Though Joss Fuller is a child of the valley west of Thornton College, for the duration of Damselfly Inn, he makes his home in a cabin in nearby Catmint Gap.
During some recent research on the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English in Ripton, I discovered this lovely video of the drive from Middlebury to the Bread Loaf campus in Ripton, the counterpart to a drive Joss makes more than a few times in the pages of Damselfly Inn.
It was the longest twenty-minute ride of his life; he knew he’d risked his own skin taking the switchbacks on the mountain road at those speeds, but fear and grim determination steadied his hands on the wheel.
It took a lot to truly rattle his mother, and she’d been well and truly rattled. A thousand awful scenarios filled his imagination, all improbable, none with a good ending.
He blew through downtown Thornton praying the police force was either sleeping or already on their way out to the farm. When he cleared the last stand of trees where County Road curved and dropped into the heart of the valley, he could see the farm from a mile away, emergency lights like a flashing beacon drawing him home.
Catmint Gap is a fictional village some 25 minutes from Thornton. It nestles in the Green Mountains, and draws inspiration from the towns of Ripton and Hancock. Joss’s cabin is off the beaten path a bit, on imagined land that presses against the Green Mountain National Forest. I’ve taken a number of creative liberties with the geography, but the mountains remain, as well as the river.
The Middlebury River becomes my Catmint River, tumbling down the west side of the mountains in a deep, switchback ravine, with the road perched precariously above, switchbacks and all. It eventually joins the north-flowing Thorn River, whose falls are a Thornton landmark. The Thorn is known in real-life as Otter Creek, whose falls are a Middlebury landmark, and those falls are forever in my heart (and in From the Earth to the Moon).