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Vermont Adult Learning welcomes Tara Brooks as executive director



Vermont Adult Learning welcomes Tara Brooks as executive director

Vermont Adult Learning (VAL), the largest provider of Adult Education and Literacy services in the state, has announced the hiring of Tara Brooks, M.Ed., as Executive Director. Brooks brings a wealth of experience in leadership, advocacy, policy development, and expanding revenue streams to the position, having previously served as the Director of the Vergennes Recreation Department, Events Manager for the Vergennes Opera House, Executive Director of the Vergennes Partnership, Director of After-school and Summer Services for the Addison Northwest School District, and most recently, Director of Operations for Heartworks Early Education.

“VAL has a long-standing tradition of supporting the people of Vermont and working towards a more inclusive and fair society,” Brooks said of her new position. “I am excited to join this important cause and play a role in VAL’s achievements.”

“Our Board searched for an Executive Director to enhance the organization’s commitment to Adult Education’s evolving needs, and Tara met all our requirements,” Board Chair Jim Coutts shared. “Her background and achievements position her well to lead VAL as we offer comprehensive adult education and training opportunities to a growing population of adult learners. Our committed staff will continue their excellent work with Tara’s guidance.”


Under Brooks’ leadership, VAL is set to uphold its long-standing commitment to providing quality, no-cost education, literacy, and work-readiness services that enhance the lives of Vermonters. Brooks is dedicated to promoting inclusivity and fairness, and her results-driven approach aligns strongly with VAL’s goal of aiding learners from all walks of life. Her unwavering commitment to advancing VAL’s mission, supporting its staff, and ensuring its financial stability will build upon the excellent initiatives already in place.

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Appalachian Trail Days 65-72: Vermont Restart – The Trek



Appalachian Trail Days 65-72: Vermont Restart – The Trek

Day 65 – Drive back to Vermont (0 miles)

Day 66 – Vermont Route 11/30 to USFS Route-10 (17.7 miles) 

Day 67 – USFS Route-10 to Vermont Route 103 (14.7 miles)

Day 68 – Upper Cold River Road to VT Route 103 (5.7 miles)

Day 69 – Upper Cold River Road over Killington to The Inn (VT Route 4)  (12.1 miles)

Day 70 – The Inn to Deer Leap to Thundering Falls  &  Greengate Rd to VT-12 (5.6 + 6.4 = 12.0 miles) 

Day 71 – Greengate Rd to Thundering Falls (13.2 miles) 

Day 72 – Drive to Maryland (0 miles)


Day 65        3rd

We returned to Vermont where I left off.  I had taken much more time than I had hoped which badly affected my schedule.  Once off the trail, everyone else expects you to do all the things you normally do.  But now I was physically recovered, I had caught up on those things, and was ready to return to the trail.  I am OK with everything on the trail, except that I still have questions on where I will be able to resupply going forward.  So, we drove back to the Green Mountain Hostel in Manchester Center during the 4th of July holiday period.  Decent weather is forecast for a few days which should help.

I decided to get some help from my wife and ease back into the routine by slackpacking (hiking without my backpack).  She dropped me off at the beginning of the day, and picked me up at the end. This would mean finding convenient access points – which is a real challenge in Vermont.  

We’ll stay a couple days At the Green Mountain Hostel and a few nights at The Inn at the Long Trail in Killington, further up the trail.  Then I’ll decide what’s next.  We had a private room at the Green Mountain Hikers Hostel which was quite nice and very comfortable. This hostel is great with lots of extras and very low prices on supplies and treats such as $1.00 for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and $1 Gatorade!

Day 66        4th   

My patient wife dropped me at Vermont Route-11/30 where I had left off.  I cooked myself eggs for breakfast (provided by the hostel along with pancake mix and cereal).


The weather was warm, but not overbearing in the shade of the woods.  The humidity, however, was nearly 100%. The dew point was so high that the rocks that were embedded in the ground were cool enough to be below the dew point, and were covered with condensation!  Oh, boy! More slippery rocks

The path to Bromley
At the top of Bromley

I started out very strongly uphill to the top of Bromley Peak (1,500-foot climb) and Peru Peak (another 1,000-foot climb). The trail alternated between nice and rocky, but still better than southern Vermont. Bromley Peak had nice views including north toward Killington, and south toward Stratton Mountain.

Looking back at Stratton Peak – about 17 trail miles back

I passed a group of 6-8 guys hiking naked.  Hike naked day was on the Solstice, 2 weeks ago, but they said they were celebrating independence from clothes…  (Sorry, no pictures. Or maybe you should thank me that there are no pictures?)  The rest of the day saw a mix of through hikers, section hikers, and day hikers out for the holiday period. 

And, there were still a lot of muddy sections, even though it hadn’t rained in days. 

Having been off trail, I was pretty tired when I was picked up at the end of the day at US Forest Service Road-10. 18 Miles and some serious climbs would normally be a longer day for me, but I was without a pack.  I felt tired but good.

We returned to Manchester Center to eat and then to the hostel, showered, did laundry from the day. I was trying to decide the itinerary for the next day – Not a lot of elevation change, but what will the trail be like, and can I find decent drop-off and pick-up points?

Day 67        5th   

After cooking breakfast again, we packed up from the Green Mountain Hostel, and I started back at USFS-10 continuing north.  The trail was OK up to Vermont Route 140, then it became even better.  I passed a lake, but otherwise the trail was pretty uneventful.


Unfortunately, I was still tired from yesterday and the humidity was still terrible.  I sweat so badly that by the end of the day, I could barely walk from chafing.  Unfortunately, my Glide (for chafing) was in my backpack.  This was too bad, because the trail, itself, was the best I have seen in Vermont. On the other hand, the flies have been relentless since arriving back in Vermont.

At the end of the day was a steep descent to a suspension bridge over Clarendon Gorge.

Clarendon Gorge
The Suspension Bridge

Meanwhile, my wife had checked us in at The Inn at the Long Trail in Killington, Vermont. The dinners at the pub at the Inn were very good, very hearty, and very inexpensive. Plus, it being Friday night, there was a live Irish band.  A great way to end the day (except for the severe chafing).

The Inn is actually built around the jumbled, giant rocks. Thankfully, I did NOT have to climb them as part of the trail.

The Inn at The Long Trail – What looks like a boulder is a boulder

Day 68        6th

A hearty breakfast comes with room at the Inn, but doesn’t start until 07:30. That means a late start to the day.  The chafing improved a lot overnight, but I decided to keep the mileage low.  I started at Upper Cold River Road – a dirt road access point with no parking lot (so no pickup possible here!), and headed south this time back toward Vermont Route-104 and Clarendon Gorge.  The route was mostly very good, except:


1)   Near the beginning was a stream that was overflowing (in spite of no rain) that required me to take off my shoes and cross barefoot; and,

No way to hop across this stream

2)   At the end, the descent to the gorge was a very steep, technical climb.

The day was, of course hot and humid. Going in reverse direction, I passed a number of through hikers that I recognized.

We had another inexpensive, great meal with the band playing again.  

Good Food, Good Drink, and Good Music at The Inn

Day 69        7th  

After breakfast, I started at Upper Cold River Road again, but headed north this time to cross over Killington Peak – 4,000-foot peak.  The humidity was a bit better, the flies were a bit better, and there was a tiny breeze near the top.

The trail started out great, but deteriorated slowly over the 3,000-foot climb.  However, near the top, the trail improved a bit. Near the top, the trail bypasses the peak, but I took a 0.2-mile, nearly vertical “trail” to the top. It was so steep, that I could touch the “trail” in front of my face. Between the climb up the trail, enjoying lunch at the top, wandering over to the top of the ski gondola, and working my way back down, I spent 1½ – 2 hours.  

View from Killington

Rutland about 10 Miles West of Killington Peak

A couple days later, I ran into another through-hiker called Story (in his early 40s and a fast hiker) who told me that he ran into another through-hiker Puffy (in his 20s) at the shelter at the junction of the steep side trail to the top. Puffy had already taken his shoes off for the day and replaced them with Crocs at the shelter at the trail junction, but he wanted to go to the top.  No problem – Puffy proceeds to motor up this ridiculous rock climb with Crocs and did it faster than Story!  Which leads me to question why am I still wondering why I’m the slowest one on the trail…

The trail down the rest of the mountain was rugged, and slowed me a bit.  I opted to take the old AT which goes directly to The Inn, so I could just walk across Vermont Route-4 and into my room at the Inn.  This route took me to the edge of Pico Peak ski slopes and great views of The Inn.  I would make up for the missed section of the AT tomorrow with a nicer side trail tomorrow.

From Pico Peak There is a Clear View of the rocks of Deer Leap and The Inn at The Long Trail

Day 70        8th

Access to the trail in a convenient manner continues to be challenging.  Consequently, I decided to split the day into 2 smaller, but more convenient hikes.  After breakfast, I walked directly from The Inn up to Deer Leap for views back toward Pico Peak. This extra bit more than made up for the missed section of the AT and was much, much more rewarding than another walk in the woods seeing nothing but more woods.

Pico Peak from Deer Leap.  Killington Peak in distance at left
Killington Peak from Deer Leap

I then re-joined the AT and continued to past Kent Pond to Thundering Falls and ended at the boardwalk to be picked up.

Thundering Falls

We drove to a sketchy drop off point off Greengate Road where I then walked north to Vermont Route-12. This section was very nice and pretty easy.  It was very hot, but the humidity was off just a bit.  This ended up the farthest I would get into Vermont for now.  

Day 71        9th

After breakfast, I returned to Greengate Road – this time for a southbound return to Thundering Falls.  A short distance in is a private cabin generally open to public access a short distance off the trail with great views from a platform on the roof.

View from The Lookout

The trail was mostly very good with few rocks. I passed a dozen through-hikers, a couple section-hikers, and a couple day hikers.  I recognized most of the through-hikers, having seen them at The Green Mountain Hostel and The Inn.

Now, the forecast had been

I had originally planned to hike further tomorrow morning before driving back, but my soreness, my clothes that wouldn’t dry overnight, and an all-day rain forecast made it easy to skip knocking out another 3-5 miles.


Day 72        10th

With my wife needing to return, and my left Achilles tendon and knee sore and swollen, I have opted to return to Harper’s Ferry and head south on what I believe is tamer trail. I have crossed the 700 miles mark.  I have not gone as fast or as far as hoped, but I’m not entirely dissatisfied.

I will take another brief healing rest, and continue on my way – this time southbound.  As for the Northern section of New Hampshire and Maine that I have not completed, I will have to return to the East Coast next year anyway.  What I have definitely learned on the trail is that while plans are necessary, I have to be flexible to change with the situation.  It happens literally every day.  Am I disappointed?  A bit, yes, of course.  Will I change plans and go from this point optimistically?  Absolutely. 

So next is the mid-Atlantic heat of summer as I head south, but I think a better trail.




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How to help Vermont communities reeling from July 2024 floods



How to help Vermont communities reeling from July 2024 floods

Vermonters affected by the most recent round of flooding will need help with immediate cleanup as well as long-term support.

State officials and established nonprofits are once again connecting Vermonters with ways to help, in many cases renewing efforts that began after the July 2023 flooding.

Volunteer opportunities

Those seeking to volunteer can join the efforts of local groups (see below) or sign up to be notified of volunteer opportunities at

Mutual aid and community groups are actively assessing needs and organizing a response in the hardest-hit areas.


Heed instructions from local organizers, such as wearing closed-toe boots and clothes that are fit for physical labor. Be aware of hazards including mold, contaminated water, heat and dehydration.

For mental health support, call 9-8-8, or call or text the SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990.

Never drive across a flooded road or around a road closure sign.

Keep in mind that Vermonters affected by the floods will need support in various ways for months.


Vermont Emergency Management encourages cash donations as the most efficient way to get aid to people in need.


The following nonprofits are actively collecting flood relief funds on a statewide basis:

Vermont Emergency Management also suggests giving through a local United Way or the American Red Cross of Northern New England.
State officials say to contact local organizations like food shelves and other charities with any questions about donating items such as food, clothing and household items.

Be alert for potential scams

Be aware that phony charity scams can crop up during disaster relief efforts. “It is, unfortunately, a perfect time for scammers to take advantage of the moment and separate you from your money,” Attorney General Charity Clark said after the July 2023 floods.

If you are approached for donations, you can take the time to vet the charity online or call a reputable phone number for the organization before making a donation. “That can be an effective way of protecting yourself and making sure that you’re investing and contributing to what you think you’re contributing to,” Clark said.

If you have a concern, or want to report a scam, contact Vermont’s Consumer Assistance Program at 1-800-649-2424. The Vermont Attorney General also offers scam alerts to keep the public informed.


This article will be updated as more volunteer and aid opportunities become established.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

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Stuck in Vermont: Cambridge resident bringing drag shows to small towns



Stuck in Vermont: Cambridge resident bringing drag shows to small towns

CAMBRIDGE, Vt. (WCAX) – A Cambridge resident is working to bring diversity and color– and a little bit of glitter– to rural parts of our state.

Seven Days’ Eva Sollberger got “Stuck in Vermont” with a fifth-generation Vermonter who’s bringing drag shows and story hours around the region.

Watch the video to see.

Click here for “Stuck in Vermont.”


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