Autumn in Randolph Gap

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(Host) Commentator Alan Boye shares the autumn scenery in Randolph Gap.

(Boye) I am walking up the old road through a little known gap in Vermont’s Green Mountains. The autumn day is near-perfect. The cold yellow fog that hangs in the air is being sliced into ribbons by a brilliant sun. The former road climbs steeply towards Randolph Gap, a narrow cleft a half-mile above sea level. The difficult road once served as the only connection between two early settlements that long ago clung to the rough valleys below.

I walk out of the last traces of fog, and all around me are fiery bursts of dazzling color. Maple and birch, pin-cherry and beech trees cover the mountainsides of Randolph Gap. The old road levels off briefly. In the woods to the side I see the remnants of a stone wall.

An old timer once told an historian of the day in 1911 that he watched a circus climb over Randolph Gap. He was just a boy but never forgot seeing elephants pulling the wagons. The big beasts climbed up the steep grade, their trunks swaying from side to side. The next day the circus returned over the pass. Now the elephants’ strength was used to keep the wagons from rushing down the slope. The old timer’s most vivid memory was how the elephants made no sound, not even when they lowered their feet onto the stones of the rough road.

On this lovely autumn day nearly a century later, the largest creature I am likely to see is a bear, stomping about in the thick jumble of berry bushes that now line the route. Something glitters on the trail ahead of me. I stoop and pry loose a small piece of chipped glass. Sunlight glistens in rainbow colors along its well-worn edges. By the 1930s, the seldom-used road had fallen into disrepair. For a while a few high-centered new-fangled automobiles ventured over the gap, but today it is difficult to see how even a horse could negotiate this rugged and rutted trail.

After 45 minutes of climbing I reach the gap. The trail flattens out for a few measly feet, then plunges down into the Rochester Valley. I stop. Everywhere I look I can see the season beginning to turn. Patches of deep summer green shine against the coming blood-red fire of autumn. The summer sun warms me through a dome of icy blue sky.

After a while, I turn around and head back to the car. The drop off on the east side of Randolph Gap is not as steep, but I can see range after range of Vermont hillsides in the valley below. On each hill, color burns like a torch heralding the season’s change. I walk slowly, savoring the image of elephants marching down this very trail. I walk through the brilliant light of an autumn morning and into the grace of accepting the season ahead.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College.

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