Finally, I woke up to a day filled largely with opportunity. Every day thus far had been full of its own sort of potential, but destinations and time constraints had always played a role in either my routing or my decision-making. Today was a little different. I woke up in Hanover, NH and was not expected anywhere until 5:00 PM in Keene, NH (roughly an hour away). Oh the possibilities…
Since Annie had class early in the AM, we woke up and enjoyed a deliciously simple breakfast of old-fashioned oats with fruits and nuts. We sat out on her porch enjoying the wooded view in the chilly New Hampshire morning. I had been realizing for the last few days, as I had been driving into Vermont and New Hampshire, that I had this funny feeling that I was heading home. I hadn’t been back to the northeast since my graduation in 2013, but Vermont and New Hampshire were already starting to remind me of Maine and of Bates. Spending the morning with Annie on the porch cemented that feeling even more.
Once we parted ways, I began my drive south. I had two goals for the day: explore at least one Vermont park or natural area that was representative of the Green Mountains and find two zucchinis. Simple enough. On the suggestion of Annie’s mother, I headed to Ascutney State Park, just a few miles south of Hanover. There, a fire observation tower tops a small monadnock (a summit isolated from any actual geological range) with a few hiking trails on it. With about 2,500’ of elevation change on the 2.5-mile ascent, it seemed oddly similar to my hike up Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks… at least on paper. Where Cascade had steep sections paired with relatively flat sections, Ascutney was relentlessly gradual in its ascent. The gentle slope of the path was deceiving and in no time I was sweating profusely underneath the canopy of maple leaves blocking out the midday sun.
With the temperature climbing steadily into the 80s, my sweating did not abate. No matter, I reached the fire tower and recharged my internal solar batteries with a nap a top the tower. From my vantage point, the mugginess and heat of the day manifested itself in a blanket of humid clouds hanging low over the surrounding valleys. The observation tower did, however, mean that the views were entirely unencumbered, a relative rarity in Vermont. They are called the Green Mountains for a reason… Unlike the Whites were so many peaks end in bald or exposed sections, the same cannot be said for Vermont’s peaks.
After my nap, I trotted back down to the car and headed south on Route 5. Shortly thereafter, I drove past a wonderful little organic farm stand full of Vermont-grown produce and goods. They had squashes I had never even imagined before, but, more importantly, they had zucchinis. After a quick conversation with the proprietor, I grabbed a few zucchinis and hit the road. Now, I was in search of a quiet spot to make lunch overlooking the Connecticut River. This proved a little more difficult, so I settled for a nice wooded pull off.
With both my goals complete, I headed into Putney, VT. After college, I had thought about applying to the Putney School, but another opportunity materialized. Now, I saw the area for the first time and realized how great it would be to do just about anything in this town. The Putney Food Co-op might be my favorite grocery store that I have set foot in to date (which is saying a lot). The vibe was undeniably positive, welcoming, and ethical.
From Putney, I jetted across the Connecticut to Keene, NH, where I set myself up in a coffee shop to process my meager collection of photos from the day. After contacting Kelly, a friend from my time at Apogee Adventures, I realized that there had been a miscommunication somewhere along the way. She thought I was supposed to show up a month from today! Whoops.
Despite the miscommunication, we spent a wonderful night together cooking and catching up. After a quick grocery shop, we pulled together a wonderful meal of sweet potatoes and colorful Pad Thai. Sadly, my spiralizer or Veggetti died an untimely death at the hands of a particularly tough carrot. Tomorrow, the hunt begins for a new one! We finished just in time for her roommates, Jack and Kirby to join. From there, the conversation spiraled away from the reminiscing and checking in Kelly and I had been doing into the realm of food system sustainability and the economics of funding the stable, socially-focused start ups of tomorrow. Little did I know that C&S, the largest wholesale grocery distributor in the United States, is headquartered in this small college town. I had never really experienced corporate America, so hearing about the dividends, business partners, and sheer quantity of product that C&S moves on a daily basis blew me away. They are, without a doubt, an integral part of the American food system that works with the major food product corporations (of which there are only about 10) to keep the shelves stocked around the United States. Curiosity hit me hard, but also an overwhelming sense of purpose in how I “voted” with my food dollars. It really can make a difference!
Map for the Day