April 21, 2018

Baseball heads into home stretch


The 10-2 Champlain Valley Union High baseball team travels to strong South Burlington High on Thursday, one of just four games left in the regular season. On Saturday, the team takes on Milton High at home, then heads to BFA St. Albans on May 28.

A series of late rallies, and key hits by Davis Mikell, Will Potter and Kirk Fontana gave the Redhawks a 6-4 win at Missisquoi High on May 21. Pitcher Kyle Stanley  went six innings, striking out six. Fontana added an RBI on a pair of singles.

“This is a relentless group, they refuse to go down without a fight,” Coach Tim Albertson wrote in an email to the Observer. “Kyle Stanley battled all game and settled down well. Kirk Fontana and Will Potter came up big for us.”

On May 18, CVU beat North Country Union High 9-2 after an eight-run first inning. Dylan Ireland pitched a complete game, allowing two hits and striking out nine. Rayne Supple went one-for-two with his first career home run, finishing the day with three runs batted in. Joel Lamarche went three innings, giving up five runs on six hits, and walked eight.

“Dylan Ireland pitched a great game,” Albertson wrote. “He hit his spots and changed speeds really well to keep them off guard.”

CVU racked up another win on May 16, when key hits by Mikell and Supple propelled CVU to a 5-3 win over Vergennes High. Supple who started for CVU, went four innings, giving up two hits. Supple, also went four-for-four with two singles, two triples and an RBI. Stanley earned the save throwing three innings. Michael Danyow went six innings, allowing two earned runs on eleven hits.

Alberton wrote. “Rayne Supple had a great day for us at the plate. It’s great to see production for our entire line up.”

Second shutout of season for boys lacrosse

Senior Redhawk defender Mike Ford outplays his Middlebury defenders during a May 17 game at Champlain Valley Union. The Redhawks won 6-0.  (Observer photo by Jayson Argento)

Senior Redhawk defender Mike Ford outplays his Middlebury defenders during a May 17 game at Champlain Valley Union. The Redhawks won 6-0.
(Observer photo by Jayson Argento)

Champlain Valley Union High School boys lacrosse goalie Owen Hudson racked up 11 saves in the Redhawks May 17 battle with Middlebury Union High, securing CVU’s second shutout of the season.

CVU beat Middlebury 6-0, with five Redhawks—Nevin DiParlo, Hoyt McCuin, Alex Bulla, Elliot Mitchell and Steele Dubrul—contributing goals. The win brought the Redhawks’ record up to 9-3.

CVU also shut out Spaulding High on May 11, 13-0.

After a Wednesday afternoon game against Burlington High, the Redhawks have just three games left in the regular season.

On Saturday, they play BFA St. Albans, a team they beat 14-1 earlier in the spring. The final two games—South Burlington High on May 28 and tough Essex High on May 31—will be played at home.

—Stephanie Choate, Observer staff


Leave young wildlife in the wild

Moose calves like this one, photographed May 19, and deer fawns may seem to be abandoned while their mothers feed nearby. Vermont Fish & Wildlife reminds residents to enjoy watching them from a distance, but don’t pick them up. (Observer courtesy photo)

Moose calves like this one, photographed May 19, and deer fawns may seem to be abandoned while their mothers feed nearby. Vermont Fish & Wildlife reminds residents to enjoy watching them from a distance, but don’t pick them up. (Observer courtesy photo)

Watching wildlife is enjoyable, especially when young animals appear in the spring. But it’s best to keep your distance. Picking up young wildlife can do more harm than good, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. It’s also against the law.

When people see young animals alone, they often mistakenly assume these animals are helpless or lost, in trouble or needing to be rescued. Bringing young wildlife into a human environment often results in permanent separation from their mothers and a sad ending for the animal.

Handling wildlife could also pose a threat to the people involved. Wild animals can transmit disease and angry mothers can pose significant dangers.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department scientists encourage wildlife watchers to respect the behavior of animals in the spring and early summer, and to resist the urge to assist wildlife in ways that may be harmful. The department provides the following tips:

Deer and moose nurse their young at different times during the day, and often leave young alone for long periods of time. These animals are not lost. Their mothers know where they are and will return.

Young birds on the ground may have left their nest, but their parents will still feed them.

Young animals such as fox and raccoon will often follow their parents. The family of a “wandering” animal searching for food is usually nearby but just out of sight to a person happening upon it.

Animals that act sick can carry rabies, parasites or other harmful diseases. Do not handle them. Even though they do not show symptoms, healthy-looking raccoons, foxes, skunks, and bats also may also be carriers of the deadly rabies virus.

Many wildlife species will not feed or care for their young when people are close by. Obey signs that restrict access to wildlife nesting areas, including hiking trails that may be temporarily closed.

Keep domestic pets indoors, leashed or fenced in. Dogs and cats kill many baby animals each year.

Avoid projects that remove trees, shrubs and dead snags that contain bird and other nests during the spring and summer.

For information about rabies and nuisance wildlife, call the Vermont

Rabies Hotline at 1-800-4RABIES (1-800-472-2437).

For the safety of all wildlife, taking a wild animal into captivity is illegal. If you find an orphaned animal, however, contact the nearest rehabilitator specializing in the species you’ve found. Look under “Wildlife Programs” on Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s website, www.vtfishandwildlife.com, to learn about Vermont’s wildlife rehabilitators.

Go play with kids your own age

The Silver Spokes Club meets for informal social bike rides every Tuesday. (Observer courtesy photo)

The Silver Spokes Club meets for informal social bike rides every Tuesday. (Observer courtesy photo)

By Phyl Newbeck

Observer correspondent

Sometimes going out by yourself to bike, ski, hike or paddle feels like exercise, but if you add a friend or two to the mix it becomes play instead. Older Vermonters who like to mix a little social interaction with their exercise have a variety of groups they can join which will take that workout and turn it into playtime.

In February 2013, Nancy Hankey of Essex started the 50+ Keeping Active Fitness Group. Renn Niquette of Colchester has been on three of their outings.

“I’m a walker and a hiker,” she said. “I joined because I like to stay active.”

Niquette said the group tends to go on outings that cover two to four miles in roughly ninety minutes. “It’s always nice to go out with a group because you can socialize along the way,” she said. “As you age, you appreciate the moment more. That includes taking time to enjoy both the companionship and the physical beauty of the scenery.”

In the summer, cyclists ranging in age from 50 to over 80 ride every Tuesday with the Silver Spokes. Informal President Steve Couzelis said most riders are in their 60s and 70s. In April, four members of the group got together to plan their rides for the summer. Most routes are in the 20-mile range, but one ride around Lake Champlain is 60 miles long and some of the Canadian rides are more than 30 miles. Roughly 40 people are members of this informal, due-less club with 20-25 showing up for each ride. Couzelis said they average 12-13 mph with stops every twenty minutes or so to chat and regroup. They often break for lunch or coffee, as well. “We’re not a racing group,” he said. “We’re a social group.”

Some club members enjoy the rides so much that they get together on Fridays for less formal rides. At the end of the year, the group has a banquet with dinner and a guest speaker.

For skiers, the 55+ Club at Smugglers’ Notch offers companionship and educational programs for those 55 years of age and older for an annual fee of $30. From early December to late March, club members meet in the Village at Morse Mountain on Wednesday mornings for free coffee and pastries, trail reports and announcements, and to break up into groups based on interest and ability. Although some club members are former instructors or patrollers who barrel down double black diamond trails at warp speeds, others come to the club as complete novices, relishing the opportunity to learn from and with their peers.

Both the 55+ Club and the Silver Spokes members enjoy each other’s company enough to expand beyond their seasons. Although there are no regular meetings, in the summer, members of the 55+ Club stay in touch and stay active with a schedule, set in the spring, for weekly activities, usually on Wednesdays that include hiking, cycling, kayaking and an annual skeet shooting event. Conversely, in the winter, members of the Silver Spokes can often be found on the slopes of Smugglers’ Notch on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Jeff LaBossiere is the organizer of a group called the Long Trail Running Club, which was founded in 2009. Although the club has members of all ages, LaBossiere said it is common for older athletes to turn from road running to trail running as they get slower with age. “When avid runners have injuries,” he said, “they turn to the trail because it’s far more forgiving than the road.”

The club has at least one organized run each week, but members also send out notices when they go out on runs on their own. LaBossiere noted that trail running is far more social than running on the road due to the slower place that allows for conversation.

“Trail runners have a great sense of community,” he said, adding that he met his wife on a trail run.

Although not restricted to older members, groups like the Catamount Trail Association (cross-country/backcountry skiing), Champlain Kayak Club, Green Mountain Bicycling Club, Green Mountain Club (hiking) and Vermont Paddlers Club sponsor outings where a number of members are 50 and older. Leslie Carew, former touring chair of the bicycle club, believes at least 50 percent of the riders in the club’s touring section are over 50. Amy Otten, a member of the Catamount Trail Association Board of Directors, believes her group’s numbers are similar. She noted that on a recent multi-day ski outing, only two of the 23 participants were under the age of 50.

Rob Libby, President of the Champlain Kayak Club, estimates at least 60 percent of their membership is 50 or older, with the majority of those in their 60s. There are five active members in their 70s. Two years ago, at age 43, Libby and his wife were the youngest out of 90 members, but recently some younger paddlers have joined.

At the Vermont Paddlers Club, Tony Shaw reported that almost half the club’s membership is over 50. Roughly one quarter of the members haven’t provided their date of birth, but of those who have, four are over 70, 15 are in their 60s and 17 are in their 50s. Although some of those members are no longer active paddlers, they still attend club functions like potluck suppers and slide shows.

“When you get older, you don’t have your work peer group anymore,” said Couzelis. “I’ve been retired for 16 years and this is my second family.”

Niquette concurred, adding that “as you age, making connections and friends is really important.”

Otten noted that group outings bring people out on days when they might not otherwise be active.

“Group enthusiasm makes marginal conditions better,” she said. “The fun is contagious when you ride with others,” Carew said. “Friends can almost turn a rainy day into a sunny one.”

Please don’t pass the salt

By Dr. Stuart Offer

Special to the Observer

I think you would agree if I were to tell you there is an easy way to reduce your risk of dying and improving your quality of life you would say “bring it on.”

A recent report from the Institute of Medicine states, “high blood pressure is responsible for one in six deaths in the United States.”

It may surprise you to learn hypertension (high blood pressure) increases your risk of dying of heart attack or stroke more than smoking, high cholesterol, obesity or any other risk factor. Excess salt in our diets is a major cause of high blood pressure. Beyond high blood pressure, and to make matters worse, excess salt may damage the tissues of our heart, kidneys and other organs while contributing to osteoporosis. Also troubling is the growing evidence that hypertension raises the risk of dementia.

You’re probably thinking “Great, I’ll just toss the salt shaker and problem solved.”

Unfortunately, reducing your salt is easy, but not that easy. The reason is 75 to 80 percent of the sodium we consume is added to food before we open a package from the store or sit down in a restaurant. Although packaged foods are very high in sodium, they pale in comparison to restaurant foods. So, unless you make all of your food from scratch, it will take some thinking and planning to get the job done, but it is so worth the effort.

A few scary things about hypertension: research shows 90 percent of the people in this country develop this disease; the primary cause is exposure to excess sodium; and hypertension doesn’t make you feel anything so many don’t know they have it.

How much sodium should we be ingesting? The experts are telling us if we are middle aged or older, are black, or already have high blood pressure, we should have no more than 1,500 mg per day. Everyone else should shoot for 2,300 mg per day. The average American woman consumes roughly 3,000 mg and the average man more than 4,000 mg per day.

There are many other ways to lower our blood pressure besides reducing salt. However, for many, cutting sodium is the easiest strategy.

Here are some ideas to get started. When it comes to behavior change, often it is easier to add something rather than take something away. New studies have shown that dietary intake of potassium is linked to lower risk of death from heart disease. Add these potassium powerhouses: sweet potatoes; tomato paste, puree, juice, sauce; potatoes; white beans; low or no fat yogurt; prunes or prune juice; halibut; soybeans; tuna; lima beans; winter squash; bananas and spinach.

Many of the convenience-packaged meals could give you one half to a full day’s worth of sodium in one serving. Get in the habit of reading the food facts label on all packaged foods and choose the lower sodium products.

In my research, I have found in many restaurants such as the Olive Garden, Chili’s, Outback and Chipotle, single entrees could have 2,000 to 4,000 mg of sodium, a real “sodium land mine.”

When going out to eat, look online or ask for the nutritional content of the dishes served. When eating out, do a little research on your own and try to find the dishes that have lower sodium content.  Ask your waitperson if the dish you are ordering could be prepared with less salt.

When eating at home, put the salt shaker in the pantry and leave it there. Instead, try adding some herbs and spices or try one of the commercial products like Ms. Dash. Trust me, this will jazz up your dish so much you will never miss the salt. Once you start cutting back on the salt, your taste buds will naturally become more sensitive to salt and you will find things you were eating in the past will taste much more salty to you.

Stuart Offer, DC, CSCS, CLC, is a Wellness Coach & Educator with Hickok & Boardman Group Benefits. 


Williston Paths and Trails

Williston might be known for the big box stores and bustle of Taft Corners, but 75 percent of the town is rural. A system of primitive trails for hikers, cross-country skiers and mountain bikers winds through the town’s forests and farm fields, offering stunning vistas and quiet nature exploration. See pages 14-15 for a map of the town’s trails. Maps and more information about the trails are available at the Town Hall and the town website, www.town.williston.vt.us.

Below are descriptions of each trail.




Walkers and skiers

Five Tree Hill, named for five large sugar maples near the overlook, offers the best vista in town—a panorama of Lake Champlain and the Adirondaks. The overlook is 1.3 miles from the parking lot on Sunset Hill Road. Five Tree Hill’s 57 acres includes vernal pools, several types of forest and animal habitats. It also runs along part of the VAST trail.




Walkers and skiers

A half-mile route from the parking lot on Mud Pond Road (off South Road) leads to Mud Pond, surrounded by 158 acres of wetlands and forest. The trail also connects to Mud Pond Country Park. Mud Pond Conservation Area can also be reached from the Sunset Hill Road parking lot, across the street from the Five Tree Hill trail. It leads 1.5 miles to a newly built lookout over Mud Pon (pictured above), but does not yet connect to the trail on the eastern side of the pond. A trail all the way around the pond is slated to be built in 2014.



Walkers, skiers and mountain bikers

This 79-acre natural area has a 2.3-mile round trip multiple-use trail open to mountain bikers. The trail system expands every year and is well maintained in partnership with mountain biking group the Fellowship of the Wheel. Parking is available on Mud Pond Road.



Walkers and skiers

Opening in July, a new trail will connect the newly formed Sucker Brook Hollow Country Park on Vermont 2A, Five Tree Hill Country Park and the Mud Pond Conservation Area—nearly 3.5 miles in all. From a new trailhead and parking lot on Vermont 2A, the trail lead across a 57-ft long footbridge over the Sucker Brook, past historic features and farmland and up to Five Tree Hill—about 1 mile. The trail then leads down to the new observation platform at Mud Pond. Hikers will not yet be able to connect to the east side of Mud Pond.



Walkers and skiers

Oak View Hill offers a 1.3-mile outer loop and half a mile of inner loops on the Isham Family Farm, behind the sugarhouse. All the trails are named after Isham family members. Highlights include a pond, active sugar operation and wooded knoll with views of Bolton Valley, Mount Mansfield, Camel’s Hump, Shelburne Pond and the Adirondaks.




The Village Bike Path runs through the Williston Community Park—which offers a playground, athletic fields and courts and a skating rink/skateboard park—and connects to Allen Brook Park through the South Ridge neighborhood. It also makes a loop along Williston Road, North Williston Road, Mountain View Road and Old Stage Road.  Many other Williston roads include a bike path, including parts of Vermont 2 and 2A and Marshall Avenue.



Walkers and skiers

A half-mile loop with an additional half-mile section leading to Michael’s Lane offers a quiet spot to look for birds, beavers, different forest types and spring flowers. The trail connects to the Village Bike Path, starting with a footbridge over the Allen Brook. It is the most accessible primitive path from Williston Village, and is ideal for families.



The Commons Trail offers a half-mile walk off the beaten path, accessed off Tower Lane and Pinecrest Village. The trail passes through common land, includes a boardwalk over a wetland and rock outcroppings perfect for a picnic.



Along with the sand beach, playground and lake access, the Lake Iroquois Recreation area offers a 1.5-mile hiking trail loop on the northeast side of the lake. The trail passes through forest and includes access to scenic lake viewpoints.

Photographers needed to ‘Capture A Day in the Life’ of Williston

Organizers of the rapidly approaching 250th anniversary of Williston’s charter are looking for local photographers to help capture what Williston is like in its 250th year.

The Williston Day in the Life Photo Project—a day-long project capturing Williston life—is set for June 7, organized by local photographer Stephen Mease.

Residents—from seasoned professional photographers to kids with iPhones—can snap photos of their daily lives on June 7 and share them on social media. The Observer will select photos to print in a special commemorative section, published on June 13.

“The idea is to crowd-source this project,” Mease wrote in a press release. “Almost everyone has a camera with them in the form of their smartphone or a digital camera and are taking photos all the time of school events, landscapes, their lunch or friends and family.”

Willistonians can upload photos from their day to a group account on photo-sharing website Flickr.com, using the tag Williston250. Or, post photos on Instagram or Twitter, using the hashtag #williston250.

Posting your photos allows them to be shared townwide and considered for publication in the Observer’s special 250th anniversary photo special. By uploading the photos, you agree to let the Observer print them without compensation, though photographers retain all the rights to their photos.

Here is the process:

Take as many photos as you like on June 7 of your day and activities.

Tag your photos williston250 and post your five best representative photos to the group at http://www.flickr.com/groups/williston250/

It’s a good idea to put all of your Williston250 Day in the Life photos into a Flickr set for the event.

Add a thumbnail below of one of your photos and write a little bit about your day. You can create a link from this message straight to your Williston250 set if you like.

Make sure to set your camera’s date and time correctly.

Residents can then gather for a community potluck dessert, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Williston Central School Cafeteria, followed by a showing of “Williston Revisited – a Community Portrait” at 7:30 p.m. in the school’s auditorium. An exhibit of “Williston Revisited” photos by Steve Mease will be displayed at the library beginning June 1. On June 9, all residents are invited to gather at the Williston Community Park for a townwide photo shoot.

—Stephanie Choate, Observer staff


Volunteer Opportunities

The listings below are a small sample of the more than 300 volunteer needs from more than 250 agencies at www.unitedwaycc.org. For more information, call 860-1677.


The Nature Conservancy of Vermont is looking for volunteers to continue the effort to remove invasive garlic mustard from the Raven Ridge Natural Area in Monkton (May 23, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.), and at Williams Woods Natural Area in Charlotte (May 29, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.). Training provided. Bring sturdy shoes, weather-appropriate clothing, water and lunch.


Neighbor Rides needs volunteer drivers to transport seniors and persons with disabilities to medical appointments and other essential errands. Volunteers use their own vehicles and need a valid driver’s license, registration, insurance and a safe, reliable vehicle. Mileage reimbursement available. Flexible scheduling. Background check required.


Vermont Respite House is looking for a receptionist to answer phones and attend to tidying chores such as watering plants and dusting. Three hours once a week on Monday afternoons, Tuesday morning and/or Thursday morning. Also needed are short-term mealtime substitutes to help with breakfast and lunch offerings, two and a half hours a meal. All volunteers must attend trainings, which will take place June 4, 11 and 18 in the early evening.


Local Motion will be stenciling sidewalks with spray chalk/paint (with city permission) with thought-provoking safety reminders and messages to help educate the public about the rights and responsibilities of walkers and cyclists. Join the fun and help spread the word! Flexible dates and times, four-hour blocks of time.


Rokeby Museum needs a volunteer experienced with MailChimp to help convert to digital communication. Volunteer will help set up and create a newsletter for the museum. Flexible scheduling. The museum also needs a volunteer caretaker to help keep the grounds beautiful. Tasks include mowing, weeding, mulching, trail maintenance, etc. Flexible weekday and weekend scheduling.


RunVermont/KeyBank Vermont City Marathon depends on volunteers for its success. Volunteer for the marathon, Sports & Fitness Expo or YAM Scram, now through race day on May 26. Opportunities include race packet stuffing or pickup, course monitor, merchandise sales, runner’s food tent, information, relay zone monitors and more. Shifts two-plus hours.


Special Olympics Vermont needs timers, scorekeepers, recorders and more volunteers for its Summer Games, which take place at the University of Vermont June 8-9. The softball games will be held at Williston Central School. Sign up at www.specialolympicsvermont.org

Library Notes

All events are free. Call 878-4918 for more information or to register.

Library is closed May 27 in observance of Memorial Day.

The library is signing up volunteers for the annual book sale now, call 878-4918 or email marti@williston.lib.vt.us. Donations for the book sale will be accepted May 28-June 28.


Youth News

Summer Reading Programs 2013

“Dig into Reading!” for children and “Beneath the Surface” for teens. Starts June 18. Register for our Summer Reading Challenge and win free books and raffle tickets. Keep track of the amount of time you spend reading, including books, magazines, and audio books. Visit our website for a complete listing of events.

Preschool Music

Mondays, 10:45 a.m. with Peter Alsen and Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. with Derek Burkins. Up to age 5 with a caregiver. No pre-registration. Limit: one session per week per family.

Food For Thought Teen Group

Thursday, June 6, 4-5 p.m. Grades 7-12. Teen Advisory Group. Help make decorations and plan activities for the summer reading program.

Classics Book Chat: Summer Book Discussion Group

Grade 7-adult. Connect with the classics this summer! Pre-register. Books available at the front desk. June 24, 6:30 p.m. “Old Man and the Sea”; July 15, 6:30 p.m. “The Great Gatsby”; July 29, 6:30 p.m. “Pride and Prejudice.”


Adult Programs

Beer Brewing Talk 

Saturday, May 25, 1-2 p.m. Williston beer brewer Garin Frost will share “The Beer Brewing Process” from the grains to your glass. Après question and answer any interested parties may join him at Ake’s Old Brick Tavern (formerly Monty’s) to continue the discussion with examples at your own cost.

Friends of the Library 

June 3, 7 p.m. Planning for the annual book sale.

Shape and Share Life Stories

Monday, June 3 and 17, 12:30-2:30 p.m. Prompts trigger real life experience stories, which are crafted into engaging narratives and shared with the group. Led by Recille Hamrell.

Library Trustees Meeting

Monday, June 17, 7 p.m.

Brown Bag Book Club

Friday, June 21, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Looking to meet others who love to discuss books? This month we will discuss “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Books available at the front desk. Coffee, tea, juice and dessert provided.

The Dorothy Alling Memorial Library is located at 21 Library Lane in Williston, and can be reached at 878-4918. www.williston.lib.vt.us 


LITTLE DETAILS: Blink of an eye

By Katherine Bielawa Stamper


“What were we thinking, taking a toddler on a transatlantic flight?!” I shrieked at my husband.

I hovered on the floor near an emergency exit. My 15-month-old daughter writhed in my arms in exhaustive spasms as we barreled across an endless Atlantic Ocean sky. By 2 a.m.—Eastern Standard Time—I was feeling ready to open that exit to extract myself from the plane.

Despite best intentions, flying overnight from Boston to Rome proved extremely wearying for my family. Our daughter could not fall asleep. My husband and I cared for her in shifts. We walked up and down the narrow aisle of the plane, memorizing the backs of passengers’ heads while annoying flight attendants dispensing blankets, pillows and dinner trays. We plied our normally happy bundle of joy with animal crackers and picture books in desperate attempts to minimize her protestations over being strapped into a flying car seat. If the flight was turbulent, I didn’t notice. I was caught in an emotional whirlwind of my own at 30,000 feet.

I cringed each time my daughter made a sound, which exceeded the threshold of what’s considered “polite in-flight conversation.” Once she calmed down, all it took was a yelp, gurgle or piercing scream from a fellow toddler traveler to trigger a high volume response.

I regretted being foolish enough to think we could take our toddler on a camping trip to Italy. Kindly fellow passengers eased my pangs of guilt for disturbing others. Seatmates, from the U.S., Australia and England, soothed our familial stress, offering to hold, feed and read to our child. They were wingless angels. Our daughter finally fell asleep—as we made our final descent in Rome.

We collected our embarrassingly large trove—tent, sleeping bags, cookware, portable crib, stroller and car seat. Within hours, we showered, napped and were enjoying a stroll on the streets of Tarquinia, an ancient city on the Mediterranean Sea.

Walking through the Old Town in early evening, we visited several small parks jutting out like cozy green terraces overlooking the valley below. I remember residents playing Bocce and a remote control car race.

We were struck by the Italians’ sociability. People of all ages stopped to chat with each other. Casual meeting places, often a scattering of chairs on the sidewalk, sprouted everywhere. Residents smiled and pointed at our towheaded toddler with curls spilling about and said, “Bimba! Bimba! Bellissima!” (“Beautiful baby!”) I fell in love with the Italian people right then and there.

We left Tarquinia the next day to drive to Sienna. We pitched our tent under Tuscan skies, snagging a corner spot at the Colleverde Campground. A well-tended facility with clean bathrooms, a swimming pool, playground, general store and on-site laundry—all within walking distance of the the historic center—made this an idyllic spot for family camping.

Our next-tent neighbors were from Germany. Leah, their redheaded toddler, romped over to our site in mud boots. It was fun to see our girls engage in parallel play, muttering to each other in a German-English mélange.

One evening, as we cooked dinner at our campsite, we were approached by three young Italian men, fellow campers. Our car sported an Italian license plate, a rarity in a campground overflowing with German tourists. The young men assumed we were Italians, greeting us with a pleasant, “Buona sera!” (“Good evening!”) We explained we were from the U.S. and did not speak Italian. They proved conversant in English.

“I have a question,” I said. “Can you tell us why there are so many Germans around here?”

“Actually, what you should know is that there are NO Germans in Germany,” he said with a smile. “You go to Berlin—no Germans. You go to Munich—no Germans. The streets are empty. This is because ALL of the Germans are in Italy…on vacation!” He laughed. We laughed. Our visitors left to continue their hunt for real Italians in a real Italian campground.

Memories from that trip are of hikes and short jaunts to museums and cafes. We drove past vineyards, heavily laden with succulent red and purple grapes. We wandered narrow, cobbled streets, inhaling the aromas of locals cooking. We sought quiet—and relief from the heat—in deep, dark, cavernous churches dating from centuries ago. We found playgrounds where Italian kids welcomed our daughter into the fold. We ate pizza slices cut by silver scissors and indulged in sweet scoops of gelato.

Fifteen years have passed since our Tuscan adventure with a toddler and tent in tow. I’m reminded how fleeting time is with our children. In a blink of an eye, our daughter is planning yet another solo jaunt to a distant continent. If a baby cries aboard her transatlantic flight, hopefully, she’ll offer the stressed parents a knowing—and supportive—smile.

Viaggio sicuro! (Bon voyage!)

Katherine Bielawa Stamper lives in Williston. Reader comments are welcome at Editor@willistonobserver.com or LittleDetailsCol@yahoo.com