Happy 4th.

I swear that I am more thrilled than I look in this picture. Lauren is actually smiling. I meant to smile but for some reason it didn’t work out.

Yes, I was thrilled to be on top of Mount Mansfield today. The members of the Small Boat Training Center had decided to hike it, and Lauren and I couldn’t pass up the chance to tag along (or lead as the case may be). We decided not to do any work today to celebrate Independence Day, and enjoy the full glory of a sunny day on the summit without the specter of an afternoon’s-worth of labor hanging over our heads.

I thought a bit about my previous 4th of July celebrations. I spent three summers celebrating in earnest out in Colorado, running a race early in the morning and starting to drink immediately afterwards. There were costumes, parades, running through firehoses and getting pelted with water balloons, and naps to combat afternoon hangovers. It was fun. It was exhausting. It’s entertaining to look through the pictures from those years.

I wish I could be out in Crested Butte right now for that raucous celebration, but I can’t. Today was a more low-key 4th, yet in its own way it was just as enjoyable. For weeks I have been wishing that I could go hiking and get on top of a mountain, and I feel totally spoiled to have been able to do so twice in four days. Having the other Craftsbury athletes for company was a treat too.

We decided to hike up under the gondola, following a Graves family tradition despite the fact that there were no Graves boys actually present. I can say without question that this is my least favorite way to get up the mountain. But we made it to the top of the gondola, regrouped, and then headed up the Cliff Trail.

Luckily, the Cliff Trail is my new favorite trail on the mountain. It was really fun to pick our way up, down, over, and between boulders, following the elusive stripe of paint that suggested a route through the rocks. In addition I was able to snap some cool photos of the SBTC crew hiking up behind me. Now I guess I just have to figure out how to get to the Cliff Trail without having to hike straight up a ski run.

The whole crew eventually made it to the top, where we snacked on trail mix and sandwiches. Although the rowers had made fun of the drink belts Lauren and I had worn, I think we had the better deal: several of them brought backpacks, and one didn’t bring any water at all – stupid on a day where it was in the 80s in the valley! Nordiepacks aren’t no laughing matter.

We capped the trip off by running back south on the Long Trail, jumping on the toll road for half a mile, starting down Nosedive (ouch), and then running down the Haselton Trail. Last year, when our team had hiked on the mountain, we had gone up the Haselton Trail after already running for 2 1/2 hours. I had been grumpy and it had seemed really hard. This time, running down it, I loved it. I was able to really cruise along, jumping from rock to rock and skipping over roots: the trail was rugged enough to be interesting and challenging and require my full attention, but I was still going at almost full-speed. Being light of foot kept me light at heart. I was in a great mood when the trail spit us out at the bottom.

The rest of the day was nothing special: we swam in a pond, watched a movie, and relaxed after dinner. I guess this is what independence means to me now, not having to go do anything I don’t want to do. We are about to start a fun but stressful week-long camp for younger skiers, so it was nice not to have any obligations for a day.

Thanks, rowers, for giving us an excuse to go climb a mountain!