My Life on the Post Road: Fire on the Mountain

One of the many benefits of having been selected to serve on the Middlebury College Alumni Association Board is that I now have to travel to Vermont twice a year, at perhaps the most glorious times (although Vermont is pretty glorious year-round): spring and autumn. While I don’t relish the five-hour drive, I try to keep my eye on the prize, and during this time of year, the prize is the renowned fall foliage.

Although Vermont translates to “green mountain,” and Middlebury nestles in the middle of the eponymous range, it was Connecticut that was predominantly green as I drove up the Merritt to 91 heading north. I could sense a change during the quick trip through Massachusetts, as some yellows crept up on each side of the highway. But almost as if on cue, as I passed the “Welcome to Vermont” sign, the colors popped. By the time I entered Ludlow, I could see Okemo ski area trails carved, not into a white snow blanket but into what looked like a mountain on fire with predominantly reds and oranges. I had to concentrate hard to keep my eyes on the road and not the spectacle that nature had painted.

The college houses us at the Breadloaf campus, high atop the mountain just outside Middlebury proper, near the Snow Bowl ski area where we spent many a day skiing, especially during January term. In May, the quaint multistory mustard-colored, green-roofed cabins stood out against the verdant backdrop. But now, they blended in with what looked like a landscape that an artist had carefully dappled with red, orange, and yellow-dipped cotton puffs. On the drives down to campus and back up to my room, the flora looked more like the bunches of multi-colored cauliflower bunches that Stew’s now features.

But the bottom line is that no verbal description can possibly capture this wonder that nature seemingly effortlessly creates year after year. At the end of the first day of our meeting, we gathered for a group photo across the street from the cabins, with the nearly-cliché landscape behind us. We all had the pleasure of attending college in this wonderland for four years and the joy of returning to it many times thereafter (many of our children have attended as well). Yet we all stood there in awe, murmuring, slightly agape, at the brilliance before us. 

On the drive back, the colors that I’d passed just 60 hours prior seemed to have deepened even more, and I marveled at the change in so short a time. As I neared home, the predominantly green vistas returned, and while I missed the leafy rainbow on display in Vermont, I knew I still had it to look forward to here in Connecticut.

Photos by Diane Lowman

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