Column, Living the Dream

Practicing up Pico peak

By Merisa Sherman

We had been walking for what felt like hours. Walking and talking and chatting as we made our way up the work road, not even really noticing the steep incline. Well, almost. But those moments when your breathing gets louder than the conversations are the moments that make you stop and look around and notice the absolutely gorgeous views either from the valley below or the Pico Peak looming far ahead. Somehow, it never seems like it gets closer until you are coming around that final corner to see the unloading area for the Summit Quad.

By Merisa Sherman
Steep and lush, the path to Pico Peak is proper training for a winter season spent skinning the slopes of the Green Mountains.

It was a perfect walking day, as the sky was just cloudy enough to protect us from the beating rays of the almost-fall sun as we walked on the open road. The wind was just cool enough that we had started in a thin layer of fleece and spent most of the walk debating whether or not to take the thing off. I left mine on, reminded of my high school wrestling team sweating out all the evil toxins while they exercised in three layers of sweatsuits. Also, I was already sweating so why not?

Being midweek, we barely saw anyone but the trucks that were driving around doing stuff to get ready for ski season. We like those trucks and the hard workers that drive them. And so we stand out of the way and let them pass as they slowly and carefully roll down the loose gravel. I got to ride in the “cattle car” up Killington once for a promo October ski day once and I’ll walk up and down next time, thank you very much.

Our first marker is to pass the snowmaking pond, where we pause to say a prayer at the Will family memorial bench. From the bench, the peak looms very high and far away from us, and we joke about turning around at the top of Golden or just heading over to the top of Outpost.

But no, we came here to walk and get stronger for ski season. How are we going to skin up through Summit Glades this winter if we’re skipping out on the peak now? And so we press on. It’s not really that bad as we follow the switchbacks all along the mountain, no rush and no worries as we’re both playing hooky from work.

At one point, we break from the work road for a short exploration through the woods and end up ankle deep in mud that totally looked solid. The surface was almost like quicksand, it changed so quickly and we worried that we had made a major error in our ascent but thankfully there were enough rocks to bounce on so we did not ruin the trail or our shoes.

Soon enough, though, we were back on the work road and at my favorite spot: the moment where you can see both Chittenden Reservoir and Kent Pond at the same time. I don’t know why this spot calls to me, perhaps it is the big pine tree that separates the two bodies of water or the fact that my little world is visible all in one breath. But it is the spot on Pico where I wish there was a bench to sit and stare for hours — or at least one of those old “Kodak Moment” signs that were all around in the 1980s.

We haven’t really seen too many people — a couple of young ladies with their dogs and a gentleman Nordic-walking on a mission. The entire time we walked, I was looking for Randy Crossman. He has committed to summiting Pico every day for an entire year to raise awareness for Building Bright Futures, a nonprofit organization working to improve the wellbeing of young children and families in Vermont. They monitor the early care, health and education systems and then advise the governor and Legislature on policy improvements, which I think is pretty awesome.

When we reached the summit, we chose not to duck the ropes and sit on the Summit Quad or beat on the big drum by the fire tower. Instead, we took a secret path through the alpine woods to a magical spot where you can see just about everything — if the foggy cloud hadn’t chosen that moment to settle in and completely block our view. We stood on a big rock amongst tiny little pine trees and looked out at absolutely nothing but a silvery, gray shiny nothing. Instead of a glorious view of the rolling Greens, we got a cloud. A solid cloud. Better luck next time, I guess. Good thing life is all about the journey and NOT the destination.

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