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Borderlands

01/28/06 12:00AM By Alan Boye
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(HOST)Recently, commentator Alan Boye took a walk to find the northeast corner of Vermont. What he discovered there was a strange part of Vermont's geography.

(BOYE) Like most Vermonters, I always assumed that if you
travel far enough north you'd be in Quebec, but that's not entirely true. I know, because recently I zig-zagged back and forth across the northern border of the state and never once left the country.

I had driven to the tiny village of Beecher Falls at the most northeastern corner of Vermont. I stopped at a lonely four-way intersection marked by a couple of buildings and a house or two.
I could turn left here and - in a quarter mile - I'd be in Quebec. Or
I could turn right - drive across a short bridge - and be in New Hampshire. Instead of either of those, however, I drove straight through the intersection up a narrow, bumpy snow-covered road. On one side were two round hills, and on the other the narrow, silver-white ribbon of the upper Connecticut River. From the map
I knew that I was now driving through a tiny piece of Vermont that punctured the border of New Hampshire like an arrow.

A few houses littered the sides of a small snow-filled valley. Then the road climbed up a dark, forested hill. I parked near a squat, granite monument that marked the state's boundary. I got out of the car, slipped on my snowshoes and flip-flopped over to the marker.

I stood at the northern border of Vermont, but if I stepped over the line, instead of being in Canada, I'd be in New Hampshire.

This oddity of map-making was created because the Connecticut River, which forms the entire eastern border of the state, doesn't quite make contact with the border of Quebec. To solve this little inconvenience of nature, mapmakers in the 1930s simply extended the northern border of Vermont a mile east so that it would connect with the river.

According to the marker just 314 feet due east was the very northeastern corner of the state.

I didn't hesitate for a second. I made my way down the hill through the virgin snow. Big feathery flakes fell from the gray, January sky.

In a moment I stood under an ancient pine tree on the snowy bank of the Connecticut. This far north, the river is nothing more than a wild mountain stream. I stood a long while and just listened as the black waters of the river roared through the thick, blue sheets of ice.

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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