International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Road
was of Vermont in winter that the poet Robert Frost once mused:
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep But I have promises to
keep, And miles to go before I sleep..." As I head east on
New Yorks Route 4 just shy of Vermonts western border,
there are "miles to go" before I too retire for the night.
I gain solace, however, in the fact that these same New England
mountains that so inspired Frost are presently my own private visual
buffet as my Nissan Sentra ushers me and my two road trip companions
towards Killington, Vermont.
It is late afternoon.
What remains of an early winter sun bathes the surrounding mountaintops.
Rutland is still 30 minutes away. From there, it is a roughly 15 minute
climb up winding Route 4 before Killingtons 6-mountains fully
My car holds all the tell-tale signs of my impending rendezvous with
this winter playground. Two snow boards belonging to my cousin Nick
and nephew Cody are stacked in the back seat. As the sole skier, my
equipment cuts a long, straight line from the trunk to a point just
behind two now room-temperature coffees perched in cup holders to my
A half-empty bag of Doritos litters the passenger seat floor. A lone
snicker bar wrapper decorates the carpet under the break pedal. Overstuffed
travel bags, ski boots and a few loose sweaters further complicate the
Scant room is left for Cody, who sits behind me, Ipod blaring. Nick
slumbers serenely in the passenger seat as the village of Fort Ann,
New York beckons. Its quaint, white-washed church stands guard in the
town center. I pass the church and drive carefully down the towns
main street. The equally subdued village of Whitehall looms as our next
landmark just a few miles ahead. From Exit 21 on the New York State
Thruway all the way to Rutland, the drive to Killington is marked by
sleepy towns like these. St. Ann, Whitehall, Comstock and Castleton
all dot this largely quiet New England map.
The verses and prose are many extolling the virtues of the New Englands
outdoors. Even the iconic J.D. Salinger remains secluded at home somewhere
in these woods, still refusing to grant interviews. I can hardly blame
him. The vast openness stretching outside my window seems to match the
sanctity of the most revered houses of worship. I entered a Manhattan
yoga studio years ago and was greeted by the following warning affixed
to the door: "Absolutely no talking!" As I drive east on Route
4, the mountains seem to whisper that same admonition. I can even envision
Holden Caulfield accusing any violator who dares to defy such a call
to silence as a "jerk" or a "phony." As I am pondering
whether such a commandment can be stretched for a trio of Jersey boys
occupying the cramped interior of a well-worn Nissan Sentra, the silence
"Where are we?" Nick inquires.
"About forty minutes away," I respond.
"You want to eat?" he asks.
"Well stop in Whitehall."
As I exceed the town limits of Fort Ann, the open fields and mountains
once again announce themselves. A farmhouse braces itself against a
cold wind. Several cows form a tight bunch in an adjacent field, lazily
competing for their share of a bounty of hay.
glance in the mirror finds Cody, with head down, sending a text
message. Perhaps hes trying to immortalize the view outside
by penning some choice verses to a dame back home. I then remind
myself that hes 18 and mildly reprimand my inner romantic.
The English poet Percy Shelley took stock of Frances towering
Mont Blanc, spinning the following verse after pondering its awesome
beauty: "The power is there, The still and solemn power of
many sights, And many sounds, and much of life and death."
As I cross the border from New York into Vermont, these age-old
hills seem to urge that same contemplation of life and death.
After a brief late-afternoon
snack in Whitehall, more open, wild country is exposed as I cross Vermonts
western frontier with New York and formally gain sight of the states
Green Mountain range. Route 4 widens into a 2-lane highway here and
the views become even more grand. The mountains rise slightly and its
now easier to appreciate why three Jersey adrenaline junkies are opting
for Vermonts alpine real estate over the closer New York-area
We approach Rutland via its western "suburbs"a distinction
that is rare in this largely rural state. The town of West Rutland quickly
merges with Rutland proper. This is hardly a metropolis, but its
considerably more vibrant than any address encountered on Route 4 thus
The main street is lined with motels, restaurants and retail shops of
all sorts. While there are flashes of ambianceparticularly in
old Rutland with its charming colonial architecture, the town still
exists perpetually in Killingtons shadowboth literally and
figuratively. For to end the journey here would be akin to ending ones
travels in Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, never venturing beyond
to experience the myriad splendors within the city of lights.
So onward we drive, past the traffic lights and fast food options within
the citys limits. We begin our final uphill push towards the decidedly
less animated Turn of River Lodge, our home for the next three days.
The last few miles are steep. My ears pop as we ascend the dark road
through thick woods.
is dusk as we enter the parking lot. The wooden lodge is nestled
up against one of Killingtons many mountains. A gentle stream
tumbles towards a creek in the rear of the building. The more formidable
Ottauqueethe River flows beyond a field across Route 4, but it has
no connection to the lodges name. That distinction is reserved
for a neighborhood located, ironically, in Stanford, Connecticut.
The previous owners of the lodge were so smitten with Stanfords
Turn of River neighborhood that when they constructed the current
lodge in 1960, they brought the name with them. When the property
was sold in 1975, the name stayed.
As I park the car
adjacent to the lodge entrance, I notice smoke swirling from the sizeable
chimney. We begin to lug our equipment inside. The woods just a few
feet beside us are, as Frost similarly observed, "dark and deep"
and rise precipitously. The only sound other than the crunch of snow
under our feet comes from the stream murmuring in the rear of the lodge.
That distant Manhattan yoga studios stern admonition once again
echoes in my minds eye: "Absolutely No Talking!" The
large wooden door of the lodge creaks open, and the spacious lounge
area with its roaring fireplace comes into view. Cody and Nick enter
first and I follow, backpack in tow and skis over my shoulder.
I enter silently. There are no further "miles to go before I sleep."
Perkins Feb 2009
kperkins at hccc.edu
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