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The Palisades

10/22/05 12:00AM By Alan Boye
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(HOST) When commentator Alan Boye took a walk recently in search of a panoramic view, he found very different kind of vision instead.


(BOYE) I watch the wind-shield wipers snap back and forth one final time, then turn off the car and step out into the dripping, wet, gray day. I've parked just off the Interstate exit ramp at Fairlee Vermont in order to take a walk to one of the state's most unusual places: an open-face granite mountain known as the Palisades.

If you've ever traveled Interstate 91 you've probably seen the Pali- sades. The round mountain that sits next to the Fairlee exit looks as if it has been sliced from top to bottom by some monster's blade. The slick rocky face forms a sheer cliff three hundred feet tall.

The trail begins right at the end of the southbound exit ramp. I walk for a few yards back up towards the Interstate, but soon the trail climbs away from the busy highway up a steep slope and into the woods.

I feel a lot like the peregrine falcons that nest here in summer as I climb higher and higher, catching an occasional glimpse of the misty hills of New Hampshire, or the rain-soaked interstate below. Here and there are patches of bright yellow and green, but most of the landscape has traded in its autumn colors and is the same drab gray as the rain itself.

I cross a clearing, pass a set of high power lines, and then plunge back into the woods. Soon I come to a sign painted on a rock. It's emblazoned by a smiley face and reads "End of trail."

I scramble out to the edge of the cliff. The rock falls away so abruptly that I take a quick step backwards. Just beyond the tips of my boots the houses below look like toys. The narrow band of the Connecticut River is nothing but a gray shoestring. On both sides of the river tiny church steeples point up at me. The bridge across the river is a pale turquoise the color of robin's eggs.

I study the twin snakes of Interstate 91 disappearing to the south. Just then a sparkling light catches my eye. I figure it must be a car headlight on some distant part of the interstate. I scan the horizon until I find the sparkle again. It takes several seconds to realize that what I'm seeing isn't a car's headlights, but the glimmer of a single raindrop suspended at the end of a near-by branch. It's as if every bit of available light on this gray day is concentrated in that tiny speck.

For a long moment there is nothing in my mind, just the crystal drop of rain and the open air beyond.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio at the Fairbanks Museum in Saint Johnsbury.
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