We woke up early Monday morning to sunshine and clear skies for our last full day in Vermont. I made my morning coffee and walked out on the deck that overlooked Les and Ronnie's backyard, and for the first time all weekend I could see the top of the mountain behind their house. Everything seemed to take on a new hue, outside and in spirit, and Beau and I were both eager to get out and see some of this beautiful state.
Their backyard view. And did I mention that their front yard overlooks the tallest peak in Manchester?
Our first adventure was a hike through the woods behind Lizzie and Joanna's former high school. Their high school looks like Hogwarts Academy and sounded nothing short of amazing after listening to bits and pieces of their experience there. In addition to teaching students reading, writing, and arithmetic, they learn to ski, and have the opportunity to enroll in the "Mountain Campus Program" where they take classes in the woods we explored. For an entire semester, students can enroll to spend their days in the mountains, participating in a multi-disciplinary curriculum that focuses on the essential question, "How do we live well in this place?" and encourages students to journey off the beaten path "to discover who you are, where you live, and what sustains and inspires you." I had to look it up because it sounded that dreamy.
We hiked nearly two miles through the woods, stopping fairly often so the kids could pick up a better walking stick, throw a rock (or seven) in the pond, or drop a stick in the stream from one side of the bridge and wait to see whose stick made it to the other side the fastest. Ronnie was our tour guide and the kids enjoyed helping her navigate by spotting the color coordinated markings on the trees alongside the trails. It was an absolutely perfect weather day, and Beau and I both commented several times how fresh everything smelled. It reminded us of Lake Tahoe with its cold freshwater streams, fragrant evergreen trees, and dry, crisp air that felt like one big exhale. I couldn't get enough of the smell and said that I'm pretty sure this is that mountain air smell manufacturers try so hard to bottle up but just can't get it right.
After our hike, we had lunch at the country club, a beautiful golf course once again surrounded by mountains. While Ronnie and I enjoyed some quiet on the outdoor patio, Les carted the kids around the premises and let them tear up the putting green. The other members, most of whom are senior citizens back for the summer from snow-birding in Florida, loved having a little entertainment while they shared their club sandwiches and whiskey sours. Les was definitely in his element at the golf course and loved being able to show off the kids to all the locals. :)
Our third and final adventure of the day topped the cake. All weekend, Ronnie had been saying she hoped we could get to the lake before are time was through, and in my head I was slightly disappointed over the thought of visiting a lake instead of spending our time doing more east-coast, mountain-type excursions, whatever that might be. But by our last day in Vermont, I no longer doubted Veronica, especially as we pulled up to this breathtaking little retreat known as Emerald Lake State Park.
Known for its fresh water that looks as green as the thick mountain trees that surround it, this lake was the perfect spot to end the first leg of our travels. We did it all - built sandcastles and played in the water, rented a canoe and took it around the lake, ate popsicles with our toes in the sand, and did our best to take in the beauty that surrounded us. Most of all, we were very thankful to have had this day, the weather, and a chance to see this beautiful place with the people we love who call it home.
After the kids' were good and sacked out, we made our way back to Les and Ronnie's for one more night together. We ate leftovers at home and gave the kids baths before bed. Mila took a liking to a bear that Ronnie had found, a bear that was later gifted to her and became a travel companion for the rest of our trip. The adults stayed up late, finished off the rest of the wine, and Beau smoked us all in a game of Scattergories. And we planned our next family adventure, hopeful for a summer camp vacation a bit closer to home for the entire Jorgensen clan.
We loved our time with the Vermont Jorgensens and missed them as soon as we got in the car. If it wasn't so far away, I'm pretty sure I could Manchester, Vermont a place to call home.