Saturday, October 02, 2010

Vermont's Footpath In The Wilderness - or - To See What We Can See

Today is another day-before-I-fly-somewhere-cool day. No hair cut this time, no boyish nerves creeping in, but rather a new pair of boots. Waterproof boots. Hiking boots. Burly boots. I’m off to spend four days and three nights hiking through the mountains of Vermont with my father. I call him Pops. We are going to hike a rather picturesque and also quite challenging leg of the Long Trail. The Long Trail cuts the state of Vermont in half, top to bottom, and has always been a dream of mine to hike it, top to bottom. I'm going to do this first, which happens to be right in the middle, with my 65 year old father. Pops. He is a former college Dean, a current graduate degree professor, and one hell of a bread baker. Between the bread and the students, he says that the rewards of his work cover both the long and the short term. A student of his will take a few years to graduate; a loaf of bread on the other hand, comes out of the oven after an hour or so. A job well done either way. I once knit him a scarf during high school Calculus class. It is the definition of unfashionable, and without a doubt is by far the ugliest scarf I have ever seen. And he just loves it. Probably because he is color blind. Most people are blue-green or red-blue colorblind. My Pops is both. As a kid, I used to ask him to, “pass me that purple thing,” knowing full well that A) there was no purple thing anywhere near him and B) that he would grab something that he thought might be purple in hopes of being helpful. “Not that, the purple thing.” This would go on for a while, with him desperatly grabing at anything that was within arms reach until eventually he caught on and would either say to the heavens, “What did I do to deserve this cruel child?” or snap at me with a smirk across his face, “get the damn purple thing yourself.” He is the smartest man I have ever known, baring that one time, years ago, when he put his hand into the whirling blades of the family snow blower and effectively cut off his own fingers. That… wasn’t so smart. I drove him to the hospital with my mother in the back seat and his severed fingers in a bowl of snow in her lap. I drove as fast as I could, taxing the engine of the small, gray family hatchback; passing every car in front of me whether there was a passing lane or not, flying the wrong way over icy one lane bridges, and blowing through the few red lights there were in my home town. When some stoic Vermont driver honked at my obvious recklessness behind the wheel, my father held up the bloody, squirting finger stumps on his left hand, spurting three streams of blood onto the window as if to try to justify my blatant disregard for the rules of the road. The doctors put his fingers back onto his hand, reattached all the nerve endings and everything, and he can play the flute just fine. He is a well-read and convincing political activist, a fierce advocate for peace, a hard-line walker if ever there was one, and a compassionate ol’ Grizzly Bear. He’s my Pops and starting tomorrow, we are going to spend a week together, huffing up mountain after mountain during the foliage change in Vermont, eating camp stove soups and home made granola bars, catching our breath on mountain tops, and shitting in the woods. Sounds perfect.


  1. Your Pops sounds, for lack of a better adjective, freaken cool. As uncool as him cutting off his fingers undoubtedly was for the three of you... You had me rolling in the isle with the retelling of it. Possibly due to the fact that in the end, he retained the use of his digits! That is amazing.
    As for your hiking trip... WOW. I have "boyish nerves" for you, and I don't even know what they are! I can already tell that it will be a great adventure. My father passed away only months after he had postponed a trip to Scotland with me. Not a day goes by that I do not wish I had pushed a little harder and made him come away with me on that adventure we could have shared together. Have the best time ever! I can not wait to hear about it and see some awesome rock photos!!!!

  2. TheHairyGeek5:10 AM

    Sounds as if you are about to have a seriously fun week with fantastic company.

  3. Anonymous2:54 PM

    --Yeah; putting my hand in the snow blower was really dumb. We gave the snow blower away last year.
    --I love that scarf; whatever color(s) it is--or isn't.
    --I had a great time hiking with you. Let's do it again. Next time, you can carry the tents and sleeping bags, too; then maybe I can make it all the way. Onward to Camel's Hump! Pops