"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hiking to the Highest Point in Vermont - Mt. Mansfield

Goldbrook RV Park

One of the last highlights of our time in Vermont would be hiking to the highest point in the state.  Especially since we struck out in the two previous states, New Hampshire and Maine.  Mt. Mansfield is the highest elevation in Vermont at 4,393 feet with a gain of close to 2000 feet. It would be 10 miles round trip back to the truck.
 We drove to Underhill State Park to begin the hike.
 Oh, we're smiling now.  Not so much a few hours later!
We parked and hiked up the CCC road for 1 mile to get to the trailhead.
At this point we started up the Sunset Ridge Trail through the woods which crosses over a stream a few times for 1.7 miles.

This is a moderate to strenuous, all uphill trail with some scrambling.

 There are several huge chunks of quartz which is common in the Green Mountains.  It's very pretty.  Some are covered with moss.

You probably can't see it, but at the top center of the mountain ridge are some antennas.  We will be parallel to these at the top and you will see much closer up pictures of them.
Once you leave the tree line you get up into the alpine where the trees are much shorter and scraggly due to the extreme cold and winds.  Now you begin to climb the interesting rock dome-like area.
The views go on forever up here.  You can see the Adirondack Mountains in New York and Lake Champlain.
 Up here the rock has interesting swirling textures of fine sandy loam and quartz.  Really unusual and it reminded me of the outside of oyster shells.
The trail switchbacks up the alpine ridge. Once you break onto the ridge, there is no shelter if a quick moving storm should come through.
Just follow the blue blaze up, up and up.
"Are we there yet?"

That top peak is not actually the summit.  You can't see it as it is behind the first peak.
There are several large cairns to help guide you up.
And up.
And up.
And up!
The rock surface is just so pretty and interesting you have to remember to look around at the views below you too.
You get a slight break in the climb just before the trail junction at Laura Cowles.  The ground is seeping with water and little bits of color show through.  A nice boggy/pine smell fills your lungs.

At the junction it's just another mile or so up the Long Trail to the summit.
I didn't get pictures of the planks, but you walk over a couple and then climb the last stretch.

There's those antennas I mentioned earlier.
There it is, up ahead, the TOP!

And here we are!  At the "chin".
The summit marker.
It's very cold and windy up here so a quick snack, rest and a couple of pictures and down we go.  To the north is Canada, NY to the west and if you look east you can see Smugglers Notch.

Down is always harder and a little rough on the knees and feet so you have to keep enjoying those views and try not to think about it.
Just WOW!

It seemed like the rock face took forever to get down.  Then a little more scrambling and a bit of butt scooting and we were done.  Of course there was still that last mile along the CCC road to get back to the truck.  Our reward was a great dinner out.  No pictures, but I had a Filet Mignon that was served on a hot brick which I then cooked it how I wanted.  Interesting.  We all had great food to fill our bellies and we looked forward to some Ibuprofen and a nice bed.

SUCCESS in Vermont !!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Vermont - Land of Small Farms and the Best Signs

Waterbury, VT
Goldbrook RV Park

Beautiful Vermont!

One thing Vermont knows how to do well besides making cheese, ice cream and growing the best veggies and flowers is signs.  Yes, SIGNS!
You just can't get lost in Vermont.  They have these wonderful brown signs for every cool little business down to the tenth of a mile.  They put them all along the way so there is no wondering.

We're still rollin' with Curt & Glenda of Illinois Campers and we're camped at Goldbrook RV Park in Waterbury.  A small and clean campground.  You're pretty much parked on the grass in a huge "C" shape.  There are a few trees and the ground is fairly flat.  If you don't like to be parked on grass then you probably wouldn't like this place.  W/E for $44.  The spots are very spaced out and there are some laid out so that you can buddy camp too.  It was a perfect location for our High Point Hike and some other things we had in mind.
We passed some great farmers markets on the way to the campground.  Once we set up Glenda and I drove back to pick up some goodies to go with dinner.
Goats and chickens penned out front happily browsing away on the grasses.
Curt grilled up some chicken breasts and Glenda made some green beans with onion.  She sliced up some fresh tomatoes and made a yummy fruit salad of cantaloupe and cherries she picked up at the farmers market.  SO good!!

I had been following along with Linda & Steven of The Chouters & Scoopy (pronounced "shooters") since their trip to Alaska last year.  Steven is a wonderful photographer and their blog is a great read.  Don't judge Steven's photographic skills in the selfie above as he was using my iPhone and the lighting wasn't the best :-)    We had a nice lunch at the Prohibition Pig.  They had eaten there earlier and liked it.  It also had some great beer choices.  The food was delicious but our waitress must've been having a bad day.  Not the best service to say the least.  Anyway, it was a short but great lunch and nice to have met them before they head off to Maine.
Steve had to leave lunch a little early to get back to a work call so Curt, Glenda and I walked around town a bit and checked out a beer shop.  Above is the High Water Mark from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.  Low lying Waterbury is prone to flooding from the Winooski River when there are heavy rains.
We stopped into one of the nearby markets for some pastries.  There were many pies, donuts, dips, kitchen wares, etc to choose from.
Steve and Curt sampling some flavored jellies.
I was walking by looking at some kitchen towels and was wondering what that strange sound was.  This is what I saw when I turned around (shiver).  Ewwww.  Up close and personal.  A bee hive.  In the store.  Most of you know how I feel about bees.  I snapped a couple pictures and headed outside!
Once outside there was this cute bunny on the grass next to me.  I'll take bunnies over bees any day!
Of course a trip to Ben & Jerry's is a must-do if you're in the area.  Steve and I had been here before but it was a first for Curt & Glenda.  Get your tickets ahead of time as they can sell out quickly.  Even though it was during the week, they were very busy.  It was pretty much how we remembered it.  A nice tour with a sample at the end. 
They use a lot of solar power here.
We took a drive into Stowe to look around.  The guys waited in line at the Alchemist Brewery to get some Heady Topper which came highly recommended by Dave (Faye's other half) of The Wandering Camels.  This turned out to be one of the best Double IPA's Steve has ever had!
Glenda and I decided to take a walk and geocache instead of wait in line at the brewery.
It was a warm and sticky day, but we found the cache hiding under the bridge.
One of many of the tall church steeples that peek up through the rolling hills and trees.
Next up was a drive to the von Trapp Family Lodge.  It has great views and beautiful gardens.  Contrary to popular belief, none of the Sound of Music was filmed here.  It was filmed in various parts of Austria and some in Hollywood.
In the early 1940s, the von Trapp family toured the United States as the Trapp Family Singers before eventually settling in Stowe, Vermont on an enchanted farm with sweeping mountain vistas reminiscent of their beloved Austria. In the summer of 1950, they began welcoming guests to a rustic, 27-room family home/lodge. After a devastating fire in 1980, the original structure was replaced by the new Trapp Family Lodge, a striking, 96-room alpine lodge situated on 2,500 acres offering magnificent indoor and outdoor resort amenities. The entire property is owned and operated by the von Trapp family.
Before The Sound of Music, the von Trapp story was told by the Germans in two films, in 1956 and 1958. In 1959, the play, The Sound of Music, opened on Broadway and because of its popularity, Hollywood made it into a film in 1965. The film starred Julie Andrews as Maria and Christopher Plummer as Baron von Trapp. It received an Academy Award for “Best Picture of the Year.” The film is a worldwide favorite.  Even though it is loved by many, the von Trapps insist that the film is not a documentary of their life. Rodgers and Hammerstein were inspired to write it after reading their mother's book, The Story of The Trapp Family. However, because the family sold the rights to their story to the German film company, they had no control over the content of The Sound of Music. As a result, there are some differences, especially in the way their father was represented and the way they escaped Austria. -- summarized from their website.

A heart shaped Black Eyed Susan flower patch.

Our 3000th Geocache find!

A nice way to cool off was taking a short hike down to Bingham Falls that a local told Glenda about.  Thankfully Stowe has an ordinance that states all falls must be kept open to the public as a developer was wanting to build a resort here.
Down the trail a bit then a much steeper part.
Bingham Falls is a series of three drops carved over thousand of years.  It flows into a narrow crevice, over some small cascades then drops 25 feet into a tight gorge.
There was a groom with his groomsmen doing a photo shoot for his wedding.  They did some photos then he jumped off a high point into the pool of the falls.

There are so many small farms here in Vermont that we wanted to go to.  Steve really wanted to find a Maple Syrup producer and came across Sandiwood Farm.  Owners Bob and Sara invited the four of us out and she would give us a personal tour of their agritourism farm.  They put on Farm to Fork sunset dinners, weddings, entertaiment, BBQ’s, nonprofit events, classes, workshops and more. They produce chemical free plants, produce, cut flowers, and boil maple syrup from their own trees.
Sandiwood Farms

In 2015 they put a wind turbine in.

Beautiful grounds for weddings and get togethers.

Sara told us we were welcome to walk out to their sugar house and see the trees and where the sap is boiled down each Spring.

The sap lines. 
Tree taps that run together with all the others.

  It takes about forty gallons of pure sap, boiled down, to make each gallon of artisan small batch maple syrup.  They use a wood fired cooking system.

The garden had such colorful veggies, flowers and fruit.
Sweet onions.
The prettiest flowers.
Sweet smelling basil.
Strands of garlic hanging.
We bought a little of this and a lot of that.  Everything was so tasty.  We had eaten almost all the cherry tomatoes before we got home.  We're looking forward to pancakes to put that maple syrup on.  Bob and Sara are the best and if you're in the area you should definitely stop by!  If you can't stop by, you can always go to their website and order the best maple syrup and other products.  www.sandiwoodfarms.com

Chaga Mushroom.
Ever hear of Kombucha?  It is a fermented, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink. The Chaga Mushroom is steeped into the tea because it is the second most antioxidant-rich food in the world aside from chocolate. Their friend Dave and his wife make their own Chaga Kombucha that they sell.
This was a very busy day and we had just enough time to make it to our final stop at Cabot Cheese Factory.  We took a fun tour, watching how the cheeses were made.  It was interesting to find out about the co-op of ranches that are used for their cheeses.  All ranches get equal say and votes regardless of size.  A real community.  We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside.  Too bad.  The processes were really neat.  We then went crazy buying several flavors of cheese and crackers.  Little known fact, cheddar is naturally white.  The typical yellow is added because most people in the US don't like "colorless" cheese.
Just down the street from Cabot Cheese is Harry's Hardware Store that we were told was having a little festival with live bands.  There are 6 taps in the hardware store so that small local brewers can sell their beer.  We stayed and listened to a couple of them and talked to the locals.
The guys tried some of the beer and Glenda and I sampled some of that Kombucha that Dave makes.
It was pretty good.  I could probably drink one a day.

There are so many small places that we'd have loved to try.  There are gourmet coffee places, meaderies, chocolates, pewter and marble shops and the list goes on.  We need to get some rest as we have a big hike up to the highest point of Vermont coming up.  Mt. Mansfield.