Before taking off to foreign lands, I took off to some domestic ones. In the spirit of the great, 20+ person ski trips of winter, a friend suggested we arrange a similar weekend mountain retreat for summer. Emails were sent, I booked a promising Airbnb built in a barn, and thirteen friends and I set our GPSs for Middleburgh, NY, just 30 miles from Albany.
Upon arriving at our “barn”, it was clear that our back-to-basics weekend of rugged country living was a no-go. The Airbnb listing had greatly downplayed the barn’s scale and grandeur. Populous family portraits, artifacts from missionary trips to the Far East, and an almost unreasonable number of bedrooms hinted that this was the home of a prosperous Mormon family, intended to house exponential numbers of children and grandchildren. The swimming pool, hot tub, tennis court, and immense home theater (stocked with VHS classics from the 90s) were also welcome surprises. After watching Robin William’s masterpiece, Hook, we retired for the night so we’d be well rested for the next day’s hike.
By good fortune, the house was situated directly on a hiking trail called Vroman’s Nose. After a half hour walk uphill…
…we found ourselves looking down the Nose:
Hiking was hard work, but after a quick descent a fudge shop presented itself to us. With utter disregard for the lessons of Hansel and Gretel, all fourteen of us piled into the mom & pop confectionary.
After partaking of several marvelous flavors of fudge and not getting eaten ourselves, we returned to our mountaintop Mormon mansion to swim, grill, and soak. As dusk settled on the countryside we lit a fire to roast marshmellows and protect us from the potentially cannibalistic hillfolk neighbors our Airbnb host had mentioned in her email (along with the wifi password).
The sun set over the hills, and thousands of fireflies flickered in the fields and pastures around us. Someone had brought sparklers, which I’d been too scared to try as a kid, but as a grown man I was eager to finally wield. Once everyone had sparklers in hand, our group of late-20s lawyers, consultants, and businessmen ran skipping and spinning into the night, laughing with pure, childlike joy.
I knew the sparklers couldn’t burn long- no more than 30 seconds at best- so I ran on, surrounded by light and laughter amid the fireflies.
When the last sparkler had burned out we walked back to the campfire in giddy disbelief and broke out the marshmellows and scotch. I brought out my two violins (I’d never really planned on roughing it this weekend) and commenced a fiddle duet (“Whiskey Before Breakfast” was the anthem of the day.)
The next day we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways- some to Jersey, some to NYC, and I to Belize.