Dan and Hannah Climb Mount Hunger in Vermont

 

The trail up Mount Hunger

The trail up Mount Hunger

This is no hike.  Mount Hunger is a serious C-L-I-M-B!  But let me tell you, it’s a worth-the-drive-from-anywhere kind of climb.

Rated “Advanced” and “Difficult” in various hiking guides, Mount Hunger is smaller than its sister, Camel’s Hump, across the valley.  That said, Mount Hunger at 3500 feet has 2300 feet of elevation gain over its 2.1 mile ascent.  On this 58F Tuesday morning in early September, there is no fee to hike this trail .  Or on any morning for that matter.

Dan gets the point at the trailhead of Mount Hunger

Dan makes his point at the trailhead of Mount Hunger

After an overnight with friends Phyllis and Wally in Burlington, we have a simple 30 minute drive south on I-89 to Waterbury, VT.  Taking exit 10 north past the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Complex towards Stowe on route 100, we hang a right on Howard Avenue to Waterbury Center and eventually work our way to a left onto Sweet Road. A a mile and a half later we arrive at a designated parking area; coincidentally we park next to a car with Maine plates.

The trail begins

The trail begins

Immediately the trail gets your attention as it steadily rises towards the summit of Mount Hunger.  With Hannah in the lead, we hike along a trail of gnarly roots, stones, and protruding larger rocks.  The forest canopy covers us nearly completely and will do so until the last few hundred feet of the trail to the summit.

Little sun breaks through the forest canopy

Little sun breaks through the forest canopy

Breathing heavily and stepping on and around rocks, we hike steadily through a forest of pines and hardwoods.  Crossing small mountain rivulets, the trail climbs higher and higher with its Adirondack switchbacks (i.e., the trail goes straight up the mountain).

We have rocks and more rocks.

We have rocks and more rocks.

Soon the rock facing sides of the mountain have us scrambling as we engage in hand-to-stone combat.  Meeting up with the couple from Maine with their golden retriever, we think there is no way that their pooch can make it over these slick stone facades to the top.  Surely, they will turn back.

And all the trail roots we would ever want

And all the trail roots we would ever want

We do banter with them long enough for me to ask them if they think there are antennas on the summit.  They think not, but my question is just a ruse to launch into the story of two antennas meeting on a roof, falling in love, and getting married.  The wedding was just okay, but the reception was terrific.  Surprised and pleased, they smile and we as strangers relax in each other’s company.

VCU ram makes the turn on the Mount Hunger trail

VCU ram makes the blue blaze turn on the Mount Hunger trail

It’s a challenging but not perilous climb; worthy of its “difficult” rating.  Soon we begin to see the first glimpses of blue sky through the leaves, knowing the summit is at hand.

Rock wall on the way to the top

Rock wall on the way to the top

On schedule within 200 feet of the top, we have a panoramic view of the Vermont countryside looking west to the Green Mountains.  It’s real and it’s spectacular.  An hour and twenty minutes after starting we have climbed the two miles up and been richly rewarded.

Looking west to the Greens (Green Mountains)

Looking west to the Greens (Green Mountains)

Within minutes the couple from Maine arrives with their golden retriever!  Duly impressed, we want dog lovers to know that Mount Hunger is accessible for your canines, but it will be just as challenging for them as it will be for you.  Later we learn that some dog owners carry their pets over some of the rock facades.

Early September chill atop Mount Hunger

Early September chill atop Mount Hunger

The top is windy and my sweatshirt warms me from the steady cool wind; Hannah wishes she had gloves.  We have a 360 degree view with the Green Mountains to our west and the White Mountains of New Hampshire to the east.  Surveying nature’s stunning beauty, we know a steep descent awaits.  While the hand holds on the rock faces make the climb up manageable, what about sliding down these stony facades?

As we leave the summit, we immediately approach the rock faces, and it’s butt scraping time.  And then it all seems quite manageable.  In fact, this expansive rock face that we climbed up twenty minutes ago is easier coming down.  Clearly it is no climb to do in wet conditions.

Surefoot Hannah descends Mount Hunger

Surefoot Hannah descends Mount Hunger

We soon meet an affable local with an Alaska hat; easy conversation follows.  Feeling at ease, I ask if he has jumper cables.  He shakes his head no, which offers me the invitation to tell him that a pair of jumper cables goes into a bar.  The bartender says I’ll serve you but don’t start anything.  He loves it.  And I love that he loves it.

As we part, knowing he will see the Maine couple at the top, I say, Ask them about antennas.  With this light-hearted interlude, the door opens for us to be a momentary community of hikers.

Massive stones of Mount Hunger

Massive stones of Mount Hunger

The hike down is slow going as our knees and toes in our boots take the brunt of our descent.  Hannah is nimble and agile over the rocks and shows me the safest way down.

Mount Hunger as we leave on

Mount Hunger as we leave on sweet Sweet Road

It turns out the hike down takes ten minutes longer (1h 30m) than the climb up.  Though counter intuitive, in the beginning we are bursting with that start-of-the-hike energy.  Coming down the mountain we are more cautious and mellow.

At 1P we return to the trailhead, de-sock and de-shoe for our sandals, agreeing with the guide book that calls Mount Hunger one of New England’s ten best hikes.

Benihanna and Jerome

Benihanna and Jerome

Heading for home, we pass the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Complex.  How can we pass up this opportunity to go on the factory tour.  We are right here!

Well, there are two reasons: Owen and Max.  How much better would it be to take our grandsons on the tour with us.  Owen and Max, put it in the calendar of your future iPhone 12s: Omi and Boppa are taking you to Ben and Jerry’s.

For more information about this hike, try Hiking Vermont by Larry Fletcher (Mount Hunger pp. 145-147 for directions and description)

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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 Hike the Long Trail in Vermont Update

LT Jeffersonville map

Having traveled just south of the Canadian border to Jeffersonville, Vermont for a wedding, we are staying at Nye’s Green Valley Farm B & B.  Many of you may not know that Hannah was a B & B Innkeeper herself in the late 1980s with two rooms above our carriage house (well, truth be told it is our garage).

Even so, today is our first time staying at a B & B ourselves.LT Green valley farm image  For $95 we have a king-bedded (love the adjective!) room with a private bath and an all-you-can-eat breakfast.  The room is spacious and includes 10,000 stations of Direct TV.  The breakfast opens with fresh fruit, followed by blueberry pancakes made with applesauce, and then scrambled eggs.

Long Trail of Vermont

Long Trail of Vermont

With a trailhead on Route 15 just two miles away, the Long Trail predates the Appalachian Trail.  Built by the Green Mountain Club between 1910 and 1930, the Long Trail follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont line to the Canadian border.  It was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail…The Long Trail is 273 miles, well, long.   

LT 1 trail sign

Though the weekend is to be stormy, we set out to hike a little after 9 AM, putting our faith in the forecast that any storms will arrive later in the afternoon.  Hiking four tenths of a mile to the Lamoille River, we spot a white blaze directing us across the river plain.  Stepping from rock to rock, we see where plants have been flattened by the rushing waters of the past week due to Hurricane Irene.

LT 2 bridge spanning creek

Over the river itself is a 100 foot pedestrian cable suspension bridge which can handle the biggest of storms.  But the river plain below is much wider than 100 feet and it appears that this area has recently been under ten plus feet of water.

Crossing a dirt road, we pick up the white blaze trail that is sweet dirt and easy on the feet.  Over the next mile and a half we will climb 1000 feet of vertical elevation to Prospect Rock.

Above the Lamoille Valley

Above the Lamoille Valley

Prospect Rock offers panoramic iconic Vermont views of forested peaks with farm land along the Lamoille River Valley.  We hear the first distant rumbles of thunder.  We hike on.   We are so naïve.

White blaze along the Long Trail

White blaze along the Long Trail

Losing the trail briefly, we know that the major trails (Appalachian Trail and Long Trail) are so well-marked that if we don’t see a white blaze for a few hundred feet, we just double back until we see the last white blaze.  In this case, we have missed a double white blaze that means a turn in the trail.

Aftermath of Hurricane Irene on the Vermont countryside

Aftermath of Hurricane Irene on the Vermont countryside

Having taken less than hour to climb to Prospect Rock and since the thunder is in the distance, we decide to hike on to give ourselves a three hour hiking experience.  Ferns and small oaks bracket the trail as we ascend.  Rumbles of thunder are not so distant and a blow down (a tree crossing the trail blown down by the recent hurricane) seems like a good turn-around point.

It's amazing what eating oatmeal and raisins every morning does

It’s amazing what eating oatmeal and raisins every morning does

As we head back to the trailhead, we meet Bob, a Long Trail thru-hiker, who tells us he is just 50 miles from Canada.  Likeable enough, he does complain about young hikers texting at the shelters.

And then we three all feel the first rain drops.   We double time it under the oak and pine canopy.  The thunder is overhead and the rain picks up in intensity.  With Hannah in the lead, we are making excellent time, but it’s a fool’s errand to think we can outrun Mother Nature’s deluge.  Soon every part of our bodies drenched.  Rather than huddle under trees, which doesn’t seem too bright in a thunderstorm, we just keep run/walk hiking.

As quickly as it begins, the storm ends 25 minutes later and the sun reappears.   Hiking a half mile back to our car, we then drive back to our B & B for showers and dry clothes.  We’ll nap and arrive at the wedding to watch our son Will give a heartfelt toast to his college roommate Jerrod and his bride-to-be Danielle.

As always, when hiking, know thyself, thy limits, and the conditions.  Be prepared if the forecast is not exactly what is predicted.

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.