Silver Ledge trail

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(Host) If you dress for the season – in other words, blaze orange and warm – commentator Alan Boye thinks that November is a fine time for a hike.

(Boye) Just as I start on the trail the sleet turns to snow. I am walking on Silver Ledge trail in Groton State Park and large thick flakes of snow dance about me in the air. The deep crack of a gunshot echoes in the canyon. It’s hunting season, and I’m glad I remembered to wear my bright-orange rain jacket.

I follow the faint path to where it reaches Beaver Brook. I tip-toe carefully across the water on slippery, moss-covered rocks, and then begin an easy climb up a rocky slope. In a moment the thick woods open onto rocky outcropping. The snow has stopped. The sky is so low it nearly scrapes the high ridges to my west. Below me is a pale expanse of hardwood trees, solid gray but for a few small yellow patches of aspen and birch.

As I scramble higher into the clearing, I suddenly realize there are no standing trees here. Everywhere huge skeletons of fallen trees litter the ground. This is the site of one of nature’s most powerful storms. In the late 1990’s Silver Ledge was hit by a massive blowdown. Straight-line winds raced over the highlands to the west, roared down the canyon and slammed into the stony bulk of Silver Ledge like a freight train. I walk through the bones of the ghastly graveyard of every tree that once stood here.

Someone has cut a route through the downed trees with a chainsaw. I walk gingerly through the huge tangle. In a moment the woods close in again. Here, in the trees that were not damaged by the wind, there are no patches of snow. A blanket of maple leaves and pine needles covers the earth like a quilt. I climb higher. I reach a flat spot in the woods, near the top of Silver Ledge. I stop at two massive boulders the size of dump-trucks. Despite their size, they look as if they were simply tossed on top of this high ledge, but I know these are “glacial erratics.” These granite boulders were left behind eons ago when a glacier dropped them here and then retreated northward.

Nature’s power always humbles me. Trees that have stood for a century, broken like twigs, and gigantic stones tossed onto a high mountaintop. Dimly through the trees on my left the clouds have parted and I can see the low sun break from behind the shelf of wintry clouds.

I turn to start back down to the car. The dark clouds have thinned. The faint golden flame of the setting sun burns through the gray late autumn sky.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

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

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