Sunday, July 19, 2009
My father and I left on the evening of Wednesday, July 15th, for Mountain Resort (previously known as Awesome Water Park), a massive facility about one hundred miles south of Mountain Town in the central part of this state.
I have always held, in contention with some of my friends, that Native State is endowed with more natural beauty than Southern State, but as my father and I sped south along a major interstate highway, that argument became increasingly difficult to justify. The western portion of Native State is gorgeous, but it's a small area in comparison with the vast expanses of mountains and valleys that we enjoy here.
I had been reluctant to partake in the trip, but Thomas and Pie, who'd been at Mountain Resort since Friday the 12th of July were adamant that Powell and I come, and so I acceded.
Before long, I had reason to be thankful that I'd decided to go.
We pulled up to the gate just as dusk was beginning to settle over the mountainous skyline, and as we advanced up a steep road that led to our building, my father elucidated upon the way the resort was organized, with members falling into four separate categories, each of which entailed different privileges and different types of housing. He and my mother had opted for the highest membership level available, which entitled us to the use of an "awesome" condo whenever we visited the resort.
We pulled over in front of what looked like a group of duplex houses built into the side of a mountain.
One of the first things that struck me about Mountain Resort was the strange way that nature and civilization coexisted, the latter just barely kept from falling into the chaotic clutches of the former. Decades of pervasive human presence has desensitized the animals in the area, so that deer walk right up to people in the streets and other wildlife comes closer than many of the vacationers would like.
"You have to be very careful here at night," my father warned me. "There are snakes, bears, foxes, raccoons, everywhere."
We walked across the rickety wooden deck that provided access to our house, and an ecstatic Thomas and Pie met me at the entrance and then walked me down the stairs to our condo (a single other family stayed in the condo one floor above us), anxious to give me the grand tour of the place.
We started with the kitchen, always a place of utmost concern to Thomas and me. My mother had cooked a huge bowl of spaghetti, and she and my father had furthermore stocked the place with popcorn, brownies, cookies, soda, and other goodies.
The adjacent dining room was spacious and comfortable, providing a relaxed space in which to eat our meals.
The living room was tastefully decorated and well apportioned, and it had sliding glass doors leading out onto a balcony.
"Wait a minute, Thomas," I said, interrupting his and my sister's enthusiastic presentation. "I want to go out there."
Mountain Resort is built into the mouth of a giant valley, what locals refer to as "the Cradle," and is actually an inactive volcano that burned here millions of years ago. From our position atop one ridge, the settlements on the mountain's other side looked like a glittering city hidden deep within the forest.
"Wow," I whispered. "It's so beautiful."
My siblings, however, were under the impression that something far more beautiful was located back inside, and they steered me down the hallway with appropriate promises that what I was about to see was something of incomprehensible majesty and magnificence.
When my eyes fell upon it, I was shocked.
"Sweet mother of Nelly," I exclaimed.
Nelly, incidentally, is the name of our cleaning lady, who has developed the habit of rearranging our personal belongings every time she comes to the house. For the first several months of her tenure here, we would spend days trying to locate toothbrushes, shoes, CDs, DVDs, and books, but none of us had the heart to tell her off for it because we knew she was trying to help us be organized.
Now we've grown so accustomed to this unsolicited service that, should our footwear mysteriously vanish, someone will remember, "Oh, that's right, Nelly came today," and we'll all dash for the hall closet.
She also has a peculiar penchant for putting DVDs on the shelves of my mother's desk.
My use of the term "Nelly" predates the maid's presence in our lives, however, and was already prevalent long before her term here to denote shock, exasperation, or some other strong emotion. Nonetheless, every time I say it now, she pops into my head. I'm always worried that I'm going to inadvertently shout out, "Mother of Nelly!" while she's here and leave her horribly confused or offended.
I was moved to invoke the hallowed phrase Wednesday night at the sight of our bathroom at Mountain Resort, which included floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a stand-up shower, and a Jacuzzi that covered more floor space than some entire lavatories would have occupied.
"This is ours?" I asked in amazement.
"Yeah," Thomas replied.
"Wow," I said. "Mom and Dad's must be awesome."
"Nope," he answered. "Just a shower and a toilet."
We looked at each other and cracked up laughing.
Then we continued on our tour of the house.
The bedroom that Thomas and I shared was quite nice, with single beds, a plasma television, and a window looking out onto the mountain.
My parents' room was more impressive than their bathroom.
Before long all of the beds were occupied, as, without Internet access, we drifted off the sleep at a reasonable hour.
The next morning, my mother made scrambled eggs, ham, and toast, all served with applesauce. After a quick breakfast, I stepped out onto the balcony again, where I was greeted by a stunning surprise.
In the morning daylight, the mountain's beauty was bared for all the world to see, with none of night's shadows to hide it. I couldn't help but think how very fortunate we were to be able to experience such loveliness firsthand, to wake every morning to such a breathtaking sight.
That Thursday, we trekked up to Mountain Resort's scenic overlook, an astounding vista at the top of the mountain from which the whole of the expansive resort is visible. Included in that sphere are golf courses, a fantastic waterpark, a recreation center, saunas, spas, tanning centers, a skate park, and a host of pools and hot tubs, both outdoor and indoor.
After we'd gone to the scenic overlook we spent several hours at one of the resort's more exclusive pools, a place far less crowded than the others because only certain categories of the mountain's visitors were allowed in.
If this sounds like snobbery, I only bring it up to illustrate a point: thousands of people packed this resort, filling some of the pools so densely that a person could hardly swim at all. To have an area removed from that was quite nice.
Powell and Blonde Boy, his best friend from high school, arrived that afternoon. After we left the pool, Powell, Thomas, Pie, Blonde Boy, and I went to the skatepark.
Thomas and Pie are both avid skaters (though Pie more in spirit than in practice, as she's yet to really get a good handle on it), and Powell was at one point in middle school. Blonde Boy and I were the only ones who had no history of skateboarding, and we were content to watch the three of them tear it up on the concourse.
Thomas took time to help his six-year-old sister down a ramp or two before hopping on his board to scale the ramps himself. Powell was very involved in skateboarding when he was around Thomas's age but fell out of it as he got older.
Watching Thomas easily navigate jumps and half-pipes that were challenging for many of the other skaters (and certainly for anyone in our group), Powell and I marveled at how good he'd become.
"I probably could have handled some of this stuff in like eighth grade," Powell told me. "But not now."
He participated, of course, but Thomas is obviously now the skating star of the family, better, I would dare say, than Powell was even at his peak. I'm glad Thomas has skateboarding. It's a healthy athletic pursuit that provides him with exercise, gives him a sense of accomplishment, helps him establish feelings of self-confidence, comprises a backdrop for camaraderie with many peers, and keeps him from other activities that might not be as praiseworthy.
Friday was spent almost entirely at the waterpark (which was amazing), and then early Saturday morning we left. We're planning on going back in November and I can't wait.
Along with various recreational pursuits, the vacation featured many encounters (some unwanted) with local animals.
On my first morning at Mountain Resort, my sister chanced a peek through the sliding glass doors in the living room and then rushed onto the balcony with an exclamation of, "Oh, boy, Fatty!"
Fatty is the plump groundhog who lives behind our condo, christened by my sister for his girth.
After she spotted him, Pie rushed back inside, grabbed some watermelon from the kitchen, and then dangled it out from the balcony railing, calling, "Here, Fatty. Heeeere, Fatty. Come on, Fatty!"
When Fatty complied, she tossed the fruit down at him and then laughed as he devoured it until its green husk turned white.
My father hadn't been lying about the deer, either; they routinely approached to within several yards, and on at least three separate occasions I caught one poking around near our dining room window.
That is the great paradox of Mountain Resort, one I noted to Thomas one night as we raced in the dark back to our condo after a raccoon crawled from a dumpster and began to give chase.
"It's really funny that the safest place we could be is built into the side of a mountain," I said. "We're literally surrounded by snakes, bears, deer, and all sorts of things. They're inches from us, but they can't get in."
It really is a remarkable and enjoyable place, and I'm anxiously looking forward to taking pictures this Fall, when the change of the seasons is sure to make the mountain gorgeous in a wholly different way.