Since starting this journey I’ve been thinking through my strategy for reaching the most distant points of the state; the southern border which I crossed many times when I lived in Connecticut and travelled to Sugarbush almost every weekend in the winter, and the Canadian border which last week I finally reached.
I had set out last Friday morning after seeing a headline about an unusual storm dumping more than two feet of snow on some towns near Jay Peak. I love photographing rural Vermont scenes in winter, perhaps as I’ve learned with this endeavor, even more than I love photographing Fall foliage. So naturally I decide to head north to try and capture as much of Winter as possible. Again this year like last, winter seemed to start later and be far less snowy than past years, so it’s been a constant challenge to get out there just after there’s been a fresh blanket of show.
I head north knowing it will be at least a two hour trip. This time I promise myself that I will do as I always intend but never seem to abide, drive out to the farthest point of my planned route, and shoot my way back. I’ll start in Jay and work my way home with stops in Westfield, Lowell, Eden, and perhaps Hyde Park, making the trip home seem not so long and tedious. Though, the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray.
Passing through those towns on my way to Jay, I see that it’s going to be a challenging trip back; there just doesn’t seem to be much to photograph in any of them. I arrive in Jay, not thinking so much of it being a border town, but remembering an article about the town featured in Vermont Magazine’s January/February edition, I expect to find a "downtown" which now in retrospect I should have interpreted literally as "downtown"; it amounts to not much more than a four way intersection with the Jay Country Store, a ski shop and a couple of other businesses. There are no historic buildings, town hall, or even a white church which I’ve come to believe every Vermont town possesses at least two of.
Not realizing that I’ve seen "downtown" I continue driving toward the mountain, which of course is crawling with eager skiers. It is the Friday of the biggest winter holiday week after all, and Jay Peak was the beneficiary of an unexpected dump of two feet in an otherwise snow desert. Completely stressed out by the frenzied enthusiasm of skiers heading for the slopes; I gave up downhill skiing years ago partly because of the crowds, I turn the car around and follow the signs for Montgomery; not on my radar, but certainly worth investigating.
I reach Montgomery Center. Interesting, but I continue on, soon reaching Montgomery. I stop and investigate the Fuller Bridge, the first white washed covered bridge I’ve encountered; rather pleasing I find. The Village of Montgomery is also interesting, but in consulting my gazetteer, since I’ve completely lost my bearings, I see that several more covered bridges dot the topography as the road rambles westward. I decide to investigate.
I find myself heading toward Enosburgh, way off course, so again I consult the map. How far am I from the Canadian border anyway? I find the town of Richford, not so far away. I’m hungry by this point and very much in need of a restroom, fuel, and windshield wiper fluid, all things that are often difficult to come by on these long stretches of highway in rural Vermont. I decide to change my strategy for the day and head up the 105 toward Richford. Maybe I’ll even investigate the Canadian border.
Richford is a pleasant little town. After I finish shooting, I decide to find the border crossing. Not intending to cross since may passport is expired and I don’t really want to stray that far from my goal of photographing Vermont, I turn the car around and go looking for the unofficial crossings my map seems to indicate; I’ve always had a defiant streak. Golf Course Road, Corliss Road, and the East Richford Slide Road all appear to cross over into Canada. I follow the narrow snow covered Golf Course Road feeling like I’ve wandered into uncharted territory. Finally I see a large yellow barn that looks as though it’s half underground. There’s what looks like an abandoned farmhouse across the street and just beyond it, I’ve reached a dead end. But as I pull into the plowed out area to turn around, I spot it. A snow capped granite post emerging from the snow enough to partially reveal “United States”, a couple of red posts, and what looks like a utility marker which as I approach I can see says” United States And Canada” and “Warning you are on or near the International Boundary”. Feeling quite satisfied with myself, and also as though I’m probably on camera; defiance breeds paranoia I guess, I photograph the border marker.
Getting back into my car, I decide that I’ve spent enough time wandering down this rabbit hole for the day, so I return to my revised course; Enosburgh, Montgomery, and whatever towns the fading light will allow me to photograph on the long way home, the unintended often seemingly never ending, sciatic nerve–racking long way home, but that’s a subject for another day.