Molly Stark State Park

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(Host) Last Monday, Vermont celebrated Bennington Battle Day, and commentator Alan Boye observed the anniversary with a walk in a unique state park.

(Boye) The rock wall materializes out of the dark woods. I might have walked right past the mossy clutter of stones if it hadn’t been for how straight a line they form. I stop to take a closer look. Although mature trees now grow out of some of the rocks, most of the stone wall stands as straight and true as if built yesterday.

The trail I am walking in Molly Stark State Park winds up a steep hillside, headed towards a fire tower on the top of Mt. Olga. It’s work enough just climbing the trail. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for the first settlers to clear this steep slope and then build the wall.

I step over the stone wall and walk further up the hill. With each step I take, the sound of the traffic on Route 9 grows fainter. Beech trees tower into the sunny sky. All along the wooded path, the leaves of vine maple look like the wide, webbed feet of geese.

Like this area’s settlers, most visitors to Molly Stark State Park are from somewhere else. The majority of people who visit this place are tourists who pull off of the highway to camp for a night on their way to this place or that. The woman at the park entrance was surprised to see my Vermont plates; she said very few Vermonters ever visit this quiet and pretty state park.

Even the park’s namesake, Molly Stark, was not from Vermont, but New Hampshire. She was the wife of John Stark, a brigadier general in the Revolutionary War. At the Battle of Bennington – which was not fought in Bennington, Vermont at all, but a few miles west in New York – General Stark gave his wife a kind of immortality by shouting to his soldiers, “Tonight the American flag flies over yonder hill, or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!”

I think for a while of Molly Stark as I struggle up the trail, but by the time I reach the last, steep climb to the fire tower, I have nearly forgotten about the non-Vermonter. The sound of the traffic has vanished, replaced by the faint whisper of a light summer breeze high in the trees.

I climb the fire tower, for a 360 degree view of southern Vermont. Just as I start back down the steps, two young boys come scampering up the trail, followed by their mothers.

“Hey, cool!” one shouts.
“A fire tower,” the other one yells. “I bet we can see all the way to New Jersey from up there!”

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury.

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