Walking in Bugbee Bog

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(Host) One recent sunny day found commentator Alan Boye walking into one of Vermont’s darkest bogs. What he found there was the story of an unusual Vermont environmentalist.

(Boye) I am bushwhacking through what may be the darkest forest in Vermont. I am headed down a dimly lit hill. Overhead, a thick green canopy shuts out nearly every trace of light. I have to continually watch my step so that I don’t trip, or worse, step into a deep pool of water disguised as green earth.

I know that I won’t make it far into Bugbee Bog. You can’t tell the swamp from the solid ground in a place like this, and there are so many roots, strange plants, and slimy rocks that it is nearly impossible to walk.

I swat at another late-season mosquito and step gingerly over a rotting stump. I’m not going to walk much further – besides, the real reason I came here was to commemorate the woman this place is named after, Lucy Bugbee.

A teacher, photographer, public speaker, and writer, Lucy Bugbee devoted the last 35 years of her life to protecting Vermont’s natural beauty. She wandered the hills of Vermont locating, cataloging and photographing its native plants. Her published booklets about Vermont’s plants became standard works that were used by countless biologists and scientists.

She made it a policy never to pick flowers. She didn’t like the idea of keeping nature’s rare beauty for a day or two on the kitchen table just to watch it wilt. Although she located and helped to preserve several natural areas in the state, and fought for the passage of Vermont’s first endangered species act, she didn’t call herself an environmentalist. She simply believed it was best to leave Vermont the way it was.

A 1908 graduate of Mt. Holyoke College, Lucy Bugbee lived for years in her Vermont house along the Connecticut River. She had a full and rich 95 years of life. Well into her 90s Lucy Bugbee continued to fight for the protection of Vermont’s wildest places. She believed that wilderness, by its very nature, is something so rare and beautiful, it should be the pride of every Vermonter.

Near the end of her life someone asked her how she had the tenacity to work so hard for so many years protecting the beauty of Vermont. Quick as a wink, she replied, “Anyone can do what I did.”

I stop at the remains of a cedar log. Despite the bright afternoon, the wet bog is dark and cool. In the black shadows grow green mysterious plants, bushes with snow-white berries, strange, beautiful pale blue flowers as tiny as thimbles, and a single yellow flower that hangs from a thin green stem winding around the trunk of a tree.

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 Saint Johnsbury. His latest book is titled, Just Walking the Hills of Vermont.

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