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Rediscovering Childhood Memories at the Mill Trail

Posted Wednesday, December 7, 2022
— Stories, Mill Trail

Melanie at the Mill Trail cabin as a child in the summer of 1968

Melanie with her husband Arrison at the Mill Trail cabin in October 2022

“My memories of this place where I spent summers as a child are so vivid. I can’t believe I get to come back and experience it again so many years later. What a gift.” 

Melanie Atkinson first experienced what is now the conserved Mill Trail property in the 1960s, as a child visiting family friends who summered in the rustic Mill Trail Cabin. Sitting in the woods along the upper reaches of the West Branch of the Little River, the cabin had served travelers to Stowe since 1935, but had fallen into disrepair by the time Stowe Land Trust acquired the property in 2003. 

This fall, Melanie returned to visit the property for the first time in 50 years. “This is where my love of what I hold most dear—trees, rivers, and the wonder of being outside in nature—all started.” 

But Melanie’s reunion with this place she loved was hardly guaranteed.

In less than a lifetime, landscapes can change dramatically, and often those special places from childhood—a favorite trail, a secret spot in the woods, a familiar tree—are lost or altered beyond recognition. When the family who owned the Mill Trail in 2003 put the property on the market, the quiet woods and little cabin could have easily been cleared for a private development and the scenic trail to nearby Bingham Falls closed to visitors. But thanks to the support and vision of Stowe community members, Stowe land Trust was able to buy the 31-acres on Notchbrook Road, restore the historic cabin, improve the trail to the falls, and turn the whole property into one of Stowe’s most accessible and popular outdoor destinations.

As she stood outside the cabin, looking out at the trees and listening to the familiar sound of the river, Melanie was delighted. “Now, so many other kids are getting to experience these wonders and they too will be able to return fifty years from now just like I have.”