It’s a Saturday night on Stratton Mountain, Vermont, and I am wondering how I might be able to stretch the last of our two week holiday into two more weeks. But that will not happen. What will happen, if we are lucky, is I’ll get to reserve again for next season, with the hope that our economy will improve and more and more people will have the opportunity to experience the fresh, clean, brisk, beautiful, scenery of Vermont and its magnificent fresh, clean air.
This yearly pilgrimage to what we call our “Mecca” began many years ago, when dear friends invited us to visit for a few days. Of course, we were delighted. We planned to drive to Vermont, hangout with our buddies, and enjoy the magnificent countryside. We had such a spectacular time, we vowed to rent our own place the following season. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for the past seven years.
Only life on the Mountain has been very different this year. Although breathing the fresh, clean air is the most exciting part of the trip, I always look forward to visiting my favorite cows, enjoying a daily cup of the most delicious, freshly prepared Wilcox ice cream, roaming in and out of the many shops and emporiums in Manchester and the other surrounding communities and shopping for deliciously prepared food, fresh bread and gorgeous fresh fruits and vegetables from Shaw's Market.
This year, we joined friends to pick buckets of blueberries and enjoyed dining at a variety of restaurants that do their best to cater to their guests.
But with this huge lull in our dwindling economy, these last two weeks have been a true learning experience, and not a very joyful one, either.
After a five hour drive from New Jersey, we checked in at the Big Bear Lodge at Stratton Mountain Resort. Primarily a ski resort, it has been known to be mobbed during the winter season. Families come with their friends and their kids and friends of their kids and their neighbors, and everyone hangs out together and has a wonderful time.
As I understand the drill, winter folks most often own the apartments that are rented to us summer folks during the warm weather months.
Naturally,we appreciated and looked forward to the fresh, clean mountain air, the ability to stroll the small towns and villages, enjoy the summer musical concerts, bike ride the many trails, swim in gorgeous pools and thoroughly enjoy the summer season. And for seven years it was exactly like that. Nothing changed, until August, 2014.
And like each year, after checking in, we drove to our rental apartment located in Long Trail House. We placed our magnetic card into the slot that magically opened a huge garage door, and gasped, “Where is everyone?”
Although it was nearly 5 p.m., there were only four cars parked in the enormously empty garage that could easily handle at least 45 cars. Where was the usual summer crowd?
To further exacerbate the issue, we unpacked our suitcases, and headed to Mulligans, one of the really successful restaurants located on the premises, and met with the same scene. Unlike the usual scenario, featuring a long line of hungry people with their kids in tow, we were escorted to a table, silently remarking to ourselves. “Where is everyone?”
The restaurant, which was always packed with happy, enthusiastic diners, was almost empty. The sound of silence was deafening. We suddenly realized that although it was indeed the middle of the summer season, the sluggish economy was playing havoc on summer plans, and for obvious reasons, folks did not have the funds to go and spend several weeks in a rented apartment on a gorgeous mountain.
Their responsibility was to redefine their priorities and seek out employment, be it part-time or full time.
To prove the point, one merely has to stroll the streets of Manchester. In addition to a lack of guests staying at local hotels, motels or inns, the streets of Manchester, Vermont, which are usually teaming with tourists shopping and stopping for this and that are virtually empty. Signs are announcing rock-bottom sale prices, with some shops already “closed” for the season.
Millicent K. Brody is an award-winning writer and photographer and a resident of Westfield, New Jersey. Contact her at Mkbrody@aol.com
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