Albright: Muddy Roads

Jun 12, 2019

In summer, our road up Jewell Hill fits the name. It's a gem of a path running along a meadow – and to my eye, it's much more attractive than any strip of blacktop. But last winter, for a time I literally couldn't get home. The nasty brew of snow, ice, slush, and mud was too much for my trusty all-wheel drive car. At times even the plow couldn't make it up to our driveway.

One dicey day, I set out to visit grandchildren – who also live up a steep, unpaved hill - but gave up after sinking axle deep in mud on Kirby Ridge Road.

Then torrential rains caused both sides of Jewell Hill to crumble and I called our municipal administrator to see when we might expect repairs. Another more important dirt road connecting two elementary schools was already closed due to storm damage, so I didn't really expect anyone to answer the phone. And I didn't expect a quick fix. But the phone was answered, the grader arrived, and soon Jewell Hill was passable again.

Ah, Vermont ... where there’s more dirt than macadam. In fact, Montpelier has unpaved some of its roads, rather than perennially filling potholes - you gotta love it.

But many now predict that because of physical isolation and high poverty rates, small rural counties in the Northeast will bear the brunt of an increase in extreme precipitation related to global warming.

Here in Vermont, we're so used to spring bringing a slurry of dirt and rain that mud season bragging rights are kind of a regional rite of passage, but this year feels different. We're even digging out from a landslide on a popular hiking trail on Mt. Mansfield. And a mud season lasting into June could try the patience of even the hardiest backroad dweller.

So, since it seems we're seeing more and more signs that the climate is changing and that we need to shrink our carbon footprints, from now on, there'll be no more driving down Jewell Hill from my house to get the mail.

Mud or no mud, ice or no ice, I'll be hoofing it - in boots designed to take even the craziest kinds of weather.