DNA X #14 The Green Mountains
Weather -sunny, 68F
Wind- light and variable
Heading west from the Granite State, we cross the Connecticut River, a sinuous boundary that separates Vermont from New Hampshire. Almost a mirror image of each other, these mountainous states are quite different. Vermont probably got its name from the French who called this area les verts monts or the green mountains. Indeed they are green and not rugged like her neighbor to the east. Much of the state is covered in a lush boreal forest that covers rounded mountains that are lower elevation. This provides wider pastoral valleys where farming has always provided Vermonters with food. Family farms are making a comeback with dairy as the leader – Vermont cheddar cheese is wonderful, but don’t forget the maple syrup!
Our first stop is Woodstock, dubbed the “quintessential New England village”. It is about postcard perfect, established in 1768 it has carefully maintained its historic buildings and small village feel. The center of town has a village green, a local meeting spot for concerts, farmers markets, impromptu shows or just chatting it up with the neighbors. Time slows down here and you do too.
We stayed at the Woodstock Inn that is across from the green in the center of town. The recently remodeled rooms and excellent food were a treat. They also have a great golf course and a brand new spa to aid in slowing down the pace. Near-by is Quechee State Park home of Vermont’s deepest gorge, Quechee Gorge which carries the Ottauquechee River 165 feet below the trail along its bank. 13,000 years ago glacial activity formed this natural wonder. Park near the bridge (ignore the tacky tourist shops) and take a hike on the trail. Wandering north we found the picturesque Mad River Valley with the lively Mad River flowing through it. Our stop was in Warren, a small village on the southern end of the valley. Two near-by ski areas keep the place jumping in the winter; Sugarbush and the challenging Mad River Glen offer the downhill skiers a haven but the whole area supports cross country skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding.
We stayed at the Pitcher Inn, a Relais and Chateaux property. Every room in the inn has been creatively transformed into a unique Vermont theme. Our room is known as The Trout Room and features a tree trunk poster bed, fireplace, private balcony overlooking a stream, trout sculptures and a complete fly-tying workshop. The food and service were excellent.
After a little antiquing we head north to the smallest state capitol in the U.S. The small town of Montpelier is home to the ways and means of the state. A picturesque town sheltered by mountains it has all the makings of a big city – good restaurants and active arts and culture. But Vermont is probably best known for its covered bridges, a whopping 114 in all, built not to be cute but for a typically practical Vermont reason, to protect the structure from the elements. With the greatest concentration of these bridges in the U.S. it’s easy to come across one at some point and each one is named and unique.
Like most states there are famous natural areas, famous people, notorious notables. Vermont has produced presidents like Calvin Coolidge, heart throbs like Rudy Vallee, farm equipment inventers like John Deere and the “Father of Good Roads” Horatio Earle (1855-1935). Earle was an inventor and businessman who moved to Michigan and became that states first state highway commissioner. What is so great about good roads – you ask? It matters to the DNA Xpedition- according to Earle “I often hear now-a-days the automobile instigated good roads, that the automobile is the parent of good roads. Well, the truth is, the bicycle is the father of the good roads movement in this country”. It turns out he was an avid cyclist and got tired of bogging down in muddy wallows and getting launched upon hitting crusty ruts. He promoted the good roads movement and eventually helped to turn carriage roads into auto roads across the U.S. As far as Blackie is concerned he’s a hero but not because she can’t handle wallows and ruts. It also turns out that this movement would be helpful and appreciated by another famous visionary Vermonter who you will meet in the next DNA X installment – stay tuned!-Nelia