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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Northeast Kingdom

I live in the Northeast Kingdom - that will mean plenty to my local readers, but to those of you on the eastern side of the Pond, it will mean little. You probably will have never heard of it. Let me explain. The Northeast Kingdom is the name given to three counties, Caledonia, Orleans and Essex, in the far northeast of Vermont on the Canadian border. The name was first used in a 1949 speech given by the then U.S. senator and former Governor of Vermont, George D. Aiken. The Kingdom is bound in the east by the Connecticut River and the west by the Green Mountains. The main towns are St Johnsbury and Lyndonville in the southeast, Newport and Derby in the north, and in the southwest Danville and Hardwick. 

Known affectionately by locals as The Kingdom, the region lies outside the state's Green Mountain area, and is made up of a number of extinct volcanic islands that were compressed together by tectonic movement more than 400 million years ago. A sheet of ice over a mile thick covered the Kingdom several times during the Ice Age, which ended some 13,500 years ago. The retreating glaciers carved out the piles of granite, schist, slate and limestone to leave behind today's rock-scattered landscape. Some 80% of the Northeast Kingdom is covered by forest; a mixture of 60% northern hardwood (Sugar maple, Yellow birch, American beech and White ash), with spruce, hemlock and fir making up the rest. The brilliant colors of the leaves during Fall make this a popular tourist destination.

There is a relatively high moose population, along with white tailed deer, black bear, coyote, fox, bobcat, some Canadian lynx, and even some once locally-extinct marten. Smaller species include red and gray squirrel, and groundhog or woodchuck, muskrat, skunk, opossum, snowshoe hare, beaver, porcupine, raccoon and the small and adorable chipmunk. There have been reports in the past few years of the grey wolf being seen - this is certainly possible judging by the reports although experts say not probable.


The climate here is fairly predictable. Winter extends from November through to April, with the temperature often remaining below zero for weeks on end. The lowest temperature that I recorded last winter was -35˚ F (-37˚ C) - at the time colder than Alaska. .At the other extreme yesterday's high was +97˚ F (+36˚ F) after a full week of being in the 90s. There is plenty of snow in winter, with it often lying on the ground for months on end. A number of blizzards have produced more than 20 inches of snow overnight.

I have noticed that there is plenty of French influence in the region, which is not surprising as it borders French-speaking Quebec Province to the North. Many of the surnames in the region are quite obviously of French origin and in summertime and Fall you can see plenty of Quebec Province cars on the Kingdom roads and hear French being spoken by couples in the region's supermarkets.
I've been in the Great North Woods for four years now, the last year and a half up here in the Northeast Kingdom. I can understand why many of the older residents who can afford it migrate down to Florida with the onset of winter. I am too old to take up my once youthful passion of skiing - major spine surgery a couple of times has seen to that. So I will see out my days here with my beautiful wife and close to my daughter and three grandchildren, all of whom I love dearly. Were it not for them Liz and I would be living in the warmer climes of North Carolina. Next month Liz and I will drive down to Massachusetts for her birthday and to stay with her daughter and family.