Category Archives: Vermont

Vermont in the Aftermath of Hurricane Irene

Our son Alex came home from Green Mountain College, located in Poultney, Vermont, during the long Labor Day weekend. He was under the misguided assumption that he would be able to return to the college by public transportation. Only a week after Hurricane Irene had struck that simply was not the case. Typically what is a four hour drive each way, and a drive I am capable of accomplishing both ways in one day, took closer to eight hours each way, over a two day stretch, because of the impassable roads and torrential rain.

The grim reality of mile after mile of the mass destruction created by wind and water was overwhelming. The drive was harrowing and at every turn I imagined our lives ending in a violent crash. Based on road closing notifications I thought we had pre-navigated a safe route; west on Route 2 across Massachusetts and then north on 22 through eastern New York. Not all road closings had been posted! GPS was of no help at all as it is only capable of rerouting travelers to the shortest route and for much of the drive over desolate backcountry roads cell phone service was unavailable. We made it to the college at around 7:30pm. With the continuing downpour and utter loss as to how to navigate home in the dark I found a lovely inn (with the help of a local convenience store attendant) further down the highway in Fairhaven. A true beacon in the storm, The Maplewood Inn, was closed for business after the long weekend. Paul, the proprietor, was kind enough to answer my knock and open his door. After a night’s rest and fabulous home cooked breakfast prepared by Paul, I headed home, with driving directions thoughtfully supplied by Paul, based on the Vermont Transportation Department’s latest road closings. Unfortunately, additional detours had been created from the previous day’s storms.

Driving the back roads through the Vermont countryside would at some point in the future be a beautiful experience and I very much look forward to revisiting these roadways. Route 140 takes you winding through scenic farmland and the lushly gorgeous Green Mountains. Tuesday however it was drizzling rain and if you were not paying close attention every single second, your car could easily plunge down a ravine as huge chunks of road are washed away, with only orange cones denoting the lack of pavement. Thank goodness for comic relief–I nearly drove smack into a road closed sign and a friendly minister pulled up beside my car, asking me directions! We decided to venture the closed road only to come across a delivery truck stopped where the road had vanished. Fortunately, the truck driver was familiar with the area and he gave us excellent directions to get to the main highway. Both the clergyman and I followed him convoy-style to the highway. Thank goodness for blessings, small and large.

Mile upon mile of decimated cornfields

As the rain began to clear, I was overcome with a desire to photograph the unfolding landscape, but for the most part it really wasn’t safe to stop along the road. Because of the recent rainfall from tropical storm Katia, the rivers and streams were again frightfully swollen. I also did not want to obtrude in the face of people’s tragedies or get in the way of the National Guard and relief workers. As desperate as I was to find Interstate 91, I turned off the road into what appeared to be a vacant parking lot to stretch my legs, outside the town of Chester. It wasn’t a parking lot any longer. The raging river that ran alongside the lot and fields had ravaged the adjacent cornfield, great swaths of pavement had buckled, and the chain link fencing was a twisted and contorted mass of metal.

Parking lot

Click the above panorama to see full size. The flattened corn stalks on the left shows the flood’s path through the cornfield.

The damage to Vermont’s developing agriculture industry is beyond measure. Because of the fear of microbial contamination, every bit of fruit, vegetable, corn, and soybean touched by flood water has to be destroyed, and any crops growing below ground will, on a case by case basis, be examined for viability. Many of the organic farmers will have to be recertified (a lengthy process) and many fields will never again be used for agriculture because of the gargantuan boulders and prodigious stone debris deposited by the flood. I saw half-houses along river banks, the other half having been torn away, thousands of great trees with colossal and unwieldy root balls laying across riverbeds, streams, and alongside highways, and miles and miles of impassable roads. The photos were taken from a single site and are only mildly representative of the destruction in the wake of Irene.

Moving Days (Part Two)

Alex Goes to Green Mountain College, Vermont

We headed up to Vermont bright and early last Saturday morning, after first depositing Alex’s girlfriend Katherine, a senior in high school, at the train station. Both are committed to making a success of the coming year, but I know they will miss each other terribly.

Lots of farewell dinners-view from the Lobster Pool Restaurant, Rockport

The day was gorgeous, with no sign of  pending Hurricane Irene–besides, I thought, she is not coming to Vermont, anyway. We saved our appetites for the Trap Door Bakehouse and Cafe, with its spectacular view overlooking Quechee Gorge (see preceding post). The sandwiches and homemade pastries are simply divine–I had the Escargot–a beautiful confection wrapped in a spiral of almonds, cinnamon, and so many raisins spilling out I had to eat the breakfast pastry from it’s wax paper bag.

Quechee Gorge, Vermont, day before Hurricane Irene, from the Trap Door Cafe Overlook

We arrived at 11:00 to much waiting in line–leaving Alex there while I took Tom on a quick tour of the grounds. It was his first glimpse of the school and I think he was impressed with the beauty of the campus and the fact that it is meticulously maintained–not always the case with the many small colleges we toured. We briefly looked over the organic farm, which is entirely student run. Alex loves the outdoors and was drawn to Green Mountain for its environmental studies program and outdoor adventure education leadership program.

By mid-afternoon, Alex was moved in and we were told it was time for parents to leave. He is going to be sorely missed and all the qualities that I love in him–his sense of humor, charisma, kindness, consideration, wit, and intelligence, I hope serve him well while endeavoring to meet new friends and on this adventure into higher education. I am looking forward to parent’s weekend, not too far off, in late September.

Anticipating the long drive home, we had asked the proprietors of the Trap Door Bakehouse to recommend a restaurant in Woodstock. Without hesitation, they suggested Melaza. The Caribbean inspired dishes were superb. I sampled the coconut-crusted shrimp from the tapas menu and mixed green salad with yucca, artichokes, and olives. Tom was raving about his chicken, but neither of us can remember what it was called. Ironically, our waitress urged us to stay overnight in Woodstock, to avoid Irene, because her brother had been evacuated from Newburyport.

The light was warm and luminous as we departed Vermont and the mountainsides were aglow with great fields of tall goldenrod, brilliantly illuminated by the low slanting rays of late summer sun. I am overjoyed for our son and hope with all my heart he will find happiness, where ever his dreams may lead.

Canada Goldenrod (Solidago altissima, syn.  Solidago canadensis)

Fujifilm x100 Bracketed for Film Simulation

Quechee Gorge, Vermont, photographed two days before Hurricane Irene

Fujifilm x100 Provia

Fujifilm x100 Velvia

Fujifilm x100 Black and White Film Simulation

The snapshots were taken from the overlook at the Trap Door Bakery and Cafe, two days before Hurricane Irene reached New England, on August 27, 2011.

Same view: You Tube video from eringray37 shot on August 28, 2011.