We are in Montana on this early morning, and Mo and I had a magnificent day at Glacier National Park yesterday. The weather is cooperating, and today we will travel over the Continental Divide toward Idaho.
It is with a quiet, grateful feeling that I return my mind to Vermont. On Tuesday morning Jeanne and Alan had to winterize projects to do for the family lake house and the boat and went on their way while Mo and I took our time leaving.
Mo did her regular checking of MoHo fluids, tire pressure, and such while I did a bit of straightening and picture-taking. The morning was cloudy and it had rained the previous night. Mo and I kept exclaiming to each other how lucky we had been with the gorgeous sunny weather the previous day for our kayak and lake excursions.
Their house in Dorset, Vermont, is just a couple of hours south of the lake, but Mo and I had a side trip planned. Many years ago, when Mo was a new teacher, only 23 years old, she took a summer tennis coaching job at a girls’ camp in Vermont, on the shores of Lake St Catherine. She has some great memories of that time, including the Greyhound bus ride from California to Vermont, and the New England girls who were her students.
At that time the camp was called Camp Kinni-Kinnik, but it is currently Lake Catherine State Park. I knew a bit about the changes because I drove there during the week I visited Jeanne in 2014. At that time the colors were at maximum, and what I remember the most about this park is that I got a tick embedded in a very sensitive place after I walked through the tall grass that was there at the time.
As Mo and I entered the park, we spoke with the gate attendant, who waived the entrance fee when we told her about Mo’s history and that we simply wanted to look around. Few buildings remain that Mo remembered, with many of the camp’s amenities like the tennis courts where she taught, the basketball courts, and the softball field long gone. There was little she recognized until we walked into the area which is now private homes for park workers. There Mo saw a couple of buildings that she remembered. The rest had changed so much that it was impossible to remember where the tennis courts had been.
We encountered some workers who were tickled to talk to Mo about her history there. We then found out that after the camp was a girl’s camp, it was converted to a boy’s camp, then to a private camp, and finally bought many years later to become a Vermont State Park. One young woman was intrigued and said she wanted to look up the history of the park and took our email address to send us any information she might find. On the websites, the only reference to the state park history is that it was once a boy’s camp. Mo remembered that when it was a girl’s camp, the boy’s camp was across the lake and the girls would sneak over at night to hang out with the boys. It was a fun visit, even if a bit disorienting. I suppose that often happens when trying to return to someplace remembered from long ago.
Jeanne and Alan had arrived at their home by the time Mo and I got there early in the afternoon, and Jeanne greeted us at the door with a happy welcome. I was thrilled to see this home because when I visited last it was just a dream beginning for Jeanne and Alan. The home is built on what was once the location of a historic Revolutionary War-era tavern and inn. That building was still standing when I first visited.
Jeanne and Alan had their home built with great care, making sure that the materials used in the timber frame house were mostly from Vermont, or at least from New England. Instead of Douglas-fir from the northwest, they made sure the timbers were Eastern white pine grown locally. The slate floors are from Vermont as are the gorgeous counters. Walking into the actual house for the first time was a thrill after all the emails and chats back and forth about their building process. I never actually understood just what a “timber frame” house was until now. Basically, the construction is with solid timbers, joints, and pegs, with no metal used in the framing. The main difference between a timber frame home and a post and beam home is that post and beam construction uses metal brackets in the structure of the building.
With a timber frame home, sometimes folks will choose to have the pegs pounded flush with the timbers, but Jeanne and Alan chose the method that leaves the pegs exposed.
It was such a delight seeing their home, incredibly beautiful with their art and sculpture, and Jeanne’s expanding collection of textiles that I remember from her days in Klamath Falls when we lived in the same town. Jeanne has also expanded her skills to include basket-making and weaving. I loved touching the beautiful soft throw that she made in person, and seeing another basket project up close rather than simply in a photo.
My favorite room in the house, though, is the entryway, where the large space is completely filled with shelves and cubbyholes for a bazillion kinds of shoes, skis, art, old antiques, coats, and jackets, and benches to sit to change from one to the other. I will only talk about this space to respect their privacy and let you just imagine how great it is to walk into a house like this one to such a down-to-earth useful space instead of some fancy show-off entry. I loved it so much.
Some of the interior doors in the house are made from the 200-year-old flooring that was part of the original tavern. Everything throughout the house is created with purpose and thought. Such a treat to see it in person.
Our plans for the next two days were simple. Alan helped us get situated in a lovely site near the old barn with a power hookup and a view. Jeanne started cooking a fragrant chicken paprika soup for our supper. We relaxed, walked a bit, and visited until supper time.
The next day, Mo and I walked the paths that Alan mows through the meadows around the lower pond so that Jeanne has a place to walk in the summer and ski in the winter. Mattie loved having so much space to run free off-leash. We managed to get only slightly lost on the trail through the thick hardwood forest, within shouting distance of Alan, who pointed us to the right path through the woods.
The upper pond was quiet on the cool fall day, but it is clean and fresh for summer swims and a place where Jeanne can relax and read. The day was sweet and restful and so very wonderful.
Mo and I wanted to take Jeanne and Alan to dinner as a way of saying thank you, and they agreed with just a little bit of resistance. They chose the lovely Dorset Inn for our celebration.
Alan’s birthday was on the 17th and mine was on the 15th, so the fabulous dinner turned out to be a bit of a birthday celebration for both of us. We shared some private jokes and had some really great moments of belly laughs at the silliness. I think they finally asked us to move to another room, and am not sure if that was because we were laughing too much, or they really did need the table as the restaurant got very busy. It was an evening I will treasure.
The next day, Jeanne and Alan had plans to be away for a bit, and Mo and I planned to leave for New Hampshire. In the quiet beauty of the morning, I had an epiphany. Why drive hard and north for a day at a sketchy New Hampshire mountain RV park when we could skip that night and simply stay right there in our gorgeous spot for an extra day? I reviewed the maps and saw that with just a bit of adjustment we could relax an extra day and still have a reasonable day of driving to reach Portland, Maine, our destination after the scheduled New Hampshire overnight stay. Bingo! No answer at the New Hampshire park when I canceled, knowing full well my money would not be refunded at this late hour. No matter. It was worth it to have a birthday completely quiet and beautiful, resting in the Vermont mountains and another night of almost scary darkness and silence. It was a magnificent birthday!