Take a moment to gather all the mental images you’ve ever acquired about this state.
Now hear me when I say this: it’s all true.
We decided to stay in southern Vermont, since it is closer to us and allowed us more time for turning off on random back roads and long stops to get out of the car and pick our jaws up from the ground. After a beautiful drive up I-91 through Massachusetts, we arrived at the trailhead of Bromley Mountain just after lunch on Wednesday. The Bromley Mt. trail is actually part of the Appalachia Trail and winds all the way to the mt. summit, linking up with a ski lane just near the top. The six mile hike was a great way to jumpstart our views of the foliage, and we enjoyed all the countless variations of vivid yellows, reds, oranges and greens. At certain points on the trail, the leaves were so bright that they seemed to provide their own light despite the overcast skies.
At other points along the way, the fallen leaves seemed to make a carpet of confetti for us to walk on.
Once we reached the summit, we were rewarded with 360 degree views of patchwork-colored mountains. We stayed as long as we could stand the wind, just turning around and around, trying to take it all in. (See more pictures here)
After winding our way back down, we checked into our fantastic B&B, the Bromley View Inn. After enjoying a local wine/cheese tray in our room (with double views of the summit we just hiked), we cleaned up and headed to The Perfect Wife, a local pub. Kami and Kevin, the B&B owners, are regulars here and they suggested we sit at the bar to get a good “local” feel. Within minutes, we were meeting a few of the regulars and feeling right at home. It was such a neat place that we actually went back the second night with Kami and Kevin. Now I don’t imagine that every B&B owner buys their guests dinner at the local pub, but that’s exactly how gracious this 30-something couple is, and getting to know them was a definite high point on our trip.
After breakfast Thursday morning (pumpkin-spiced french toast and a VT goat cheese/basil/tomato egg scramble!), we headed down VT 121 toward Grafton Village. Grafton is hailed as one of the most picturesque towns in the state, and it’s kept that way by a local non-profit organization that works to maintain the original beauty and infrastructure. We were absolutely floored by the 45-minute drive. Most of it was on hard-packed, unpaved road that wound its way through the mountains, completely ablaze in color. Every once in awhile, we’d pass a deep red barn and a little farmhouse with the kitchen light on.
It was on this road that we felt God teaching us that He created everything to change. He intentionally made change a part of the leaves’ creation. It serves a purpose, and it is beautiful. We as people seem to be the only natural things resistant to change. We think it’s going to hurt, we’re scared of what change might bring, and we fight tooth and nail to keep things the same. Yet what if the leaves stayed the same? They’re beautiful when they’re green, but they take on a whole new beauty in their process of change. Think about the fiery colors we miss when we want things to remain as they are. God created change. He is the only thing that never changes (because He doesn’t need to improve or grow), and I find that the most comforting thing in the world. Hopefully the next time He is calling us to big changes (which will happen all the time over the next two years), we can remember that His changes are purposeful and come with a unique beauty that we can only see if we’re willing to move forward.
So after pondering this awesome lesson, we arrived in Grafton and were greeted by white clapboard buildings, red barns, the local blacksmith shop and the Grafton Village Cheese Company. It was one of the quietest places I’ve ever been. We drove around for awhile, getting out to walk down the neighborhood streets, and ended up at the Grafton Village Store. My goal for Charlie is to one day be one of the older gentlemen sitting inside this tiny store, drinking their morning coffee and sharing the news over the owner’s apple muffins. It was classic!
After picking up a bottle of local root beer and some great local chocolate, we got back in the car to head back the way we came. We turned off on some pretty side roads we’d passed earlier. This is definitely the way to travel through Vermont – pick a state route, then turn on every side road you can find. You’ll end up in the most beautiful, unknown spots with no one else around.
We then headed back toward Bromley, stopping in Weston on Route 100. Along the way (on another side road), we found a sheep farm and cracked up getting them to “talk” to us. In Weston, we visited the Vermont Country Store (the state’s oldest of its kind), where we shamelessly took advantage of their free cheese, jam, and fudge sampling. As in, we made the rounds more than once and basically had lunch before we had lunch across the street. I’m not sure I can ever buy a block of Kraft again.
Back on Route 30, we stopped at Taylor Farm, the only farm in the state that makes gouda cheese. Their cheese production room is being renovated, but they invited us out back to visit their cows. We found not only their dairy cows, but a ton of chickens, pigs and even ducks. Being on a working dairy farm in Vermont was another great experience, like the icing on the cake of a true VT day. We topped the day off with buying syrup from the man who supplies the Inn. He sells it out of a small red van on the side of the road, and he let us taste each grade of syrup while explaining the differences (Grade A medium for most people, Grade B for those who like it almost like caramel – we bought Grade B!)
After another fabulous breakfast Friday morning, we checked out of the Inn and headed down Route 30 toward Brattleboro and then home. We took our time, stopping at several points along the way. We pulled into the town of Newfane (another famed “must-see” classic village) and Charlie turned off on a side road that took us nearly straight up. Near the top, we turned a winding corner and came upon a lake that was still shrouded in fog. It was like we were in The Land Before Time, Vermont Edition. It was eerily quiet and one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.
Route 30 follows a river most of the way, and driving through Townshend and Jamaica led us to several covered bridges and, again, gorgeous views. We even met a man from Mobile, AL, at a small gas station on the way! He is a FEMA worker who is working with families affected by Hurricane Irene. We spent a few minutes talking about how this is the one state that could easily pull us away from the South if we ever needed to move.
We reluctantly arrived in Brattleboro around lunch-time and immediately missed the country. Having lunch in a busy cafe on a busy street in the middle of the city was certainly a jolt! It was steadily raining at this point, making it hard to get out and enjoy the points in the city we had researched. We decided just to head back to CT – a decision I was more than happy with considering there is nothing in Brattleboro that can compare with the country we just left.
There is so much more we could write about this fantastic trip, and dozens of more pictures we could show (click here for more). But all you really need to know is this: if you ever have even the most remote chance to get to Vermont, do it. Do it immediately. Stay off the main roads, get lost in the country, and stuff yourself on as much cheese and maple syrup as you can find. It really is this good!