Women trek, click all across the state

ST. ALBANS — You may have noticed two women posing for a camera, one holding up a peace sign and the other a thumbs up, in a number of Franklin County locations recently.

Various days this summer, they’ve been at the Vermont Dairy Festival, on the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail in Sheldon, at the Pine Cone Snack Bar in Berkshire, then next to visit Swanton’s swans, on Hazen’s Notch Road in Montgomery, by the Highgate Arena and near the U.S.-Canadian border Port of Entry in Richford.

On Friday, they popped up in Taylor Park in St. Albans City, near the radar base in St. Albans Town and in a wide field in Georgia, with the Georgia Wind Project in the background.

The two women are college juniors Anna Brouillette, who goes to St. Lawrence University, and Erin Murray, who attends the College of Charleston in South Carolina, both are 20 year olds from Essex. Together, they are working on the project “For the Love of Vermont” and are visiting all 251 towns in the state.

To commemorate their visit to each place, Brouillette and Murray take a photo with their trademark pose – Brouillette holding a thumbs-up, Murray flashing a peace sign – that they post to their own Instagram account, which has more than 2,000 followers. There they also receive suggestions for where to go and locations for photos.

 

Why do all this?

“Originally I had heard about the project from my dad,” said Brouillette. “He had always thought of doing it.” She added that she told Murray, whom she had grown up knowing, about the idea.

“She was pretty enthusiastic,” said Brouillette.

During summer vacations and holiday breaks in the school year, the project gave the two women something to do that was new, interesting and exciting. “Burlington is fun only so many times,” Brouillette said.

So when Brouillette isn’t interning at Democracy For America this summer and when Erin has time off from her job at Eastern Mountain Sports, the two hop in a car with maps, GPS, some music, snacks and plans to visit eight or 10 new Vermont towns. They began the project last summer, and they’ve set the goal to finish by the time they graduate college in 2017.

“We’re up to 109 or 110 [towns],” said Brouillette. They began the project last summer, and they’ve set the goal to finish by the time they graduate college in 2017.

“We’ll see,” said Brouillette.

They added three more towns to their list Friday – St. Albans City, St. Albans Town and Georgia. As they drove between locations, set up their camera and ran to pose in time for the camera’s self-timed photo, they explained some of the most memorable places thus far.

“The areas are really different [in Vermont],” said Murray. “I didn’t really know much about the farther away places.”

The rural, forested Northeast Kingdom, for instance, is rather different from the developed areas of Chittenden County.

“It’s its own little world,” said Murray.

“You can grow up in a state and see so little of it,” said Brouillette. “It’s just really interesting to make an effort to go see those places.”

The two women have certainly been making the effort, including hiking three miles out and back in the Peacham Bog, finding their way into Warren’s Gore on a foresting road, and going to the furthest reaches of Franklin County, right up to the Canadian Border.

Border Patrol agents were apparently slightly alarmed when a car stopped just short of the port of entry and two women hopped out with a camera, but it all ended up OK.

“They were booking it out to us,” said Murray. “[But they] were actually super nice.”

The trickiest place they visited last week was most likely the radar base on the hill above St. Albans – they followed the winding dirt road right to the gates.

“Let’s give this a shot and see how it looks,” said Brouillette. She set up the pair’s tripod and camera and, after hitting the button for the 10-second self-timer, the women ran into place, thumbs and peace signs up.

While the radar base wasn’t exactly a beautiful scene, Brouillette and Murray said it was unique. “We usually try to do places that are a little more picturesque, but with these kind of things we make exceptions,” said Brouillette.

The two women have several more Franklin County towns to cover, those in the southeastern part of the area including Fletcher, Bakersfield, Fairfax and Fairfield. Look for them – and their signature pose – there in the near future.