The View from Faraway Farm: Your first mountain

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I may have been 8 or 9 when I got the news that our family was going on a picnic the next day. It was summer, it was during a stretch of great sunny weather and we were all excited about going up Mount Ascutney. Being the kid who managed our directional TV antenna, I knew exactly where Mount Ascutney was in relation to our home. In fact, I had seen it from atop the hill behind our house. It wasn't all that far away and being a "Monadnock," a mountain that stood alone, not a part of a chain, it was easy to recognize. Our house overlooked the town of Chester, and the hill behind us overlooked an even larger area.

Knowing this, I assumed that if I climbed one of the huge pine trees behind our house in our 10-acre woods, I ought to be able to see Ascutney with the naked eye. No one tried to stop me, so up I went, kicking off dead branches as I went, getting covered in pine pitch and having a grand old time of it. As I neared my personal height limit I looked north and sure enough, between two hills well north of town stood Ascutney in all her blue distant glory! Everyone on the ground was convinced that I was making it up, and other than getting a camera for photographic proof I was pretty much laughed at for having the audacity to make such a claim, however true and accurate. OK suckers, but unless you have the guts to climb up here you'll never know.

The next day's trek up Mount Ascutney was about 98 percent by car and 2 percent on foot, anticlimactic compared to my adventure up the pine tree. A year or so later we did a repeat family picnic on Okemo where my Dad pointed out trails that he had ridden up the mountain on his Indian Scout motorcycle as a young man. It was another drive and walk situation that did not throw much challenge our way. My next mountain was quite different.

As a Boy Scout with the South Royalton Troop, I hiked from North Clarendon to the top of Killington with a number of my fellow scouts. The older, faster guys were Tommy and Johnny Dumville and I was pretty proud of myself for being able to keep up with them. We spent the night at the shelter just below the very top of Killington with the lights of Rutland spread out before us. We climbed halfway up the fire tower and sat on the stairs where we were in enough wind to be in a bug-free zone and we got to enjoy the company of the young Ranger while she was there. That was a taste of Vermont heaven like no other and it added to the lasting and positive impression of the great outdoors that my Vermont childhood had afforded me.

You get a little addicted to mountains after sights like that. I've been up Mount Washington numerous times, Mount Kearsarge, Sunapee, and Equinox. I've looked off into the distances from the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Mountains, as well as the Sierra Nevadas. Living on a good sized hill I have noticed just how much the changing light affects what you can and cannot see from a lofty perch. Depending on how the light is hitting the areas that you are viewing you will sometimes see landmarks on one day, while on others they will be completely invisible. The angle of the sun and even the lack of natural light coupled with artificial light makes certain landmarks show up. To me, it holds endless fascination. Like when you see the sun glinting off a metal roof on a mountainside some 40 or 50 miles away with the naked eye. Then, with the aid of satellite technology, you actually pinpoint exactly where that property lies. That's cool stuff!

As a kid, I got a kick out of locating friends' and classmates' homes from our house up on High Street. When all the leaves were down you could see quite a few of the town's homes. Seeing them from a distance like that made them look different so you had to figure out the perspective and know the roof and trim colors quite well. It was a challenge of your powers of observation on the more distant homes. Factors such as these make it difficult for me to live in flat, monotonous terrain. Each time I've done it, it lacked something I needed. What was your first mountain?

Arlo Mudgett's Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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