Last Saturday, five teenagers from a small Vermont community were killed in their car on their way home from a concert by a driver deliberately driving on the wrong side of the freeway. As you can imagine, the death of five young people in an area with only a few thousand residents is devastating and will take years for the community to recover from.
The day after the accident, Bobby Kelly, a classmate of the victims, wrote a message in remembrance of his friends and in celebration of his community, which a local ski area posted on their Facebook page:
So today after I heard the terrible news, my family went to Mad River Glen to ride the single up and hike down. As I stood at the top I was looking down at the little strip of road you can see from the top of the mountain. I watched a handful of these cars drive by, and they were so small from my perspective. And I thought to myself, how could something smaller than a pebble take 5 beautiful lives from us? The cars looked so small and insignificant from that far away. Then I started thinking how it’s only my perspective, and if you were 10 feet from those cars, they wouldn’t seem so small.
What I’m trying to say is, the closer you are to something, the bigger it is. There are people in our community who were ‘10 feet’ from the 5 kids we lost. Then there were some looking at them from ‘the top of the mountain’. Obviously, the people closer to them will feel the most pain, and the people furthest away from them will feel the least, it’s human nature. But, after seeing all the posts and pictures in memory of them, I realize that you only have a true community when people at the top of the mountain put themselves 10 feet from the car. We are all one, and the love for each other we have at Harwood and the community in general is something incredible. We will always miss Janie, Cyrus, Eli, Mary and Liam, but we will also always love them, because through this terrible tragedy, we will all heal together.
I don’t know about you, but I had to go take a walk after reading that. I moved to this area over the summer but didn’t know any of the victims because I’m new. The Mad River Valley Community Fund has set up a special Five Families Fund to help the families of the victims through this terrible time. If you’re moved to do so, I would appreciate you making a donation.
The issue of The Collective Quarterly on Vermont’s Mad River Valley is wonderful and gorgeous.
When we visited the Mad River Valley — which includes the towns of Warren, Waitsfield, Moretown, Fayston, and Duxbury — we found grown men who loiter outside the local general store like furtive minors, sheepishly asking inbound customers if they’d be willing to help them circumvent the three-bottle limit on the impossible-to-find Sip of Sunshine double IPA from Lawson’s Finest Liquids. We shared drinks with backwoods boys, each with a quirky approach to extreme sports: kayaking raging rivers, big-air huck fests in sleds, and cliff-jumping at near-suicidal heights. We met a man who builds houses in the trees for the disabled youth of the Mad River Valley. We found a woman who forges artful kitchen knives out of old horse-hoof rasps from her father’s blacksmith operation. We ran into a socialist German refugee whose politically charged puppet shows in the fields of the Northeast Kingdom draw thousands.
And of course there were the architects. By some estimates, there are more architects per capita in Warren, Vermont, than anywhere else in the United States. Throughout the ’60s and ’70s, these freewheeling designers hacked together zany, experimental constructions on Prickly Mountain, heralding the arrival of the design/build movement.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time there, and I can tell you that the magazine definitely captured it. From just this summer, here’s Ollie doing a 360 off a cliff at the swim hole and views of another more peaceful swim hole as well as from a hike I took:
Eliza Minnucci teaches a kindergarten class in Quechee, Vermont and every Monday, her students spend the entire school day outside in the forest. The results have been more than encouraging. I love this anecdote about what the forest setting can provide for students of all temperaments and abilities.
When Minnucci started this forest school experiment two years ago, she knew it would be good for the rowdy boys who clearly need to run around more than the typical school day offers.
What she didn’t expect is how good it would be for the kids who can sit still and “do” school when they’re 5 years old. She gives the example of a boy last year.
Inside the classroom, he was one of her best students. But when he got outside and kids were climbing a tree, he couldn’t get very high. “I think he was a little surprised to not be meeting his peers’ ability,” says Minnucci.
Then, partway up the tree, he fell. And got a bit scraped up. “I felt terrible,” Minnucci says. “I thought, ‘Oh this poor guy. He failed.’”
But two weeks later, when the kids were climbing the tree again, he looked over at them. “I want to try the tree,” he said.
“And he went to the tree and he got higher than he’d been before and he was beaming,” says Minnucci. “And I thought, ‘Oh, this good, this is good!’ This is a kid who may have gone so far before he met challenge that he wouldn’t have known what to do when he got there.”
Kids who are good at school need to understand there’s more to life than acing academics, says Minnucci. And students who aren’t excelling at the academic stuff need to know there’s value in the things they are good at. Doing school in the forest offers “something really important” to everyone, she says.
A Vermont IHOP is the only restaurant in the chain of ~1400 to serve real maple syrup with its pancakes.
You can’t open up a Vermont pancake shop without Vermont maple syrup.
This story offers up a microcosm of the contemporary American experience.
The NY Times covers Mad River Glen, a quirky ski area in Vermont that has the only operating single-seat chair lift in the country, doesn’t allow snowboarders, and doesn’t groom (that often) or make (that much) snow. “Occasionally, snowboarders will hike to the top from a nearby road and ride down. If they tackle the tough terrain with crisp, accomplished turns, the Mad River Glen regulars will loudly applaud at the bottom. If the boarders aren’t very good, the abuse is just as loud. People will come out hooting and hollering from the lodge.” I’ve skiied there a few times; here’s some photos of the mountain and some videos I took. (thx, tien)
Over the holidays, Meg and I went up to Vermont skiing. I skied quite a bit when I was in middle/high school (on the small hills of northwestern WI and east central MN), but I’d only strapped on the boards a couple times since graduating from college. Meg’s family has skied at Mad River Glen for years, so that’s where we went. After three straight days of hitting the slopes, my back got a little wonky, so on the 4th day I brought the camera along to document a run down the mountain:
There are a few photos of Waitsfield (the town closest to Mad River) and the surrouding area at the beginning of the set, but most are from the mountain, including some of the best winter views I’ve ever witnessed. The snow covering the trees, the fog at the top of the hill…it looked almost magical. At one point, I was alone on the mountain with my camera, engulfed in fog, no one within 200 yards. With no wind and all the snow & fog muffling the sound, when I stopped breathing, I couldn’t hear anything at all.
Well, summer is definitely over in the eastern United States. The leaves on the trees are going or gone, sweaters and light jackets have started making their appearance, and everyone is sick of tomatoes but drinking apple cider by the gallon. As a goodbye to a great summer, here are a few photos I took over the last few months:
The above photo was taken near the end of the summer on Nantucket, just before sunset.
Thomas Keller gets the butter for his restaurants from 6 cows in Vermont. The woman who owns them sells more than 80% of her butter to Keller: “When you’re small you can have a relationship with the people who buy your food. The reason I’m not big is because I’m a perfectionist. I’ve got to sell to someone who is the same way.”
Photo of Vermont foliage. “Among factors that combine to give Vermont an edge in the U.S.’s foliage sweepstakes are the abundance and density of broad-leaved tree species, each with a contrasting color scheme, and a climate inclined to bring out the best in all of them.”