The day started early, as all days in the van do: the farther we head east, the earlier the sun—and we– rise. 7:30: Up and out, coffee, tea, and almond butter & jelly sandwiches in our hands. Stunning drive—more green mountains, vast meadows of cornflowers, Queen Anne’s lace, yarrow, solar panel farms, blue and silver silos, and red barns. So bucolic. We drive hwy 7 north through Rutland, Middlebury and into Burlington where we make land in time for a visit to Crow’s bookstore.
Burlington seems kind of hip. To fit in, Dudley wore his new-to-him thrift store hipster snap button shirt he bought for $9 the day before in Brattleboro. Church Street Marketplace, several blocks of a bricked pedestrian walkway, is reminiscent of Pearl Street in Boulder, CO. Lots of young people with tattoos, sundresses, sunglasses, dogs, cats (yes, cats!) and musical instruments lolling about on a Tuesday afternoon.
We plot our next move over lunch at a lovely café off the pedestrian walk: we will drive to Lake Champlain and hope to camp at Grand Isle State Park.
We arrive, check in and there are plenty of sites. Whoo-hoo! The lake is practically there, the park has meticulous gardens and acres of mowed grass. But something itches at us: we weren’t ready to settle in for the day. Back in the van! Head toward Mt. Mansfield State Forest, which features Mt. Mansfield, the highest point in Vermont at 4393 feet. We hoped Smuggler’s Notch, the only campground in the forest, held a campsite for us. One left: hurrah We’ll take it!
Smuggler’s Notch area is a mountainous area of tremendous rock walls, and caves. The road is extremely narrow, and there are trails everywhere. During Prohibition, smugglers used to bring liquor from Canada (about 20 miles away) by way of the caves. Runaway slaves, too, used the Notch for cover and get-away. We take a lovely, strenuous 90 minute hike up to Sterling Pond, 1.5 miles straight up. There are many crippling features: exposed tree roots, boulders, mud, pebbles… We are feeling our aged knees, especially as we hike down. There is some discreet “oof-ing.” “Can we run past you?” comes a breathy voice from behind us as a young woman runs, leaping like a drunken fawn, up the hill. Her less fawn-like male companion chugs after her, slightly apologizing to us as he goes past us: “She likes to fast run up this mountain.”
He must really like her, we think.
Tonight we rest in Smuggler’s Notch campground surrounded by birch trees and maples. The air is cool, the mosquitos are few, and the ticks haven’t gotten ahold of us yet.