Barton Chronicle Editorial
October 5, 2011

A bright orange line across the mountain


by Chris Braithwaite

If you are at all uneasy about the wisdom of industrializing our ridgelines with wind turbines, if you like to admire the fall foliage, and if you feel the need for a bit of exercise, we have a suggestion.
Put on a pair of stout, waterproof boots and head over to Albany. Find the farm of Don and Shirley Nelson (it’s in Lowell, but you can’t get there from Lowell), and take a walk up their mountain.
The path to a new campsite is marked with bright bits of surveyor’s tape, so you shouldn’t get lost. It will take you up to a big hayfield decorated with a couple of ponds and a tiny hunting camp. The view to the west is spectacular. Then it’s into the woods and up a path so wet, in spots, that it does a fair imitation of a creek. You’ll cross a couple of nameless tributaries of Shatney Brook, each featuring very busy waterfalls.
The forest is mixed, cut over countless times in the past couple of centuries, but never farmed. The terrain is much too steep for farming.
By the time you reach the campsite you may feel that you’ve arrived at a wonderful sort of nowhere, high, silent except for the occasional birdcall and the rushing of those waterfalls, about as peaceful as a place could be.
Oddly, though, there’s a bright orange tape snaking through the trees a few feet further west, parallel to the ridge. Oddly, there’s a sudden deep, echoing boom. If you didn’t know better, you’d think someone was trying to blow up the mountain.
Minutes later there’s the clank of big, really big, machinery off to the west, working its way ever-so-slowly toward you.
On the other side of that tape there is no quarter for Mother Nature. She’s in the way, and so being reformed to suit the needs of the trucks that will climb the mountain with the bits of the machines that will be put together to, in their turn, put together the 21 turbines.
If you make the effort to climb that steep, slippery trail, the bright orange tape might strike you as a dividing line of sorts.
Between an old and new vision of the Northeast Kingdom.
Between a Kingdom that has been husbanded, however imperfectly, by generations of people who did things in a small and simple way; and a Kingdom that can be transformed by people who don’t seem to care about all that — people who will embrace any technology as long as it is trendy and profitable.
Between people who will get along pretty well on surprisingly little, as long as they value the products of their labor; and people who will sell out their town, and their neighbors, for a little relief on the tax bill.
Between a place that is so high, so cussedly strewn with deadfalls and moose shit that nobody goes there except to hunt and hike and, each winter for many years, enjoy the near-wilderness experience of camping in the snow; and a mountain so convenient that a guy can drive his pickup to the top to check the oil on a multi- million-dollar machine.
Both places are right there, right now, divided only by that bright orange ribbon. If you’re willing to risk feeling that you’re being torn in two, it’s a place well worth visiting.
If you do accept the hospitality of Don and Shirley Nelson, you might get in the way of the blasting crew and buy a little time.
Time, perhaps, for all those extremely nice people at Green Mountain Power to consider, one more time, whether they really should be doing business with those damn fools in the Northeast Kingdom.