When my daughter MollyRose was three or four, a group of moms from her preschool decided to go on a hiking trip to the Adirondacks. Over the past 16 years, this fall outing has become an annual event. For the past many years, our group of a dozen or so has stayed in a lodge in the Adirondacks, eating potluck, traipsing in the woods in all weather, and warming ourselves by the large fireplace in the evening.
Architect Carol Stenberg is a member of this group, and when we asked her to design our Eco-Lodge at CGC, she borrowed many of our favorite features of the Adirondack destination. So when the group was looking for a place to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of our members, the Eco-Lodge was a great fit!
The mid-January celebration was the coldest weekend of the winter so far. An outing for the whole group was a surprise gift to the birthday girl, who had no idea where she was going or with whom. But when we removed the blindfold from the guest of honor, here she was – outside the
Eco-Lodge, being hugged and greeted by her friends.
Our group arrived on Saturday morning and stayed through late Sunday afternoon. We brought goodies from home to heat up in the lodge kitchen – soups, homemade bread, cobblers for dessert. We’d packed lunches for our hike – but the temperature hovered around zero, so we ate inside at the large tables. Then we screwed up our courage, strapped on our crampons, and headed for the yellow trail.
We were lucky – a thin layer of snow had just fallen, coating the tree limbs, and creating an unfamiliar, magical path. We hiked by the creek and cut across the corrugated landscape, tight against the rocky wall that separates CGC from the neighboring property. Once out of the woods, we posed for pictures on the swinging bridge, then circled around to the edge of the wetland. Stepping cautiously on the frozen marsh, we could see the narrow creek that crosses the wetland, with the Hogbacks rising behind. It was magnificent.
It was cold, so we hurried back to the warmth of the Common Room. In the fading light of sunset, we built a fire in the woodstove, and moved all the couches around it. Then we relaxed and played board games. Someone brought out a guitar and we sang songs together. By 10:00, I was pleasantly exhausted, and I fell asleep before I could say goodnight to my bunkmates. And then it was morning.
After a breakfast of hot oatmeal and way too much coffee, we set out to find the path to the “view” up on the mountain. It was even colder than the day before, but the sun sparkled off the snow-covered branches, and the day was intoxicating. We marveled at how far we could see from the western ledge– all the way to the Adirondacks!
On our return to the Lodge, we wolfed down our lunch, and stoked the fire in the woodstove. Despite the cold outside, the room was toasty. The sub-zero weather kept us inside most of the day – a three hour walk was all our toes and frozen faces could take. But sitting in the Common Room, enjoying the view of Mount Ellen and the sunlight streaming in the windows, we enjoyed the outdoors from the comfort of our couches.
I had to leave early, to take one friend to the airport – the others were clearly reluctant to depart. But the last thing I heard was “Let’s come back in April!” - in time for the peepers, chorusing the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
Peg Kamens is one of the original founders of Common Ground, and is now co-director. Her interests in nature, gardening and architecture dovetail well with her responsibilities as site development coordinator. In general, she functions as part trouble-shooter, part trouble-maker, and can be found squirreled away in her office at camp. When she's not hanging out with her hiking group, Peg loves spending time with her three children (now in their 20's) and her husband and co-director, Jim.