Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here, To watch his woods fill up with snow. ~ Robert Frost
Like every Vermonter I grew up reading the works of Robert Frost in school. In reviewing the standards for literature for common core programs for my daughter I discovered that the poem “The Pasture” and multiple other Forst Poems are part of the new curriculum. Even as a Vermonter who lived and breathed the same air and landscapes that’s Frost wrote about I never really got it; it wasn’t until I was an adult that I truly came to love the work of Robert Frost. With my daughter being home schooled and visiting the Robert Frost cabin in Ripton Vermont being one of my many bucket list items, I knew our upcoming road trip to New England would be the perfect time to introduce my daughter to the works of one of my favorite poets. For those who lack the benefit of having grown up with frost, there is a wonderful complete works available on Amazon.com which you can find by clicking here.
Reading the poems from a book, may offer you the words and a sense of connection but having the landscape in front of you as you read it provides a completely different connection, reading them in the exact spots they were written, allows you to see the works through the eyes of the poet.
Just outside of Middlebury in the center of the state of Vermont, you will follow a small town known as Ripton located along Route 125. As you drive Route 125, it’s easy to miss Ripton; in fact unless you’re a local it’s likely you wouldn’t even know you where in a town standing in the middle of it. With a population of 588 people and covering almost 50 square miles, there really isn’t much to encounter. The town has always been small and at 588 it is the largest it has ever been in its history. One of the only things that makes Ripton notable is that in 1939, Robert Frost seeking an isolated place to write purchased a farm there. At the time Ripton Vermont had a booming population of only 240.
Unlike many locations where Frost has lived the community has not made a huge deal about the fact that Frost spent the last 24 years of his life living in this small town. Unless you where coming to Ripton specifically because of Frost or knew his works well, it’s likely you would go through the town without seeing any sign of Frosts presence. The reality is as I said before its likely you would just drive through the town and not even know you had passed a town. If your paying attention as you are driving through the woods what you will encounter just outside of town a wayside dedicated to the memory of Robert Frost, almost everyone from Central Vermont knows the place and the nearby interpretive hiking trailing; but what many don’t know is that less than a mile away still sits the very cabin that Frost put so many of his poems to paper in.
All three locations mentioned deserve a visit from every Frost Fan and the best way to do it is to start with the wayside. It provides those who are new to Frost with a quick introduction to him, but more importantly it’s easier to find than the trail or the cabin. After a brief stop at the wayside pull out of the parking area and take a right, heading west on Route 125. After only about 2/10 of a mile on the left side of the round you will discover the parking area for The Robert Frost interpretive trail. The one mile loop trail provides a nice relaxing hike for all ages and is the very place that I introduced my daughter to the works of Robert Frost.
It will stand forth, entirely white in bark, And nothing but the top a leafy green -- The only native tree that dares to lean, Relying on its beauty, to the air. (Less brave perhaps than trusting are the fair.)
As you walk down the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail you will find yourself walking through the very same woods that inspired many of the Poems written by Robert Frost. You will find posts that identify the plants and tress of the local area. You will also find throughout the trail plaques that feature the poems of Frost. These plaques have been strategically placed in locations along the trail that connect with the poems. Take the poem, “A Young Birch,” which you will find directly next to a birch tree that appears just as described in the poem, as if the poem was written about that very tree. One of the other great features about the trail is that along the way you will find benches, while they may have been placed along the trail so those who are less mobile can enjoy the trail, I like to see their true purpose as a reminder that during your walk to take a break and reflect on the world around you and the poems that go with it.
With the trail behind us, we continue our adventure by getting back on Route 125, and heading back towards the wayside. Located just East of the way side (literally right next to the way side) is Frost Road, although you will find no signage for it, if you follow Frost Road you will find yourself at Homer Noble Farm also known as the Robert Frost Farm. The location is now owned by nearby Middlebury College, but was once owned by Robert Frost. The farm is registered on the National Registrery of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark.
The Homer Noble Farm, now a museum, is an idyllic site with views of Mount Moosamaloo. On the property, a rustic cabin sits as a shrine to its famous occupant. Frost worked and wrote in this log cabin, connecting with rural Vermont and celebrating its beauty. There is no commercialism of the Frost name at either of these sites. The road being unmarked is in fact intentional. Bob Handy, the manager at Breadloaf Inn, says it’s because, “We only want those people who want to see the cabin badly enough that they’ll stop somewhere and ask directions.”
The property of Homer Noble Farm includes a nineteenth-century farmhouse and a rustic wooden writing cabin used by Frost. The 150-acre property is surrounded the amazing woods of the Green Mountain National Forest. A cleared meadow at the end of Frost Road, is where its buildings are located. For as wealthy as frost became in his life, he lived a very modest lifestyle and unless you knew the cabin you where in was the home of Robert Frost, you would think it belonged to your average simple Vermonter. If you visit during any month other than Winter you will find the area between the cabin and farmhouse is taken up by a small apple orchard, this orchard was established and tended to by frost and still produces apples to this very day.
For those with an interest in Frost another great site to visit is the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH. The Derry location was home to Frost and his family from 1900 – 1911. The Derry Location is a bit more established and well-known, it is even featured in the book 1,000 places to see in the United States and Canada before you die.