It’s Winter once more at the October Country Inn, and it looks like there may be a lot more snow to play in than last Winter. We love to play in the snow. There are so many ways: alpine, telemark, or cross-county skiing, sledding or tubing, snowshoeing, fat-tire biking, snowmobiling, snowboarding. Add snowskating to the list. Snowskates come in many varieties but are distinctive in that the rider is not attached to the deck. No bindings.
The two most common types of snowskate are the single deck and the bideck. For mountain riding, the bideck is the way to go. This snowskate has a top skateboard deck which the rider stands on and a lower ski deck, which is in contact with the snow. Bideck snowskates were reportedly invented by a Stevens Pass (Washington) local named Steve Frink in 1994. Ridden in much the same way as a skateboard, bideck snowskates are gaining in popularity. The device itself is way less expensive that a snowboard alone, and you don’t need bindings or special boots. The savings is attractive, and you can ride these things anywhere you can ride a regular snowboard.
Unfortunately, some ski resorts don’t allow you to ride snowskates on their trails. It’s kind of like the opposition to snowboarding that initially occurred. Killington, our home mountain, falls into the “does not allow” category. For all their bluster about being the “Beast of the East,” and a place for adventure, turns out they don’t walk what they talk. Killington was also slow to allow snowboarding. I guess leadership at Killington is still of the old-school variety. However, you can ride them at Stratton or Jay Peak if you don’t mind a little travel. Or, much closer to home, at Woodstock’s Suicide Six, the first ski resort in the U.S. to allow snowboarding. Suicide Six welcomes snowskate riders. It’s nice to be welcomed.
From the Billings Farm this 24 mile ride involves about 1,100 feet of climbing. This really sweet ride ranks second on the October Country Inn list of great local bike rides. There are two route choices. The 24 mile loop starts and ends at the Billings Farm just outside of Woodstock. The route winds up and down along narrow shouldered, but lightly traveled country roads through classic Vermont hill farm, and river valley scenery. This ride can be increased to 42.2 miles when combined with an out-and-back from the October Country Inn.
Starting from the Billings Farm’s overflow parking lot. Exit the parking lot; turn right on Old River Rd for a short distance. Bear right onto, and follow Route 12 north until you reach the “Y” intersection with Pomfret Rd. (0.6 miles). Turn right on Pomfret Rd and follow it until Pomfret Rd. turns to the right when you reach the Teago General Store (2.6 miles). Follow Pomfret Rd. as it begins to climb, winding through incredibly beautiful hill farm country. When you reach the top of the climb (5.8 miles), shift into your big ring for a long downhill cruise. This leg starts out winding through open pasture land, and then funnels into a narrow creek side valley. Upon reaching the White River (11.8 miles), the road bends to the right, and follows the White River. This road dead ends at a stop sign (12.4 miles) at Quechee/West Hartford Rd. To the left is a bridge that crosses the White River, leads to Route 14, and the West Hartford General Store.
Turn right onto the Quechee/West Hartford Rd. (unmarked) and begin to climb. At the top (15.9 miles) shift into high gear once again for a shorter downhill sprint. Keep on the lookout for a paved road on the right that intersects with the Quechee/West Hartford Rd. at a very shallow angle (17.6 miles). Carefully turn right on this road (Quechee Main St., unmarked), and almost double back in the direction you came. Follow this road through and beyond the Quechee Country Club. Turn right onto River Rd. (21.0 miles) when you reach the Taftsville covered bridge. At this point, River Rd. is hard packed dirt following the Ottauquechee River. River Rd. turns to pavement (23.2 miles). Turn right into the Billings Farm overflow parking lot to complete the ride (24.0 miles). Download Pomfret Loop map. Download Pomfret Loop Directions.
Former US President Calvin Coolidge’s homestead.
October Country Inn has long been a home-base for visiting cyclists. Quiet country roads, stunning scenery, and friendly local drivers make for great cycling. Visit our website for a complete selection of cycling routes in the area. Distances range from 109 miles to 9 miles. This blog post’s featured cycling route is a local favorite. It’s the October Country Inn’s home route. It’s short enough for an experienced cyclist to get in a morning ride before breakfast, and long enough to slow down the pace and enjoy the surroundings. Every memorial weekend, the Killington Stage Race uses this course. For Vermont, this route is relatively easy. It consists of about 830 feet of elevation gain over seven miles, with several long downhill stretches. The route consists of three legs that form an 18 mile triangular loop. Despite its modest overall distance, this route has a lot of interesting features, not the least of which is the remarkable Vermont scenery.
The first leg of the route passes by the historic Calvin Coolidge homesite. A good place to take a break near the top of the initial 6 mile, 450 foot climb. There is a restaurant, an old-fashioned general store, a museum, and the Plymouth cheese factory at the site. The second leg of the route passes by scenic Woodward Reservoir. At the start of the third leg of the route, a small commercial area contains two convenience stores, a deli, a restaurant, and bicycle shop. This final leg follows the Ottauquechee River.
From October Country Inn, head west on Upper Road to its intersection with Bridgewater Center Road (.11 miles), turn left onto Bridgewater Center Road to its intersection with U.S. Route 4 (.03 miles), turn left to the intersection with Route 100A (.21 miles), turn right and proceed along 100A to the intersection with Route 100 (7.36 miles), proceed along Route 100 to the intersection with U.S. Route 4 (5.63 miles), turn right and proceed along U.S. Route 4 back to Bridgewater Center Road (5.67 miles), turn left on Bridgewater Center Road, right on Upper Road back to October Country Inn. Map & directions.
A couple of days short of Memorial Day here at the October Country Inn and, after a few days of light rain, a spot of warm weather has settled in. Our world has exploded in green. Seems like in a week’s time, the maples have leafed out, lilac and apple trees have bloomed, and roadside weeds are knee-high. Before this crescendo of botanical abundance, a mere couple of weeks ago, only the hardiest of Vermont’s Spring wildflowers decorated the trailside.
Trout-lilys (Erythronium americanum) were the first to appear. The name comes from their leaves that resemble the color and pattern found on native brook trout. Trout-lilys are native to north-eastern woods and grow in colonies that can be 300 years old. The Trout-lily is a myrmecochore, meaning ants help to disperse the seeds and reduce predation of the seeds. To make the seeds more appealing to ants they have an elaiosome which is a structure which attracts the ants. Another early bloomer is the purple trillium (Trillium erectum). It is also a native to north-eastern woodlands. It is a spring ephemeral, a herbaceous perennial whose life-cycle is synchronised with that of the deciduous forests where it lives. Its name is derived from its three lobed leaf arrangement and a flower with three petals.
Common blue violet
Lastly, the small but mighty common blue violet (Viola sororia) grows low to the ground and can be easily overlooked. Also called wood violet, or the lesbian flower, it is also native to north-eastern woods, and is the state flower of Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. This plant has historically been used for food and for medicine. The flowers and leaves are edible, and some sources suggest the roots can also be eaten. The Cherokee used it to treat colds and headaches. The common blue violet is also called the lesbian flower because in the early 1900s, lesbians and bisexual women would give violets to the women they were wooing. This symbolized their “Sapphic” desire, so-called because Sappho, a Greek lyric poetess, in one of her poems described herself and her lover as wearing garlands of violets. This practice became popular in the 1910 – 1930 time period, and has become a substantial symbol for lesbian and bisexual women in the modern era as well.
About a thirty minute drive from the October Country Inn, and after navigating a particular route through the tangled web of Vermont back roads, stands a leaf covered mound in the forest covering most of what may be a 2,000 year old stone structure. Similar structures are found throughout the east coast and beyond. Fifty-two stone chambers have been found in Vermont alone. The majority of these stone chambers, as with this one, are found on upland valley slopes, ridges or hilltops facing the south or southeast.
Slabs of stone used to form the roof.
The origin of these stone chambers is far from settled. A study done in 1950 by Vermont state archeologist Giovanna Neudorfer concluded that these structures were root cellars made by early Vermont settlers. However, more recent archeological opinions do not share such a definitive conclusion. For one thing, the roofs and other structural members of these chambers are composed of massive slabs of stone weighing many tons. Although it may not have been impossible for an early settler to split and move such stones into place, why would they? There are much simpler methods to construct a root cellar.
View of the inside looking toward the back wall.
Most interestingly, however, is that the winter solstice sun rises in the center of this chamber’s entranceway when viewed from inside. These chambers are also often found in association with other stone features, platforms, walls, and cairns whose alignments correspond to specific celestial events. Their use may have been a kind of prehistoric calendar. Backdating with modern computer astronomical simulations to determine when a particular chamber would have existed in order to be in alignment with a important celestial event, dates these chambers to about 2,000 ago. It has been suggested that these chambers are of ancient Phoenician or Celtic origin. Who knows? Maybe. Why don’t you visit this chamber, look around, and decide for yourself. First visit the October Country Inn. We’ll tell you how to find it.
View from the farmhouse porch.
When in Vermont, there are endless reasons to choose October Country Inn for your lodging needs. One of them is that we are really close to Woodstock’s Billings Farm and Museum. A visit to Billings Farm is a visit to Vermont’s rural heritage. Find out first-hand how they did things on the farm during the 1800’s. Get to know their Jerseys, sheep, horses, and oxen through interactive programs and activities. Explore the barns and calf nursery and watch the afternoon milking of the herd.
Visitors experience a first-hand sampling of actual farm work, animals, and agricultural processes. The authentically restored 1890 farm house, the center of the farm and forestry operation a century ago – features the farm manager’s office, family living quarters – and creamery, where butter was produced for market. Interactive programs interpret 19th century agricultural improvement, butter production, and domestic life. Exhibits housed in 19th century barns depict the annual cycle of rural life and work, as well as the cultural values of Vermont farm families a century ago.
Vermont was a sheep state before it was a dairy state. Through much of the 19th century, sheep dominated the livestock outnumbering both cows and people. Now, since it’s Spring, it’s time to sheer Billings Farm’s Southdown sheep and turn their wool into yarn. Accordingly, on Saturday and Sunday May 7 and 8, Billings Farm & Museum will feature sheep shearing & herding with Border Collies. Watch the Border Collies round up the sheep herd for the spring shearing. Accompanying wool craft activities such as spinning and carding demonstrations will highlight the skills needed to turn fleece into yarn.
Southdown sheep are known for their high quality meat and excellent fleece, averaging between four and five pounds of fleece apiece. This particular breed is known to be very blocky, resembling a rectangular box with feet. Southdowns tend to be docile and friendly, with strong mothering instincts. The farm keeps between six and ten breeding ewes and each spring the ewes give birth to a lively group of lambs.
It’s an early spring this year at the October Country Inn. Winter didn’t offer much opportunity for snow travelers to enjoy what Vermont winter typically offers. But, despite disappointing conditions for snow related activities, travelers to the area could always depend on sitting down to a frosty pint of a local Long Trail craft-brew, and a hearty lunch at the nearby Long Trail Brew Pub. October Country Inn is strategically located in this regard. We are across the street from the Long Trail Brewery. No need to drive.
Originally called Mountain Brewers, what is now the Long Trail Brewing Company started-up in the basement of the Bridgewater Woolen Mill in 1989. It changed its name to Long Trail Brewing Company in 1995 and relocated to its present location on the banks of the Ottaquechee River in the heart of the Green Mountains. Long Trail Ale, a German Altbier, is the company’s flagship beer. It is the largest selling craft-brew in Vermont. The Brown Bag concept was developed as a way for Long Trail’s brewers to develop new recipes quickly. These small batch brews have produced Long Trail favorites like Double Bag, a Strong Ale; and Hit the Trail Ale, a limited release English Brown Ale; an American IPA; Belgian Smoked Porter; Milk Stout; and Maple Maibock that is fermented with maple syrup.
Sipping a cold frosty pint alongside the river at Long Trail’s Brew Pub.
Now you know! No area visit would be complete without a visit to the Long Trail Brew Pub to sample Long Trial’s most recent craft-brew. Today, that would be a frosty pint of Green Blaze IPA. This newest addition to Long Trail’s craft-brews features big pine, tropical fruit and resin hop notes with a light, biscuit malt backbone. Green Blaze IPA pairs well with: blue cheeses, sharp cheddar, colby, grilled meats, barbecue, hamburgers, spicy dishes, tacos, blackened chicken, pickled vegetables, shellfish and outdoor adventure. Speaking of outdoor adventure, spring is here. It’s time to “Take a Hike.”
Slack Hill Trail vista.
Summer is over, here at the October Country Inn. Clear skies and cooler weather usher in the changing of the forest’s colors from brilliant greens to muted reds, oranges and yellows. This will soon turn to white as the temperature continues to drop and Winter’s snowfall sets in. We’ve been putting off an afternoon’s exploration of the Slack Hill Trails all Summer, and realized that window was soon to close if we didn’t seize the moment. The Slack Hill Trails in Coolidge State Park are a short drive from here. The entrance to the Park is a narrow, steep paved road leading off of Route 100A about 6 miles south of Bridgewater Corners junction at Rt. 100A and U.S. Route 4.
The trail can be accessed from the Park entrance station, or a mile up the park road across from the picnic area. The trail is well-marked with blue blazes, and is easy to follow, even when the entire forest floor is covered with a blanket of fallen leaves. When starting at the park entrance station trailhead, the trail climbs moderately through the mixed hardwood forest for about 1/2 mile when you will come to a marked junction. A signpost shows the way to a .3 mile spur trail that returns to the park entrance station. The main trail continues in the opposite direction climbing moderately in places before descending a short distance to a vista overlook near the 2,174 foot summit of Slack Hill. A log bench invites you to take a break. The summit of Mt. Ascutney is seen in the distance.
Leaf covered Slack Hill Trail winds through mixed hardwood forest.
The trail continues, alternately climbing and descending, for another mile to the picnic area parking lot. It’s another .8 of a mile downhill along the paved park road back to the starting point for a total loop distance of 3.2 miles. A 2 mile out-and-back to the Slack Hill vista point option is to start from, and return to the picnic area trailhead. Or, the loop option can be extended from the point where the trail meets the picnic area road by picking up the CCC trail and following it back to the park entrance station for a total loop distance of 3.6 miles. The park is open year round, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing is a Winter activity option. During the Summer, a day use fee may be charged.
Path of Life gardens overlooks the Connecticut River.
A common breakfast table query from our guests here at the October Country Inn is: “What is there to do around here.” This question always gives us pause, because there’s so much to do around here we don’t know where to start. Our typical follow-up discussion would then try to match a local activity or attraction with our guests interests, and if successful, to then provide the necessary logistics including directions. As is often the case, there may be multiple options from which our guests may choose, each option with its own specific logistics.
Artisans’ Park makes our efforts of being good Vermont ambassadors more efficient by the accidental location of several fascinating attractions within walking distance of one another. Located between Route 12 and the Connecticut River just north of Windsor, Vermont, the artisans in Artisans’ Park refers to either: Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, Sustainable Farmer, Harpoon Brewery, Silo Spirits, or Simon Pearce. The park part of Artisans’ Park refers to either: Path of Life Garden, or Great River Outfitters. That’s a lot of options from a single parking spot.
Longest covered bridge in the U.S.
At the Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company you can learn all about cheese making while sampling from a wide variety of their artisanal and speciality cheeses. Sustainable Farmer serves wood-fired pizza, as well as offering maple syrup, honey, and other local Vermont products. Kick back at the Harpoon Brewery and sip one of their cold craft brews. Step up the kick and sample vodka distilled from local corn at Silo Distillery. Amble over to Simon Pearce and watch local glassblowers ply their trade. On you way over to Great River Outfitters check out the longest covered bridge in the U.S. spanning the Connecticut River. Season permitting, you can kayak the Connecticut River, or wander around the Path of Life gardens. In other words, a full and fascinating day awaits those who venture to Artisans’ Park.