More Tales Of A Flatlander by Shannon Albritton
I spoke with my Dad in Pennsylvania yesterday to give him my regular update on what’s been happening here in Vermont. My parents have plans to visit us at the end of the month for “Leaf Peeping Season” and Dad is concerned about the roads and the general condition of area. “Will there even be anything to see and do when we get there?” (Silent pause)… hmmm… “Do you mean other than visiting with your favorite daughter and son-in-law?” Joking! Not really.
This question, of course, is common among Vermont-loving Americans outside of our state as our trees prime themselves for their Fall Foliage Spectacular. The media has done an excellent job of communicating our devastation and I mean that sincerely. Yes, many roads and quaint towns have been ‘rearranged’ by Mother Nature? Perhaps she’d become a bit bored with our landscape and wanted to redecorate? Yet even as I take in the disruption and damage around me I can’t stop thinking about its stunning beauty, rearrangement and all.
You see, I’ve lived in Vermont less than 6 months, which still qualifies me as a tourist and a flatlander. My husband and I are always on the hunt for something interesting to investigate around our new home in Windham County. When our out-of-state friends visit we spring into tour-guide mode. Here in Southern Vermont there are endless options undisturbed by the effects of Irene. Outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking are plentiful. Despite the flooding you’ve seen on the news most everything is still accessible.
A casual stroll through downtown Brattleboro’s charming shops, galleries and restaurants can pleasantly fill your day. It’s an eclectic and interesting town that some have referred to as the ‘San Francisco of the Northeast’. You may even spot a Brattleboro resident walking his pig on a leash down Main Street! I can’t make these things up.
If you’re lucky to be here for the first Friday of the month don’t miss Gallery Walk, a year-round, festive FIRST FRIDAY stroll, 5:30 to 8:30, in downtown Brattleboro, Vt. and nearby locations. The Brattleboro Farmers Market is one of the best I’ve ever visited and they have the most delicious prepared foods for breakfast and lunch. Take home some Vermont Maple Syrup, savory cheese and locally grown organic apples, veggies and many other Vermont-made treats.
The Southern Vermont Natural History Museum located atop Hogback Mountain in Marlboro is sure to please nature enthusiasts and the 100-mile view from their location is a show-stopper every time. If you’re an earlier riser there is no better location than this to watch the sunrise over the vast mountain range.
Adjacent to the Visitors Center Grounds and Hogback Mountain Conservation area you can access an entry-level hiking trail leading to the steel fire tower at the summit of Mt. Olga, Molly Start State Park. Those without a fear of heights (not me) can climb to the top for, what I am told, an incredible sight. Using the Molly Stark State Park Trail Guide you can branch off into a trail system with varying difficulty. Campers at Molly Start Campground can connect Hogback Mountain and the museum via this trail system. Travel just a few miles west toward Wilmington and take 100 north to the Mount Snow base lodge and hop on the Scenic Chairlift Ride. This had been a favorite outing for our guests and I can hardly wait to do ride the lift this fall!
When you’re hungry for a great outdoor meal head straight to Wahoo’s Eatery in Wilmington where you can upgrade your burger, wrap, sandwich or salad with grass-fed beef or free-range organic chicken. Their Bacon Blue grass-fed Burger is the best in the area. Wahoo’s was almost destroyed but with the help of it’s community is back on it’s feet again and donating 50% of ALL sales to directly to helping the hundreds of people displaced by the historic flooding. Now that’s community!
The Official State of Vermont Tourism Site hosts an extensive amount of well-organized information and writes, “The vast majority of the state is accessible and most lodging and dining properties are fully operational and ready to welcome you”. Visit their site to learn more about available lodging and activities here in Southern Vermont and points north. All we Vermonters (and Flatlanders) ask is that you have a little patience on our roads, obey the detours and have consideration for our construction, and relief vehicles. Here’s a bright side to consider; if you have to drive a little slower and if it takes a little longer that’s just more time you’ll have to absorb the scenery of the great state of Vermont in all it’s splendor and beauty!
Oh wait, before you go… Did I mention we’re on tap for the best Fall Foliage Season we’ve had in years. The leaves on the trees have survived and remain strong, in true Vermont fashion, and this year's Fall Foliage Season looks promising. Many thanks to Irene and Mother Nature… Perhaps too much rain does make some things better.
Recently we at Vermont Woods Studios Furniture were fortunate enough to hire Shannon Albritton to work with customers in Sales and Customer Service. Three weeks after starting her job with us, Hurricane Irene blew through and we haven't seen Shannon since. She's been able to call us periodically on her cell phone though and yesterday I asked her to share her story with us on the blog. Here is the first installment:
By Shannon Albritton
I’m not a ‘Vermonter’; in fact, most Vermonters would call me a Flatlander. My husband and I moved to Marlboro in May of this year in search of the simpler life. There was a time that I considered our previous home in Upper Bucks County, PA to be somewhat rural, until we moved to Marlboro with its mountainous terrain and mostly dirt roads. We’ve been getting the full Vermont experience here, including visits from the local black bear but nothing could have prepared me for what I’ve experienced the past 5 days since Tropical Storm Irene bared down on our simple little town.
Today is Day 5 after Tropical Storm Irene graced us with her furry, sending torrential rains down the mountains of Marlboro and our neighboring towns. Once babbling innocent brooks were transformed into raging floodwaters, which decimated our dirt roads and gnawed gaping craters into the earth. Rt. 9, the main route in an out of Marlboro was literally severed and what remains are large craters scattered in it’s path. There is no viable route in or out of our little backcountry town for residents. Our only access off our mountain-town-turned-island is a moderately repaired road used for emergency access and construction traffic. Residents of Marlboro have been strongly encouraged to stay home so not to hinder the efforts of those who are working hard to come to our rescue and rebuild our roads
Our little road, just off Rt. 9 was washed away and literally cutting us off from access via our 4-wheel drive vehicles. We lost power mid-morning on Sunday and the next 4 days we ran our small generator on rationed fuel to keep the fridge running and gain limited access to the internet to try and stay posted on what was going on outside our home and, of course, check in at Vermont Woods Studios. I’ve been on the job at VWS just 3 weeks before having to call out of work! Thank goodness the people at VWS are so compassionate and they assured me not to worry and just stay safe. Whew!
I’ve watched many tragedies unfold on television and the Internet over the years. Living in PA I’ve watched the Delaware River tear through the river towns of New Hope, Frenchtown and others and drown them in her waters. Like other Americans I watched the 24-disaster coverage of hurricane Katrina but nothing could have prepared me for seeing the vast devastation of what I’ve seen here in Vermont from Irene. There’s a general look of bewilderment on our faces and as we cross paths to check on others or visit Sweetie’s Market for a few supplies. Our roads are gone, houses have been ripped off their foundations, some were evacuated and forced to leave their beloved pets behind. What once were roads now look like empty riverbeds and some have been told it could be 2-3 months before a passable road could be created.
Yesterday we visited Wilmington for supplies, it’s the closest grocery store and still accessible via Rt.9 from our home. Wilmington, my favorite charming little town, suffered a terrible blow from Irene. As I walked into town a woman in front of a church offered me apples and granola bars. I declined and thanked her for generosity. I walked down the intersection of Rt. 9/100 and just watched. Storeowners were cleaning out their flooded stores filled with layers of sand and silt. The downtown area had a beachy sort of feel to it with the streets and sidewalks covered in sand. People passed me with tear-filled eyes and looked as if they were trying to hold back from just completely breaking down. I was filled with emotion as I stood there quietly watching, it seemed like I was recalling scenes from a movie I must have once seen. These people have lost their livelihoods and most are not insured for flooding. It was surreal. I forced back my own tears while standing in the middle of this odd movie but finally broke down early this morning. I did not cry for myself but for all the others who have lost so much, for the pets left behind and for our beautiful state and the destruction it did not deserve. I have been blessed through this entire experience and reminded that blessings often come from sources and circumstances we least expect. I’ve met more of my neighbors and community members in the 5 days of the Irene aftermath than the entire 4 months I have lived in Vermont. Those who were strangers have now become friends. Our community is just a bit stronger and our people know each other just a bit better.
I saw a sign yesterday that read “Irene was tough but Vermonter’s are tougher”. I believe this is true, even as a lowly Flatlander. Our physical bridges and roads may have been destroyed but our soul and resilience remains strongly in tact. Bridges between people have been built in the face of adversity… bridges that 100 hurricane’s could never destroy.
Peggy's note: For more information on the status of Vermont, post Irene– see the Facebook page for the residents of Marlboro, VT that Shannon put together to help residents connect with each other and their family members from afar.