What is a moose crossing sign

Vermont's venerable byway

The Robert Frost Cabin is 10 miles west of Route 100, near the middle of the 216 km long road that runs through valleys, forests and farmland between Massachusetts and Canada. Although I had often gone to Vermont to ski, I always drove on the freeway to get to the slopes as quickly as possible. This time, however, I followed "The Road Not Taken," to quote the title of one of Frost's most famous poems, and paused at the Vermont cabin, where he wrote many of them.

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I crossed covered bridges that spanned sun-drenched rivers, past grain fields and grazing cows, into a landscape punctuated by churches with tall steeples and brick houses from the 18th century behind white picket fences. A farmer drove a tractor over freshly mown areas; Old people stared at me from a shabby porch on the edge of a shabby village. My trip included stops in a flourishing summer theater; an artisanal cheese factory in a state known for its cheddars and chèvres; a 19th century American president's homestead; Original hemlocks and high passes, littered with massive, mossy boulders; and swamps where moose gather in the early evening. On either side of me towered Vermont's green mountains, the misty peaks that distinguished its citizens from the "flatlands" as the Vermonters call anyone - tourist or resident - from other states.

Route 100 grew organically from roads connecting 18th-century villages and followed the contours of the Vermont landscape. “It ended up being a continuous route that meanders along rivers and through mountain valleys,” says Dorothy A. Lovering, producer and director of a documentary about the famous country road. "That's why it offers such remarkable visual experiences."

The Frost Log Home stands in a clearing outside the town of Ripton (population 566), where the poet spent the summer at the age of 88 and wrote a National Historic Landmark from 1939 until his death in 1963, belongs to Middlebury College, which the property is classified as Frost monument maintains. The public has access to the site.) Behind a forest of 100-foot-tall Norwegian pines, the weathered cabin looks out over an apple orchard meadow covered with wildflowers and a farmhouse. The view is reminiscent of a picture from his poem "Out, Out -":

Five mountain ranges in a row
Far to Vermont under the sunset.

Visiting the website is bittersweet. On the night of December 28, 2007, vandals broke windows, smashed antiques and damaged books in the property's main farmhouse. The intruders caused more than $ 10,000 in damage. Fortunately, some of Frost's most valuable items - including his Morris chair and a school blackboard that the poet used as a writing surface - had already been brought to the Middlebury campus. Frost's pedal organ has been repaired and is still in the farmhouse. The cabin itself, where Frost recorded daily temperatures on the inside of the door, was not disturbed.

Twenty-eight young men and women, ages 16-22, were charged with trampling on or destroying property and then turned over to the poet Jay Parini, a Frost biographer and professor of literature in Middlebury, who taught the culprits about Frost and his work. "I thought they responded well - sometimes you could hear a pin drop in the room," Parini recalls. "But you never know what's going on in a child's head."

I had started my Route 100 odyssey by driving through this sacred Vermont landmark - a covered bridge. I turned off Route 100 outside the city of Jamaica (population 946) and drove four miles southeast to reach Scott Bridge in Townshend (population 1,149), built in 1870 and named after Henry Scott, the farmer who owns his property was anchored at one end. . It spans the boulder-strewn West River and, at 277 feet, is the longest of the state's approximately 100 covered bridges - 500 years ago.

"The most fascinating thing about covered bridges is that they take you back to the origins of our land," says Joseph Nelson, author of Spanning Time: Vermont's Covered Bridges . Longevity was their main virtue: uncovered bridges were lashed by rain and snow. The damp wood attracted insects and fungi, then rotted and had to be replaced every four or five years. Today Vermont has covered bridges that were built in the early 19th century. In the 19th century, the interior was referred to as the "local notice board", writes Ed Barna in his Covered Bridges of Vermont . “Travelers waiting for rainstorms or their teams to rest could find the bills and posters from local councilors, religious gatherings, jobs in the wool mills, and nostrils like Kendall's Spavin Cure and Dr. "

Local officials said a covered bridge should be built, "a load of hay high and wide". A rusted plate over an entrance to Scott Bridge shows a speed limit: "Horses on a walk." which weakened the structure. The bridge has been closed to pedestrian traffic since 1955.

About 25 miles north of Scott Bridge, just off Route 100, is Vermont's oldest professional theater in front of Weston's charming village green. (In 1985, the entire city, with its focus on 18th and 19th century architecture, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.) The Weston Playhouse opened in 1937 with a teenage Lloyd Bridges starring in Noel Cowards Hay fever opened . The original theater, which was housed in a converted congregational church, burned down in 1962 when an overheated adhesive caught fire. The church was quickly rebuilt, right down to its facade with the white columns of the Greek Revival.

“Our viewers like the fact that they see some of the latest Broadway shows as they become available,” said Steve Stettler, who will be producing this summer Death of a Salesman staged. Stettler joined the Schauspielhaus in 1973 as an actor from Kenyon College in Ohio. For the current season, the theater also offers The 39 steps, a piece based on Alfred Hitchcock's murder secret, productions of the musical hits Avenue Q and Damn Yankees as well as the world premiere of The Oath, a drama centered on a doctor trapped in the horrors of the Chechnya conflict.

Sixteen miles north, in the hamlet of Healdville, is the 128-year-old Crowley Cheese Factory, now owned by Galen Jones, who is a television manager in New York City. He and his wife Jill own a house in Vermont and plan to retire here at some point. "When you look at it factually, it looks like it'll never make a significant amount of money," Jones says of cheese-making. "But it's a great product."

As early as the early 19th century, Vermont's dairy farms were turning milk into cheese, mostly cheddars, which were first introduced from Britain in the colonial days. With the invention of refrigerated railroad cars in the late 19th century, Midwestern dairies made up most of the business. Crowley, one of the few Vermont cheesemakers to survive, has carved out a niche with making Colby, a cheddar that's softer and creamier than most.

Cheese making made a comeback in Vermont in the 1980s as the demand for artisanal foods increased. The number of cheesemakers has more than doubled in the last decade - to at least 40. And the University of Vermont in Burlington has set up an Artisan Cheese Institute. In the three-story Crowley factory made of stone and wood, visitors can watch the production steps through a huge glass window. During the week mornings, 5,000 pounds of Holstein raw milk, cooled to 40 degrees, is pumped from the cold store in the cellar into a double-walled, steam-heated metal container, in which it is cultivated. About four hours later, the milk was processed into frozen chunks or quark. It is then rinsed, salted, and formed into wheels or blocks weighing 2 1/2 to 40 pounds before being pressed, dried, turned, and stored for aging.

The cheddar produced here is available in nine varieties, depending on the mildness or sharpness and with the addition of pepper, sage, garlic, chives, olives or a smoke flavor. While Vermont's greatest cheesemakers produce £ 80,000 a day, it takes Crowley a year to produce that much.

About ten miles northeast of Healdville is Plymouth Notch, the Vermont village of white houses and weathered barns where President Calvin Coolidge grew up. Preserved as a historic site since 1948, it remains one of the top Route 100 destinations, attracting 25,000 visitors annually.

The village, with its few inhabitants, has changed little since our 30th President was born here on July 4th, 1872. His parents' cabin, attached to his father John's post office and general store, is still shaded by towering maple trees, as Coolidge described in a 1929 treatise.

"It was all a good atmosphere to raise a boy," wrote Coolidge. The autumn was spent laying wood in a supply for the harsh winter. As April turned into spring, the maple and sugar works began by cutting down trees. "After that, the fences had to be fixed where the snow had broken them, the cattle were grazing and the spring planting was done," recalled Coolidge. "I learned to drive oxen at an early age and when I was twelve I plowed with them alone."

It was John Coolidge who woke his son, then the Vice President of the Nation on vacation home, late on the night of August 2, 1923, to tell him that President Warren G. Harding had had a fatal heart attack. John, a notary public, swore his son in as the new president. "In republics where succession is elected, I am not aware of any other case in history where a father has given his son the qualifying oath of office," the younger Coolidge later wrote.

About 60 km north of Plymouth Notch, Route 100 plunges into its darkest and coldest stretch - the densely forested Granville Gulf Reservation. "Golf" in this case refers to a geological process more than 10,000 years ago when mountaintop glaciers melted. The release of huge amounts of water dug its way into the mountains, creating a narrow chasm walled by cliffs and forests. In 1927, Redfield Proctor Jr., who was governor from 1923 to 1925, donated most of the 1,171 acre forest to the state, with bans on hunting, fishing, and commercial tree felling. The wing was to be "kept forever".

The section of Route 100 that crosses the Gulf of Granville was not paved until 1965. To this day, few people venture further than a turnout overlooking Moss Glen Falls, which tower 30 feet above a 25 foot wide cliff. "It's beautiful - a real photo opportunity," says Lisa Thornton, a forester on the reservation. She is right.

Thornton uses a map originally drawn by a biologist more than 40 years ago and leads me to a wooded area on the cliffs. We climb up a hill over spongy soil until we come to a stone ledge covered with moss and fern - and a stately stand of 80-foot-high, maybe 500-year-old hemlocks. The trees survived, Thornton says, because they were virtually inaccessible to Native Americans, European pioneers, and logging companies. I remember Frost's poem "Into My Own":

One of my wishes is that these dark trees
So old and firm they barely show the breeze
If it were not, like 'Twere, the bare mask of darkness,
But stretched to the brink of doom.

Most of the length of Route 100 is along the main ridge of the Green Mountains. The Long Trail was built between 1910 and 1930 and preceded - and inspired - the Appalachian Trail, which it merges with in southern Vermont for about 100 miles. The path, created and maintained by the non-profit Green Mountain Club, offers 70 refuges amidst pine and maple forests, picturesque ponds and raised bogs. "Our volunteers maintain the shelters and keep 500-foot wide corridors free on both sides of the path - make sure logging companies don't commit illegal incursions," said Ben Rose, executive director of the organization.

One of the most accessible and geologically distinctive points on the Long Trail is Smuggler's Notch, a 15 km drive northwest of Stowe, the town known for its Route 108 ski area, through the Green Mountains. Legend has it that its name goes back to the war of 1812. Trade with Canada, then an English colony, had been suspended by the US government. Smuggled goods were allegedly transported over this Fernpass.

Huge boulders, some more than 20 feet high, dot the landscape. "My grandfather brought me here and we climbed past the boulders to a beaver pond to fish," says my guide Smith Edwards, 69, nicknamed the "Old Ridge Runner" by his colleagues at the Green Mountain Club. (Edwards covered the entire length of the Long Trail four times.) He began hiking the trail as a scout in the 1950s. "Back then, they dropped 13-year-old kids and picked us up three or four days later within 50 miles," says Edwards, who has retired from the Vermont Highway Department. "Of course that wouldn't be done today."

On the Long Trail we hike for a good two hours halfway up the Smuggler's Notch, past birch, beech and maple trees. Ferns, of which the state is home to more than 80 species, cover the forest floor. "Here in the damp and shady gorge they found an environment they liked," wrote the naturalist Edwin Way Teale in Journey Into Summer (1960), a volume in his classic accounts of traveling America.

Some of the most numerous traffic signs along Route 100 warn of an omnipresent danger: moose. The creatures migrate on low-lying stretches of the road, where tons of salt spread, wash off, and concentrate in bogs and culverts along the roadside in winter. "Moose are sodium deficient when they come out of their winter browsing," says Cedric Alexander, a Vermont wildlife biologist. "They learned to feed on these roadside salt ponds in spring and early summer, which become very dangerous sections to drive through."

The threat increased when the state's elk population rose from just 200 in 1980 to more than 4,000 today. Their main predator is the four-wheeled variety. When an animal is hit by a car, the impact sends the creature - an 800-pound cow or a 1,000-pound bull - often through the windshield. At least one driver is killed and many more are injured each year.

The most common moose sightings in the state occur along a 15-mile section of Route 105, a 35-mile continuation of Route 100, particularly in the early evening hours of May through July. That night, game warden Markschichtle stops his vehicle on Route 105 and points at what he calls "moose tracks" - black spots from cars trying to avoid the animals. "Since January, six moose have been killed on this route alone," he says. We park a mile up the street, scrub ourselves in mosquito repellent, and begin staking out.

Within 15 minutes, a cow elk and her calf came out of the forest and stood motionless on the road, 50 meters from our vehicle. Their dark skins make them practically invisible in the dark. But a moose crossing sign warns drivers who stop. Soon cars and trucks will be stopped on either side of the road; The two moose stare impassively at the headlights. Then a three-meter-tall bull elk with breathtaking antlers appears and wades in a moor on the side of the road. "No matter how often it happens, you just don't expect to see such a large animal in the wild and nearby," saysschichtle.

While the cars are moving, the supervisor turns on his siren and flashing lights. The moose crawls into the bog and traffic resumes, most of it headed towards New Hampshire. I remember Robert Frost himself, who lived in New Hampshire for a long time, was one of the few outsiders who were fully embraced by the Vermonters. Perhaps it's because his Pulitzer Prize-winning poem "New Hampshire" ends with an ironic twist:

I currently live in Vermont.

As I head south on Route 100 the next day to deal with the heat and congestion of Manhattan, Frost's consent is one that I enjoy creating for myself.

The writer Jonathan Kandell lives in New York City. The photographer Jessica Scranton lives in Boston.

Route 100 in Vermont is packed with historic landmarks. (Jessica Scranton) Scott Bridge, one of Vermont's covered bridges, "offers such remarkable visual experiences," says filmmaker Dorothy Lovering. (Jessica Scranton) Greg and Joyce Birtsch kiss under the Scott Bridge over the West River. (Jessica Scranton) The poet Robert Frost (ca.1926) bought a farm in the town of Ripton in 1939 - now a national historic landmark. (EO Hoppe / Corbis) Frost used the property's rustic hut as writing quarters. (Jessica Scranton) From the hut Frost looked out over an apple orchard, a meadow and a view that he emphasized in his poem "Out, Out -": "Five mountain ranges in a row / Under the sunset, far to Vermont. (Jessica Scranton) When Vermont's oldest theater, Weston Playhouse, opened in 1937, its first production was of 24-year-old Lloyd Bridges in Noel Cowards Seeing hay fever . (Jessica Scranton) In nearby Healdville, the Crowley Cheese Factory makes artisanal colby by hand. While Crowley may not make big profits, it is "a great product," says Galen Jones. (Jessica Scranton) The village of Plymouth Notch has changed little since 1872. (Jessica Scranton) Calvin Coolidge (ca.1920) was born in Plymouth Notch. (Hulton Archive / Getty Images) Today Plymouth Notch is a state historic site. (Jessica Scranton) "It was all a good atmosphere to raise a boy," wrote Coolidge in his 1929 memoir book, recalling a world where he "learned to drive oxen and plowed alone with them when I was twelve. " (Jessica Scranton) Intact wilderness can also mean encountering a moose strolling on a street. "No matter how often it happens," says ranger Markschichtle, "just don't expect to see such a large animal in the wild and nearby." (Yasuchi Akimoto / AmanaImages / Corbis) A Vermont dairy cow grazes along Route 100. (Jessica Scranton)