The Dirt Roads of Calais

The Dirt Roads of Calais

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I recently came across a 20-year-old article in the New York Times titled, “In Slow-Paced Vermont, the Dirt Road Reigns.”

The reporter wrote, “To a lot of Vermonters, an unpaved road is a better road. People go more slowly on a dirt road. In rural Vermont, slower is better,”

Two decades later, that’s still true. With nearly 8,700 miles of dirt roads across the state, there are some towns, like Landgrove, Glastonbury, Kirby, Granby, and Stannard, where you’ll be hard-pressed to find pavement.

In Calais, you can’t get across town without traveling along a dirt road. Of the town’s 92 miles of roads, 82 miles are dirt, according to the Vermont Agency of Transportation. In mud season, driving can be particularly challenging. All the better reason to park your car and go for a walk.

Last week, I visited Calais (pronounced “Cal-us”) after an early spring storm dropped a few inches of snow across this rural stretch of northern Washington County. Sap buckets hung on trees next to the general store in Maple Corner, and steam billowed from a tiny sugarhouse on a hill overlooking town. An occasional car or two passed, but it was still magnificently beautiful and quiet.

In what has seemed like a hectic few months balancing work and family, it was nice to visit Calais and remind myself to take a deep breath and slow down.

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15 Comments
  • Scott
    Posted at 15:50h, 31 March Reply

    Beautiful. I remember my first dirt-road experience in Vermont heading into Grafton. Coming from Jersey, it was a weird experience! (Where I’m from seemingly nothing is left unpaved.) Yeah, one needs to slow down – passing drivers actually wave.
    I haven’t been on any VT dirt roads during mudseason though, and its not on my bucket-list. I saw a post on the VSP Facebook page where a bunch of cars were stuck and they had to close a road – I guess it happens. Things can get real slow real fast I’m guessing!
    BTW, we were thinking of coming up this weekend, there’s a sugar-house open-house weekend (your other post inspired me to look into it) but it does not seem that the weather will be cooperating. 🙁

    • Erica
      Posted at 16:03h, 31 March Reply

      Hi Scott,
      I’m so glad you’ll be visiting! Maple Open House Weekend is really fun — you’ll have a good time no matter what the weather is doing. Check out some mud season dirt roads while you’re up. Landgrove is mostly all dirt roads, and it’s not far from Manchester. Have a great trip! Erica

  • Dorothy Singleton
    Posted at 07:33h, 01 April Reply

    This is beautiful, thank you for posting!

    • Erica
      Posted at 08:07h, 01 April Reply

      Thank you, Dorothy!

  • Scott
    Posted at 11:59h, 01 April Reply

    Thanks Erica! We always pass through Landgrove when we visit Weston. (After breakfast @ JJ Hapgood’s of course!)

  • Jesse Klein Seret
    Posted at 13:26h, 01 April Reply

    I remember an ice storm in the 80’s when we skated on Thistle Hill Road in Cabot!

    • Erica
      Posted at 19:59h, 01 April Reply

      Hi Jesse — Now, THAT sound like fun! I wonder if that was the ice storm of 1987 — I remember that one well. Good times!

  • Ellie Stubbs
    Posted at 11:20h, 02 April Reply

    My hometown. Beautiful in every season. I never tire of the sites along the dirt roads of Calais. Thanks Erica!

    • Erica
      Posted at 11:51h, 03 April Reply

      Thanks, Ellie! What a wonderful place to grow up. I can see why you never tire of those beautiful roads.

  • Becky McConnell
    Posted at 13:08h, 02 April Reply

    Spent many summers in Calais on aunts farm … my mom grew up there … always said someday I would buy her house …. still on the bucket list!

    • Erica
      Posted at 11:53h, 03 April Reply

      Hi Becky — That sounds like a good plan! Calais is gorgeous in the summer — I especially love Curtis Pond. -Erica

  • Alysha
    Posted at 19:17h, 02 April Reply

    Calais is my hometown and reflecting on my childhood there is little I would change. I grew up on the same property that my great aunt and her husband had once lived on. The road is still has their last name in it. Proud to be a Vermonter

    • Erica
      Posted at 11:55h, 03 April Reply

      Hi Alysha — What a wonderful connection you and your family have to the town. It’s an amazing, beautiful community. I can see why people stay there for generations. Thanks for saying hello! -Erica

  • Melody Martin Scholes
    Posted at 18:50h, 06 April Reply

    Oh, how I love Calais Vermont! Tho I have lived in UT for more years, when asked where I am from, it always comes out “Vermont!” We rode many miles on our ponies all over the back (dirt) roads! Sweet memories of home!

    • Erica
      Posted at 08:09h, 08 April Reply

      Hi Melody! That is wonderful — what lovely memories. There’s no place like home, right? Thanks for saying hello! -Erica

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