While you’re at the lake, it’s just a short hike for a great view.

Location of the vista trail in relation to surrounding terrain.

Guests at the October Country Inn often ask where they can rent a kayak or canoe, or just hang out at a nearby lake.  We recommend the Plymouth State Park on Echo Lake.  It’s close by, it has a large grassy area with shade trees, picnic tables, and a sandy lakefront beach.  Boat rentals are available, and the lake is great for swimming or wading.  Also, there’s a vista trail from the park that climbs to a great view of Echo Lake.

The Echo Lake vista trail’s round-trip distance is about 1.5 miles, and the trail climbs about 1,500 feet to an elevation of about 2,000 feet.  The trail is well marked with blue blazes, in both directions, which make it a good candidate for winter snowshoeing as well as summer/fall hiking.

An upper section of the vista trail

The trail-head can be found on the mountain side of the park where the paved portion of Scout Camp Road turns to dirt.  The trail starts by following the remnants of an old road under the canopy of a mixed hardwood forest of birch and beech that serviced the nearby Tyson-Pollard Cemetery.  After about .1 of a mile, a vista trail sign marker signals a turn to the left off the old road.  This blue blaze marked trail begins to ascend and goes through red oaks and red spruce as it ascends to higher elevations.

This trail combines again with the old cemetery road and passes through the upper end of the old Tyson-Pollard Cemetery.  At this point the trail narrows and starts to climb in earnest.  The upper section of the trail is rutted, rocky, and quite steep in sections.  If taken slowly, however, it’s not that strenuous.  Fortunately, it is not very long.

View of Echo Lake with fall colors starting to show.

In short order you will emerge into a small clearing that provides a great view of Echo Lake with some of Okemo Mountain’s ski trails visible in the distance.  The view during fall colors is  even more dramatic.  Once you get back to the lake, go for a well earned dip to cool off.

 

By |2019-10-03T12:28:10-05:00August 28th, 2012|Short Hikes & Natural Life|

Nearby Thundering Brook trail leads to Thundering Brook falls (both of them).

Appalachian Trail map showing trail spur and parking area.

One option is an easy loop walk in terms of distance, but that could result in nasty falls if you don’t pay attention.  This option goes down a rocky, winding, rutted path beside Thundering Brook to upper Thundering Brook Falls, then continues down to the observation deck at lower Thundering Brook Falls.  The return trail goes back up the still windy, and rocky, but better engineered blue blaze marked path back to the trailhead.

Upper Thundering Brook Falls

Another option is to forgo visiting the upper falls and just take the less challenging blue blaze marked trail down to the observation deck at the lower falls and back.  In either case, depending on what recent weather has been like–more spectacular falls after a good rain–this little journey has significant rewards.

The trail map at the top shows the short, blue dotted, spur trail that leads off the Appalachian Trail.  A boardwalk that was built over the Ottauquechee River flood plain, accessed via River Road, provided wheelchair access to lower Thundering Brook Falls but was partially destroyed by the flooding from Hurricane Irene in 2011.  Until this is replaced, Appalachian Trail hikers have to make a short .4 mile detour up Thundering Brook Road and bypass this section althogether.

Edie hugs a tree while she studies lower Thundering Brook Falls from the trail to the observation deck.

To get to the Thundering Brook Falls trailhead from the October Country Inn, go west on Route 4 about 10 miles.  Turn right on River Road, at the base of where Route 4 begins to climb toward the Killington Ski Resort access road.  Follow River Road for about a mile, and take the first left after the road turns to dirt.  Although the street sign might be missing, this is Thundering Brook Road.  Proceed .4 mile up the wooded road.  You will see some tree trunks on your right with white blazes indicating the Appalachian Trail detour route.  Soon, you will see two white blazes, one on top of the other and staggered a bit.  This marks the beginning of a blue blaze marked .2 mile spur trail that leads to the observation platform at lower Thundering Brook Falls.  If you want to see upper Thundering Brook Falls, that trailhead is on the downhill side of a small parking area another 50 yards up the road.

Blue blaze marked trail from the observation deck back to the trailhead.

The trail to the upper falls descends from the parking area alongside Thundering Brook.  You soon come to a shaded swimming hole.  A little further on you’ll come to the upper falls.  It gets a bit challenging from here.  Be careful.  Watch your footing and follow the trail down to the lower falls and observation deck.  From there you can take the blue blaze marked trail back up to the parking area.

The trailhead is also accessible from where Thundering Brook Road intersects with Route 4 about a mile west of the River Road intersection.  Proceed past Kent Pond for 1.3 miles.  The parking area is on the left.

 

By |2019-10-03T12:32:18-05:00July 10th, 2012|Short Hikes & Natural Life|

A short drive, a short walk, and a 100 mile view

A 100 mile view of the Green Mountains with Killington peak to the right behind the pine top.

The Lookout is well known by Woodstock locals, and provides a great and rewarding opportunity for a half-day’s outing.  Although the Appalachian trail provides the access to this stunning viewpoint, The Lookout itself is on private land outside of the Appalachian trail corridor.

The Cabin at The Lookout.

Once you get to The Lookout, upon breaking out of the woods at the end of a short spur off the Appalachian trail,  you’ll find a weathered old cabin perched in a small rocky clearing.  There’s a steep, wooden stairway that leads to an observation deck built on top of the cabin.  From this deck, you get nearly 360 degrees of 100 mile Green Mountain views.  Be sure and bring a lunch. This is  a great spot for it.

To get to The Lookout from the Woodstock area, first drive to the nearest trailhead which is off Greengate Road.

From the October Country Inn, go to the center of Woodstock.  Take Route 12 North about 3.5 miles to Wayside Rd.  Turn left and follow this dirt road.  You will come to a pond on your right.  Turn right at this intersection.  After 1.7 miles Wayside Road will bear to the left at the intersection with School House Hill Road and then turn into Greengate Road but you wouldn’t know it if you weren’t paying attention to the streetsigns.  Another mile on Greengate Road and the road makes a sharp bend to the right.

Edie and Patty walking through the woods on the Applachian Trail

On your left at this point, there’s an area that’s suitable for parking, and you’ll see a rutted, rocky, uphill trail leading into the woods beside a small brook.  Now almost unrecognizable as a road, this trail used to be Lookout Farm Rd.

This trail gets rather rough in spots due to severe erosion.  It will intersect with the Appalachian trail in about .4 of a mile.  Before that, you will come to an intersection with an old gate leaning off to one side.  Keep to your left.  The trail comes into the AT at an angle forming a “Y” intersection, and you’ll bear to the right, following the AT in a southerly direction.  Take a moment to mark this intersection in your mind so that you don’t miss it on your return.

Following the AT is pretty effortless.  White blazes adorn the trees bordering the trail, and the trail itself is well worn, relatively flat, and easy to follow.

Sign on the AT marking The Lookout spur trail.

After almost a mile, the AT starts to climb in a more serious way, and soon after that makes a sharp turn to the left.  The spur trail to The Lookout goes off to the right at this point.  There’s a sign on a tree that marks The Lookout spur trail.  A short .1 mile walk up the spur trail and you’re there.

Enjoy the view, and remember that this is private property that the owner’s have graciously allowed access to the public in order to enjoy this great spot.  Please respect it.

 

By |2019-10-03T12:35:20-05:00June 13th, 2012|Short Hikes & Natural Life|

A morning walk to Bridgewater Rock

It’s an especially beautiful late May morning at the October Country Inn.  Patty, our Irish Setter “grand-dog,” is spending the day with us and she needs to run.    The solution is a short trip up a back road in the trusty Saturn for a romp and ramble on the farm trails through the woods to Bridgewater rock and back.

Many local farms have been in the same family since before the Civil War.  One local was born on this farm, and has lived here for 75 years.  Some years ago he put the farm in conservancy, giving up developmental rights in order to preserve the property in its natural state.  Although his farm is private property, he invites visitors to walk the farm trails.

Edie and I (and Patty) thank farmer Bob for this generosity, and we take him up on his offer, sometimes daily, every season of the year.

We park at a gated pull-off at the north end of the farm.  We begin the walk with a heart starting uphill climb through mixed hardwood forest, what Vermonter’s call

Cabin by the pond.

“sugarbush.”  At the intersection with the loop, we turn right and continue climbing toward a clearing in the woods.  At the top we break into a clearing with a good sized pond full of healthy trout that are used to being fed.  They come around when you walk out on the dock.  A nearby rustic cabin offers an expansive view from the picnic table on the porch.

It isn’t that obvious at first, but the trail winds around the back of the cabin, goes through a moss carpeted canopy of evergreens while it continues to climb in a step wise fashion.  The area is strewn with large white quartz boulders.

Edie and Patty on Bridgewater Rock last Spring.

Our heart rate starts to come down when we reach the intersection with an old cabin trail that goes off to the right.  At this point we’ve only walked about one half mile, although Patty has probably run ten times that amount with her continuous forays off the trail in tangential loops.

The trail rolls up and down sometimes following an old stone wall that marks the top border of the farm.  After passing a clearing with one of those hundred mile views so typical of Vermont, a rustic lean-to beside the trail prompts all manner of speculation as to when it was built and why.  We were glad it was there once.  It provided welcome shelter for us to wait out a passing thunderstorm.

It isn’t much further and we break out of a stand of birch into the natural scrub grass clearing where the ledge bedrock comes to the surface.  Just up a short hill sits Bridgewater Rock.

From here, you have found a rare piece of Vermont that not many get to experience.  Enjoy the view.  Look to the east and you can see Mt. Washington on a clear day.  Look to the west and you can see Killington’s ski trail network streak down its cluster of peaks and valleys.

View from Bridgewater Rock

We climb down off the rock.  This is Patty’s cue that we’re heading back down the trail and she darts off in the lead.  Back under the hardwood canopy, we plod downhill to complete the loop and return to the Saturn the way we came.  Back at the car, Patty is tired but happy, as are we.  We’ve taken a hour out of our day, walked a mile and a half, and feel privilidged to be in a positon to have this option.

 

By |2019-10-03T12:36:35-05:00June 1st, 2012|Short Hikes & Natural Life|