The morning is humid. Not hot, but humid. Fog flows around the evergreen spruce like a slow-moving river depositing moisture onto the needles. The inconsistent PAT PAT PAT of water droplets hitting my umbrella lures me into an almost dreamlike state – a natural hypnosis that often comes upon me in the wilderness. A lake extends before me, stretching from the soles of my feet on into the infinity of the grey swirling mist. I strain my eyes to see the far banks, imagining the sight of a moose grazing on the aquatic plants there. If there is a moose at Little Rock Pond this morning, I cannot see him.
An involuntary shiver runs up my back, breaking my mesmeric concentration. I turn back towards the trail which, today, is quite muddy. My walk this morning follows a path that in the 1890s, almost 130 years ago, was the route of the main road leading to the small logging community of The Hamlet of Alderichville.
I close my eyes as I continue – being careful to feel the ground beneath my feet as a go – and try to imagine the sounds that must have once permeated this area. A whirring saw powered by the river, the defining crack of behemoth trees falling to the ground, the men, cattle, and horses dragging those massive trunks toward their final fate. It is loud.
My eyes flick open just in time to avoid stubbing my toe on a rock protruding from the packed ground of the trail. Silence fills my brain once again. The Red Spruce, and Yellow Birch trees I see today are nothing compared to the massive ones that once stood here. The small town of Alderichville was abandoned after all the largest and best trees were cut and the sawmill was decommissioned. At its height, almost 60 people called this place their home. There was a blacksmith shop, agriculture, homes, and everything you could need. I find myself both saddened and amazed that this entire area was at one-point clear-cut. How it must have looked when the explorers of this area first came upon those towering masts of trees - the children of which I am only now walking under. They are still in their infancy.
A wall of rocks, covered in nearly one hundred shades of green mosses, ferns, and other small plants catches my attention. I step off the trail to get a closer look – my urge to explore is heightened by the fact that I am alone and the knowledge that I am in no particular rush. Why not satiate a curiosity? I brush aside a small Balsam Fir, its rain-soaked needles deposit water onto my arm.
Before me is the foundation of an old building. Hundreds of boulders and rocks have been stacked here to form a square about 25 feet by 25 feet. Was this once a home? The blacksmith shop? Whatever it once was, it is now overtaken by underbrush and surrounded by wilderness. I wonder if those who built this place would be sad knowing that their work had been returned to nature, or proud in the fact that over a century later the foundations they labored to create using nothing more than hand tools are still standing.
I continue down the trail, the rain still pat pat patting on my umbrella. I am happy that I brought my umbrella today. Before I left home I wasn’t sure if the dense underbrush of Vermont would render it useless. I have yet to put on my rain jacket, so I would say it is working well. I am sure that I am a silly sight, a tall lanky 24 year old man rummaging alone through the Vermont country wearing a bright blue shirt, carrying a yellow backpack, and wielding a shiny umbrella designed to reflect the sun. I had originally bought my umbrella for the purpose of desert hiking in the Southern California desert on the Pacific Crest Trail where the temperatures regularly exceeded 100 degrees. On the crest of the Green Mountains on the Long Trail though; my concern has always been the inevitability of rain.