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Day 24 – Vermont’s Quiet Corner

Pillsbury State Park

Despite no amenities, Pillsbury State Park may have been one of my most favorite.  Trees covered in fall foliage surrounded three different tranquil ponds while a babbling brook passed my campsite.  I awoke to intermittent rain, or so I thought, on occasion I think I mistook the peaceful sounds of water flowing in the brook as rain.  I had a busy itinerary planned for the day, so it probably wasn’t the best time to sleep in, but I was kind of tired of being soaked to the bone and needed to catch up on some zzz’s from the very beginning of my journey.

Scout, Petey, and I did take a 30 minute hike just to soak in the magnificent color and the relaxing views of the ponds as well as a nearby waterfall.  I definitely could have spent another day here walking the trails.   Tracy, the ranger, was very nice and a proud mother of a 7 week old baby boy named Tucker.  Amazingly, she came back to work at the park on 6 days after having a C-section…not much maternity leave for her…at least she could have Tucker with her!

Quechee Gorge

On my way to my first stop, Quechee Gorge, I took a slight detour to Hanover to get a quick glimpse of Dartmouth.  While the campus encompasses countless red brick buildings, for some reason, I expected it to have more presence than it did…sorry to any Dartmouth graduates out there.  Just as Killington, VT displayed hay bale sculptures, this area of Vermont displayed scarecrows.  I’m already looking forward to Halloween.

Having been to Quechee Gorge previously, my stop here was like a park-n-grab cache…Stop, look, and photograph.  The bridge from which the picture is taken is 165 feet above the chasm created by Ottauquechee River.  The area offers other hiking, but is extremely commercialized, so I kept going as I prefer “off the beaten path” type places.

Boyhood Home of Joseph Smith

My next stop on Highway 14 was the boyhood home of Joseph Smith born in 1805 and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is here where I met Sister “Smith” who provided me with The Book of Mormon.   In addition, she also informed me that the granite obelisk, erected in ­1905 as a memorial to Smith, is 38 ½ feet tall, one foot for every year of Joseph Smith’s life.  Christian music resonated through the cold air providing a feeling of a worshiping atmosphere.  This site is also a virtual cache, so I logged another one!

Justin Smith Morrill Homestead

Detouring a few miles off of Highway 14 toward Strafford, led me to the Justin Smith Morrill Homestead.  According to the Reader’s Digest book, Morrill, a three-term U.S. congressman and longtime senator, introduced the “1862 Morrill Act which granted states federal lands in order for the establishments of colleges”.  The pink mansion made me wonder if the senator ever worked with Mary Kay…just kidding.  Actually, I was concerned I had missed it, but quickly realized that would have been impossible as long as I was on the correct road.

Covered Bridges in Turnbridge

Turnbridge, VT is home to several covered bridges, five per my travel guide, though I only saw two.  I guess I’m not very observant.  Howe Bridge, on the south of town, dates back to 1879 and is almost as old as Tunbridge’s self-proclaimed World’s Fair, a festival that has been held every fall since 1860.  For a small town, the fair grounds were quite large.  I got the impression the festival is quite an attraction for New Englanders, but I could be wrong.

Sunset Lake

White churches seem to line the roadside like cattle grazing on ranchlands in Texas.  I hope I never get directions from a local saying turn at the white church…the one on the hill, the one by the pond, the one with the clock?  I couldn’t count how many I passed by before arriving at Sunset Lake in Brookfield.  Sunset Lake, while home to an annual Ice Festival every January, is home to a floating bridge year round.  The lake was too deep to build a conventional bridge, thus the first floating bridge was constructed in 1820.  The current bridge, the 7th, was assembled in 1978 and is closed to traffic.  The dogs and I took a quick walk across as a winter breeze quickly cooled any warmth from the rays of sun that intermittently shone through the clouds.

Rock of Ages in Graniteville

Just outside of Barre, in Graniteville, I visited Rock of Ages, a company that has been mining stones since 1885.  It is positioned next to the deepest granite quarry in the world and produces one-third of the nation’s memorial stones.  In addition to the factory being on display by a self-guided tour, outside a granite bowling lane was available to anyone who wanted to set the pins up and then bowl to knock them down.  Apparently, the company experimented with bowling lanes for commercial use in the 1950s.  Finally, for anyone who has seen the last Star Trek, I’m told the guy leaping off the ledge was filmed at the quarry.  I could have gone on a tour of the quarry, but it began to rain, and quite frankly, standing in the rain for 40 minutes didn’t sound very appealing to me.  The good news, part of the quarry which was no longer used, was just up the road, so I got to see it.

A Visit to Ben & Jerry’s Headquarters

A visit to Vermont would not be complete without a visit to Ben & Jerry’s Headquarters in Waterbury.  Ben & Jerry’s original ice cream shop was located in a converted gas station in Burlington, VT.  The ice cream was so good, they sold out in 10 days!  In two years, the company began shipping ice cream to local stores, and by 1985, they had moved for a third time to the current headquarters.  The headquarters offers fresh Ben & Jerry’s and a tour of the factory.  The weather briefly improved and the place was packed…a 30 minute wait just to tour the ice cream factory.  It was getting late, and not one known for patience, I opted to skip the tour – the scoop of Half-Baked satisfied me.  What I found most surprising was Ben & Jerry’s pint size best seller at the supermarkets. Take a guess and tune in tomorrow for an answer…PS – no googling.

Elmore State Park

Before I went to camp at Elmore State Park, I stopped for a good dinner at Foxfire.  It was fine Italian dining.  I was just craving something green, so I ordered a spinach salad with mandarin oranges, almond slices, and gorgonzola with a hot vinaigrette and mussels in white wine sauce.  It was nice to have a good meal!



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Day 22 – Green Mountain Highway Part 2

Green Mountain Highway – Vermont

After a lovely night at Gifford Woods State Park, I spent the morning hiking on a relatively flat trail around the campgrounds through a forest of maple, beech, yellow birch, white ash and hemlock.  I had to rely heavily on the trail markers as the ground was covered with fallen leaves.  The path led me across several narrow streams, along a river, and past several moss covered rocks and trees.  While I think I heard a moose near our campsite last night, a loud guttural grunt, I didn’t see any on the walk.  I am in Moose Crossing territory and hope to see one from a distance, but I hear they are mean, so I prefer not to meet one up close and personal.  Just in case, what is the survival procedure if you meet a moose in the woods?  Anyone know?

Kord and I said our goodbyes (I might meet up with him later on, but he is off to an interview for a position at University of Wisconsin), and I swung up toward Killington Ski Resort.  I’ve always heard so much about it, I just wanted to take a quick jaunt by the area.  It seemed like the local businesses were having a hay sculpture competition.  As I drove up the mountain, the side of the road was peppered with different animals made out of hay bales – teddy bears, dairy cows, a moose, a duck, just to name a few.  Some of the “sculptures” were quite creative.  Furthermore, the ski resort afforded beautiful views of the foliage, and the clouds were awing.

Calvin Coolidge Born Here

After a wrong turn (I’m amazed at how easily I have gotten lost with virtually only one road to choose from, but I have), I finally made it to Plymouth.  The entire village, home to Calvin Coolidge, has been designated the Plymouth Notch Historic District. The District encompasses the home of Calvin Coolidge, the community church, a cheese factory, the general store, and a one-room school house.

Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4, 1872 and was the 30th president of the United States of America.  He was sworn into office while on vacation at his boyhood home by his father, a notary, on August 3, 1923 after the unexpected death of President Warren Harding.

After Plymouth, I passed through Ludlow on my way to Weston, where I tried to find the Weston Priory where Benedictine monks sing songs that they have composed.  With the goal to either meet someone new every day or to learn something new every day, spending time with monks would definitely top the list.  I never found them, so I kept going to Jamaica State Park to hike to Hamilton Falls…me and my waterfalls.  The ranger informed me that it was a 6 mile round trip, so I detoured to Townshend State Park.

Townshend State Park turned out to be closed, but I could still enjoy its main attractions from the roadside….the Townshend Dam and the Scott Covered Bridge.  Atop the Townshend Dam, I felt as if I were miles above the river, crossing a deep gorge.  It was slightly nerve wracking to look to each side.  A mile or two further up the West River, the Scott Covered Bridge, is the longest wooden span in Vermont.  The bridge, 277 feet long, was built in 1870 and consists of two king post trusses and a 166 foot town lattice truss.  The sign above the entrance to the bridge reads, “Speed Limit, Horses at a walk, Motor Vehicles, 10 Mile Per Hr.”

It was getting cold and a little rainy, so I decided to pull into camp at Molly Park State Park a little early.  The dogs and I went for a brief hike to unload some energy and we may try to conquer the whole 1.7 mile trail in the morning.  After I claimed my campsite, I decided to tour the small town of Wilmington.  I walked both streets that crossed at the red light and dropped into the Pub as it advertised free wi-fi.  I blogged a few minutes when I met Sully.  He is a chef at an Inn nearby town.  Shortly thereafter, I met Greg and Anna.  Greg, from Vermont, is a chef who went to culinary school in Denver, and Anna, originally from Taos, majored in Resort Management in college in Durango, Colorado and now works with reservations for the ski resort nearby.  Uniquely, Greg, at one time worked at the Char House in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  I know my brother and sister-in-law, having lived in Steamboat for at least 15 year, had to have eaten there while Greg was the cook!

After a game of pool, a local beer (Otter Creek Copper Ale), the hot wings special (25 cents a wing), and an enjoyable time with Sully, Anna, and Greg, I headed back to camp to finish blogging for the night.  This blogging cuts into my social life to a degree, so I hope my readers are enjoying!  I spend most the day tomorrow in Massachusetts. ETB

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Day 21 – Green Mountain Highway

My drive today took me south in the Green Mountains to Killington, VT.  From the campgrounds, I took 17 over the mountain and through the woods to Waitsburg instead of grandmother’s house.  The fall foliage here was beautiful.

I drove through a few small towns to Middlebury Gap.  My first stop was Texas Falls.  I had to go there just because of the name.  The bridge to the trail was closed.  It is being replaced with ARRA money, but no one was working.  The crystal clear water flowed over granite rock which created a faint blue tone.  It looked so refreshing, yet I bet it was ice cold!

My next stop was just slightly further down the road, just past the highest point of the gap.  It was a forest area dedicated to Robert Frost who lived nearby in Ripton.  In the 7th grade, I had to memorize one of his poems, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening”.  I still remember the first two verses:

“Whose woods these are, I think I know.  His house is in the village though.

He will not see me stopping here to watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer, to stop without a farmhouse near.

Between the woods and frozen lake, the darkest evening of the year.”

My next stop was Brandon Gap.  We went for a hike along the Long Trail, Vermont’s 265-mile “footpath in the wilderness” that follows the crest of the mountains from Massachusetts to Canada.  The climb to the cliff was very much like the ones in New York…very steep and over the rocky bed of a dry waterfall.  This time I reached the top, a cliff that overlooked the Green Mountains that currently appear crimson red.  It definitely was a vigorous hike as the Reader’s Digest book suggested.  I somewhat twisted my ankle again!

Eventually, I pulled into Gifford Woods State Park.  Each campsite was very private.  As I was driving around to pick my site, I ran into Nick, from New Hampshire, who was hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Earlier in the year, he hiked 800 miles of it.  This time, he started a month ago and plans to hike 500 miles assuming the weather holds as he goes North.  He had already lost 50 pounds!  He’s supposed to keep me posted on his travels.

Kord met up with me at the campgrounds and then we went for dinner at McGrath’s Irish Pub.  Murray, the owner makes a mean grilled cheese, slaw and French onion soup!  It was nice to have a real meal, a beer, and heat before we went back to camp to hang by the fire.




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Day 20 – Lake Champlain Loop and the Adirondacks

Lake Champlain – Vermont/New York

So, I didn’t watch the sunset with Kord, as he was putting his kids down, but I did get a picture or two.  It wasn’t the best view for a sunset anyway.  We did end up sitting by the campfire until late.  He’s an ex tennis pro, who coached tennis at William and Mary.  The women’s tennis team was 8th in the country.  He has written an unpublished children’s book about Ollie the Camel and Goat the Sheep.   At one point he was planning on running for Congress on the Republican ticket, but I didn’t get the details on that.

Today I finished the southwestern part of the loop around Lake Champlain.  I drove through Port Henry, Westport, and Essex.  Not too much to report there.  I was planning on stopping in Essex at one of the “harbor’s charming cafes” for coffee, but I didn’t see one.  There were about 5 buildings and a ferry.  Perhaps I missed something.  I continued on to Willsboro Point.

Willsboro Point  is home to New York State’s first fish ladder that “affords migrating salmon a chance to overleap Willsboro Dam”.  I think I arrived after their travels for spawning season…I didn’t see any salmon.  None the less, I wanted to see a fish ladder as I don’t recall ever seeing one.

I had some extra time on my hands because none of the planned stops took very long, so I drove back to Lake Placid.  I spent part of the afternoon in the deli charging my computer and adding onto my maps.  I have succeeded in shorting out the 12 volt battery system in the back of the van, so I don’t have a charging mechanism unless I camp on electric.  Vermont’s state parks don’t seem to have electric.  After a chicken sandwich, Scout, Petey, and I went for a hike in the High Peaks Wilderness area near Lake Placid.

I chose a popular hike, judging by the cars.  I think it was called Cascade Falls Trail.  It was a 2.4 mile trail, so we just planned to walk for an hour.  I have finally figured out the trails in the Adirondacks are on waterfall beds that are active in the spring when the snow melts, but dry in the summer and fall unless of course it’s been raining.  I watched some people sink four inches into the mud.  Scout, Petey, and I maneuvered gingerly over the rocks, trying to avoid the mud at all costs.

I met Eric and Patty from Saratoga here.  Eric had an app that updated him on sports, so I got the run down…Rangers in first place…Cowboys didn’t play…the Jets are 3-1…Yankees and Tampa Bay were tied for the lead in their division…forgot to ask about the Giants.  Of course they didn’t like the Cowboys.  I asked what the media thought of Bill Parcells in New York, and they said he was loved.  I wish he were still the coach for the Cowboys…he built the team…I gave them 3 years to fall apart once he left.  I hope I’m wrong!  Patty took a handful of pictures…I’m looking forward to seeing them.

It was a nice little walk.  We turned around and crossed back over Lake Champlain via ferry.  It’s weird to see the picture of your car on the GPS in the middle of the lake!  I met up with Kord again.  He knew of a private campground on the river not far from the direction I was heading in the morning.  He cooked me chicken and mushroom ravioli!  I plan on meeting up with him tomorrow night too. ETB



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Day 19 – Lake Champlain Loop Part 2

Ahhh…the sun.  I’d almost forgotten what that was like.  I had to spend a few minutes hunting for my sunglasses! I spent the day driving south along the east side of Lake Champlain in Vermont.  My first stop was in Burlington.  As I wandered the pedestrian-only streets and browsed in a few booths at the farmers market while I was bundled up in jeans, a fleece, and windbreaker, I kept thinking of my niece and nephew, Mollie and Sam.  They, being from Steamboat Springs, would be walking around in shorts and a T-shirt without shoes in 46 degree weather.  After about an hour, I headed back to VANilla’s heater with my next destination being Shelburne.

I went to Shelburne Farms.  Shelburne Farms was the country estate of William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb.  Built in 1886, it included a Farm Barn, Breeding Barn, Coach Barn, and Shelburne House on 3,800 acres.  Today it is known for its cheeses, thus I decided as long as I was in Vermont, I should see how cheese is made. I took a tractor ride along with other visitors up to the cheese making factory for a quick view and tasting of cheese processing.  After a short stop to see the barnyard animals, I took a hike up Lone Tree trail to the highest point on the property.  I picked an apple off the apple tree and took in the panoramic view of Lake Champlain.

While I was at the Farm, I met Dan and Kate.  Dan was visiting Kate for parents weekend at University of Vermont, where she is a first year student majoring in Environmental Science.  Dan was a corporate lawyer for the NYSE and for the last few years has been acting in plays, commercials, and the like.  He is currently working on a TV pilot called B Sharp…it’s about music.  It would be cool if it became a hit.  I’m glad they took a detour from the University activities because it was really fun to meet them.

On my way to Mt. Philo State Park, I saw my first cherry tree (no picture).  Scout, Petey, and I took a mile hike up to the top of the mountain.  It was a little steep and rocky, but the summit afforded magnificent views of the lake and surrounding mountains in New York.  The hike was extremely popular and is supposed to be especially nice at sunset.

After the hike, we passed through Vergennes, Vermont’s smallest chartered city to Button Bay State Park for our night’s stay.  Here I met Kord.  He, also an owner of a Eurovan, is from Georgia and has been traveling for 6 weeks.  He is camping with his kids for his birthday weekend.  He has a nice fire going, so I plan on going over there to watch the sunset. ETB




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Day 18 – Lake Champlain Loop

What a surprise…I awoke to rain, albeit a sprinkle relative to the last 24 hours.  My plan today was to complete a portion of the Lake Champlain Loop, driving from Whiteface Mountain all the way to the Canadian/New York/Vermont border and then south through some of Vermont’s islands in the lake.

I breifly stopped by Whiteface Mountain to see about taking the gondola ride.  I really wanted an overhead view of Lake Placid.  The chalkboard at the desk claimed a temparature of 46 degrees and visibility of 100 feet.  While visibility of 100 feet would have been nice for some of my SCUBA diving trips, it wasn’t enough to entice me to the top of the mountain.  Instead, I took a picture of the falls nearby the ski center and navigated to my next stop, Ausable Chasm.

Aside from it being down right COLD and RAINY, the chasm was awesome.  Instead of taking a “tour of nature”, I just took pictures from the roadside bridge and again, just looking down stopped me in my tracks.  The canyon’s sandstone walls are between 100 and 200 feet high, and the river, especially with all the rain, raged beneath the bridge almost creating a whirlpool.  Ausable Chasm was one of America’s first tourist attractions, and I can see why…a magnificent site.

I continued on to Plattsburgh and decided to take advantage of the light sprinkle and take a walk.  The weathermen predicted that the rain would clear out by the afternoon, but if they are anything like the weathermen in Texas, my migraine plagued head can determine the pressure systems better than they can.  Thus ye of little faith who also tried being optimistic to no avail yesterday, settled for a city walk with the mutts.  First, we stopped at the obelisk across from city hall that commemorates the last major naval battle during the War of 1812 – a victory for the American fleet.  According to Reader’s Digest, the obelisk is a tribute to Commodore Thomas Macdonough’s imagination, who “using a cat’s cradle of anchors and winches, was able to pivot his ships completely around in order to deliver double broadside to the British fleet.”

Being in the public finance arena for twelve years, I couldn’t help but take a picture of the city hall since it was right across the street.  I spent so much time in buildings like these, once even in lock down mode when it was thought a shooter was in a building, that I had to at least commemorate one municipal building.  I have seen some neat city halls driving through all these towns, too.  Before I left Plattsburg, I enjoyed a coffee at the local coffee shop, Koffee Kats and provisioned VANilla with meals for the next week at Price Chopper.  I was beginning to think I was at Luby’s Cafeteria for the blue hair special.  The man in line behind me determined that it was the first of the month and everyone had received his/her social security or unemployment check. As I left the store, I was suprised to see a parking spot reserved for customers with children right next to the handicap…that’s kind of nice.  A bigger surprise was to pass by a Kmart.  I thought they went out of business…I guess just in Texas.

Somewhere along my drive between Plattsburgh and Rouses Point, I came across a farm that must have had over 50 John Deere tractors lined up in a row in the field.  It reminded me of the Cadillacs half buried upside down along the side of the road near Amarillo.  By the time I thought to take a picture and got the camera, I had already passed about half of them.  This picture is for Brook.  I worked with him at Southwest Airlines, and he collected models of John Deere tractors.

As I crossed the bridge from New York to Vermont, at Reader’s Digest’s suggestion I looked to the left for a “glimpse of the stone ruins of Fort Montgomery”.  Its nickname is Fort Blunder as it was accidentally built on Canadian soil.  I took a picture while driving, so it’s sort of blurry, but I thought the blunder was worth recording.  How many people can say they accidentally built something in the wrong country!

I think the rain actually stopped…though I still had my windshield wipers going for all the spray.  In my book, it was definitely time for a nature walk.  Scout, Petey, and I took a nature trail and boardwalk that looped through the forest, past a pond, and over marshes at Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge.  In some places, we got to wade through inch deep water.  It continues to baffle me to see purple and yellow wildflowers in a field aside forests of fall colors.  For you Texans out there, can you imagine seeing blue bonnets in October?

I continued on to Isle La Motte, known for St. Anne’s Shrine.  St. Anne’s Shrine is the site of the first white settlement and the first Roman Catholic Mass in Vermont, held in 1666.  The site was very large containing historical markers about the French fort, gardens, and different areas of worship.  Just before I left Isle La Motte, I stopped to pick up a cache…one more state checked off the list.  It was hidden in a tree just off the shore of Lake Champlain.  I didn’t even notice all the ducks hiding in the marshy area until they flew away.  It was clearly a hunters paradise as I stepped over a shotgun shell in search of the cache.

I ended the night at Grand Isle State Park…there were only a few campers…I imagine the forecast wasn’t very enticing.  Ashley, one of the rangers, was very helpful.  I took the obligatory two loops around the grounds, picked site 3 that seemed relatively dry, left my computer with Ashley to charge, and went for my final hike of the day with the mutts.  I mistakenly left my camera behind, but most of the time, I was concentrating on not busting it on the slick boardwalk or taking slight detours as to not wade through small streams running down the path!  At least it wasn’t raining.  This state park got state park of the year and is geared toward camping, though most the sites are non-electric.  I am proud to say, that yesterday I learned how to operate my refrigerator on propane and today I purchased a mobile charger for my computer that works for a few hours before it drains VANilla’s second battery, so now I have a few more camping options.

Praying for no rain…ETB.




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