On September 27, 2023

Livin’ the Dream: A better way to get there

Ahhh, foliage. The air is crisp and clean as the humidity literally vanishes into thin air. The trees, once a vibrant shade of green, begin to mute and change, dying off before our very eyes. Once almost all the same, they now show their differences to us, the varieties within varieties, as each turns at their own unique pace. Some are already browning, while others are just starting to fade from emerald.

The dirt roads of Vermont, once covered in a thick and luscious canopy of green, are now full of an increasing amount of light. The gravel road, once a full gray allowing for two cars, now seems smaller. A lush border of brown, dead leaves line the path on either side, creating a runway feeling. The leaves draw your eyes farther down the road and I can imagine how far this journey might take me.

There are over 8,700 miles of dirt roads in Vermont, accounting for over 55% of existing travel byways. That’s a lot of room for exploring and adventuring throughout the state. In fact, except for mud season, that is absolutely amazing. When you wonder about taking the road less traveled by, make sure some of the roads you travel in life are dirt.

Dirt roads remind us to slow down. Life moves pretty fast but not when you are traveling on a dirt road in the middle of what feels like nowhere. Dirt roads force us to look around, to notice the variable terrain underneath our wheels rather than simply floating along on the freeway without a care in the world. 

Because you have to look out for your undercarriage, slowing down so you don’t snap an axle in an unmarked pothole or start leaking oil when you miss a large, pointy rock. You have to pay attention, maneuvering your car around the natural features of the road including its varying width and potential lack of guard rails. 

Most beautifully, you have to travel within the forest, underneath the thinning canopy of the fall season. The roads are usually firm this time of year and you can venture out into the woods just like a hiker. You don’t just get to look at the Green Mountains, you get to experience them, be surrounded by them and feel their energy as you drive through rather than around them.

This is your reminder to take the long way home at some point this foliage season. Open your windows and allow yourself the opportunity to breathe in the smells of the Vermont forests. Yes, the summits of our mountains are beautiful and you can see for miles across the ridge lines, but you must also open yourself up to the underbelly. 

You must look at the roots of the trees and not just the beauty on her branches. Notice the ferns as they change color and the way the earth rolls underneath you. Dirt roads are never smooth, never flat and never without movement. For many Class III roads, you don’t need a jeep or big knobby tires — you just need to pay attention and focus as you guide your skis through the woods.

Take advantage of this magical time of year to truly see how the cycle begins. The leaves, falling and returning the nutrients back to the earth. You can smell the changes, as the rot begins to take place and the soil grows stronger in preparation for the long winter ahead. Now is your chance to take Wheelerville Road, North Bridgewater Road, Upper Michigan Road, and so many, many more to explore. 

But go, take the road less traveled and see the foundation of our beautiful Green Mountains. See what only hikers usually get to see and experience. Take a bike, take a car or just take a walk. But slow down, take a deep breath and let yourself truly take the time to see Vermont and understand her. Don’t just drive by at 55 miles an hour looking for the next maple creemee stand. There’s a better way to get there.

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