Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sometimes You Shouldn't Listen To Me

It has been a very rainy summer here in little Vermont.

Rain + Dirt = Mud.

Everyone knows that. Mud we know. Mud we can handle. In fact, more than one native Vermonter has been known to quip that Vermont actually has four distinct seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Mud.

Excessive summer rain also brings an excess of something considerably less pleasant than rain. Excessive summer rain brings mosquitoes. And the Northeast, for all its darling picket-fenced charm, is home to more than its fair share of mosquitoes and the ensuing red, itchy, keep-you-awake-at-night welts.

I hate mosquitoes. I'm a fairly health & Earth conscious person, but when it comes to mosquitoes, you hippies can keep your dryer sheets and rose geranium essential oils and celery extract. Give me a healthy dose of good old fashioned DEET. Preferably the kind that comes in an aerosol can so that I can get a continuous stream going for maximum insecticide coverage.

We took our motley Wonegan lot hiking on Snake Mountain in Bridport on Tuesday.

(Sophia has taken to calling us the "Wonegan Lot." It's befitting and makes me laugh.)

Climbing Snake Mountain entails making your way up the gentle incline of an old access road to the slightly more steep mountain trail that leads to the summit. On the summit rests the foundation of an old hotel that was in business for only a couple of years in the 19th century before its over-zealous owners discovered that you can't get a horse-drawn carriage filled with steamer trunks up a mountain in Mud Season.

Dan and I had been on vacation for almost a week before the rain stopped and it was cool enough outside to even consider climbing anything steeper than our driveway. The weather on Tuesday fit the bill perfectly. The day dawned clear and deliciously cool with a brisk, decidedly autumn-like wind prevailing.

Being the good parents we are, we told the grumbling children to put on their sunscreen "because," we knowingly opined, "you can get a blistering sunburn even when it's cool!" We packed a backpack with enough water for a stay in Death Valley, pounds and pounds of nuts, granola bars and fruit leathers, and sweatshirts to stave off the chilly wind that would inevitably be scouring the summit.

Right. Ready to go.

We packed everyone into the two cars (we're still looking for a car large enough to fit all 6 of us) and made our way down Route 7, through some infuriating construction delays, past our wedding-venue-to-be, through the town where Aunt Hannah and Uncle Mike live, and up a charming dirt road to the trail head.

We arrived at the "trail head" to find it looking suspiciously like a river.

Sophie and Adam got evil glimmers in their eyes at the sight of so much glorious, squishy mud, while Hallie glanced sadly at her brand-new white Converse sneakers and Eleanor scratched her Lilliputian head in wonder.

With the exception of Sophia, who plowed forward through the mud, not considering at all that her sneakers would be beyond repair by the end of the day, we started picking our way up the soggy, muddy trail.

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......... SLAP!

I turned around to see Dan flailing wildly at a mosquito that had discovered a tasty snack on his freshly showered neck.

He looked at me with desperation in his eyes and said, "Do you think we should go back to the car and put on some bug spray?"

And Mrs. Wonegan, in all of her vast wisdom of mosquito habitat and breeding biology, said authoritatively, "No, the mosquitoes are only down here were it's warm and muddy. Once we get up higher, the trail will dry out and the breeze will pick up and the mosquitoes won't be a problem. We don't have to worry."

Sometimes You Shouldn't Listen To Me.

Not only did the trail NEVER dry out - we essentially hiked up the middle of a muddy river - but the mosquitoes actually got thicker and more blood-thirsty the higher up the mountain we climbed. There was no stopping. Our only hope was to get to the summit as quickly as possible, daring to dream that it would be so windy up there that the mosquitoes would be blown away.

Our dream came true and the summit was cool, windy, blue and beautiful.

We pulled on our sweatshirts, ate our granola bars, scratched our mosquito bites, gushed over the view of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks, and discussed how very dead we would be if we fell off the mountain.

Everyone was in high spirits as we headed back down the river to our cars. We looked at colorful fungus, caught a couple of frogs and a little orange newt, and enjoyed one another's company.

Despite the mosquitoes, it was a lovely, lovely day and reminded me of how much I love being in the woods.

Only next time, I'll remember the DEET.

PS. Once we got home, Dan managed to salvage Hallie's new sneakers with the garden hose and some careful scrubbing.

Sophie's sneakers, on the other hand, went directly into the garbage.

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