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Deer Leap or Bust

by Cassie Horner and Tim Sink

When Cassie was a kid, she and her mom made the trek once or twice a year to visit her father’s grave. A native Vermonter born in 1890 in Underhill, he is buried in the tiny, old farm town of Berkshire, up near the Canadian border. The trip involved a circuitous route from Woodstock up Route 100 to Stowe and the steeply winding Smugglers’ Notch Road to the wide-open flat farmlands of Bakersfield into Enosburg Falls where they stayed with her parents’ longtime friends, Helen and Carl Converse — who always gave them a warm welcome to their neat Cape on Orchard Street. But one place on the way always intrigued Cassie — how many times did she and her mom drive by the road in Fairfield marked by a sign pointing to the birthplace of Chester Arthur, 21st president of the U.S.A. (He was one of two born in Vermont, the other being the more well-known Calvin Coolidge.) Cassie always advocated for stopping but somehow there was never time. That was in the 1960s and early 70s and that historic site remains a road never taken.

Tim remembers always being excited going places he’d never been before. His first experience of the ocean was in Toms River, New Jersey visiting his uncle, aunt and cousins. He remembers visiting his paternal grandmother in Largo, Florida, driving all the way from Pennsylvania in a new 1965 Chevy Bel Air in July with no air conditioning. He admits to being envious of a childhood friend, Lee, whose New York City-employed father took Lee and the rest of his family on a road trip to see Mount Rushmore. Tim’s very Irish maternal grandmother always told everyone to “go and do everything you can while you’re young enough to do it, don’t wait!” To date, Mount Rushmore has not been on the itinerary, though.

This sentiment brings us to Fall 2014 when, after hundreds of times driving by the beautiful rock ledge overlook known as Deer Leap on Route 4 at the height of land in Killington, we finally stopped and made the ascent on a glorious autumn day. We were in the company of dozens of hikers, in twos and threes and larger family groups, including some wellbehaved canines, following the path trod smooth by thousands of feet over many years. The foliage views were stunning, and the atmosphere friendly and relaxed. However we might feel about missed places, like Chester Arthur’s humble birthplace or the exalted Mount Rushmore, Deer Leap met our expectations set by what we had so often gazed up to from Route 4. So, in the words of Tim’s grandma, if there is a place you have been thinking of visiting this fall, “Don’t wait!”

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