Wednesday 08 Jul 2015

A Week in the Mountains

Lake Placid via Vermont: a picturesque drive through the Green Mountains to the Adirondacks, for some horse showing and July 4th fireworks. We detoured through Vermont to visit Philip’s mother’s place in Woodstock—a 1789 farmhouse overlooking the Green Mountains. His mother came here summers with her parents and sister, horses in tow. There’s a barn and an old chicken house, and this shaded, spring-fed pool. Which, reportedly, the moose enjoy as much as the people do.

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The pay phone situation at the Barnard General Store, where we had an eggs/bacon/hashbrowns breakfast at the counter:

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We drove north on scenic Route 100, pulling over a few times for photos. This classic barn, plus a couple of classic motorcycles in unlikely spots:

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BMW on a rock

BMW on a rock

Harley on the roof

Harley on the roof

In the town of Warren, we stopped to visit North Run, Missy Clark’s and John Brennan’s farm. Turnabout used to co-own this property—my mother and I built the barn with Missy over a decade ago. Because the farm is located on Dump Road (yes, that’s right), Missy and I decided to name the driveway: Otter Lane, in honor of the very same Otter who lives with Grappa in our Ridgefield pasture.

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The place looks great, bright flowerbeds and courtyard gone jungly with birches. The bear and moose are classic Missy touches:

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Photos of Missy’s past champions line the barn walls. A moose head presides over the indoor arena, which has garage doors that open to the forest and mountain views beyond. The most stunning panoramic views are from the outdoor ring, a top-of-the-world kind of spot that reminds you why Vermont is so worth the trek.

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We caught up with Brian, who managed our Turnabout horses for ten years, and ate lunch at the Warren Store. A river flows beside the sunny porch, the roasted-turkey-and-cranberry-mayo sandwiches are country perfection, and the walls in the back barn are papered with cool old record covers. Across the street is the fabulous Pitcher Inn, a Relais & Chateau gem.

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Side entrance to the Pitcher Inn

Side entrance to the Pitcher Inn

From here, the route to the Lake Placid Horse Show takes you on winding mountain switchbacks, then through the Champlain Valley, Europe-esque in its flat expanses of farmland. Rainstorms passed over us; the sun shone on the fields. We crossed into the Adirondacks—that earthy, woodsy smell in the air, big reflective lakes and craggy cliffs.

The Lake Placid Horse Show was in full swing when we arrived. This was already week 2, which we chose partly because of the July 4th holiday, for the classic American-small-town experience. (Of which the seriously good fireworks over Mirror Lake are the highlight, with the parade traffic and stream of stars-and-stripes gym shorts being less of a thrill.)

The show grounds are sited between the towering Olympic ski jumps, the Lake Placid Airport (with just the occasional prop plane drifting in), and a forested trail sloping down to the river, into which you can ride your horse if your horse will go. Despite heavy storms the week before, the arenas were in good shape, thanks to new high-tech footing that Philip, as a member of the board, helped get installed. There was a general good mood among the horse-show crowd.

Our horses, Firefly and Pistoya, went beautifully for Philip. Firefly had a smooth clear in the speed class, then missed the win in the Low Amateur Classic by just a tenth of a second—at age nineteen, jumping as brilliantly as ever:

Must have been the simultaneous pre-game naps:

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Pistoya jumped two excellent rounds over technical courses in the High Amateurs. The big jumps are easy for her; she had just one rail down each time, in the short triple combinations. Her stride is enormous, so those short distances are trickiest for her. But she and Philip are in a good groove together now. There weren’t many clear rounds in the Classic; she still finished high in the ribbons.

Friday afternoon, Philip got recruited to the visitors’ tent to sign autographs and take a radio interview. One of the girls in the tour group owned a quarter horse and knew our western reining stallion, Gunners Special Nite; she’d watched him win the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010.

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We ate some great dinners in town (Brown Dog Cafe, Maggie’s Pub at the Lake Placid Lodge) and lunches at local sandwich shops (Saranac Sourdough, Chair 6).  I picked up some Katherine Page bridle leather sandals and an extra-plush cashmere sweater at Hunt LTD’s shop at the horse show. As usual, Philip and I spent an inordinate amount of time in the stabling tent, just hanging out with our horses—with whom, it’s fair to say, we are obsessed.

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He calls her "Baby Love."

He calls her “Baby Love.”

(And she got into the poultice.)

(And she got into the poultice.)

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Sunday afternoon we dodged Albany traffic and drove the gently rolling, tree-lined Taconic south to our farm. While we all waited for the horses to get home, we took a spin around the property on the Gator (Emily, little Jasi, Jammy and dachshund, and me) and dirt bike (Philip, popping wheelies and skidding around turns) to check on Grappa and Otter in their hilltop pasture and see the progress on the riding trails. (More on that soon.)

At dinnertime, Philip rolled out his red Mercedes convertible—twenty years old and still fabulous—and we drove to town with the top down in the warm night air, Elvis singing “Hound Dog” on the tape deck, for burgers and beer. Organic, free-range burgers, that is. Our own little festive ending to a wonderful week.

Back on the farm

Back on the farm

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