12-08-2020 Writing About November

It seems that as we travel through almost a year of COVID-19 life, I am lucky to get in one blog post a month.  It isn’t as if I don’t have time.  It has to do with inspiration.  Every day runs into the next, bleeds over from the previous day, moves slowly through time only to completely disappear into one long running sentence.

I realized a few days ago that I hadn’t even processed the photos that I took throughout the month to mark the changing of the seasons.  The leaves remained on our huge old oaks long into November, and now in early December there are still some clinging to the branches.  Sitting in the hot tub in the dark, we see one or two flutter down, illuminated by the nearby Christmas lights.  They look ever so much like lighted butterflies.  The next morning there are more on the ground, slowly littering the work that Mo completed the previous day.

Mo seems to be the one doing almost all the raking this year.  I have managed a bit here and there, and we travel together to the compost facility to empty the trailer, but raking times for me have been rare.  I try to make up for her extra effort with house chores but it isn’t much of a trade in my opinion.  Leaf raking really needs to be a two person operation. 

Early in the month we needed to make a quick trip to Portland to meet with the new neuromuscular specialist at Oregon Health Sciences University who will be taking over my case.  We are lucky that Mo’s brother Dan and his wife Chere live in the Portland area and are kind enough to let us stay at their home.  We arrived in time for dinner, which I provided as a way of saying thank you and spent a great evening visiting and laughing together. My visit at 8am the next morning went smoothly and the drive through morning traffic in downtown Portland wasn’t difficult.

In mid November, restaurants in Oregon were still open for inside dining with social distancing.  We decided to take a chance and made our annual trek to Applebee’s to enjoy Mo’s free dinner for veterans.  We wore masks, as did everyone else entering the restaurant, and the servers were all masked as well.  There were plexiglass barriers between booths and every other table was unoccupied.  I was a bit nervous at first, but it seemed safe enough.  We had a simple meal and enjoyed it thoroughly.  We don’t eat out all that often, but when we can’t, I notice how much I miss that small bit of entertainment.   It was a good day.

The weather was till nice enough mid month that we were able to plant the tree that the girls and I bought to mark my son’s passing last year.  We chose a beautiful sweet gum tree will honor his life. Deborah and Matthew were here to help Mo and I dig the hole and set the tree, but with COVID rampant in Oregon and Washington Deanna and Melody decided that they would stay home and stay safe.

(The funny part about this part of the story is that we actually planted the tree in late October and I somehow lost track of the day and the photos until now)

We originally planned a small Thanksgiving dinner celebration at daughter Melody and Robert’s new home, looking forward to her turn to host the big family dinner. Then COVID reared it’s ugly head in a more personal way, with Robert required to travel by plane to Texas for his work two weeks prior to the holiday.  All plans were put on hold.  There wasn’t time for Robert and Melody to quarantine before Thanksgiving Day.

Mattie LOVES Robert  and Melody and LOVES being at their home

Mattie has learned to be calm around the cats and they do great together

Instead, we made hasty plans for an early celebration on a Saturday before Robert left.  Mo and I drove the MoHo to Brownsville, where the city administrator was kind enough to let us park overnight in the city recreation parking lot, right in front of the “no overnight parking” sign.  Deborah came, but her son Matthew couldn’t make it at the last minute, so we had a lovely turkey dinner with just the five of us.  Melody, Robert, Deborah, Mo and me.  We enjoyed all the yummy traditional foods with an extra dose of sweetness because we knew we were lucky to have even this small celebration.

Wonderful table with Melody’s Spode China

We got a lot of laughs getting this photo is the big dining room mirror

Melody and Deborah enjoying the front porch on Sunday morning

Deb stayed in Melody’s guest room, and Mo and I returned to the MoHo where a sheriff was waiting for us in the pouring rain.  Somehow he hadn’t received the message that we were approved to stay there.  It was a little bit of a touchy moment, but he smiled and said all was good and we could stay.  The pouring rain kept us company throughout the night.  The next morning Mo and I joined everyone for a wonderful breakfast and some more visiting time before we returned home to Grants Pass. 

Once home again, we returned to our daily schedule of raking and hauling leaves, and Matthew and I started the annual Christmas lighting project. This year we opted for replacing our white icicle incandescent lights with old fashioned looking lights, modernized with LEDs. We replaced 13 strings of hundreds of lights with 8 strings of LED’s and according to the packaging, our power output was about 10 percent of what it had been in previous years.  It is a good investment and will help considerably on the power bill.

LED Christmas Lights 2020

Christmas Lights from 2018

I also decided to put up the Christmas Village even before Thanksgiving Day.  Usually it doesn’t go up until early December. Deborah stopped by for one of her Sunday visits at just the right moment, and was a great help with unpackaging  and placing all the little “stuff” that makes the village so charming. 

It started with just the village, but within a few days the house was filled with all our Christmas decor and the outside was sparkling with lights on all sides of the house.  It makes for a bit of cheeriness during the darkest time of year, both literally and figuratively.  I love Christmas lights and decorations, and it matters not that there will be no visitors this year, once again, COVID is keeping our family celebrations to a minimum.

Mo and I decided that rather than sit home for Thanksgiving, we would pack up ourselves, the dog, and our Thanksgiving dinner and head for the Coast.  We made reservations at Bandon, where the choices were slim. There are three loops at Bullard’s Beach State Park, and 2 are closed for the season.  We were lucky to get a spot on the inside of the loop, something we usually avoid. 

It was a great way to spend a few the holiday isolated in our MoHo  Next post will tell the story.

10-31-2020 A Colorful Halloween

Remember to click on the photos for a larger version. 

Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine.  It was especially sweet when I lived in Klamath Falls very close to the historic neighborhood on Pacific Terrace.  Every year throngs of people from all over the city would flock to the wide parkway lined with decorated historic homes.  We would get trick or treaters at our house, but the most fun was going with kids and family on “the terrace” to people watch and see all the kids and eat popcorn from the house with the outdoor popcorn machine and watch movies projected on garage walls.  It was a great time for me and for my grandkids who later grew up in that house on The Terrace.

Halloween on Pacific Terrace in Klamath Falls

Here at Sunset House, we live on a somewhat narrow rural road, with very few children around us.  Most folks in our open neighborhood are older, and many are retired.  We also have no sidewalks, and in the three years that we have lived in Sunset House we have never had a single Trick-or-Treater come to our door.  Most years I do a lot of decorating, both indoors and out.  Somehow this year I just couldn’t get in the mood.  I put up some “fall” decorations, lights and pumpkins, but left the Halloween stuff I have collected over the years in the big orange bins that I store in the mezzanine in the RV shed.  Ah, well…what can I say.  This year has been so demanding in so many ways and so mentally exhausting. 

Still, yesterday I felt like Mo and I needed something to add a bit of cheer and variety to our days.  How about a picnic?!  On the previous day and on many others I pass our beautiful Riverside Park on the way to various errands.  I often think, “Why don’t we take Mattie walking in the park more often?”  Even from the car the brilliant colors of all the beautiful mature trees in the lovely park caught my eye.  Time for a picnic and a walk along the river.

We planned to go on Saturday afternoon at 3.  The time was rather specific because from my previous day passing the park I could see that the colors were most brilliant in the late afternoon light.  Before 3 was too flat and after 4 the light would be too low in the sky to illuminate the leaves. I packed an egg salad sandwich picnic (our traditional picnic favorite for the last 18years) and we packed up the dog and drove the 2 miles from our home to the park.

I also wanted Mo to see the brilliant color of all the street trees that line both main streets of downtown Grants Pass. Sixth  and Seventh Streets are one way thoroughfares that link the southern and northern parts of the city and the color right now is gorgeous.  I am more often the errand runner in town, and knew that Mo probably hadn’t had an opportunity to see the town street trees.

As we approached the park, I suggested that we drive the town streets before going to the park.  I had seen on the news that Grants Pass was due for a truck parade, said to begin at 3:30 pm, and I thought it might be smart to drive through town before the hoop-la began.  Oops. 

Turning north past the park on 7th street, we were suddenly right in the midst of the big truck parade.  You all know which ones I mean, but I am not going to talk about that part.  Neither of us would have chosen on purpose to get caught in the middle of this parade, but somehow there we were.

My liberal friends will be aghast and my conservative friends will cheer, but we actually got a big kick out of the whole thing.  It was loud and the trucks did spew a lot of diesel, but in general most drivers were polite, and were simply excited by their cause.  I saw no guns, although many of the trucks did have gun bumper stickers. I was thrilled to see that there was not a single confederate flag anywhere. I would have never chosen to participate in this parade, but simply wanted to see the downtown trees.  I will be glad when all this is over, to say the least.

I thought about how parade deprived we are in this stupid COVID year.  Grants Pass usually has at least half a dozen parades and many amazing events throughout the year that have all been cancelled.  I love parades and I found myself laughing out loud. 

Then the best part came as we approached the main business section where we discovered throngs of kids and families trick-or-treating along the sidewalks.  Business owners (the ones that are still open) were passing out safe treats in safe ways to the kids. 

It was so encouraging to see them having fun in their costumes as they walked along the streets. It was a great alternative to door to door trick-or-treating that has been discouraged in Grants Pass this year.

It was a gorgeous, blue sky day with temperatures around 70 degrees, much warmer than the icy Halloween nights my kids grew up with in Idaho and even on Pacific Terrace.  The street trees in town were amazing.  Many of them much taller than I ever noticed in their summer green cloaks.

When we got to the park, all was quiet, as most of the big flag draped trucks were continuing around the city loop.  We parked and then walked along the river to find a perfect picnic table with a view for our late lunch/early supper. 

Riverside Park is truly a treasure, and the mighty Rogue River was deceptively quiet on this lovely fall day.  We thought once again that someday we might launch at the park and try this quiet part of the river in our kayaks.

Whomever is responsible for this beautiful city park should be commended.  The plantings are wonderful, and among the big giants there are new plantings to take over when needed. 

There were several varieties of oaks, maples, and sweet gums in addition to some beautiful old redwoods, pines, and firs.  The expansive lawns allow for lots of play area and the playground for the kids now has a new spray park that was added this year. The ducks, geese, and pigeons were as happy as ever to hang around the picnic areas hoping for treats.

Mattie was thrilled with the entire day, especially the parade part.  She sat in the middle of the Tracker console watching everything intently.  She never barked, but she was very excited about the whole thing. 

Of course, kids and ducks in the park were exciting to her as well, and she loved every minute. It was a surprisingly lovely afternoon and left both of us in a happy place.


10-08-2015 Home from Ireland and Back to Rocky Point

Current Temperature in Rocky Point Oregon 70 F and partly cloudy

We are back from our trip to Ireland.  Hearts and memories full of wonderful sights, beautiful sunny days in a country known for constant rain, and the green that comes with that rain.  I had no way to blog while we were traveling, but instead of trying to recreate the trip from memory with the help of photos, I actually managed to write “live”.  So you will be reading after the fact, but the words were sent via long emails at night to my daughters.  It was my plan for making sure I didn’t lose track of what happened each day, and more importantly, how I felt about what was happening and what I was seeing.Rocky Point yard While in Ireland, I did have access to the internet, due to the excellent WiFi available to me each night, but the iPad isn’t all that conducive to making comments, and we were having much too much fun to spend time reading blogs for sure.  However, I did check in now and then with some of my favorite folks. 

Rocky Point yard Reading Nickie’s story about her visit with us, I was struck by Judy’s comment about our choice to leave this “beautiful place”.  Yup, we are selling the “big house” and leaving this beautiful place, not immediately, but soon enough.  I laughed at this because Judy lives in a nice cozy RV full time without any yard word at all, so maybe she forgot what that is like. It has been wonderful having a place like this to live and to share with friends and family.  I’ll miss it, but I won’t miss the work.

Rocky Point yard When we got home yesterday, this is what greeted us at the “beautiful place”.  Work, and a lot of it.  The fall winds came and dropped a ton or so of pine needles on our yard.  Everywhere.  Ponderosa pine needles that stick into the cracks of everything and bury themselves into the grass and hold on for dear life in spite of hard raking, with branches from the trees and other kinds of debris mixed in with pine and fir cones.

Even with my constant spraying of deer repellent, the deer managed to eat our little flowering plum down to the ground while we were away. If you look closely, you can see the stems of the poor little shrub and what are left of the leaves at the bottom.  Rocky Point yard

Rocky Point yard It IS a beautiful yard, and it IS a ton of work.  Mo and I spend upwards of 40 hours a week between the two of us in the spring and summer keeping it beautiful.  It slows down a bit in the fall, but then again as the needles start to fall we are out there raking and raking and more raking, burning, and cleaning up all the flower beds.  It is nice work, satisfying work, but exhausting.  We would rather be traveling and actually relaxing a bit now that we are both in our 70’s.  It is time for change.

Rocky Point yard So, Judy, think about all that work and then ask again why in the world we would be ready to leave!?!  I thought about this today and realized that I am always careful to post photos of the place in its prime, after those long hours have yielded lovely manicured beds and mowed lawns, all neat and orderly.  Thought it might be fun to put up the photos of what it looked like after two and a half weeks of neglect. 

I now have several hundred, actually a couple thousand, photos to process, and as I work through the days, I’ll add the photos to the emails and voila!, a blog story will be born.  Stay tuned.

Vermont Part 3

Current Location: Oregon Coast Sunset Bay State Park
It is still dark out, but after slipping into the cozy MoHo bed at 7 pm last night, I can’t sleep another minute.  Outside temps are a mild 61 degrees, but I have a feeling it is cloudy and the wind is blowing in gusts and bursts.  Here at Sunset Bay we have no internet and no phone, something I expected, but a fact that still takes a bit of adjustment.  I can’t check the weather other than sticking my nose outside to get a sense of what the coming day might be like.
Jeanne and Alans house site (7 of 34)I also have no idea when this post will actually get up to the internet, but thought it might be a good idea to at least write it before I have another big backlog of Oregon Coast camping to write about. While I was traipsing about the east coast, Mo was home, and she was definitely ready for a MoHo trip.  This time of year, the coast seems to be the place where we are drawn, with no expectations of anything but windy, possibly rainy weather.  Rain in Rocky Point is cold and can get snowy in November.  Rain on the coast doesn’t often include snow, and has the added benefit of wild surf. 
Time to slip back to my week in Vermont before I completely forget the details.  Thank goodness for photos.
Around Dorset 2 (12 of 21)Wednesday in Vermont was to be simple, with a beautiful morning walk up the hills above Dorset to the orchard and then some explorations around the area.  Several guests were scheduled to arrive this evening, and Jeanne and Alan were attending to pre-wedding tasks.  In addition, they have another big project that needed a bit of attention, and Jeanne wanted me to see the site where the two of them are building their own home.
Jeanne and Alans house site (18 of 34)When we were up in the airplane on Monday, they pointed the location out to me, high on the hills overlooking the valley below.  The house on Alan’s property was first built on in the early 1700’s, when it was a tavern.  The two of them wanted so much to keep the building somewhat intact, but it was an impossible task with mold and other issues to contend with.
Jeanne and Alans house site (1 of 34)Instead, Jeanne’s task for the day was to flag the items they wanted to save from demolition.  I loved seeing the old house, the old barn, and especially the hand forged square nails and hand hewn beams.  The new house will be a timber frame, and they are going to incorporate the beams and some of the existing stones into the design.
Jeanne and Alans house site (10 of 34)Can you imagine living in these Vermont mountains with a view like this?  I was told the house will have a walk-out lower level that will be guest quarters, and I do hope I can get back again to visit and see the place when it is completed.
Jeanne and Alans house site (25 of 34)In addition to the gorgeous view, the house has its very own swimming pond.  I have never seen a pond quite like this one, absolutely crystal clear.  With a diving board. 
Jeanne and Alans house site (21 of 34)Jeanne and Alan are excited about having their own home that is truly “theirs”, not one that was “hers” or “his”.  Alan laughed with me about the old adage that building a house can break up a marriage, saying that the two of them are having a great time making the decisions and choices together and enjoying every minute of the process.
Jeanne and Alans house site (29 of 34)With two people who love the natural world, I know that the home will be a treasure of local wood and stone, and that it will be filled with art from all over the world from their joint and separate travels.  Exciting!
Camp Kinni Kinnec (4 of 30)I took some time that afternoon to explore on my own a bit, driving north to Lake St. Catherine to see if I could find the old Kinne Kinnic Camp on the northern shores of the lake. In the early 60’s, when Mo was teaching in China Lake, she decided to apply for a summer coaching job in Vermont. 
Camp Kinni Kinnec (17 of 30)The camp was one of those tony places where wealthy folks send their kids while they travel in Europe.  Mo had quite the summer teaching smartie-pants rich girls how to play tennis.  As a born west coast, rather adventurous and outdoorsy young woman, I can only imagine what a culture shock that whole experience might have been.  The telling part is that she only did it once.
Camp Kinni Kinnec (14 of 30)The original camp is no longer there, but an internet search turned up alumni including Joan Rivers among others.  I found an original sign at the entrance to what is now a private housing development, and even with the photos, Mo couldn’t remember for sure which ones were part of her camp.
The major acreage of the original camp is now Lake Catherine State Park.  With the season over and the park closed, I parked outside the gates and spent a couple of hours wandering the grounds and taking photos.  I had the entire place to myself, without another soul around.
Camp Kinni Kinnec (6 of 30)It is a beautiful park, with some very nice RV campsites, (no hookups), an easy place to launch kayaks, and trails for bike riding.  I took photos of the best campsites, and of the original buildings, hoping that Mo might recognize some of them.  The buildings were obviously much older than the state park, and I could only assume that they were from the original Camp Kinne Kinnic.
Camp Kinni Kinnec (26 of 30)Jeanne had warned me repeatedly about the typical fall outbreak of ticks in this part of Vermont, so I was careful to stay out of the brush.  Still, I did walk through some tall grass, and sure enough I looked down  and saw a creepy crawling on my pants leg.  I checked carefully for ticks that night, but not carefully enough.
Camp Kinni Kinnec (28 of 30)The next  morning, while taking my shower I was surprised to find a mole on my side that hadn’t been there the day before.  Ack!  I would imagine that little bugger was on my clothes and when I went to bed he found his way to my warm body.  Ick.  I called Jeanne and she said I needed to get to the emergency immediately to get it removed and that there was a high incidence of lyme disease in the area.  Ack again. 
Vermont back roads (29 of 29)Walking up to the house to see what I could do and where I could go, I was greeted by comments, “Russell can probably help you”.  Are you kidding me?  was my first response.  Russell had arrived the previous evening, a very attractive worldly guy with a great sense of humor, a new house in Greece, and a big box of baklava that he carried for 18 hours on the plane to share with all of us.  I had completely forgotten that Russell was also an ER doctor.  It didn’t take him long to get the tick out from a rather sensitive area, and he assured me that lyme disease was probably not a problem since the tick hadn’t been embedded for even 12 hours.  whew.  No antibiotics were needed, and the dreaded rash and bullseye ring never appeared.
The next few days before the wedding were filled with people arriving, including Eve, from my very own town of Klamath Falls.  Eve is an attorney in town and was one of Jeanne’s great running friends.  My other housemates, Tei an Cecil, who live in the previously mentioned village of Waitsfield, also arrived.
Wedding-026I had heard of Tei for years, knowing that she and Jeanne had been friends even before birth, as their mothers were friends when they were pregnant with each of them. Tei was even more delightful than I imagined, a tiny, athletic woman with huge talent and kindness. 
As the wedding drew closer, we especially enjoyed the special meet and greet evening at Alan’s house, where once again his master chef style came into play, and we had a Mexican feast worthy of royalty. Drinking, fun and laughter ensued as we all listened and told stories about Jeanne and Alan and their adventures.
Vermont back roads (3 of 29)The next day, Jeanne wanted to show Eve and I more of the beautiful countryside.  Even in the rain and clouds the colors were gorgeous, and seeing two more historic covered bridges not far from Dorset was wonderful. 
Vermont back roads (20 of 29)I also took some time to visit the nearby town of Manchester with another guest.  Ellen had arrived from Key West and was staying at the Dorset Inn.  We spent a beautiful rainy morning exploring the lovely New England town with great shops, a gorgeous gallery, and a fabulous yarn shop, Yarns for Your Soul.  The only thing that kept me from buying skeins and skeins of hand dyed wool yarn was the thought that I would have to pay all those sales taxes and then try to fit it in my luggage.  I did buy enough to make a couple of cute ski hats however, yummy stuff.
Vermont back roads (16 of 29)Ellen and I had lunch at the local independent bookstore, Northshire Bookstore, a wonderful place with real books, real food, and great cappuccino.  Ellen is another treasure.  She and Jeanne met by chance on some world trip where they were assigned as roommates, and have traveled together since that time to many exotic world locations.  I have heard Ellen stories for years as well, and was so happy that I finally got to meet her in person.
It is from this point, however, that the photos of my visit deteriorate completely.  I fell asleep the previous night with my camera on the bed.  I had been looking at the photos I had taken, and somehow didn’t put the camera away properly.  Sure enough, in the middle of the night, I heard a thump.
UhOh.  It wasn’t a long drop, and the hardwood floors weren’t that hard, but it was enough that the camera no longer worked.  I had no time to find a repair place, so the rest of the week my photos came from the iPhone.  I know that everyone seems to think iPhone photos are fine, but they don’t do that great in low light situations indoors at night, or in a church, or at a wedding.
Lucky for me, once I returned home and took the camera to the shop, the only problem was that the mirror was stuck.  I had tried dropping and lifting the mirror, but evidently hadn’t tried enough.  The camera person had the camera working in minutes.  Whew!
Next:  I know I keep saying it, but this time really:  Wedding Rehearsal, Rehearsal Dinner, Wedding, and Reception!

Vermont in October

Current Location:  Rocky Point, Oregon Clear and Cold at 32 degrees F this morning

I had a year to get excited about my trip to Vermont.  My friend Jeanne was getting married, and I knew I had to be there one way or another.  The trip was wonderful in so many ways, and yet losing our sweet dog Abby, just a few days after my return, made it impossible for me to write about the beautiful days and the beautiful wedding until now.

Around Dorset (28 of 35)Mother Myrick in the morning sunrise above Dorset, Vermont

Some time has passed since Abby left us.  We buried her not far from where our also recently deceased cat Jeremy lies, both small rock headstones visible from the kitchen window.  The initial grief and sadness has eased a bit.  The huge empty space that a beloved pet leaves behind is no less empty, but feels a bit less shocking.  The house is very quiet.  I did finally clean the dog spit off the sliding glass door, and just recently Mo put Abby’s toys away somewhere, I am not sure where.

137-Christmas_036 I think October is a beautiful month just about anywhere in this wide country.  However the classic New England fall was on my bucket list.  Mo and I have talked often of attempting to get back there in the MoHo, to fill in those last few states we have yet to experience in our rig.  However the timing for such a journey can be daunting at best.  It is always a juggle between catching the height of color and still not getting caught in the snows that follow.  If we had attempted it this year, we would have no doubt been caught in the early snowstorms that are hitting the South at this very moment.

driving to Dorset (4 of 18)The Connecticut River Greenway along my route from Boston to Dorset

Instead, I flew to Vermont on my own, while Mo spent the time caring for Abby and keeping the home fires burning, shutting down the sprinklers for winter, raking the rapidly falling pine needles and beginning the fall burning. I think I got the better end of the deal, except for Abby of course.

IMG_4470First sight of fall color at the hotel in Marlborough, Massachusetts

With Jeanne’s wedding scheduled for a Saturday, I planned my trip to give me several days of Vermont time before the wedding and before the major influx of guests.  When Jeanne lived in Klamath, and we worked together, she often shared stories of her life in Vermont.  We were both excited that I would be there in time for Jeanne to show me her beloved home state.  I was also happy for the time to spend with Jeanne and Alan and to get a taste of Jeanne’s new life.

driving to Dorset (9 of 18)The Vermont Visitor Center as I enter the state for the first time

Flying from Medford, I flew to Portland and then got a nonstop cross country flight directly to Boston.  Mo and I had been to Boston a few years ago, but it was on a cruise ship.  This would be my first visit to Vermont, and I rented a car with the thought that I would drive the 200 miles or so directly to Dorset.  I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly when I planned this, and realized that I needed to stay somewhere close to Boston rather than attempting to drive unknown back country roads in the dark of night.

driving to Dorset (17 of 18) Finding a hotel in Boston was a bit daunting, with the cheapest rooms beginning at $329 per night!  Not in my budget, for sure.  I could sleep in the car if I had to pay that much for a few hours sleep.  Instead, I drove an hour or so north toward Marlborough, and found a basic decent room for a mere $149.  The bed was OK, but the room wasn’t much more than your average Super 8 out west that goes for 49 bucks.  Still, when I woke the next morning to brilliant skies and gorgeous color in the trees, I was so glad that I waited.

It took me nearly four hours to get to Dorset because I just couldn’t resist stopping a bit for photos along the way.  It was my first time in Vermont, and the timing was very nearly perfect.  The visitor center at the Vermont state line was state of the art, beautiful, and I began to get a feel for the rural nature of the landscape, and the focus on dairy farming, agriculture, and forestry that is the hallmark of this lovely place.

driving to Dorset (12 of 18)On the winding highway along the West River I came upon the beautiful West Dummerston Covered Bridge,  remembering that Vermont has more than 100 covered bridges, and that there are more covered bridges per square mile in Vermont than any state in the country.  Of course, after our springtime covered bridge tour of Oregon, I couldn’t miss taking a photo of this lovely bridge.  I learned later that it is the second longest covered bridge in the state, but at the time I was taking the photos, I only remembered some of what I had previously learned about trusses and joists and supports.  I loved the open window on one side of the bridge especially.Around Dorset 2 (2 of 21)Alan’s home on the hill above Dorset.

I really had to make some tracks because the weather was cooperating perfectly for Alan’s offer to take me up in his airplane that afternoon.  It was a gorgeous, completely cloudless sunny day, and the rest of the week was forecasted to be rainy and dreary.  No time to waste.  If I was to see Vermont from the air, I would need to do it on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Around Dorset 2 (4 of 21)I arrived at Alan’s place by noon, and after greetings and settling in to his brother’s home down the path, Jeanne and I walked to town to the local farmer’s market to get some veggies for supper. 

Around Dorset 2 (9 of 21) Alan was brining a beautiful “happy chicken”, and only fresh grown organic veggies would be worthy of the meal.    Dorset is a beautiful small burgh with lovely historic homes and inns, winding country roads, a town green, and lovely historic churches, one of which would be the location of the wedding the following weekend.

Around Dorset 2 (1 of 21)My home for the week, just down the path from the main house.

My home for the week belonged to Alan’s brother, at the moment traveling around the world on a sailboat, and later the three bedrooms would be filled with other wedding guests.  It is a dramatic timber frame home, with great views of Mother Myrick towering over Dorset. 

airplane over Dorset (5 of 37) Within a short time, the three of us piled into Alan’s new truck for the drive north to Rutland airport. Needless to say, I was excited.  Flying in a small plane is thrilling to me, and as a map maker, seeing the landscape below up close is magical.  Alan is a forester, and his understanding of the patterns of the vegetation, his explanation of the various timber communities, and the history of the logging industry in Vermont added tremendously to the flight.

airplane over Dorset (13 of 37)airplane over Dorset (31 of 37)airplane over Dorset (18 of 37) airplane over Dorset (23 of 37)airplane over Dorset (36 of 37) Alan was excited about the flight as well, exclaiming over and over how incredibly lucky we were with the clear skies and the beautiful color playing out over the mountains.  Alan and Jeanne pointed out the local mountains, and told some sweet stories about their first hike together on Haystack as they flew past the dramatic glaciated peak. It was a perfect introduction for  my week in Vermont.

Around Dorset (1 of 35)Around Dorset (8 of 35) After our flight, Alan drove some of the back country roads around Dorset, searching for color on the hillsides.  I learned that Vermont was almost completely denuded of forest when it was first settled in the 1700’s, with more than 80 percent of the state being cleared for agriculture.  In the ensuing years, the trees have once again taken over the landscape and there is now only about 25 percent of the state cleared for agriculture. 

Around Dorset (21 of 35) I knew I wanted to see New England stone walls, but what I didn’t know was that many of those old walls are found in the forests, marking what were once open fields.  Now taken over by the forest again, the old stone walls are crumbling and tucked away in the shadowy undergrowth.  Around Dorset (9 of 35)

After that breathtaking afternoon, we returned home to Alan’s place to partake of one of the most amazing roast chicken dinners I ever experienced.  Alan is a fabulous cook, and his favorite resource is Cook’s Illustrated, also a favorite of mine.  I have never ever ever in my entire life had such a succulent chicken, set off with Jeanne’s homemade cranberry sauce and fresh beets from the market.  The gravy (another favorite food group of mine) was beyond incredible.  Thus began a week of some rather fabulous meals, both home cooked and at inns and restaurants throughout Vermont.Around Dorset (25 of 35)

Next:  Lake Champlain, Mad River Glenn, and more of “Jeanne’s Vermont”