This post was written by Lettie Stratton and appeared in the Fall 2021 edition of the Long Trail News under the headline “Green Mountain Home.” Lettie is a writer and founder of Wild Wanderer, an online community for LGBTQ+ outdoors enthusiasts. Lettie reflects on returning to Vermont after several years away.
During the height of the pandemic, I dreamt of Vermont. As I sat in my West Sussex flat sipping my fifth cup of tea and staring at the same four walls like everybody else, I longed for the hills of my home state, the bright autumn leaves, and the smell of the forest floor after a good long rain.
It was the longest I’d ever been away without a visit – nearly two years. I arrived in England about a month before the pandemic hit, and spent all of 2020 and more than half of 2021 across the pond. A lot about that time was good – great, even. I walked a lot of beautiful public footpaths. I explored a lot of lovely green fields. But I missed the woods. There’s just something about being home.
My favorite way to re-enter a place I love is through its trails. I never feel I’m fully back until I’ve explored my old favorites, and perhaps even discovered some new ones. Now that I’ve been back in Vermont for a month, I finally feel as though I’m really here. I have arrived.
I grew up in the Bennington area and have always used outdoor adventure and exploration as ways to connect to Place, whether in this place or in faraway countries. I’ve traveled and lived all around the world, but I always return to Vermont to reset and rejuvenate. I need my Green Mountain fix.
After everything 2020 threw at us, being here feels especially cathartic. During my first few hikes, I was overwhelmed by a variety of thoughts. I can’t believe I’m finally back. Everything is so lush and green. I forgot how hard it can rain here. Is it ever going to stop raining? The woods smell so good. And, I have a lot of mosquito bites.
Sometimes when I walk around town I feel like a tourist in my own state. I no longer recognize the businesses on Main Street, and I ask friends about cafes and restaurants that are gone. It makes me wonder where I belong.
After a hike the feeling fades, and I know I belong here and now – in the woods and on the trail. I belong at Lye Brook Falls, on Harmon Hill, at Equinox Preserve, in the Park McCullough Woods. I used to train on these trails for cross-country running and Nordic skiing – practice after practice, running, hiking, bounding, and exploring. These places are home.
I’ve been using my time in Vermont’s nature to clear my head. I’m at a life transition point, and change can be scary. I don’t do well with the unknown. I’m here for now, but what comes next? What does the future hold? Here, I find solace and refuge on trails so familiar and so dear. Every time I crunch a stick beneath my shoe, nearly slip on a wet tree root, or catch a glimpse of a pair of cardinals playing in the tree branches, I am not thinking about the future – I am present.
Now more than ever it is such a gift to be able to go outside and simply walk in the woods. I know Vermont will always be here for me no matter how long I’m away. I’ll forever be comforted by coming home. Even when businesses change and my favorite coffee shop has boarded up windows, the trails, mountains, and streams remain. They are steadfast, and I am grateful.