The drive was like climbing a tree of water. First was the trunk of the Hudson River. Then we ventured along a big limb known as the Battenkill. Next came a side branch called White Creek
(stream names tend towards the monochromatic over here - there are two White Creeks, a Black Creek and its mate, the West Branch of Black Creek, and last if not least, a Little White Creek.) Finally, rising past Rupert, Mill Brook divides into a numerous little unnamed twigs that collect the runoff from the Taconic ridgeline. And out on the hiking trail we passed moss covered ledges seeping with individual droplets, the leaves of this sprawling watershed tree.
Salem, like Cambridge, is sited on flat, well-drained outwash deposits ideal for building. After turning onto Co. 153 in the center of town I always look for a magnificent sycamore just past the Fort Salem Theater. Love that tree and the beautiful old homes that line the street. Beyond is classic hill country scenery with fields backed by wooded slopes. Soon you reach West Rupert and then Rupert, sibling Vermont hamlets that seem content to be far from the maddening crowd. The D&H rail trail parallels the road before heading north towards West Pawlet. It's a good route to walk, ski or bike.
A steep hill leads to the entrance to Merck Forest and a narrow dirt road that ends at a parking area and visitors center. Walking from here we passed a cabin, sugar house, barns and sheep pasture before meeting Susanna and Dara for the hike up Mt. Antone. At 2600 feet, it's the high point. The maple forest was strung with sap lines ready for the sweet season in March. A colorful mix of birches and spruce were sprinkled thru the sugarbush along with rocky outcrops of slate and phyllite.
Lila ready to rumble