Artisans’ Park–a lot of facination within walking distance.

Path of Life gardens overlooks the Connecticut River.

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.

pathoflifeArtisans’ 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.

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.

Folk & blues festival at Plymouth Notch wakes up “Silent-Cal.”

Plymouth FolkAlthough you wouldn’t know it by the warm temperatures, the last days of Summer at the October Country Inn are close at hand.  Here and there a few trees are starting to display Fall colors.  It won’t be long now.  Labor Day weekend traditionally signals the close of Summer.  This may be your last chance for a quick getaway.  Let us make a suggestion, check out the 11th annual 2015 Plymouth Notch Folk and Blues Festival.  Music will fill the air on Labor Day weekend, September 5 and 6, in this idyllic rural community which was the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, also known as “Silent-Cal,” the 30th president of the United States.

Plymouth MapAn article in a local newspaper puts it this way: “It’s hard to get more Vermont-ish than Plymouth Notch. Forget about the modern-day Vermont attention-getters like Ben & Jerry’s or Phish; we’re talking Calvin Coolidge and prize-winning cheese here. And this Labor Day weekend, Plymouth continues what’s become a new tradition in town – the annual folk and blues festival.”  The reference to “prize-winning cheese” is about the Vermont Cheese factory located across the street from the Coolidge homestead.  But apart from sampling their delicious smoked cheddar, taking a wagon ride, or painting your face, bring a blanket to spread on the lawn and be entertained by down-home folk and blues performers.  And it won’t cost a dime.  It’s all free.

Jay Ottaway with his band.

Jay Ottaway with his band.

The event’s organizer, Jay Ottaway, a traveling blues musician himself, notes: “The festival is special for performers and audience alike because, even though it draws a big crowd, it retains the intimate, personal feel of an acoustic folk coffeehouse.” Ottaway said that he chose this venue for the festival because: With all the traveling I do as a musician Plymouth Notch has been my one steady home since childhood.  Also, if you’re more of a hands-on folk and blues enthusiast, there’s a Saturday night jam session at Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizza Pub.  All in all, not a bad choice for a Labor Day outing in peaceful Plymouth Notch.  If it rains, no worries, the whole thing just moves indoors to the historic 1840 Union Christian Church right in Plymouth Notch.  Of course, if you need lodging, you can’t go wrong with the October Country Inn.

 

Killington hosts another Downhill Throwdown.

throwdownIf you were staying at the October Country Inn next weekend, you would be in for a rare spectacle.  Daredevil skateboarders from around the world descend on Killington June 6, 7 & 8 for the second annual Throwdown freeride event.  Presented by Restless Longboards, this speed competition is a favorite for downhill skateboard and street luge competitors.  This steep downhill course covers the twists, and turns of the lower two miles of East Mountain Road.  Racers can reach speeds of 75 miles per hour.

Click on this YouTube video link to follow Sam Blais and Sam Davignon down the course.

This is the fastest course east of the Mississippi.  East Mountain Road is notoriously steep and very challenging to ride.  Over a standuphundred competitors from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Spain, and New Zealand are expected to compete in this event.    The Killington Downhill Throwdown is the first stop in this year’s Vermont International Downhill Federation Skate Week.  Part two is hosted by Burke Mountain on June 11 to 13.

streetlugeDon’t miss the action.  Racing on East Mountain Road starts daily at 9:00am and ends at 5:30pm.  Of course, the road will be closed for the racing during this event from 8:00am to 6:00pm.  Get there early and get a good spot.  Passage up East Mountain Road between events will be allowed (approximately every 20 minutes) and the Killington Police Department will be directing traffic.  This is really exciting stuff to watch.  These skateboarders are very skillful and go very fast.  Don’t miss it.

 

 

All of a sudden it’s Spring time in Vermont.

The Ottauquechee River runs full.

The Ottauquechee River runs full.

Around the October Country Inn, it seems like it happened in a matter of a week or so.  The trees were bare, the ground was covered in snow, and you’d want to have a jacket and hat on when outside.  Then the sun came out for a couple of days.  Snow on south-facing slopes began to recede.  The Ottauquechee River level began to rise, and start to run in a serious white-water kind of way.  Smoke began to pour from local sugar houses around the clock.  Then the robins show up.  All the signs are here.  Spring has come to our little corner of Vermont.

Bears are awake and hungry.

Bears are awake and hungry.

This is a quiet time of year.  Many call it “mud season,” as if to warn away downcountry visitors.  We, however, understand that we are about to witness one of mother nature’s truly remarkable transformations.  There will be a rebirth.  Look closely.  Bare limbs of trees and bushes push out new shoots and buds that will burst into flower and leaf.  Weird  looking mushrooms, and tiny green sprouts push aside the cover of last fall’s mulch of leaves.  Overhead, honking geese fly north.  You have to take the bird feeders down for a month or so because bears are awake and they are hungry.

A typical Vermont sugar house busily boiling down maple sap (notice sap bucket hanging in the foreground) to produce maple syrup.

A typical Vermont sugar house busily boiling down maple sap (notice sap bucket hanging in the foreground) to produce maple syrup.

It’s not like we have been shut-ins all winter long.  We enjoy winter, and look forward to the special kinds of activities having to do with snow.  But, when spring comes, it feels like we’ve been shut in all winter.  All of a sudden we just can’t wait to get outside.  Go for a walk without putting on the snowshoes.  It also kickstarts a new round of chores.  We have to get and stack a couple of cords of firewood so that it will be dry for next winter.  Change out the storm windows for screens.  Put up the rain gutters.  Before you know it the grass will need to be cut, the cover will have to come off the pool, and patio furniture and shade umbrellas will need to be set out.  We better get busy, but there’s really no hurry.

Stick season — discover Vermont’s quiet side.

Stick season in Vermont.

Stick season in Vermont.

It’s no surprise that Vermont’s tourist season at the October Country Inn peaks with the pursuit of that elusive goal of being here during “peak” foliage; that brief moment when every tree is ablaze with color.  Admittedly, the sheer volume and overwhelming mix of blazing reds, oranges, and golden yellows carpeting the Green Mountains is a sight that is never forgotten once experienced.  However, this experience comes with a price.  This is the time of year when we avoid Woodstock if possible.  There is no such thing as a quick trip to the market during foliage season.  Forget about finding a parking spot.  Forget getting a table at a local restaurant unless you’ve reserved it weeks in advance.  And if you made the mistake of finding a room when you get here, you’ll probably end up sleeping in your car.

The color is on the ground.

The color is on the ground.

Then, about two-thirds of the way through October, a bit of wind comes up, and maybe a healthy bit of rain, and all the leaves fall off.   It’s still pretty, but all the color is now on the ground.  This is stick season in Vermont.  We like stick season.  We like Vermont’s quiet side.  There’s no problem finding parking in Woodstock.  There’s no problem finding a table at a local restaurant on the spur of the moment.  The snow has not yet fallen.  The weather is still pleasant, and the crowds have gone back to their respective worlds.  A walk in the woods on Mt. Tom during stick season is going to be a quiet walk.

A quiet walk in the woods.

A quiet walk in the woods.

This is the time of year to visit Vermont is you really want to get away from your daily routine, and accompanying stress.   Stick season in Vermont is undervalued if relaxation and rejuvenation is the goal.  Give it a try.  October Country Inn is having a stick season special.  If you appreciate peace and quiet, this offer is for you.  Come visit us.  Take a quiet walk in the woods.  Shuffle your feet through a carpet of leaves.  Discover Vermont’s quiet side.  You’ll be calmer for it.

 

Spring also means that the CCC Road will soon open.

A Vermont local along the CCC Road.

A Vermont local along the CCC Road.

Discovering Vermont is an adventure best unveiled while travelling the back roads without a map.  Here at the October Country Inn, we love back road travel whether it be by car, bike, or on foot.  So, if we’re sitting around after breakfast discussing the day’s sightseeing options, don’t be surprised when we suggest you check out the nearby CCC Road.  This road’s name is derived from the Civilian Conservation Corps–because they built it.

Remains of an old CCC shelter at the trailhead to the Shrewsbury Peak trail.

Remains of an old CCC shelter at the trailhead to the Shrewsbury Peak trail.

After the stock market crash of 1929, and the country’s drastic economic depression that followed, then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt formed the CCC in order to put the unemployed to work.  Known as “Roosevelt’s Forest Army,”  over 3 million needy young men were provided shelter, 3 meals a day, some education, and new skills while carrying out forest conservation projects in thousands of camps all around the country.  The CCC Road was one such project, it was built in the early 1930s joining the CCC camps  in Plymouth and the Shrewsbury.

ccc road mapThis road, closed during the winter months, is roughly six miles of decent hard-packed dirt that runs from Route 100 just south of Woodward Lake in neighboring Plymouth, across the Plymsbury Plateau and ending in North Shrewsbury where it’s a short trip to Rutland and points west.  Although you can stop anywhere along the road and pull off, there are several places you can get out to walk and explore. At one mile is Tinker Brook State Natural Area. Access is on the south side at a curve in the road (there is no sign, only a small pull off for parking). A short walk in takes you to the hiking shelter.  At 2.0 miles (one mile east of Tinker Brook) is the east access to Shrewsbury Peak.  At 2.9 miles (1.9 miles east of the east Shrewsbury Peak access) is a gated access on the north side of the road. On the south side of the road is a small pull-off and access into the Plymouth Wildlife Management Area.

Fall colors in Vermont–one of the wonders of the world.

Fall colors at the October Counry Inn.

Fall colors at the October Country Inn.

As the last days of September slide away, shorter days and cooler nights work their magic on the foothills of the Green Mountains bordering the October Country Inn.  No matter how many years we’ve watched summer morph into fall, this incredible display of color always astounds us.  No wonder our guests come from around the world during this time of year more than any other just to see this unique and remarkable display.

leavesApart from just witnessing nature’s raw beauty as the foliage changes its color, you might wonder how this change comes about.  Leaves are nature’s food factories.  Plants take water from the ground through their roots, take carbon dioxide from the air and, with sunlight and through a process called photosynthesis, turns it into oxygen which is released back into the air, and glucose which provides the energy for life and growth.  Photosynthesis happens in the presence of sunlight and chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll is also the chemical that gives plants and leaves their green color.

redtrees

As fall approaches, and the days get shorter and shorter, Vermont’s hardwood forest begins to shut down its food-making factories.  The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves as sunlight diminishes, and as the bright green fades away we begin to see combinations of yellow, orange, red, and purple.  These colors show the traces of other chemicals that have been in the leaves all along but that were masked by the volume of green chlorophyll needed to enable photosynthesis to provide enough food for the trees to live and grow.

Of course, knowing a bit about why this remarkable display of color occurs is all very interesting, but it’s a poor substitute for being in its presence.  If you’ve got a bucket list, make sure that spending time in Vermont during fall foliage is on it.  If you don’t have a bucket list, this is a good reason to start one.

Favorite Back-roads Series–Pomfret and Cloudland roads loop

Fall splendor alongside Pomfret Road.

Fall is here, and the colorful foliage that Vermont is known for is close to full bloom at the October Country Inn.  Everybody wants to be here during the “peak,” when the colors are the brightest.  But “peak” is a moving target.  Generally, “peak” foliage colors move from north to south, and from higher elevations to lower elevations.  Given this movement, the best strategy for viewing fall colors is to drive around.

Pomfret and Cloudland roads loop.

Another reason to drive around is that you will often find that stands of vibrant colored foliage occur in pockets–you’ll drive around a corner and be stunned with a burst of color that will take your breath away.

There are many little known back-road routes in this area to choose from.  Just wander around, don’t be afraid to take dirt roads, most are in great shape and will reward the adventurous sightseer with an endless series of postcard quality views.

One such route just outside of Woodstock, is to take Pomfret Road to the top of Galaxy Hill and Cloudland Road back down.   Begin this 15 mile route at the Billings Farm on Route 12 just north of Woodstock.

Vermont hill farm alongside Cloudland Road.

Driving north out of Woodstock on Route 12, go past the Billings Farm where it intersects with River Road.  Less than a mile further, leave Route 12 by taking the “Y” to the right onto Pomfret Road.  About 2 miles further, Look for the Teago Store.  Follow Pomfret Road by turning right at the Teago Store and  wind up the hill for a couple of miles.  Just before the top, next to an apple orchard, take Galaxy Hill Road to the right.  This short dirt road passes some impressive real estate before intersecting with Cloudland Road.  Take Cloudland Road to the right and begin down this dirt road.  The Appalachian Trail crosses near the top.  Keep on Cloudland Road until it intersects with River Road.  Turn right at River Road and arrive back at Billings Farm and Route 12.

There are many such routes in the area.  This will give you a flavor of what to expect.  Be adventurous.