VermontTrek 2001 ...a Mountain Odyssey

 (High Adventure in Low Gear)

October 7th:

We spent all day on the 6th getting ready for our annual pilgrimage to the mountains. We vowed to get everything done before we went to sleep. We came pretty close. We got everything packed including two big Rubbermaid trunks. I call this travel technique "container shipping" - All the loose stuff and equipment goes in these big tubs so that we only make two trips to move our entire camp. In the morning, I loaded my Rav while Kathy got herself together. There is a padlock on the bike carrier rack, and I couldn't find the key anywhere. I finally decided that it had been lost the night we transferred all the stuff out of the wrecked Rav into mine in the dark and pouring rain. I ended up cutting the lock off with my dremel tool, and then loaded the bikes. We got on the road at 8:50, beating our goal by 10 minutes. First stop was the hardware store for a new padlock. We then had to drive to the north end of main Street to get to Route 9, as the Head of the Connecticut Regatta was being held and HarborPark was barricaded. Once we hit the road, the trip was pretty uneventful. We were shocked when we reached the Vermont border and the Information Center was blocked off, and looking very abandoned. If this was a cost cutting measure, we thought it was a very bad one, as Vermont depends heavily on tourism. Two miles further up the pike we discovered that the real story was that they had built a HUGE new Information Center. It had picnic areas, a well equipped playscape for kids and even a museum and bookstore! Did I mention the wood fired BBQ serving all sorts of treats? It was totally packed with people. A real carnival. We just wanted to use the bathrooms. As I got back in the Rav, something caught my eye. There in a little "pocket" of the dashboard was the missing padlock key - right where I had put it so I wouldn't lose it! Oh well! We stopped and had lunch at Firestones, an old favorite in Woodstock. They cook their pizza in an open hearthed wood burning oven and call them "Flatbreads". I had one with wild mushrooms and garlic, while Kathy had one with plum tomatoes and goat cheese. Another hour and we reached the Rustic Inn in Northfield, VT. This is a homebuilt, 1950's Inn and restaurant made of logs. The youngest son of founder "Ace" Ruel now lives at the Inn with his wife and 4 kids. Grandma Rhonda still waits tables in the restaurant. Not much has changed in the last 45 years. We will be staying here Sunday and Monday, as the cabin is not available until Tuesday. We had dinner at the Three Stallion Inn in Randolph. It is a very fancy Inn and Restaurant that is also a working horse farm. They also have Texas Longhorns! Kathy had a vegetable lasagna while I had mustard seed encrusted salmon. All very good. On our drive down to dinner on route 12 we encountered SNOW squalls!

October 8, 2001

Woke up around 7:30 to very gray skies. The shower head wasn't working very well, so I took it apart and scraped the grit out of it. I also oiled the mechanism of the 1950's alarm clock, as it was quite noisy. (Yes, I carry 3in1 oil with me when I travel!) We drove up Rt 12 to Montpelier and then took 2 east to Peacham, in what is known as the Northeast Kingdom. On 2 east we stopped for a great breakfast at Maple Valley Cafe. After Breakfast we continued on. We were amazed to see that up to 5 inches of snow had fallen in some areas around Cabot. In other places there were incredible scenes of brilliant red, orange and yellow tress with a dusting of sparkling sugar. Just stunning. We were so busy admiring the scenery that we missed an important turn which took us on an extra 20 mile loop to get to our intended destination. We were looking for the Montpelier-Wells River bike trail. We finally located the well hidden and unmarked trail. It is a former railroad that has been converted to recreational use. We had a nice ride, but cut it short due to the cold. It was 27 degrees! We didn't have gloves. Who would have thought we would need them? On our way back to the Rustic Inn, we stopped at the Cabot Creamery and took the cheese tour. We saw big long tubs each  holding 3000 pounds of cheese. They pump it from there through big hoses to a "tower" that extrudes 45 pound blocks of cheese into plastic wrappers for aging before the final cutting and packaging. We also stopped at Bragg Farm to see if they had any rocking chairs like the ones in the cabin. That's where they came from, but they were sold out. The salesperson mentioned that she got them from Amish craftsmen in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I'll hunt them down on the internet when I get home. We arrived back at the Rustic Inn at around 4 and had a couple of local beers in the tavern before going for a walk around Northfield Falls. Nice little village... We returned and had a very 1950's dinner at the Rustic. We sat in a pink upholstered booth with a chrome-edged Formica table. Whole families would come in and play pool while they were having dinner. I had the Surf and Turf with fried shrimp playing the part of "Surf" - Kathy had Pork Chops with applesauce. When Rhoda asked if we wanted anything else, I rolled my eyes and said "A wheelbarrow?" Rhoda laughed, and said she thought she had one out in the garage.

October 9, 2001

Woke up at daylight. Made coffee but it was lousy. What do you expect from a pre-pak with powdered creamer? We loaded up and shoved off with Burlington as our destination. It was much warmer than yesterday and the sun was shining! We had planned to eat breakfast much earlier in the trip, but hadn't seen anything remotely suitable. McD, Burger King and Dunkin Donuts are just not possible for me. We finally hit Burlington and found a bakery with tables. It was pretty good. Raspberry with Chocolate chunk muffins and pumpkin spiced coffee. Health food! We had already figured out sort of where the Burlington Waterfront Bikeway could be accessed. We parked and unloaded the bikes. The trail was FABULOUS. It ran mostly right along the shore, with breathtaking views of the lake and distant Adirondack mountains. The path was almost all level or close to it. No real hills at all. It was bicycle heaven. The path is about 8 miles each way. At the northern "head" of the trail, there is a 100 foot wide inlet that can be traversed by a $1 bike ferry in the summer. There is another 4 miles of trail on the other side. We'll have to come back in the summer and check that out. In any event, we had a spectacular ride that ended up at about 16 miles. That seems about my limit. It's great to have something physical I can do now that hiking is out of reach. It's a big boost! After our ride, we drove south to Middlebury with the idea of eating an early dinner at an old favorite, Woody's. When we arrived we were surprised and saddened to see that Woddy's was now "Tully and Marie's" - Fortunately it retained all the things we loved about Woody's. A fanciful building overhanging Otter Creek that would be a restaurant counter-part to the show "Extreme Homes".  If Frank Lloyd Wright and Pee-Wee Herman collaborated on a building, this would be it. Comical, Whimsical and cartoonish, but at the same time, a striking and dramatic merge of indoors and outdoors with sweeping walls of glass, round doorways, and open, multilevel balconies inside. The menu fits the surroundings. I started with Ahi (tuna) served almost raw with wasabe, pickled ginger and tamari. Kathy had a Hungarian mushroom soup. For a main course, I had halibut with saffron rice while Kathy had a seafood risotto. All great. Then we set off in the dark for the cabin on the other side of Vermont. We managed to make our way via mostly dirt roads from Middlebury, through the mountains to Brookfield. In Brookfield, I was so tired that I took a rather hazardous shortcut up Taylor Hill Road. Taylor Hill is designated as a "class 4" which means "suicide among the pretty leaves" in Vermontese. It was just wide enough for the little Rav4, with sharp drop-offs, which on the downhill side were 100 feet or more. This was a place where if you went off the road, you prayed you would hit a tree. There was no room for mistakes. We finally made it to the cabin. The 40 mile trip had taken over 3 hours.

October 10, 2001

Woke up to a bright morning. Bagels and Coffee, and then I dragged out the hose to rinse the Rav and the bikes. They were pretty muddy from our trip through the mountains. We drove across the floating bridge and stopped at Allis State Park. It was closed for the season, but we left the Rav at the gate and tried walking in. The driveway was very steep and endless. We gave up after about 3/4 of a mile of climbing. We continued our trip and stopped in Montpelier for a very nice lunch at Sarducci's. We sat overlooking the Winooski River and enjoyed a white pizza with tomatoes basil and pesto. Then we drove home for a much needed nap before making dinner at the cabin. Our landlord, Jim Mazzonna called from Hawaii and we chatted for a bit. He was surprised to hear that we had used Taylor Hill. He asked me to check the L.P. gas tank as he hadn't gotten any gas bills in a long time and was worried it might be almost empty. It turned out to be freshly filled. He just hadn't gotten the bill yet.

October 11, 2001

Another bright morning and even WARMER! It was 46 degrees outside. After coffee and bagels we went outside and I took a bunch of pictures of the cabin. Then we were off on another adventure. This time our destination was Island Pond up in the Northeast Kingdom. It was a very long trip! We took secondary roads on the way up. We hit Island Pond village at about 12:30 and immediately had lunch at Jennifers Restaurant. All the other patrons looked to be about twice our age. Where most restaurants have a special "children's menu", Jennifer's had a "seniors menu"  I had originally planned to drive around the perimeter of the lake after lunch. It was so nice out, that we decided to unload the bikes and circle the lake via pedal-power. It was wonderful. At one point we had to stop at an intersection as there was a ruffed grouse ( I did a picture search on the internet to confirm) standing in the road, causing traffic in all directions to halt. I rode right up to him, and Mr. Birdbrain still didn't budge. He just stood there blinking his eyes. People in cars were all quite amused and were laughing. I finally honked my horn and he got the hint. He took off half running and half flying into the woods. We eventually made it back to the Rav and headed home. We missed a zig or a zag somewhere and ended up at the Canadian border. I took a picture of the exit sign which was in both English and French. We finally got things sorted and made it back for another pleasant dinner at the Three Stallion Inn. Then home to the mountain cabin. It is so warm that we are not using the woodstove at all.

October 12, 2001

We awoke at about 7:30 to overcast skies, but still 50 degrees! We puttered around and took some photos of us sitting in rocking chairs in front of the cabin. We packed lunch of leftover-meatball sandwiches, chips, apples and water. We drove back to Burlington and biked to a nice picnic at the head of the bikeway, overlooking Lake Champlain. We drove back to Brookfield and paused briefly to take pictures of a little place about a half mile from the cabin that has a for sale sign on it. I called the real estate agent from our cabin and left a voice mail message asking him to call us next week. Then we went outside and took a swing in the swings and tried out the hammock. We went to Ariel's for our last night in Vermont. It just doesn't get any better than dinner at Ariel's. It is a private house on Sunset Lake, that becomes a restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights during summer and fall. We sat on the screened porch overlooking the lake and the floating bridge as the sun set. We started with a squash bisque that had pumpkin seeds floating on it. Then Kathy had Vegetable Bysteeya which is filo pastry stuffed with a vegetable mixture, roasted celery, and cous-cous. I had marinated lamb with a very interesting (and delicious) rice. Richard helped us pick a great wine (Daniel Gehrs, Syrah, 1999) that worked with these two very dissimilar dishes. He really knows his wines. It was, as always a great meal and evening at Ariel's. They were featured (and raved about) in the Spring issue of Vermont Life Magazine, so I prudently called two weeks in advance for reservations. It's a good thing I did, as they are routinely booked solid as a result of the article.