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Around New England

On one of Vermont’s most idyllic roads, fed-up locals say no more to the leaf peepers

Residents convinced their town to close the road for three weeks at the height of foliage season to prevent social media-inspired tourists from clogging it.

Mike Doten and Amy Robb are part of a group of residents of Cloudland Road who persuaded the town of Pomfret to close the road during the height of foliage season.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

POMFRET, Vt. - On many days, you can find Mike Doten riding his tractor on his 80-acre farm here on Cloudland Road.

On too many days during foliage season, Doten said, he’s had to use that tractor to haul leaf-peepers out of ditches along the road, because many of those drawn to the area to take photographs of the iconic Sleepy Hollow Farm and other spots on Cloudland aren’t used to parking on rural, unpaved roads.

That’s not the half of it. When the days get crisp and the colors start to pop, the road is suddenly clogged with dozens, sometimes hundreds, of cars, parked haphazardly. Tour buses come, spilling out passengers with cameras and cellphones at the ready. Doten and his neighbors say that visitors often walk brazenly onto private property, ignoring signs telling them to keep out, even coming to sit on porches or setting out picnics on the sprawling fields. Too frequently, someone seeking relief will duck behind a shrub to answer nature’s call. Trash gets left behind. Drones hover eerily overhead.

A No Trespassing sign was posted on a gate blocking the driveway to Sleepy Hollow Farm on Sept. 13.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Cloudland Road, a narrow stretch of dirt and gravel with magnificent views of rustic farms and rolling hills and stunning colors, had long been a destination for dedicated leaf peepers. But then it achieved Internet fame as the state’s prime must-see and must-photograph foliage spot — and that’s when the trouble started.


“It was too much,” Mike Doten said, sitting on his deck, the Upper Valley’s verdant hills visible over his shoulder. “Something had to be done.”

So this year residents took action almost unheard of in Vermont. The town’s selectboard agreed with Doten and other residents and last month voted to block the road to anyone except residents for three weeks at the height of the foliage season, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 15. Windsor County deputy sheriffs will staff checkpoints at the bottom of Cloudland Road in neighboring Woodstock and at the top of the road here in Pomfret.


In a state like Vermont, where tourism is an important industry, and where foliage season attracts visitors from all over the world, blocking roads is a drastic measure. But, as local residents see it, drastic situations call for drastic measures.

Cows hunkered down as a light rain fell on Cloudland Road, where a group of residents persuaded the town of Pomfret to close the road for three weeks at the height of foliage season.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Doten, whose family has lived in the area since the late 1700s and whose ancestors once owned Sleepy Hollow Farm, said the annual visitors fall into three categories.

The first are photographers.

“They’ve been coming here for decades. You might have had six or eight cars come up at dawn,” Doten said. “They’re quiet. They don’t bother anyone.”

The second group are tourists sent by inns and bed and breakfast hosts in the area.

“They’re not so bad,” Doten’s wife, Amy Robb, said. “Both from a numbers perspective, and how they behave.”

Locals say everything changed about five years ago, when social media influencers started promoting Sleepy Hollow Farm in particular and Cloudland Road in general as the most photographed, idyllic spot in Vermont during foliage season. Those influencers unleashed a wave.

“We call them Tik Tockers,” Doten said. “The Tik Tockers started flocking here and they kept growing, year after year.”

They tend to be less respectful, residents say. Cathy Emmons, a farmer who with her husband, Bill, owns and runs a farm-to-table restaurant at Cloudland Farm, said those drawn by social media seem to be under the impression that the area is a public park.


Traffic on Cloudland Road in Pomfret, Vt., last year at the height of foliage season. Mike Doten

They say the Tik Tockers wander through private property, posing for selfies. Doten and his wife watched in amazement a few years ago when a young woman put up a portable changing booth, from which she emerged wearing different outfits for her selfies. She wasn’t the only one.

Last year, in an effort to mitigate the congestion, the town made Cloudland Road one-way during foliage season. It didn’t make a difference, and in some ways made things worse. Instead of turning around and going back down the hill the way they came, the Tick Tockers drove a couple of miles up Cloudland and turned left onto Barber Hill, racing down that unpaved road in a cloud of dust.

“That really woke up the Barber Hill folks, so they understood what we had been enduring,” said Robb.

John Morley, who lives on Barber Hill, had a drone fly a few feet over his head last fall as he sat outside having dinner with his family.

Everybody on Cloudland Road and Barber Hill has a story. The visitors block Margarete Pierce’s driveway, park illegally on her land, and use her garden house as a toilet. Cathy Emmons watched in disbelief as tourists strolled onto her farm and stole tomatoes from the vine.

Beyond the inconvenience caused by so many tourists, there is the not-so-small matter of public safety.

“There is no way a fire truck or an ambulance can get up this road in the middle of foliage season,” Doten said. “It’s just too crowded.”


The residents who successfully argued for a temporary road closure aren’t resting on that. They have contacted social media influencers who have promoted the area and local inns who send their guests up to Cloudland, asking them to refrain from doing so.

“Those who have responded have been understanding and empathetic, saying they didn’t know it was causing such a problem for people who live here,” said Doten.

Kiel James Patrick, a clothing designer from Rhode Island with 132,000 Instagram followers, is one of those influencers who was moved by the pleas of residents.

“Upon being informed of the situation by the residents of Pomfret, I recognized the importance of respecting the wishes of the local community,” he said. “In response, I’ve removed posts featuring Sleepy Hollow Farm from my platforms and communicated with friends and fellow influencers about the farm’s private nature and the need for privacy and respect.”

Not everybody is on board with the road closure. Even Doten’s father, Fred, who tends a farm next to Sleepy Hollow, and his mother, Nancy, don’t support it.

“I don’t see the need,” Fred Doten said, sitting in his sunroom.

Fred Doten rested his feet on a tractor shaped rug inside his home, Doten is not one of the residents who supported shutting down the road to outside traffic even though his son, Mike, helped to persuade the town to do so. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

“My parents are very libertarian,” Mike Doten explained, shrugging.

During the debate before the selectboard, Jim Potter, the town’s road foreman, said he was against closing the road as a taxpayer and fears it will set a precedent that will lead others in town to demand road closures.


“With all due respect,” Amy Robb said, “Jim doesn’t live on Cloudland Road.”

Robb, Doten, Emmons, and others who lobbied for the road closure said they don’t want it to be an annual feature. They hope that if enough social media influencers stop hyping the area, things can go back to what was relatively normal.

Locals are also pointing out there are many other beautiful spots in Vermont during foliage season.

Beth Finlayson, executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, said her group hasn’t given out directions to Cloudland Road for several years now. While Finlayson said her group is in the business of attracting people to the area, “we respect the community’s needs. There doesn’t seem to be the boundaries that there used to be.”

She doesn’t think the road closure will hurt tourism.

“We direct people to other beautiful local spots,” she said. “There are a lot of beautiful places in Vermont.”

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Kevin Cullen is a Globe reporter and columnist who roams New England. He can be reached at