Thursday, September 13, 2007

Stowe and Other Thoughts

In my new life as a part-time wage earner I have two weekdays out of the office. Now that the kids have started school, 4o miles from home, I have been conflicted in these first weeks of school about whether I should hang around the vicinity of the school or haul back up to the Last House.

This week, for the first time, I tried hanging around in Lamoille County. As anyone who knows anything about Vermont can tell you, there are lots of nice things to see and do in Lamoille County, which includes many nice little towns including the Vermont tourist mecca, Stowe.

I spent a couple of hours in each of the last few days walking on the Stowe Recreation Path. I first tried a little hike in Weissner woods, which is a trail network through land donated to the Stowe Land Trust by a local concerned citizen. All woods are nice, but the hike did not compare favorably with my beloved Jay woods and I was worried I might get lost (the trails went in many directions). Going to those woods, and walking on the Rec Path had me comparing the two communities (Jay and Stowe). Jay is still nowhere with a ski hill (and now a golf course). Stowe is home to Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak, and it has been a tourist destination for its entire history.
One telling detail, the access to Weissner Woods is easy. Parking has been provided. Trails are marked. However, the trail head emerges between two driveways - long Stowe driveways, where no house is visible. If you could see them, I have no doubt they would have been "architect designed" and be made out of whatever were the best materials available at the time of their construction. Both driveways were marked as private property, to prevent trail seekers from stumbling up the wrong path. One said, "Private Property - Turn Back".
It has not come to this in Jay. It is still tiny and mostly wild. The few inhabitants are natives or sports extremists who want cheap outdoor thrills.

In the Rec Path, the Stowe's essence is distilled. It is beautiful. It curves through woods and cornfieds (hugging Route 108, the Mountain Road and the Stowe Brook). Sculptures (always contemporary) appear here and there. Beds of flowers, well-maintained, pop up around random corners. Iron bridges with wooden planked decks cross and recross the Brook. Access, again , is easy, with parking areas (each with a port-a-potty behind a lattice) are well-marked. Naturally, there are benches and picnic tables and recycling and trash bins. There are also rules, posted at every entrance. The rules are all perfectly reasonable, of course, but effect is rather Swiss. Stowe is a bourgeois town - the most bougy town in the State maybe. The property taxes are huge to support the big police and fire departments. The bougeoisie have their charms. I love them. I am them. But, well, I understand better why the cop I used to work with when I was a deputy State's Attorney in Lamoille County a few years back couldn't stand the place or its typical resident.