Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fern Forest Artists

Laurel wanted to surprise Morgan with a day of sledding down Lincoln Gap Road followed by a night in Fern Forest Treehouse. Lincoln Gap Road is closed from Thanksgiving until about Easter, depending on the weather, but the brave and fit hike up and sled or ski down, navigating the hairpin turns or joyfully careening into a snow bank. A couple years ago our son Will hiked up with his puppy Rowdy, and Rowdy got so excited that he took off into the woods and disappeared. For days Will tried to find the little Hungarian Moody, but there was no sign of him. Fortunately, he was wearing a collar with a tag, and a week later a woman in Warren called to say she had found Rowdy shivering and hungry on her front porch. Somehow the pup had wandered over the mountain and into the village, managing to outsmart coyotes, fisher cats and foxes.

Instead of the Lincoln Gap Road, Morgan and Laurel accidentally took the Appalachian Gap Road, which stays open all winter for commuters from Addison County on their way to Waitsfield, Montpelier or Mad River Glen for a day of skiing. Instead of sledding, they pulled their car into the parking area at the top of the gap and hiked a few miles on the Long Trail, which crosses the gap road.

Fern Forest Treehouse perches between the two gap roads, and Laurel and Morgan managed to find their way to snowy Lincoln. They were rosy-cheeked and tired when they arrived just before nightfall, but they unloaded their gear, cleaned up and had a beer with us before heading back down the mountain to Bristol for dinner at Mary’s Restaurant at the Inn at Baldwin Creek. While we nibbled cheese, we learned that the couple met while working with troubled and at-risk teenagers in a wilderness therapy program, taking kids out for two weeks at a time with nothing but a tarp and sleeping bag, even in the depths of winter. Beside the fact that they are both exceedingly good looking, I imagine Morgan and Laurel were attracted to each other as heat sources. They also have a common drive to do good deeds in the world. Morgan now works at NRG Systems, which manufactures wind energy products in more than 135 countries. Laurel is an artist who takes discarded cabinet doors and paints on them gorgeous landscapes with gold leaf borders. She sells her work at My Expose (go to myexpose dot com and search for Laurel Fulton) and also paints on commission. Her renderings of sky and stone and sea are incredible, as are the barns, boats, and even a cow or two.

At breakfast the following morning we had some art talk and then these two visitors had to get back to their adopted barn cat. We’re counting on them coming back, and hopefully they’ll find Lincoln Gap Road this time. This generous hearted couple is always welcome at Fern Forest.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rhode Island comes to Fern Forest

I'm always amazed when people ask to stay in the treehouse in the middle of winter, but Suzanne and Patrick are used to roughing it. They've slept in a water tower in Mendicino and in a sugarhouse in southern Vermont. Patrick's a big guy and by his own admission generates a lot of heat, which is good because Suzanne is as tiny as a little bird and it was plenty cold their first night in the treehouse.

Patrick runs a CSA in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, supervising the vegetable fields in warmer weather and tending the animals in winter. Suzanne is an art therapist who appreciates nature's aesthetic beauty. They had no problem with our tricky driveway in their huge SUV, which they rented for the trip. They're the kind of folks who said no to a red Mercedes SUV because it was too showy and went with the black Ford Explorer for the same price. Me? I'd have flashed that Mercedes right up to the treehouse...but that's another story.

I met Suzanne and Patrick at the Bobcat, where H was showing them the local color at the bar. After they'd feasted on chef's specials, they came back to the house for a nightcap and some good conversation. We discovered that Patrick went to school with Colleen, a previous guest, who recommended the treehouse to him, and Suzanne's mom went to Suffolk Law School, where my son Bryant also attended. Six degrees of separation?

The couple slept right through the first night in the treehouse and the next day, after a bountiful continental breakfast, headed up Mount Abe on snowshoes. We'd had some fresh powder, and they enjoyed a couple hours playing in it. That afternoon H and I had business in Burlington and left them to sample the famous garlic soup at Mary's Restaurant at the Inn at Baldwin Creek in Bristol. When H and I returned at 10:00 p.m., they were tucked in the treehouse with lights out.

In the morning I served fresly baked apple-cranberry-walnut bread and baby portabella mushroom quiche, after which they patted their stomachs. Before they checked out, Patrick presented us with four fat breakfast sausages from Casey Farm piggies, which delighted H. They don't come any sweeter than Patrick and Suzanne, and we were sorry to see them leave. On the other hand, we just might take them up on the invitation to visit them in Rhode Island. Patrick said he'd put us up in Casey Farm's corn crib.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Winter Birds

Renee and Stacy braved snow and wind to spend a chilly January night in the treehouse in celebration of Stacy's 30th birthday. They stopped in Woodstock on their way up from Greenfield, MA, where Renee gave Stacy a snowshoe lesson. It was after nightfall by the time they found their way to Lincoln, and their trusty Honda was not willing to climb the steep driveway to the house. They had enough energy left to hike up, packs on their backs, and snuggle under the down comforter in the treehouse loft for the night.

In the morning we greeted Stacy with a birthday candle stuck into a fig muffin and sang her Happy Birthday, a little off key. She didn't seem to mind. These were two good souls. Renee does organic farming, and Stacy works for a nonprofit, helping underprivileged children. We enjoyed their company and wish they could've stayed a little longer, but they promise to return in warmer weather, and maybe they'll try a trek up Mt. Abe.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fern Forest Winter

We were quite surprised when Colleen and Jay signed up to stay two nights in the treehouse just after Christmas. We'd had some snow, and the early winter nights were getting cold. But the treehouse looked sweet outlined by colored lights.

They drove up from Brooklyn in Jay's 1996 Volkswagen Golf without snowtires, stopping for a bite to eat along Route 22A. It was after dark when they arrived in Lincoln, getting within fifty yards of our snowy driveway before they skidded off the road into a snowbank. A neighbor came to help, and AAA managed to pull them out by looping a band around the old car's rear tire.

There was no way the Golf was going to make it up our steep driveway, so H followed them to the local library, where they left their car in the parking lot, and he hauled them and their cross-country skis back to the house in his pickup truck. That night Jay picked some tunes on H's guitar and we drank a couple beers and got to know each other. Colleen is a freelance producer who worked on Survivor Fiji and met Jay when she worked for VH1, where Jay produces videos. He showed us pictures on his Mac of him with Les Paul, Trey Anastasio, and a dozen other luminaries in the music world.

We warmed up the treehouse the best we could with its little heater, and Colleen had brought an extra down comforter. I had put a thick one on the bed as well as an electrically heated mattress pad, but they'd need the extra warmth for the coldest night of the year. Temps dipped to minus five that night with a fierce wind that made the trees creak and pulled the wind chill down to minus fifteen. I was glad to see them in the morning, rosy cheeked and gleeful and not at all frozen or grumpy, and we gave them hot mushroom frittata for breakfast and kept the hot coffee coming.

That afternoon H drove them to Bristol for supplies, which included beer, wine and munchies, and then we got more snow and the news advised not to go out on the slick roads. It was too cold even to ski, so I made some black bean soup and pulled the venison steaks from the freezer, and Colleen and I made a feast, served by candlelight and seasoned with two bottles of good wine. Fed and fueled, they headed out to the treehouse for a second night.

In the morning the roads were clear, and I went to the gym for a two-hour workout. When I got back at 11:00 a.m., our guests were just rising. I made waffles with warm maple fruit compote, and they hung out with us until early afternoon. We were sorry to see these intrepid souls leave. I could sense their reluctance to head back to concrete and crowds, but I know they'll be back. What interesting, creative and versatile souls to spend some holiday time in the fierce and purifying cold with us.