America’s most famous folk artist calls Vermont home.

Folk artists gallery: Brandon Artists Guild in Brandon, Vermont

Brandon Artists Guild.

Life at the October Country Inn in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont can be said to be the act of living folk art. Without trying, the inn epitomizes the folk artist lifestyle: relaxed, an appreciation for simpler living, surrounded by an understated depth of natural beauty. It seems fitting then that Warren Kimble, America’s most famous folk artist, got his start in nearby Woodstock. Kimble’s work reflects the folk art ethos that, in the fast-moving, technology-obsessed modern world, people enjoy images that speak to a slower, less complicated time. At 80, Kimble has not stopped creating. “Warren Kimble: Folk Art 2017,” an exhibition showcasing the artist’s current mood of nostalgia opens in nearby Brandon, Vermont at the Brandon Artists Guild June 30 through August 29, 2017.

Kimble's folk artists view of an oversized pig.Kimble’s work transports you to a whimsical world where pigs take flight, red barns perch on brightly colored patchwork farms, and everything is as American as apple pie.  Over his lifetime, Kimble has absorbed a lot. “Art is the sum total of one’s experiences. The Jersey shore, the boardwalk, the color … I love the circus. I was taken to the circus every April. That’s art,” he says enthusiastically. “So you may not use it tomorrow or you may not use it 10 years from now, but the experience always comes back to you and makes the creative process happen,” he adds.

Kimble's folk artist view of a house on a hill.Kimble moved to Brandon in 1970, and taught art at nearby Castleton College. Struggling to make ends meet he says it all came together in 1990 at an antiques show in Woodstock. A local couple who were launching a publishing business saw and liked his work and wanted to make prints of his pieces.  John and Laurie Chester of Wild Apple Graphics chose six of his paintings, reproduced them and headed for New York City. “So there we are in New York at Art Expo,” says Kimble, “The big, huge, art show and they’re selling these reproductions like crazy.”  The paintings included a couple of animals, a painting of a house on a hill and two cows with the state of Vermont on their rumps kissing. “I just did that for fun,” says Kimble, who says that’s just his sense of humor. “But it just took off — it just went bananas,” he says.

The battle of Hubbarton: Revolutionary War enactment.

Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site.

Many of our guests at the October Country Inn come to Vermont to sample its rich and varied place in U.S. history.  The only Revolutionary War battle fought in Vermont took place at Hubbardton in 1777.  Visit the Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site on the July 8 – 9 weekend, and witness reenactors stage this fight on Vermont soil between the British and American troops.  The Battle of Hubbardton involved approximately 2,230 troops–1,000 to 1,200 Americans, 850 British, and 180 Germans fighting for the British. It resulted in the deaths of 41 American, 50 British, and 10 German soldiers. Of the 244 wounded, 96 were American, 134 British, and 14 German. The British took 234 American prisoners. Total casualties, including prisoners, were roughly 27 percent of all participating troops.

British reenactors on the march.

In June 1777 British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne began implementing his plan to split New England from the rest of the Colonies.   The plan was for Burgoyne’s troops to head south on Lake Champlain and join two other British leaders,  one of whom was traveling from the west along the Mohawk Valley and the other from the north up the Hudson River. All were to meet following their victories in Albany, New York.  As Burgoyne drew near Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga in early July, Major General Arthur St. Clair made the tough decision to withdraw the American Northern Department Army from these forts and save his troops for another encounter under more advantageous circumstances with the British.  The roughly 4,000 American soldiers retreated as quickly as possible with little time to gather up supplies and under the cover of darkness on the nights of July 5th and 6th.

Reenacting the Colonial battle strategy.

Major General St. Clair and the main army marched over 20 miles to reach the hills of Hubbardton.  There he appointed Colonel Seth Warner of the Green Mountain Boys to take command of an expanded rear guard of 1,000 to 1,200 soldiers, while the main army continued southward to Castleton.  Rear guards have been a standard military security strategy to protect retreating troops.  Their mission is to delay the enemy in their pursuit, force the enemy to deploy all their troops into action with the rear guard, engage the enemy in such a way as to avoid close combat, and to then withdraw safely as quickly as possible.  The American rear guard successfully accomplished its mission, fully deploying the pursuing British, delaying them long enough so St. Clair and his main army could safely retreat southward.  The rear guard soldiers also skillfully disengaged their enemy, fighting the British to a near standstill, and avoiding further American casualties and pursuit by the British.

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.

A Fall afternoon on the Slack Hill Trail.

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.

Winter retro fun: snow sliding gets back to its roots.

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.