As we drove north this summer, on a 2 day mini-vaca getaway, I had a sense of returning home. I grew up in Northern Vermont and don’t get back that often. When I do, I always experience a sense of welcome. The valleys and surrounding mountains provide a visceral embrace. It’s palpable.
The Green Mountains
One of my favorite places on earth is Smuggler’s Notch, a pass through Mount Mansfield, the highest Mountain in Vermont. We adjusted our route north to accommodate a drive through there. It’s very steep and twisting, with dark overhangs and boulders literally in the road, which must be traversed around. I also say its very ‘Tolkienesque’ (my own word). The road is seasonal, open only in summer and some parts of spring and fall, determined on a daily basis. Stowe is on one end of that interesting, although not very long, drive, and we stopped there to check out a few shops. On the other end, we stopped at a local market in Cambridge that’s been there since (and likely way before) my early childhood. I continued the ritual and stopped to picked up some smoked Cabot Cheddar cheese, cob smoked right behind the store like it’s always been.
We stayed near the Canadian border, in the Northeast Kingdom. Our first day, upon arrival, we toured some back roads and explored the immediate area. Pat played golf at Jay Peak and I went along for the very scenic ride.
Tracks Through Burlington
The second day, we drove west, through and around St. Albans, a town I spent 8 or 9 years growing up in. It has not overall changed a lot, still a strong focus on farming along the lake, but there were more houses on the outskirts. We drove to Lake Champlain and followed it south to Burlington. I was able to stop in at Gardener’s Supply, a company whose catalog I love and a place I always hoped to visit the headquarters of. Now I can cross that off the list !
Art is Where you Find It
When we got to Burlington, it was in the 90s but there was a nice breeze coming off the lake. We parked and walked through a few blocks of open markets which was interesting, including a lot of old brick re-purposed buildings. Burlington has grown up and changed a lot from my early memories, mostly for the better, with a focus on green living. There is an interesting bike trail along the lake and the city is overall very walkable. The Vermont Railway train still goes through Burlington and the tracks are a part of the well-kept downtown scenery which includes many parks and green spaces. A lot of the old buildings in Burlington have been restored and re-invented.
A Good Meal on the Edge of Lake Champlain
One such is the Bennington Pottery building which we stopped into. Here was 3 floors of pottery and related household items, all unique and interesting. We ate lunch at a little café on the lake, near the marina, and watched personal and commercial craft coming and going, complete with the deep fog horn warnings of the large ships moving in the harbor. The weather was awesome, hot but a steady breeze from Lake Champlain which made it very comfortable. The mountains were clear across the lake and the sky seemed endless, somehow bigger here and bluer than anywhere else…
Burlington Marina with the Adirondacks in the Distance
When I moved to seacoast New Hampshire as a young teen, the culture shock was huge. Everything seemed to move twice as fast as it did in Northern Vermont; people, conversation, events… I had become very used to the omnipresent views of sky, mountains and lake on a daily basis. Then we moved to a place that had no horizon at all, unless you were at the beach. No comforting mountains, no intriguing moody lake. I eventually adjusted and discovered the many charms of the seacoast but it was nice to venture back to the place I grew up and be reassured that the most important things have not changed. Take me home, Country Roads…
From the Golf Course at Jay Peak