Jill: I was afraid. I was afraid of the Mustang. I was afraid of the mountain. And I was afraid of the Mustang on the mountain. I can only admit that now, after the fact. [Insert some deep realization about fear.] We went to Stowe, out of curiosity, out of determination. We went to Stowe because we were in Vermont, and that’s what you do when you’re in Vermont.
Maya: Our ultimate destination was Smugglers’ Notch, about twenty minutes outside of Stowe. This was going to be the part where we attempted to work off three days of dairy consumption with a few hours of hiking. But first we drove through town, found a parking spot and did a bit of window shopping.
Jill: And we ate.
Maya: We detoured off Main Street to Stowe Coffee House for some pretty basic sustenance. I ordered a turkey wrap, pressed panini-style, with roasted red peppers, lettuce, and pepper-jack cheese. It was exactly what you’d expect, given that description—nothing exciting, just an honest sandwich. Jill made a better choice.
Jill: I had grilled cheese with Vermont cheddar, a simple sandwich that let the star be the star.
Maya: Over lunch, we looked at a map and analyzed our next move. We’d been talking about hiking all weekend: I’m without a car in Brooklyn, so it’s not often I’m afforded the opportunity for nature-related activities. The timing was going to be an issue here, though. We wanted to be back in Burlington in time for the county fair, with enough daylight left for good-quality pictures. Plus, post-meal, I was feeling nappish, but we decided to take the drive and make up our minds when we got there.
Jill: At the base of the trail, we deliberated about hiking, for about fifteen minutes. The trail was two miles and it was going to be work.
“If we don’t hike, can we still tell people we hiked?” Maya asked. I think I said yes. Except that I didn’t want to be mad at myself later, for not hiking the top of the Appalachian Trail when I had an opportunity. Even though I was nervous that it would get dark while we were up there, and that when we drove back down, we’d accidentally crash the Mustang into a boulder or a hiker or Ben & Jerry’s. (I had opted out of the insurance.)
Maya: I blame the tryptophan—it encourages laziness.
Personally, I was less concerned about driving down in the dark as I was about hiking down in the dark. We’ve been in that position before, so this wasn’t an idle worry. The more we waffled, though, the more ashamed I was of my hesitation.
Jill: And so we hiked. And I thought I was going to die. (This is my “I’m going to die” face.)
Maya: The trail was steep and rocky and wet, but we were encouraged by the sight of families with young kids, both ahead of us and passing us on their way back down. If those punk first-graders could handle the trek, surely we could as well.
Jill: Sometimes we stopped. So we could look. We saw Vermont. And it was quite beautiful.
Maya: Literally breathtaking.
Jill: My mind wandered. I thought of my friends who have hiked the Appalachian Trail. I thought of the Hocking Hills. (I never feel like I’m going to die in the Hocking Hills.) I thought of previous hikes with Maya, in Maine, in the Redwoods of California. I remembered, in detail, a conversation that Maya and I had while doing a dawn hike in Maine. (It was about The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.) And I remembered what we listened to on our way to the Redwoods. (The Jayhawks’ Rainy Day Music.) My mind wandered because I was too out of breath to speak.
Maya: Ah, the Jayhawks. We were both introduced to the band with that album purchase; we had no idea that that music would turn out to be the perfect soundtrack for our trip. Even today, I can’t listen to it without picturing misty woods and winding roads.
Anyway. Back in the state at hand. We had chosen, on the recommendation of a State Park official, the Sterling Pond Trail.
Jill: When we got to the top, my mind was silenced. Wow. Totally worth the impending car crash (that never happened).
Jill: We’ve experienced many peaks, the two of us.
Maya: This was a good one.
Stowe Coffee House
57 Mountain Road #B
Smugglers’ Notch State Park
6443 Mountain Road