by Mark Frost, Editor and Publisher, The Chronicle Newspaper
We go to Grafton, Vermont to drop out. “Stop the world, I want to get off.”
Last weekend fulfilled it to the best degree ever.
We lucked out first with the timing of the snowstorm. Had it arrived late Wednesday, it would have wreaked havoc with Thursday’s Chronicle delivery, delaying us, maybe made it either impossible or daunting to drive to central Vermont.
But the snow started late Thursday. Our deliveries were done, and we drove to Grafton in dry conditions, in fading late afternoon light as the early snowflakes swirled. Atmospheric. Magical.
The last 10 miles of the route we take to Grafton are mostly a dirt road. It’s a state highway! That’s one of the things I really like about Vermont
This night, in all these 10 miles, on which we were driving only about 30 mph, we encountered the grand total of one other vehicle. I mean, no one else on it.
As my wife Sandy has remarked, the beauty of Grafton is that it’s not on the way to anywhere. Traffic is sparse. But this night, with a snowstorm looming, there was nobody out driving at all.
We arrived at about 5:30 p.m., went to the house we’ve rented before.
It has two unbeatable allures.
One, a huge fireplace and ample seasoned firewood.
Two, we can bring our dogs. This wasn’t just a getaway for me and Sandy. It was adventure for Maggie and a first for her six-month-old puppy “sistuh” Molly
Our aim when we get to Grafton is to park the car on arrival and not use it again until we’re leaving.
The foot-and-half of snow that fell Thursday night and Friday clinched it
We got to see, from beginning to end, how a small town mobilizes so quickly and methodically to plow and shovel streets and sidewalks. By Sunday all was bare pavement again.
A friend here asked Sandy what there is do in Grafton and Sandy said, very little. We keep the home fire burning. Read (books!). Several times a day, for the dogs, for ourselves, stroll the compact little “downtown.” Eat, drink, sometimes at the inn or pub, just yards away.
Grafton is so isolated that it’s often utterly silent other than the gurgle of the Saxtons River flowing through it.
Grafton gains because a New York financier named Dean Mathey so loved the town that in 1963 he formed the Windham Foundation that “strives to preserve Vermont’s rural way of life” especially in Grafton. (Painting below of Mr. Mathey hangs inside the inn.)
The weekend brought a big surprise: The Vermont Symphony was playing a Christmas concert in Grafton. It was supposed to be at the community church, but the church was one of many buildings that lost power in the storm. So it was moved to the elementary school.
We went. Brass quintet, plus Counterpoint, a chorus. Nice. The man sitting to my right reached out his hand, introduced himself and his wife, wasn’t surprised when I said we were weekend visitors. The locals have no problem spotting the strangers! He asked, where are you from? When I said Glens Falls, he said that in his earlier life, he was an industrial salesman who called on paper mills and chemical plants in Glens Falls.
The next night, outside a private party at the pub, a hippie from the 60s, having a cigarette outside, likewise knew Glens Falls. He talked reverently of the late Paul Pines — of the “legendary bar” Paul ran in Brooklyn and of the Jazz Festival Paul created in Lake George. (Photos below taken inside the Phelps Barn Pub.)
Had quite the time of it in Grafton. I hope the holidays sparkle for you like our weekend there did for us.