14 September 2009


First morning in Vermont, looking across lake Champlain to the Adirondacks
This was a very brief visit, three days in total, but an enjoyable one with the ascent of the state's highest mountain at 4395 feet, an amble through the backroads of central Vermont and a short hike along the Mad River Greenway.
My host, Timo Shaw, President of Country Walkers led the charge up Mount Mansfield, just north of the famous ski town of Stowe, on the morning of my arrival. Well, the truth of the matter is that his son Alec led the group, putting us all to shame by bounding up the slippery, smooth rocks to the summit at breakneck speed in nothing more than a tee shirt and shorts.
The older, wiser members of the group attempted to keep up along the popular North Ridge trail, each hiding how out of breath we were in our eagerness to show that we, too, had kept our youthful vigour!

Summit of Mount Mansfield, 4395 ft - apparently, the views are great!
Alas, there was no view at the top, or, indeed, at any point on our walk, so a vivid imagination was needed to see the views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondack hills of New York State beyond, and the rest of Vermont's Green Mountains around us. The Green Mountains get their name, by the way, from the metamorphic schist infused with chlorite which gives it a green hue. So, now you know!

Typical Vermont farmstead

Our accommodation for the stay was at the delightful Round Barn Inn, an old farmhouse dating back to 1810, with a traditional round barn to one end. The round barn was a feature of architecture of the religious 'Shakers' movement, who built structures without corners so that there was 'nowhere for the devil to hide'! The Round Barn Inn sits just south of the farming community of Waitsfield and is highly recommended for its quaint rooms, great food and knowledgeable hospitality.

Country Walker's 30th Anniversary Group in Vermont
Vermont landscape
Yes, owned by the real Von Trapp's (of 'Sound of Music' fame)!
Our second day started with a pre-breakfast walk in the local woods, mainly comprising maple, ash and poplar trees, followed by a group stroll through the farmlands of Vermont, and an afternoon stroll along the banks of the Mad River. Our river walk was enlivened by the sighting of a large beaver and the group noticeably picked up the pace when we spotted bear scat (they gorge on apples at this time of the year) on the path. Warning signs along the path also reminded us to avoid spreading Dog Snot, an algae found in local rivers. Charming.
My last evening in Vermont began with a cheese and wine tasting in the gardens of the Round Barn Inn. But this was not to be any old cheese and wine event. Our hosts were local farmers Larry and Linda Faillace, owners of a small local creamery. Over the last few years they had achieved fame in the USA by attempting to start a sheep milk cheese business which required the importation of specific breeds of sheep from abroad. This led to a widely publicised confrontation with the US government authorities which culminated in the seizure of their flock, supported by 40 armed federal agents. A tragic abuse of power it seems, but Linda has since published a best selling book 'Mad Sheep' and a Hollywood film is being planned. Great story, a real David and Goliath tale. But real, and shows how nasty vested interests can be. Check out http://www.threeshepherdscheese.com/
In summary, Vermont is a pretty state, rolling wooded hills with quaint towns and villages, heavily geared to winter tourism. Apparently, blackfly are a problem in May and August, and mosquitoes are a summer nuisance, although, thankfully, none were encountered on this trip. Snow is about two months away, enjoyed by the locals for a couple of months, but driving everyone nuts by April.
A pleasant spot indeed.