Current Location: Rocky Point, Oregon Clear and Cold at 32 degrees F this morning
I had a year to get excited about my trip to Vermont. My friend Jeanne was getting married, and I knew I had to be there one way or another. The trip was wonderful in so many ways, and yet losing our sweet dog Abby, just a few days after my return, made it impossible for me to write about the beautiful days and the beautiful wedding until now.
Mother Myrick in the morning sunrise above Dorset, Vermont
Some time has passed since Abby left us. We buried her not far from where our also recently deceased cat Jeremy lies, both small rock headstones visible from the kitchen window. The initial grief and sadness has eased a bit. The huge empty space that a beloved pet leaves behind is no less empty, but feels a bit less shocking. The house is very quiet. I did finally clean the dog spit off the sliding glass door, and just recently Mo put Abby’s toys away somewhere, I am not sure where.
I think October is a beautiful month just about anywhere in this wide country. However the classic New England fall was on my bucket list. Mo and I have talked often of attempting to get back there in the MoHo, to fill in those last few states we have yet to experience in our rig. However the timing for such a journey can be daunting at best. It is always a juggle between catching the height of color and still not getting caught in the snows that follow. If we had attempted it this year, we would have no doubt been caught in the early snowstorms that are hitting the South at this very moment.
The Connecticut River Greenway along my route from Boston to Dorset
Instead, I flew to Vermont on my own, while Mo spent the time caring for Abby and keeping the home fires burning, shutting down the sprinklers for winter, raking the rapidly falling pine needles and beginning the fall burning. I think I got the better end of the deal, except for Abby of course.
First sight of fall color at the hotel in Marlborough, Massachusetts
With Jeanne’s wedding scheduled for a Saturday, I planned my trip to give me several days of Vermont time before the wedding and before the major influx of guests. When Jeanne lived in Klamath, and we worked together, she often shared stories of her life in Vermont. We were both excited that I would be there in time for Jeanne to show me her beloved home state. I was also happy for the time to spend with Jeanne and Alan and to get a taste of Jeanne’s new life.
The Vermont Visitor Center as I enter the state for the first time
Flying from Medford, I flew to Portland and then got a nonstop cross country flight directly to Boston. Mo and I had been to Boston a few years ago, but it was on a cruise ship. This would be my first visit to Vermont, and I rented a car with the thought that I would drive the 200 miles or so directly to Dorset. I obviously wasn’t thinking clearly when I planned this, and realized that I needed to stay somewhere close to Boston rather than attempting to drive unknown back country roads in the dark of night.
Finding a hotel in Boston was a bit daunting, with the cheapest rooms beginning at $329 per night! Not in my budget, for sure. I could sleep in the car if I had to pay that much for a few hours sleep. Instead, I drove an hour or so north toward Marlborough, and found a basic decent room for a mere $149. The bed was OK, but the room wasn’t much more than your average Super 8 out west that goes for 49 bucks. Still, when I woke the next morning to brilliant skies and gorgeous color in the trees, I was so glad that I waited.
It took me nearly four hours to get to Dorset because I just couldn’t resist stopping a bit for photos along the way. It was my first time in Vermont, and the timing was very nearly perfect. The visitor center at the Vermont state line was state of the art, beautiful, and I began to get a feel for the rural nature of the landscape, and the focus on dairy farming, agriculture, and forestry that is the hallmark of this lovely place.
On the winding highway along the West River I came upon the beautiful West Dummerston Covered Bridge, remembering that Vermont has more than 100 covered bridges, and that there are more covered bridges per square mile in Vermont than any state in the country. Of course, after our springtime covered bridge tour of Oregon, I couldn’t miss taking a photo of this lovely bridge. I learned later that it is the second longest covered bridge in the state, but at the time I was taking the photos, I only remembered some of what I had previously learned about trusses and joists and supports. I loved the open window on one side of the bridge especially.Alan’s home on the hill above Dorset.
I really had to make some tracks because the weather was cooperating perfectly for Alan’s offer to take me up in his airplane that afternoon. It was a gorgeous, completely cloudless sunny day, and the rest of the week was forecasted to be rainy and dreary. No time to waste. If I was to see Vermont from the air, I would need to do it on this beautiful Sunday afternoon.
I arrived at Alan’s place by noon, and after greetings and settling in to his brother’s home down the path, Jeanne and I walked to town to the local farmer’s market to get some veggies for supper.
Alan was brining a beautiful “happy chicken”, and only fresh grown organic veggies would be worthy of the meal. Dorset is a beautiful small burgh with lovely historic homes and inns, winding country roads, a town green, and lovely historic churches, one of which would be the location of the wedding the following weekend.
My home for the week, just down the path from the main house.
My home for the week belonged to Alan’s brother, at the moment traveling around the world on a sailboat, and later the three bedrooms would be filled with other wedding guests. It is a dramatic timber frame home, with great views of Mother Myrick towering over Dorset.
Within a short time, the three of us piled into Alan’s new truck for the drive north to Rutland airport. Needless to say, I was excited. Flying in a small plane is thrilling to me, and as a map maker, seeing the landscape below up close is magical. Alan is a forester, and his understanding of the patterns of the vegetation, his explanation of the various timber communities, and the history of the logging industry in Vermont added tremendously to the flight.
Alan was excited about the flight as well, exclaiming over and over how incredibly lucky we were with the clear skies and the beautiful color playing out over the mountains. Alan and Jeanne pointed out the local mountains, and told some sweet stories about their first hike together on Haystack as they flew past the dramatic glaciated peak. It was a perfect introduction for my week in Vermont.
After our flight, Alan drove some of the back country roads around Dorset, searching for color on the hillsides. I learned that Vermont was almost completely denuded of forest when it was first settled in the 1700’s, with more than 80 percent of the state being cleared for agriculture. In the ensuing years, the trees have once again taken over the landscape and there is now only about 25 percent of the state cleared for agriculture.
I knew I wanted to see New England stone walls, but what I didn’t know was that many of those old walls are found in the forests, marking what were once open fields. Now taken over by the forest again, the old stone walls are crumbling and tucked away in the shadowy undergrowth.
After that breathtaking afternoon, we returned home to Alan’s place to partake of one of the most amazing roast chicken dinners I ever experienced. Alan is a fabulous cook, and his favorite resource is Cook’s Illustrated, also a favorite of mine. I have never ever ever in my entire life had such a succulent chicken, set off with Jeanne’s homemade cranberry sauce and fresh beets from the market. The gravy (another favorite food group of mine) was beyond incredible. Thus began a week of some rather fabulous meals, both home cooked and at inns and restaurants throughout Vermont.
Next: Lake Champlain, Mad River Glenn, and more of “Jeanne’s Vermont”