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Birds, Wildlife and Gardening

Vermont’s Green Mountains blush orange and red in October

December 01, 2021

Forty-seven miles — that’s how wide Vermont is at its tapered southern end. For someone from the endless state of Texas (773 miles wide, or about 12 hours of driving without stopping for gas, food, or a bathroom), it almost seems like you could stretch out your arms and touch each side.

On our leaf-peeping road trip in early October, we left Peterborough, New Hampshire, after lunch and headed west for the Vermont border and scenic Route 9, also known as the Molly Stark Trail.

Molly Stark Trail

Named for the wife of Revolutionary War general John Stark — who’s said to have rallied his troops by crying out, “There are the Red Coats. They will be ours or tonight Molly Stark sleeps a widow!” — the Molly Stark Trail runs from Brattleboro to Bennington and offers spectacular views of the rolling Green Mountains.

Hogback Mountain Scenic Overlook

At the Hogback Mountain Overlook, we pulled over to join dozens of leaf-peepers admiring blushing trees that stretched as far as the eye could see. That’s Massachusetts in the distance.

Realizing the Hogback Mountain Country Store, a popular tourist shop at the overlook, was about to close, we dashed in and bought a few packages of maple leaf candy, which David remembered fondly as souvenir treats from family vacations in New England.

The autumnal beauty of the Green Mountains in late afternoon

Bennington

We rolled into Bennington at sunset, drawn off-route to our hotel by a tall obelisk we’d spotted from the highway. Cruising the town’s all-American Main Street, we made our way uphill and past a classic white New England church — the Old First Church, where, as it happens, Robert Frost is buried. I was wishing for more time to explore charming Bennington, but we had only a few minutes of daylight left.

Bennington Battle Monument

We found the obelisk, the Bennington Battle Monument, pointing skyward on the crown of a grassy hill. Built in 1891, the 306-foot monument commemorates the Battle of Bennington of 1777, a turning point in the Revolutionary War. On one side Seth Warner, commander of the Green Mountain Boys, gazes east from his tall pedestal.

On the other side General John Stark, husband to Molly, heroically points at his foes, urging his men into battle by vowing to win or die trying, widowing poor Molly if necessary. They won. The Redcoats were weakened, the Americans gained an edge, and the tide of war turned. Today, he’s memorialized with a stone tower, she with a scenic byway. Both of their names live on.

Turning my gaze west, where the setting sun tinted the Green Mountains tangerine, I peeked over a tousled hedge to admire someone’s country garden. Tomorrow we’d cross into New York, heading to Innisfree Garden.

Up next: Chinese-influenced Innisfree, a strolling landscape garden in Millbrook, New York. For a look back at the romantic, aster-filled garden of Michael Gordon, click here.

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