Written by Angela
One of the many virtues we value most as a family is wonder. And instilling this value in Riah is incredibly important to us. In the short time we’ve been in the Green Mountain National Forest, we have come face-to-face with wonder on more occasions than I can list. Whether it is hearing a moose call—moosamaloo—during a stunning hike along the ridge overlooking Silver Lake or the sweeping sunsets from Lenny’s Lookout, a short 10 minute hike from our site, there is no shortage of wonder in our lives. And we’re seeing it in Riah, too. He’s learning more and more words and my newest favorite is his version of “raspberry.” I’ve joked for months that we would find ourselves nestled among patches of raspberries and blackberries with chanterelle mushrooms just around the corner. Well, months of joking became a reality. Surrounding our camper and throughout the entire campground are countless raspberries with blackberries waiting in the wings to blossom. Only five miles up the dirt road are 35 acres of wild blueberries with the most stunning views of the mountains. Needless to say, Riah is getting his 3-4 servings of daily fruit.
When we first spotted raspberries they weren’t quite ripe, so I would call to them on walks with Riah, in the same manner one would call for a pet. Pitched high I called, “Raspberries, raspberries, where are you?” Upon finding one ripe enough to eat, I would gasp, point, and let Riah pick and eat. He loved it and began to copy. “Baberry, baberry,” he intones in the same sing-song pitch. When he finds one ripe enough to eat, he gasps in wonder, picks, eats, and proclaims loudly, “Mmmmm.” Wonder, indeed. We’re now working on “thank you” after eating. His cadence and pitch is spot on, but like many toddlers, his “th” still sounds more like a “t.” “Tank too,” he proclaims with raspberry breath. Wonder. And gratitude, too.
More on this later, but we’ve been astounded by the hospitality of the locals. This, too, has led to wonder, but of a different variety. Not so much the wonder that causes one’s mouth to drop in awe, but the kind that has to accept with gratitude the gift that someone is freely sharing, asking nothing in return. Free cookies. Chanterelle mushrooms. Never-ending use of hot outdoor showers with jaw-dropping views of the mountains. Free water. These are not small things when one has no water supply. And I’m always a sucker for free cookies.
Amidst the beauty, the amazing hikes, the utter joy I find paddling our enormous canoe out to the middle of the lake and cozying up in its belly with a book in the sunshine, and the abundant berry supply, we are, indeed, doing some work. Of course, we have our own work—writing, art, online teaching—but we also have a few responsibilities as campground hosts. Though small, I’m finding much of our work meaningfully humorous. Basically, we answer questions, replace toilet paper in pit toilets, and keep the campgrounds clean. This entails picking up everyone’s trash (side note: please don’t litter while hiking or camping!). Our training manual suggests 8 weeks of back strengthening in order to keep up with the intense labor. We have yet to find it so intense. Lucky us.
Ever the lover of efficiency, I’ve doubled my trash and toilet duties (no pun intended) with trail running. With a backpack full of toilet paper, a trash bag, and one work glove, I set out for a good 45-60 minute run along the trails. On the run out, I dash into each unoccupied campsite, checking for trash and making a mental note of where I need to stop on the way back. As I clamor through the woods with my toilet-paper-laden backpack strapped snuggly to my sweating back, I feel like nothing short of an American Ninja Warrior as I leap over roots, rocks, giant puddles, and small streams, a look of sheer determination across my face, my bright purple trail running shoes a blaze of glory flying by the chipmunks and woodchucks cheering me onward. In reality, I know I actually look like a nearly 34 year-old mom wearing a backpack full of toilet paper barely breaking a 10 minute-mile-pace wearing the most ethically-sourced trail running shoes I could afford (bright purple was the only color available), a look of sheer horror spread across my face as mosquitoes splat into my mouth/eyes/everywhere, as a trash bag flaps aimlessly in the wind created by my ever-so-slow jog. I remain convinced that the chipmunks and woodchucks are still pretty impressed, if not by my running skills, at least by my efficiency.
And Elizabeth is no stranger to this work-run combo. It’s her story to tell, but it’s possible she was caught in a hail storm today while shoveling ashes out of fire pits. We’ve been told that another set of campground hosts started a small brushfire by spreading ashes that weren’t cool enough. With the hailstorm pummeling her head, we can rest assured that—at the very least—we didn’t catch the forest on fire. Wonder. Gratitude. A bit of hard work. And at least 25 billion mosquitoes. We’ll take it.