Our 2022 Road Trip #13: The Peak of Defiance

Lake Champlain and Vermont!

As elevated views go, it isn’t Pike’s Peak, but it’s not nothing.

Fun travel rule of thumb: if someone asks if you’d like to go up a really tall structure or geological feature so you can look down upon all the other tourist attractions you actually came to see, you say yes.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

For 2022 we wanted the opposite of Yellowstone. Last year’s vacation was an unforgettable experience, but those nine days and 3500 miles were daunting and grueling. Vermont was closer, smaller, greener, cozier, and slightly cooler. Thus we set aside eight days to venture through the four states that separate us from the Green Mountain State, dawdle there for a bit, and backtrack home…

Mount Defiance!

The view of Mount Defiance from the fort.

Mount Defiance hadn’t been on our itinerary or in our thoughts, but when the gate attendant at Fort Ticonderoga told us it was included in our admission costs, even though it was on the other side of Lake Champlain and not even directly connected, we thought about it a little harder. Dozens of lookalike barracks and dirt paths later, we decided that perhaps a different vantage point might add some texture and/or natural splendor to the Ticonderoga experience.


On our way out, a nearby steer gives us a look of “Go! Have fun! Save yourselves!”

Mount Defiance is, to be fair, part of the Fort Ticonderoga story. It was previously named Sugar Loaf Hill, which sounds wimpier but was fair given that it’s only 840 feet high, not terribly competitive with the literal mountains in the region. After Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys (with special guest Benedict Arnold) took the fort in 1775, our guys had two years to fortify the big Loaf but blew it for a variety of reasons, chief among them being: the British couldn’t possibly come at us from that direction, would they? Sure enough, two years later General John Burgoyne had some of his 7800+ men and their oxen drag an artillery complement all the way up there, including 12-pound cannons that each weighed half a ton. Fort showrunner General Arthur St. Clair had received intel that their placeholder men (a comparatively few 3,000) would be outnumbered, so with the approval of General Philip Schuyler he ordered a full retreat before Burgoyne’s boys could fire a single shot. As the finest hours of our Revolutionary War go, it wasn’t exactly Paul Revere’s ride.

Two months later Colonel John Brown brought American forces up there to use Burgoyne’s ostensible plan against him, only to realize it wasn’t that easy to hit the target from there. Their efforts failed and the British held the hill for the rest of the war (maybe not tightly, but they kept it occupied). As the victors in a bloodless non-battle, they exercised their right to rename it Mount Defiance. Subsequent landowners have kept the name ever since because Sugar Loaf Hill sounds less like a battleground and more like an artisan bakery. Meanwhile, St. Clair and Schuyler were later court-martialed, ultimately cleared, but in the doghouse with George Washington ever after.

We drove from the fort’s wooded outskirts back into town, weaved around narrow turns through a cramped neighborhood, found the long driveway up, and arrived at the gate with minutes to spare before the 4:30 closing time. We popped in the token we were given, continued upward, paused at one overlook to take our lead photo, were surprised to find the road kept going, and so did we. At the top a shelter carried some educational signage. Inside, one of the fort’s costumed reenactors was engaged in a congenial American history chat with an older gent, whose wife patiently waited nearby for him to finish enjoying himself. Anne chimed in only once, but easily could’ve caught their volleys, lobbed in some of her own, and kept the patient wife waiting even longer if she hadn’t been distracted by the view.

Defiance flag!

The flag atop Defiance.

Defiance array!

Less inspiring: the antenna array.

Fort Ticonderoga medium!

The view of Fort Ticonderoga. Good luck getting any musket shot to reach.

Fort Ticonderoga closeup!

Our best attempt at Ticonderoga zooming.

bird of prey!

An unidentified bird of prey also enjoys the view.

Lake Champlain to Lake George!

To the south, Lake Champlain flows toward Lake George.

Champlain zoom!

Faraway boats make for more zooming fun.


The largest boat we could capture from on high.


Across the water to the east, Vermont and the Green Mountains beckoned.

Then we got excited at the prospect of seeing a brand new state. We didn’t quite roll down the hill like Jack and Jill, because the rental car company would have words. But it was well past time to cross another state off our bucket list.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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