To my good friend, Melanie Kessler, who has challenged me to write an epic blog post, this one is for you, my dear.
Yes. My past two hikes have, indeed, been epic adventures... According to Dictionary.com... "Epic: noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style." (For an extra giggle from UrbanDictionary.com, take a peek at their interpretation of *epic* here.) How dare I attempt to live up to such a description? Well, how dare I not? I mean who doesn't want to be the hero of an epic blog post when called to do so? I sure do! Thus, on to the adventurous tales...
Well, on to them in a moment. I am first compelled to pause and tip my hat to a fellow hiker and much beloved member of the community, Matt Dibley. As some of you know, Matt died a few weeks while hiking in Lincoln, VT. I did not know Matt, but as a fellow hiker, his story has struck me deeply. To his loved ones, may you find peace.
A week ago, Tuesday, it was a glorious, Vermont, summer day. And what could make a glorious, Vermont, summer day even better? Hiking with your new dog! Our family has adopted the most gentle, sweetheart of a dog. I introduce to you, the one and only, Hope! We don't know much about her past, but she's a rescue from Passion-4-Paws.org, and we couldn't be happier with our pooch. We're guessing she's 2-3 years old, looks like a mini yellow lab (with who knows what else mixed in) and has the cutest crooked smile with a snaggle tooth to boot. She has the most gentle nature, and is a 100% people lover. So much so, that I feel I must train her to be a therapy dog so she can join me on my therapeutic music adventures and provide a little extra lift to those in need. I was a little nervous to take her off leash on the trail at first, but sweet Hope wouldn't go more than 10-20 feet ahead without bounding back to me for an ear-rub. Seriously. 20 feet, ear rub. 20 feet, ear rub. That was until she saw another human on the trail, upon which she couldn't help herself and gently ran up to them for an ear rub. Hope and I gained a lot of experience with this routine that day because we hiked the trail twice in row. Ummm, Mama unknowingly dropped the leash at the top of the mountain. But Hope didn't mind at all, and to tell you the truth, neither did I.
So how do you top a hike up the ledges with your brand new doggie? How about an impromptu full moon hike up the ledges with your girl friends! A few nights ago after a chill dinner on the deck with friends, the aforementioned Melanie Kessler tossed out the idea of a full moon hike. (Well, it was technically the night after the full moon but, shhhh, who's counting?) I hesitated - you mean right now? I haven't done the dishes, I haven't put S to bed, I'm tired... Wait, hang on a second here, did you say a full moon hike on a stunning summer night, just us ladies? HELL YES! And we snuck out before our husbands could change their minds. But it gets better. On our way to the trail head we ran into the lovely Jess McGlynn, who promptly dumped her bike, kissed the kids goodnight, and joined the crew. And who's house should we happen to pass next but the lovely Becca Kodis, who was just wrapping up meeting she'd hosted for Mari Cordes (running for Vermont House - and whichever way you lean, be sure to vote on August 9th!). So a party of 4 were we, (I had to leave the amazing Hope at home to appease my 4 year old), and we gleefully took to the trail at sunset on a full-ish moon.
With enough natural light to make it to the top, I huffed behind these 3 mamas who are in far better shape than I. Sweaty and smiling, we sat at the view point and paused our conversation for a moment to hold hands in a circle and smile at the sky. Women's full moon circles have been going on since many, many days of yore, and in our way, in that moment, we touched an ancient ritual. The moon was still hidden from sight but the sky was lit up with the afterglow of the sunset, mixed with hints of the moon-rise happening through the trees. After a little while, with the help of one head lamp and the glow from my phone, we scuttled back down in the dark, invigorated from the hike. We talked about Matt with reverence and sadness, and I'm sure our prayers to his friends and family were carried through the night forest.
There might not have been any dramatic music or scandalous love affairs, but with Hope and the moonlight as our hero/ines, this is what epic looks like in my life these days, and boy does it feel good. I hear our theme song to the movie re-make of this tale as a fiddle, banjo and guitar with some rich vocal harmonies, vs. an orchestral score with a tense melody, but hey, a story worthy and epic nonetheless!
July always makes me feel like summer is really, truly happening. School has been out for a few weeks, temperatures steady and seem to become more predictably warm, (though hahaha this weekend is wet and rainy - go figure!). 4th of July weekend really kicks the summer in to high gear with parades, BBQs and weekends on the trail, beach or lake. This morning while hiking with my husband, I noticed the leaves have lost their lime green spring-ness and are turning a more mature shade of deeper, Kelly green. Not quite the ultra-rich greens of late summer yet, but slowly working their way towards it.
This steady growth and development in the forest couldn't help but lead me to reflect upon my son's recent growth as well. S, (not sure why I feel the need to protect his name but for some reason I do), is 4 going on 5, and growing like one of those hidden acorns or maple seedlings that pop up in your garden right before your eyes. I know all moms think their kid is smart and awesome and gorgeous and I'm certainly no different. Sometimes I think I actually forget he's a kiddo because he's so articulate and conversational, so mature. But in an instant, he can so easily remind me that, like the green of the forest, he has a ways to go before the next season.
This week was his first experience at day camp. He's been going to daycare since he was 6 months old, and this past year started one day a week at a wilderness preschool. So I thought we'd give a week of camp a go this summer, you know, given that he's so mature and all. Let me tell you, that drop off was one of the hardest days I've had in ages! For us both, really. It was a full on showdown, from the moment he woke up. The previous week was camp this and camp that, I'm such a big boy, and I can't wait for Chipmunk Camp! Yet come the morning of - no freaking way was he going without a fight! I was required to be sweet, patient, bribing, coercive, demanding. And then, after an hour and a half's worth of attempts at a jolly, all-smiles drop off, I left my 4 year old in the middle of the forest with perfect strangers, kicking, screaming and tightly held while I not so narrowly escaped to head off to work.
So here's the thing - and I know you won't be shocked by this - he survived! (and so did I - barely). He cried and writhed like a baby, (and so did I - probably me more than he did.) I won't deny that that walk up the hill to my car was simply wretched, with his wailing literally echoing in the forest and tears poring down my face. But at the end of it all, I couldn't be prouder because he stayed all day, making the best of it, and even went back the next day with no fuss. All week as a matter of fact, there was no fuss nor tears as he blew kisses to me while standing on an old tire each time I drove away. The lovely group of teachers from ReTribe took my kiddo under their collective wing while he stretched and grew and matured a little more this week. And so we both crept a little closer to his 5th birthday and my 41st. And so we waded through a week of mid-Summer and new experiences while the leaves of the Hogback Ridge grew greener and darker. Whether or not we're a little wiser for it all, who can really say, but I know for certain I wouldn't have it any other way.
Hi, my name is Ali Dawson Gibson. I'm a healer, a singer and a teacher. This Blog, 52 Weeks of the Ledges, is from 2016 when I hiked this awesome Bristol Ledges trail once and week and shared my experiences. Enjoy!