Wood, Windows and Words

September 13, 2020

I’m a little behind in my putting down some words here along the Mill Brook, so it is time to catch up a little.

This is the time of year that we enjoy the crack between the seasons here in the Mad River Valley. That is, the time when we get the Valley back to ourselves, with visitors and second homeowners returned to their down-east lives, before the onslaught of leaf-peepers. It is also the time to get the wood in, and wash the windows to enjoy the golden-splendor that envelopes the Russell Ranch in the fall. The ski-bum house is not large, but it provides the basic comforts in life, thanks to the metal roof, wood stove, large windows, and the replete kitchen. Working outside, with the Mill Brook purring in the background on a nice cool morning, is not so bad. The dry summer has reduced the brook to mellow babble. A fine background for some recorded solo piano on the JBL bluetooth on the deck as I role the wheelbarrow back and forth between the pile and shed.

I am hunkered down at the Ranch and my usual local haunts for the foreseeable future. No more travel to New York State. 2020 was not the year that we envisioned years ago, as the local planners of the Mad River Valley, who sought to define the future with goals and strategies for making this a perfect place. Guess what? We did! Here is the perfect place to live the Vermont motto – “Freedom and Unity.” Free to be ourselves, but with the understanding of our collective responsibility to protect each other. We are wearing masks without stigma or shame to protect each other.

Community abounds everywhere in the human sphere. Due to Covid-19, I have had the unique opportunity to expand my relationships within another community this summer – the Adirondack Club (ADK) of New York State. Swapping out the community of hundreds of adults and thousands of kids of the junior drum and bugle corps that I usually immerse myself in during the summer, for the ADKers was not what I expected. However, it has been a very special experience and fine consolation. Before the pandemic shutdown, I was planning a tour of drum corps shows along the west coast and record the experience with words and photos here. As it turns out, my summertime blog series has been supplanted by these occasional outbursts of words (blog posts) relating stories of my adventures on the North Country Trail.

The pile shrinks as the neatly securely stacked cords rise. I break for the occasional rest and paragraph or two here. The day is filled with reflections in the mind, be damned the sore joints and muscles. Striving to draw that line of correlation between the past, current and future, my mind searches for answers. Certain truths emerge. Outdoors is the new In thing. My decades of work helping communities develop sidewalks, bike paths, trails and greenways, and conserved recreation areas provide me with many prideful moments as an active retiree and I now see how truly important that work has been.

Being in the right place at the right time, following the coincidental discovery of the North Country Trail last summer, I find myself able to further my efforts by becoming a dedicated volunteer for the North Country Trail Association. Recently, I spent a day doing trail maintenance with fifteen other hearty souls, members of the ADK, on the Little Woodhull Trail, one of the hundreds of designated pieces of the North Country Trail. The trail terminates as Little Woodhull Lake, another awesome secluded waterbody in the Dacks. We split up into two teams of eight, starting from two trailheads with a plan to meet in the middle. Each team was tasked with clearing blowdowns and replacing the old blazes. Once again, I had the pleasure of working with Mary Coffin, crew leader and member of the Onondaga Chapter.

Once again, I witnessed the skill and strength of the hearty two-man saw teams. This is not only an exercise in brawn, but of brain as well when employing leverage and wedges strategically. I worked on the smaller obstructions and kept ahead of the heavy workers. Social distancing was not a problem and I was glad to be free of my mask when working alone. What a pleasure it has been to rediscover my native State of New York and to hang out with fellow Yorkstaters. There is something quite genuine about the forthright candor of the upstaters from Central New York. It is amazing to me that folks from the Syracuse area travel to the Adirondacks to do trail work many times a year, traveling over 4 hours round trip. It was a very successful work party with blowdowns cleared and new blazes installed. The two work parties met in the middle and we all walked out together. After some trailside merriment back at the parking lot, we shuttled the others back to their cars and departed for home. I went east back to Vermont, and they went west back to the heart of New York State.

The wood is in. Whew! Three cords, neatly stacked in the woodshed ready to provide comfort for the next three seasons. Now time to move on to the windows. Soon I will be raking leaves, putting away the lawnmower and bikes, and getting out the skis. If we are lucky and mother nature provides, we will take our first turns in mid-October. Meanwhile, I will keep you posted along the Mill Brook.

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