Water and Fire! Camping in Vermont one Last Time before Winter

Here Comes the Rain

Last weekend I took a camping trip with the whole family. We rented two sites at Molly Stark State Park in Vermont, and myself, my parents, my sister and her boyfriend, and my other sister and her husband and 4 kids all 5 and under descended upon this—until then—quiet wooded camp ground. Now, perhaps I have not made myself clear in other posts, or perhaps it seemed an exaggeration. There are 2 times I can remember camping when it did not rain. One was when I was 9, and we hiked the Grand Canyon as a family. The other was when I was 7 or 8 and we hiked Black Mountain Pond in the White Mountains; it didn’t rain, it snowed.

So yes, on this two night trip there was a significant downpour. But, per usual, we prepared for it, and the tarp kept us dry. Well, most of us. My one year old nephew started the trend by looking mesmerized at the water running off the tarp, before he crept over to the puddle and began playing. It actually kept him entertained for quite some time, and I can understand that. I have always been weirdly obsessed with water; rain, rivers, lakes, the ocean, pools. So as a one year old, this probably was like playing in a waterfall.

By the time he was done and ready for dry clothing, my four year old niece and two year old nephew decided it would likewise be fun to put their heads under the stream of rain runoff, catch the water in their hands, and jump in puddles. What are camping trips for anyway? While I was perfectly content drinking one of my pumpkin beers under the tarp next to the fire, there was a certain element of jealousy. It’s not that I couldn’t have joined in drenching myself in freezing rain, it’s that I didn’t want to. There was a time when I wouldn’t have dreamed of passing up the opportunity to get soaking wet playing in torrential rain. C’est la vie!

Fire Tower on Mount Olga

But before the rain, we managed to get in a couple miles of hiking to the top of Mount Olga. It’s a small mountain by our standards, something like 2,600 feet. It was impressive to see my two nieces, five and four, hike almost the entire way up and down the mountain, bounding and laughing the whole way. I carried the younger one for the final half mile stretch back.

The coolest part of this hike was the fire tower at the top of the mountain. It was once used to survey the surrounding area for fires in order to alert the fire departments and keep it from getting out of hand. In fact we could see smoke quite some distance off, despite the cloud cover. Hmm… now I’m wondering if we were derelict on our duty.

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That thing was rickety! I actually surprised myself that I was getting nervous after climbing only the first set of stairs. See, the only railings stopped at each platform as you climbed, where only the outside pieces of metal holding up the structure offered any safety. Luckily these metal bars became more frequently placed as you ascended the tower, but there were still gaps here and there that it seemed one false move would lead to plummeting five stories down. Needless to say, the kids stayed at the bottom of the tower.

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At the top, you could feel the structure bounce as another person climbed the metal and wood tower. But at least in the “crow’s nest” you were fully surrounded by 4 feet high walls of metal, and window frames above that. The view was amazing. Coming down from the structure, I kept one hand on whatever piece of metal was within reach at all times. It is an awesome place to go! But I wouldn’t bring any careless kids, or ever young teenagers for that matter. Uhg I keep sounding old.

On the hike back to camp I located some Indian Cucumbers, and we dug the small carrot shaped white tubers from an inch or two underground each plant. The Indian Cucumber has a whorl of leaves about halfway up the stock, and then another three leaves at the top of the plant, generally less than a foot high. If it is far enough along in the season, there may be 3 shiny inedible berries at the top, that should not be eaten. If you dig around the base of the plant, which is found in moist woodlands in soil easily dug through with the index finger, you will come across the tiny tuber, always facing sideways, but in no particular direction. Dig this out, clean off the dirt, and you can munch on this crispy little root with a mild sweet and nutty flavor. The girls had fun digging with us to collect about 10 tubers, that we at by the campfire later that night.

It is always good to add a dash of self sufficiency to a camping trip!

 

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