Bad First Impressions

I had been hiking through the state of Vermont for three days and was less than impressed. It seemed to me that the state officials had appointed the vexatious deer fly as the official welcoming committee, and do they ever take their role seriously! Deer flies thrive in damp environments and Vermont does not suffer from a lack of bogs and swamps. Even on top of a mountain, you can find yourself in the midst of a wetland. Furthermore, with the dense vegetation of the mountains, views were hitherto nonexistent. Add some rain into the mixture, and you’ve got yourself one miserable hiker.

One of many swamps found along the AT in Vermont.

It was under these conditions I found myself trudging up Glastenbury Mountain. It was only the early afternoon, but after getting caught in a deluge a little earlier, I was ready to call it quits for the day at a shelter located just before the summit. Upon reaching the shelter, I set about wringing the excess rain water out of my socks and letting my feet dry out as I debated whether to move on or stay put. When the sun finally broke through the gray clouds – though only briefly – I suddenly realized just how beautiful the surrounding woodland was. The stately pines and birch trees and the thick fern undergrowth lent an enchanted feel to the forest. The resulting small lift in my spirits was enough to convince me to push onward despite the advancing dark clouds, quickly resulting in the fading of the cherished sunshine.

The top of Glastenbury Mountain, like most other mountains in Vermont, is forested, which obscures any surrounding views. However, at the summit I found a lookout tower. As I ascended up the steps above the thick grove of pines, my breath was taken from me by the panoramic beauty I was suddenly immersed in. All around me, for miles and miles, lay the lush Green Mountains,  looking all the more magnificent when contrasted with the dark, low-hanging clouds. It was my first real comprehensive view of Vermont, and I found it hard to tear myself away from my perch atop of the tower. That one sight changed my whole perspective that I had developed and harbored for the past three days.

The view from Stratton Mountain.

I’d love to tell you that the weather from that point on magically improved and that the plague of deer flies ceased, but unfortunately the precipitation and pests continue. Despite this, I have been further treated to views of the Green Mountains at various points, including Stratton Mountain – the very summit on which the idea of the Appalachian Trail came to a man named Benton MacKaye (who formally proposed its creation in 1921). I find myself often entranced by the flora and fauna around me and find tranquility in the large ponds and other natural beauties of the state. Furthermore, the residents of Vermont are incredibly kind and friendly, which is truly one of the greatest gems of the state.

Stratton Pond

First impressions are not always very accurate. Every state on the trail so far has had its charming aspects as well as its disappointments. Whether or not I focus on the positive or the negative is simply a matter of choice, and can drastically alter the experience I have on a given section. Much like life itself, sometimes all it takes is a fresh outlook and sense of gratitude to realize how much of a blessing it is to be right where you are at any point in life. The choice is always yours.

Prospect Rock, overlooking the town of Manchester Center, Vermont.

Until our paths cross again,

         Ashley Sylvan

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