There is a degree to which a true vacation of the soul requires a spot that reflects one’s childhood places of joy, and for this reason the Trout Tree’s Creaky Cottage is a respite for me. Surrounded by forest and serenaded by a fast-flowing brook which curves around three sides of the property, quirky construction with logs and a porch, in the highlands of Mt. Kenya, it reminds me of West Virginia. Scott found the advertisement on the internet and called to confirm a vacancy, and otherwise in our hectic lives we did zero preparation before noon Friday when the kids came home from school for their midterm break and we from work and we all threw clothes into bags and food into the cooler and everything into the car and set off about 2 pm.
Almost four hours of traffic and are-we-there-yet later, watching craggy snow-graced peaks of Mt Kenya in occasional partings of the high clouds, we pulled into the deserted restaurant which is the main purpose of the property. Turns out it’s only open for lunch. Good thing we had packed plenty of food . . . the workers on the trout farm directed us past dozens of circular ponds fed by a diversion scheme of flowing water. At the far corner of the property we passed on foot through a little gate, and saw the cottage. It was constructed around a tree, which still grows right up through the middle. There is not a level surface in the whole place, and the low ceilings, brick floors, fireplace and glass-paned windows could be right out of a set for Hobbiton. Julia and Acacia climbed a ladder to a loft with twin beds, Jack had his own double bed on the ground floor, and Scott and I had a king-sized bed at the top of rickety stairs that looked over the porch towards the stream. We cooked dinner and soaked in the peace and soothing, quiet, background flow of the stream.
Well, mostly quiet. The roof is intermittently stormed by troupes of Sykes monkeys or Colobus, and the tree hyraxes make shattering screams in the night or waddle around like R.O.U.S’s in the daytime.
Two kids are in the throes of Junior Year, with multiple AP classes and sports and activities. One is in the midst of Senior Year with College apps. I increased my work time by about 25% when my partner-colleague followed her husband to South Africa for a year, and then by 50% again when my other colleague was pinned down to bedrest for preterm labor a couple of weeks ago. I had worked the last two weekends and my last call had me up from 2-4 with a dying post-op patient, followed by Scott’s dying patient from 4:30-5:30. We are both scraping for time to support teams, work on call schedules, prepare lectures. In the last week I have also been emailing back and forth with Luke trying to help him edit umpteen essays for about a dozen med school apps. We’ve had company, hosting residents, teaching Sunday school . . . in short, our family is exhausted. Our kids wanted a midterm break that was RESTFUL.
And this was just what we needed. The first morning, as we emerged from sleep, Scott looked at his watch. 9:45. The last time I slept that late was probably our anniversary week over a year ago. We unplugged. Read books. Listened to music. Watched “Lost”. Cooked meals and ate by candlelight. Basked in sunshine. Prayed.
We did spend one of our two afternoons hiking a barely discernible train inside a little-accessed area on the slopes of Mt Kenya, which was a glorious six miles of forest and quiet. A few worrisome buffalo and elephant signs, but no dangerous animals (though there were dangerous PLANTS).
This would not be the spot for everyone. It’s rustic and dusty and quaint. There is not much to “do”. The cost is more reasonable than many options for families but not as cheap as camping; on the other hand everyone got their own bed. You still have to plan your meals and do your dishes.