Venture Vermont 2009 Outdoor Challenge

By:Judith Ensor

I’m at the top of Jay Peak. It took just about an hour and 15 minutes to climb up this time. I’ve already been rewarded for my effort as the weather has cleared and I am enjoying a beautiful view. This morning, I really struggled with whether to make the trip over from St. Albans Bay. The paper called for “partly cloudy” skies and a chance of afternoon thunderstorms but tomorrow didn’t look any more promising. So, I decided to take a chance.

For a good part of the trek up, I had to remind myself that the hike itself is part of the fun. Every once in a while, as I made my way along the trail, the sun would peek out and I’d feel rushed to get to the top before the storms came. Then, I’d make myself slow down and just enjoy the walk. “Put one foot in front of the other. Let your mind wander,” I told myself. “Get into a steady rhythm. Breathe. Relax. This is vacation, not a race.”

I wondered how many times have I made this climb? I’ve probably been coming here for over 30 years. And I never get tired of it. I pass the huge, flat boulder where Grandpa Mac waited for me that time. When was that trip? Ten years ago? Twenty? More?

I was staying with Grandmother and Grandpa Mac and decided to climb Jay Peak. Whether he really wanted to climb, was being chivalrous, or was truly worried about me going alone, I don’t know, but he decided to come along and that was that. So, just that quickly, now I was worried about him and none too pleased about the prospect of his accompanying me on my adventure. He had to have been in his late 70’s or even early 80’s. He was quite forgetful and not at all sure on his feet. But he was also ridiculously stubborn and competitive. I didn’t think that I could get him up the mountain and I definitely couldn’t keep him off of it.

Sweet Grandmother intervened and, in her quiet way, saved the day. She suggested that he pack a lunch and, when either hungry or tired, take a break while I climbed. She made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and packed it in an old Army knapsack. I picture him with that knapsack over his shoulder, wearing khaki pants, a red sweatshirt, and his ratty old brown work shoes.

We walked together to that big flat rock and that’s where he decided to rest. I was really worried about leaving him. Worried he’d fall from the outcropping and seriously injure himself; worried he’d get a second wind and start up after me only to become lost; worried that it would take me quite a while to reach the summit and return, leaving him alone and bored. I initially set off without him but soon thought better of it and quietly returned to secretly check on how he was faring. My Grandpa Mac was sitting on the ledge, legs dangling over the side, eating his sandwich and reading the Newsweek magazine that my grandmother had packed for him. I knew he’d be absolutely furious if I failed to climb because he had joined me. I knew he would know if I cheated by going only part way to the summit. Saying I’d made it to the top in record time just wasn’t an option.

So, I took a deep breath, turned around, and headed straight to the top. Grandpa Mac was waiting at the big flat rock when I returned, having finished his peanut butter sandwich but still enjoying the Newsweek magazine. On the way home, he bought us each an ice cream cone.

Today may be the first time I’ve climbed Jay Peak completely alone. It’s usually a family trip. Once, I just brought my dog. Twice, I climbed with friends. I’ve also taken the tram up a couple of times but it’s just not the same. Maybe it’s all the noise coming from the tram itself. Maybe the trip is just too quick. Maybe it’s the fact that the view is immediately impressive. Or, just maybe, the view means more when you work for it.

Today, I linger at the top. I chat with two men who are part of a construction crew charged with laying a new sewer pipe. For one of these men, although he admits to being 30 years old and spending his entire life in the area, this is his first time to the top. We talk about the fact that, when you have easy access to something and can do it whenever you want, you rarely make the time. I mention living close to Washington D.C. He went with his class in eighth grade.

I miss my family but know they never would have let me stay this long. It’s quiet. Peaceful. Although the view is more hazy than it was even an hour ago, the sun is shining and warm. I have no desire to move but told my brother he could begin to worry around 6 o’clock and it’s already 3. And so I must head back down the mountain. But first, just one more look at the view.


  1. Great story. Hope you write some more next year - Jami

  2. Thank you the story. It is written so that I as I read it I felt like I was hiking with you. I could almost see the views.

  3. What a wonderful story. You have a talent for taking the reader with you - Thanks so much. je

  4. I felt as though I climbed Jay Peak twice. Once years ago with you and your grandfather your grandfather and then this summer as you remember the other trip. Wonderful writing.

  5. Absolutely wonderful story! I want to go!

  6. This lovely account of a journey up a mountain and simultaneously down memory lane brought tears to my eyes;it was all so vividly described!
    Thank you. I enjoyed the pictures too. CMG

  7. I am eight and a half years old and I have climbed to peaks myself. I liked the story a lot! My favorite part was when she peeked to see if her grandfather was alright. RAG

  8. Judy, I hope to read more of your stories in the nesr future. I have heard many of them and know how interesting you can make any situation.


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