Family and friends might take offense at the title of today’s post. After all, Deb and I have celebrated more than a hundred Christmases between us — many of them special, shared with the people closest to us.
Rest assured that we cherish our memories of holidays spent with them. But she and I agree that we just had our best Christmas ever.
Traffic was light as I wheeled Mercy east on US 62 yesterday morning. Businesses we passed were closed, save a gas station or two. It was a brilliant Christmas Day, clear and unseasonably warm. We arrived on The Mountain in time for Deb to play Santa (before her cousin returned from breakfast) and give Milk-Bones to his dogs.
I pulled the cover off the Ranger and we loaded it for the day we had planned — a combination of work and play. We eased down the road to where the old cut begins, parked and got down to business.
Our objective isn’t to turn the path to the summit into a thoroughfare, but we wanted to widen it a little and get rid of some overhanging limbs. I walked back and forth up the cut, using loppers to crop branches, remove seedlings and clear thorny vines. For saplings and larger limbs I used the chainsaw. Deb followed along behind, dragging brush off the path and fine-tuning with pruners.
Once we were satisfied with the lower section we got back in the Ranger, moved upslope, parked again and began clearing the next stretch. This was actual work, and with temps in the mid-70s we definitely broke a sweat.
And we couldn’t stop smiling — we were gettin’ our joy on.
Closer to the top, the terrain got rockier. The cut was more difficult to discern (if it was there at all). We decided that we’d end our Ranger trail within 25 yards of the highest point and (later) clear a footpath to where we intend to build a small shelter and a place to pitch a tent or two.
With our labor done, it was time for “Christmas dinner.” We carried the cooler a short distance into the woods and plopped down on a rock, our seat cushion provided by a thick layer of moss. Deb had packed us a feast of cheese, summer sausage and crackers. I enjoyed a dense and delicious “Ponca Trail Cookie” from Lillie Hobbs Bakery in Omaha, Arkansas.
We’d been sitting there a while when our ears picked up the sound of an ATV coming toward us on a track that climbs the other side of The Mountain. A few minutes later Deb’s cousin rolled up on his quad. We shared Christmas greetings and reveled in the beautiful weather before he headed back down to his cabin.
Deb and I sat a bit longer, then we hiked around the summit. Every moment we’re there brings a new discovery, every turn of the head a new wonder. The Mountain, we’ve found, is quite a place.
We turned the Ranger around and followed the improved cut down toward the road, noting a few more places that need to be trimmed back. Mostly, though, we accomplished what we set out to do — create a path that’s not necessarily easy, but which can be run at a relaxed pace without undue drama.
On our way back to the cabin we stopped by the area cleared by the backhoe, poking around the ledges, daydreaming. Afterward we exchanged gifts with Deb’s cousin and his girlfriend and did some porch-sittin’.
Deb handled the driving on the return to the campground. The sense of peace and contentment, both of us, was undeniable. We’d had a beautiful, blissful day. We’ve found our Happy Place.
Best Christmas ever.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.