.   Checking my watch I see that it took us just as long to descend the mountain (1h 50 minutes) as we did to climb it.  Camel’s Hump is Vermont hiking at its best.

For directions and description of the Camel’s Hump hike try:

Vermont Hiking: Day Hikes, Kid-Friendly Trails and Backpacking Treks by Michael Lanza

Hiking Vermont by Larry Fletcher

(Both I found on interlibrary loan in the state of Maine)

Click on this link for an excellent trail map.

Dan and Hannah Spend Tuesdays with Owen and Max

Bill map

Billerica, Massachusetts is just an hour south of our home in York, Maine.  Traveling to visit our daughter Molly and her family there is a piece of cake compared to the ten hours and 500 miles we used to travel to Virginia to see them.  Now we have them in the “neighborhood.”

Leaving after the morning Boston commuter traffic, Hannah and I have major highways for 95% of the drive south (I-95, I-495, and route 3).  The Family Rawding (aligned with the Family Von Trapp) rent an apartment in Bee town as transition housing until they find housing housing.

Max and Owen

Max and Owen

Another of the many benefits of being retired is that Hannah and I spend Tuesdays with our grandsons – two year old Owen and four month old Max.  While Molly teaches in nearby Lexington, Tip is home with the boys.   Coming down on Tuesdays allows us to free up Tip for errands, getting some exercise, or whatever he pleases.

Before we arrive at 1P, we stop at the Taco Bell to bring a little Mexico for lunch.  While Owen finishes his nap and Max chills on a blanket in the living room, we enjoy our chicken and bean burritos with Tip.

Bill town fair tire

Today by 2P Tip is off running errands while Hannah and I have the boys in their strollers heading to the playground on this 90 degree humid early September day.  As we head to the playground, I notice Owen’s stroller’s rear left tire is as flat as a top-of-the-line Parisienne  crepe.  With the Universe looking out for us, we roll on towards Town Fair Tire just one hundred yards up the road.  Wheeling both strollers into the showroom of tires, we ask Ethan if he can help us – we just need a quick blast of air.  Delighted, Ethan smiles us in and takes the stroller to the backroom.

It gives Owen time to climb and hide among the mounds of tires.  Soon Ethan is back with news that he has filled all three tires on Owen’s jogging stroller.  We soon are talking strollers with this expectant father and leave, buoyed by our interaction.

Owen with his American flag at Demoulas

Owen with his American flag at Demoulas

On our way to the playground we stop at the recently reawakened Demoulas Grocery Store to get Owen a cookie from the bakery.  While we thank the Demoulas workers for their standing strong in support of Arthur T. Demoulas, we learn that this older Demoulas store does not have a bakery.  Thankfully we hadn’t promise Owen a cookie, but a checkout lady is taken by Owen’s sunny disposition and gives him an American flag.

Owen waits for the rain to stop under the Bank of America drive thru lane

Owen waits for the rain to stop under the Bank of America drive thru lane

As we leave with Owen waving his flag, the skies to the west are coal grey heading to black.  A trip to the playground is definitely on hold.  Not five minutes later, the first drops fall and then the deluge.  Fortunately we are within fifty feet of a Bank of America drive-thru canopy.  For the next half hour the heavens open up and we have a three foot stretch of dry pavement for the four of us and two strollers.

At this point, despite the heavy rain Owen is ready to be out of his stroller.  You tell me what good grandparents should do?  That’s right.  We let Owen out and you can see the rest in the video below.

Bill O at wire game

Owen in the Children’s Room at the Billerica Public Library

Soaked as he is, Owen settles back into the stroller; Hannah and I believe that the sloppy playground will have to wait for another day.  With the sun now smiling on us (both literally and figuratively), we head to the Billerica Library across the Boston Road.

Owen with Elmo

Owen with Elmo

There Owen pushes colorful blocks along colored wires; he plays with Elmo and the alligator in the stuffed animals section of the library.  The Billerica librarians welcome us with open arms and genuine smiles, even though Owen can be excited and loud with a capital E and a capital L.

Max adrinking in Boppa's arms

Max adrinking in Boppa’s arms

His brother Max is no shrinking violet in the volume department when he is hungry.  No one misses a beat as I feed Max a bottle of pumped breast milk.

Pushing strollers for home, we have just had three plus hours of the best days of our lives.  No exaggeration.  Most grandparents know what we mean.

Prior to bedtime, Owen rips around the living room while Molly feeds Max.  Owen has just learned the word fantastic and draws out each syllable – Fan-tas-tic!  Dinner is bits of a grilled cheese sandwich; Molly and Tip try to sell him on fish and humus.  Owen loves his humus.  Fish not so much.  He washes it all down with some fine whole milk.

Hannah and I get to put Owen to bed for the night.  First it’s changing him into a onesie and then into his pajamas.  While we are getting him dressed, I say to Owen Stand up for America (so I can get his feet into his pajamas more easily.).   Immediately he turns and points to his gift from Demoulas and says “American flag.”  Like your children and grandchildren, ours are brilliant, too.


Bill reading to Owen 2

We read Little Blue Truck and Hand Hand Fingers Thumb and then it’s time for songs.  As soon as we say it’s time for songs, Owen gets a big lower lip and cries out Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.  Though we sing some old favorites like Old McDonald and Happy Birthday, Owen knows singing means he’s heading to his crib for the night.  The cries for Mommy crescendo and fill the apartment.

Shortly Mom and Dad come into say good night and attempt to soothe him.  No dice.  He’ll protest for 20 minutes and then, as my mother used to say, he gives up the ghost and falls asleep.

We share a glass of wine with Molly and Tip and enjoy the spaghetti dinner Hannah has made for us all.  This night we pick fantasy football teams and don’t leave til 945P.  It’s near 11P before we head to bed back in York.

Owen has it right; to be Owen and Max’s grandparents is fantastic .

In thirteen seconds this video captures the joy that is Owen Daniel Rawding.

Dan and Hannah with a Prince Edward Island Fundraising Update

PEI map 2

In June of 2013, Hannah and I biked the 175 mile Confederation Trail across Prince Edward Island in Canada from Tignish to Elmira.  We were raising money for our friend Amy Paquette and her family to go to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  Amy, a top-of-the-class student of mine at the University of New England, was struck by a disabling brain aneurysm in early 2013.

Hannah, Amy, and Dan

Hannah, Amy, and Dan

Some 50 of our family and friends donated over $1600 for the Family Paquette for their trip to Disney World.

I am pleased to report that in August of 2014, Amy was healthy enough to drive with her husband Mike and their three young boys to Orlando, Florida.

Dan, Hannah, Donna, George, and Becky

Dan, Hannah, Donna, George, and Becky

On Saturday, September 13, 2014, Hannah and I with our sister-in-law Becky and good friends Donna and George Ellis participated in the 6th Annual KAT Walk for Brain Aneurysm Awareness fundraiser in Portland, Maine.  Amy as our captain led more than 50 of us on her “A Team” around the Back Bay in Portland, Maine on a blustery, fall-is-in-the-air, mid-September afternoon.

If you are in the Portland, Maine area in September 2015 consider walking with us to raise money to fight this debilitating disease.


Dan and Hannah Take to the Cliff Walk in York Harbor, Maine


YH map

Having lived in York, Maine for thirty plus years, Hannah and I have access to the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean any time we want.  It’s a little over four miles by from our home on Chases Pond Road to the York Harbor Beach.  Today we take our Canadian good friend Bill Buggie into town to walk the York Harbor Cliff Walk on this Labor Day Sunday.

UNH Wildcats, Dan and Bill

UNH Wildcats, Dan and Bill

If you are coming from I-95, take exit 7 towards the town of York.  A quarter of a mile later, turn right (south) at the lights on Route One and then left (east) onto route 1A (York Street).  Wind your way through York along York Street for nearly a mile until you arrive at the St. Christopher’s Catholic Church on the right.  Park at the far end of the church lot.

York River looking inland

York River looking inland

On this Sunday morning, we begin our cliff walk with a prelude on route 103 that goes south to Kittery.  To our right is the Wiggly Bridge bordering the York River.  Taking the path to the left towards the Ocean, we three walk on the gravelly harbor path, wide enough for two of us to walk side by side.  Pleasantly busy on this low tide Sunday morning, we meet locals walking dogs and tourists exploring our harbor town.

York Harbor Walk

York Harbor Walk

Having learned a joke on the Internet this morning, I give it a shot to a couple we know.  Two cannibals are eating a clown when one turns to the other and says, “Does this taste funny to you?”  The joke brings both smiles and laughter; and a connection that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.

York Harbor Beach

York Harbor Beach

Buoyed by the positive interaction, we walk further on the harbor path which skirts mansions to our left and the summer harbor of lobster boats and small pleasure craft to our right.  Within a half mile, we approach the grounds of the Stage Neck Inn with its clay tennis courts and “Members Only” pool.  Beyond is the York Harbor Beach, the beach of choice for our kids and the townies of York.  There are no services – no ice cream, no taffy shops, no tee shirts.  Parking down the road to this beach is restricted to those who have permits.  No fear.  Two hundred feet up on route 1A across from the York Harbor Inn there are two hour parking spots.

Hartley Mason Park

Hartley Mason Park

At 915A on Labor Day Sunday, we enter the Cliff Walk trail just down the hill from the Hartley Mason Park.  Hartley Mason himself died in 1925.  The urban legend is that in his will he laid out that when the last of his grandchildren passed away, the six houses on the property would be demolished and a park created for all to enjoy.  His will held up to court challenges and now a park overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is there for townies and visitor alike.  It is a “go to” spot for post-wedding picture taking.

Bill, the daredevil

Bill, the fearless

Beach goers are just beginning to claim their spots on this soon to be 80 degree humid day, marking the unofficial end of summer.  Some twenty feet above the beach on the rocky cliff, the Cliff Walk Trail leads walkers in front of the cottages of York.  “Cottage” is the euphemistic term for seafront mansions.  Another urban legend has it that seasonal residents pay 40% of the property taxes in York.  Do I hear an Amen!

Reading Room of York Harbor

Reading Room of York Harbor

Passing the private Reading Room club we walk the cliff edge that never feels perilous.  In and out of tunnels of trees along the trail, we have the Atlantic Ocean at our feet.  The Cliff Walk is steeped in controversy.  A hardy and valiant local group is trying to keep the walk’s access open to the public.  Who owns the land to the high tide mark – or is it low tide?  Does what the king decreed in the 1700s still hold water? (I couldn’t resist.)  The courts will decide.

YH 6 trail by reading room

We pass others on the trail and when the time is right and the people seem welcoming I favor them with my one sentence two cannibals joke.  Rather than fellow walkers just smiling and stepping aside, the joke breaks the ice for a small connection and laughter.

So I encourage you to have a good joke at the ready when hiking.  You may wonder what are the criteria for a good joke on the trail: Short, one you can spit out without tripping, and that people get immediately.  Quick hitting and surprising.

YH 8 more of mid trail

The trail is rocky but it’s never much more than a twenty foot rise in elevation as we walk.  An outcropping facing the ocean on the trail is ideal for that couple or family picture of your time in York.  (See UNH Wildcats picture above.)

The cliff walk seems not much more than a half mile.  The trail does abruptly end in controversy as a wealthy land owner has constructed a fence with dense bushes that keeps townies and tourists alike from hiking further, as we could do 15 to 20 years ago.

YH 9 more of mid trail

At this point there is a wide right of way away from the ocean back to route 1A.  But today we just double back the way we came, having a completely different view as we go in the opposite direction.

Looking back to York Harbor Beach

Looking back to York Harbor Beach

For the most part we hike single file, but it’s easy to step aside to let others pass.  In short order we are back to the York Harbor Beach that is beginning to fill up on this Labor Day Weekend.


Right near the end of our hour walk a young girl with her parents is walking in our direction.  Her tee shirt says Make me smile.  The Universe is just begging me to repeat my cannibals joke.  With that invitation, I give it my best shot and Mom and Dad join their daughter in laughter.  And truth be told, it does make her smile.

Playful beach stones

Playful beach stones



Dan Learns to say Yes and Gets A Kick in the Pants from Anne Lamott

At the Unity service Sunday, Hannah and I speak with a woman who tells us she has begun saying Yes when opportunities present themselves.  She’s trying not to overthink things and go for it.  A Yes can be filled with possibilities.

Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott

That same afternoon, I read online a piece by Anne Lamott in response to Robin Williams’ death.  Live stories worth telling!  Stop hitting the snooze button.  Try not to squander your life on meaningless, multi-tasking bullshit.  I would shake you and me but Robin is shaking us now.

Ice Bucket Challenge Dan

I don’t know what you are thinking right now, but I’m thinking that the Universe is trying to get my attention.  Oh, I take the occasional challenge.  I jumped at the chance to take the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS this past week.

And now that I think about it, this past Saturday, a young man in town approached me to sign a petition to make the possession of one ounce of marijuana legal in York.  I signed on the spot thinking the public had a right to decide how they felt about this issue.

So I am putting Yes in my frontal lobe to see what happens.

This Sunday after church a Yes presents itself.

Camel's Hump, Vermont

Camel’s Hump, Vermont

Sunday – Having planned an overnight in Vermont to hike Camel’s Hump in the Green Mountains with Hannah, I thought it a great two-day getaway of hiking and staying at a B&B for us two.  I had previously emailed Phyllis and Wally, a couple we randomly met this past June ago atop Cape Smokey Mountain on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, when we were biking the Cabot Trail.  I wondered if they were free for a glass of wine late that first afternoon after we hiked.

Today Phyllis responds most positively and asks us for a casual dinner and to stay the night with them.  Though really wanting the getaway with Hannah, even more I want an evening Wally and Phyllis.  One Yes to the Universe.

Yes D at gym

Monday – Going to our gym, Coastal Fitness in Kittery, Maine for nearly three years since I retired from teaching, I wonder if a Yes lies here today.

In the locker room after my work out, I start up a conversation with an older gentleman.  Truth be told, he’s my age.  I’ve seen him at the gym for much of the last year.  He’s quiet, self-effacing, with eyes averted, often looking at the floor.  He’s the kind of guy in school that did the right thing, didn’t cause trouble, and sadly nobody noticed.

Today I take off my blinders and notice.  How’d your workout go?  He lights up and we have a few minutes of back and forth.  Now we each have someone to talk with in passing.  That’s Yes #2.

Owen and Max

Owen and Max

Tuesday – With our daughter Molly and family having moved north to New England after seven years in Virginia, Hannah and I drive Tuesdays to Billerica, MA, a little over an hour’s drive from our home in York, to spend the day with our grandkids – two year old Owen and four month old Max.

While Molly teaches during the day, her husband Tip spends his days with their sons.  By traveling south, Hannah and I can give Tip a break and also free him up to have time to run errands (e.g., to buy a potty chair insert for Owen or to register their cars) while we take the boys to the playground.

Yes Owen in the sandbox

Pushing the boys in strollers, we head for the Billerica playground thirty minutes away.  There, Owen has the choice of slides, swings, or his personal favorite: the sandbox.  We hold Max while he watches the helter skelter pace of his big brother.  Today my Yes is breaking new ground for I will be the one to feed Max his bottle.  Usually I slink to the background at bottle feeding time.

Today I have no place to hide.  While Hannah is off with Owen, I cradle Max in my arms for his afternoon bottle.  Pressing the nipple into Max’s mouth, I am pleased to see him begin sucking right away.  When he pauses, I pull the nipple out just a little and that’s all it takes to get him sucking again.  Fifteen minutes later Max has drunk four ounces of breast milk and I’m feeling pretty damn proud of myself.  A third day in a row of Yes has me pumped.

Yes Error Message to use

Wednesday – Today’s Yes is brief.  As I sit down to review the draft of my blog, I see the dreaded error message Your file appears to be corrupted.  There is nothing on the page when I open it.  Gone.  Out of here.  See you later.  I have nothing left of my blog draft that I now think was a superb, even legendary, dare I say Hemingway-esque!  Nada!  Zippo!  I can be quite delusional.

My Yes is dealing with this glitch.  The entire file being gone is what it is.  Pissing and moaning isn’t getting it back.  I open a new document, just suck it up and begin rewriting.  You know, it could be better the second time.

Thursday – I must not have been listening to the Universe for I see no Yes opportunities.  My streak is over, but I’m ready for tomorrow.

Yes Max on blanket

Friday – It’s big day with lots going on.  After beginning the day at the gym at 6A, Hannah and I have Owen and Max in the morning while Molly and Tip empty their storage unit and organize their stuff.  Our friend Bill will soon arrive from New Brunswick, Canada around lunch time for the weekend.  To top it off we are off to Saco, Maine in the early afternoon to spend the mid-afternoon biking, then have dinner with our amigos, Donna and George.

When Molly and family arrive after 11A. we text Donna and George that we may be a little late.  While Owen naps and Max is just being cute on the blanket on the floor, Molly organizes at our place while Tip loads the truck with his Dad.  Lunch is pushed back til 2P and it’s clear now that our bike ride in Saco is just not happening.  My need “to come through because I said so” crumbles when Owen and Max are in the picture.

I call George and Donna that dinner with them is on, but our bike ride will not be happening.  Donna answers, Don’t hurry; spend time with your grandkids.  Good friends get it; they roll and these two rock.  Today’s Yes gives us permission not to do what we have planned, as the Universe deems Owen and Max time a higher priority.

Yes universe

My Take-away.  When lying in bed when I first awake each morning, I will take the time to think, even plan where I might say Yes today.  For me it will take 30 or 60 or 2000 days for this to be a habit.  Intention will take me half way and the Universe will do the rest.