We’re having so much fun that we have not taken time to update our blog daily!
On the way to Smuggler’s Notch
Crazy Horse Campground, Littleton New Hampshire
Today is Tuesday, 10/13 and we’re encamped at Crazy Horse Campground on rt 138 outside Littleton New Hampshire.
Gondola SkyRide, Stowe Vermont
Last Sunday, 10/11, the Stowe gondola was not operative. Yesterday, Columbus Day, we tried again. It was a glorious day and projected to hit mid 70’s. Better the gondola had been fixed. We arrived early for us and easily found parking in the third lot to the right, walked down to the gondola ticket line, and queued up. While in line, we saw zip lines off to our left, heard a zinging, and in a few moments we saw a couple zip by on the cable. We were hooked and Ellen’s been talking about doing a zipline for a couple of years. The line moved slowly. When we finally were handed our tickets I asked, “Can we purchase zip-line tickets here?” “No. You have to go to the Stowe Lodge, but I think the zip line is sold out today.” I also asked for a ski trail map and they had none. Still we had our tickets and up we went.
Views around Stowe Vermont
The Stowe gondola is a long ride to the top of the tree line just below the upper escarpment. The view from the top is a sweeping view of the valley and rolling hills in the distance. With fall foliage in full color it is not to be missed. We walked the very top, taking photos as we went, until we noticed that the zip line starting point was “right there”. I had not expected it to start so high up the mountain. We headed right over to talk to the technicians. We noticed a couple with full harnesses hurrying by toward the zip line. By the time we reached the line after a “photo stop” or two, the couple was strapped in and getting last minute instruction. Off they went. We learned from the tech that the lodge handles the zip line: reservations, ticketing, initial instruction, and a short gondola ride to the base gondola. He too said that the zip line was fully booked today, but he gave us the direct reservation phone number and, yes, they were booked for the day.
Stowe Gondola in the Distance
ArborTrek ZipTour, Smuggler’s Notch Vermont
We soaked in the view for a time, then decided to head to the Lodge to see if there had been a cancellation and we might just might get on the zip line. Down the gondola we went, back to “the Beast”, and off to the lodge. Ellen went inside while I sat parked waiting for someone to ask me to move along. Ellen came back saying the women would call within a half hour if by chance a cancellation occurred. That poses a dilemma. Do we wait and perhaps not get to the Von Trapp Lodge and Emily’s Bridge, or do we blow off the zip line? Ellen really wanted to do the zip line. It was sunny and 75 degrees atop the gondola. I was running around in a T-shirt. Today was the day to do it. We compromised. We would wait 30 minutes and go on with our day if there was no call. In season it is important to make reservations for the ZipTour ahead of time.
Reservations: 802.644.9300 ZipTours website
Thirty minutes later, we headed off to the Von Trapp Lodge. We discussed it and came to the conclusion that there would be other perhaps better zip lines. The Stowe zip line is actually four zip lines: a short “test” line and three lines that hop from the top of the gondola to the bottom. I was a bit disappointed that there was not a single line top-to-bottom. I had asked if anyone ran the zip line without using the brake and some have. The record speed hit on that zip line was 90 mph by one of the technicians. We were on the list of potentials for the next day, but the threat of moderate rain and a drop in temperature was not as appealing.
Von Trap Lodge, Vermont
On the way to the Trapp Lodge, I surprised Ellen by stopping at the General Giant Sleigh and Carriage Rides, a horse drawn carriage vendor, so she could take photos as she had asked on the drive up to the gondola. Photos “in hand” we drove up to the lodge. I was very surprised to find that the Von Trapp family had purchased land in Vermont when they left Austria. We stopped at the first building on our way up the hill, the restaurant. It sits on a hillock on a vast field abutting hard wood trees in vibrant fall color. Inside Ellen asked if there were more buildings up the road as we bought cookies and Von Trapp Lager. Yes, there is a lodge that you can walk around freely.
As we drove further uphill it became clear the Trapp family had not purchased “land” but an extensive hilltop estate. We passed a privately owned home/mansion to our left before approaching the lodge. The original lodge burned down in 1980. It was rebuild between 1980 and 1983. The new lodge which is based on the original external design, has been expanded to more than doubled in size. However it is the grounds around the lodge that are most dramatic. They includes extensive cross country racing trails, woods, gardens, and fields. We walked some of the trails and watched two clysedales drawing a wagon pass by. It was a tour of the grounds; private or public I couldn’t say.
Walking the Grounds
I parked in the parking lot nearest the lodge. There is a far larger lot a bit further on. I noticed as I left that the sign for the first parking lot explicitly states “no RVs”. Oops.
The Von Trapp family story is much more interesting and less Pollyanna than as portrayed in the Sound of Music. The Trapp Family
Emily’s (Haunted) Bridge, Vermont
Emily’s Bridge 1964
I remembered Emily’s Bridge as being south of the town of Stowe on highway 100 and headed in that direction. Ellen checked our maps and said that the bridge was behind us on Gold Brook Road a little past Sleigh and Carriage Rides where we had stopped for photos. I am getting very good at turning around. Back we went and found the bridge.
Later in our travels we will visit Maple Grove Farms in St. Johnsburg and Mike, the gift shop clerk, will tell us that the bridge is haunted. That his family visited the bridge with their dog and that the dog walked with them toward the bridge, then stopped and ran back to the car. He said that cars have been scratched going over the bridge. I’m not a believer in ghosts, but I do like a good story. Two women started Maple Grove Farms in 1915. The wealth of St. Johnsburg is based on tourism and the maple syrup industry. For more info visit:
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
We had the choice of either going back to Mountain View Campground that evening and leave the next morning; they close the camp for the season this day too, or we could drive to New Hampshire. Should we stay another day at Stowe? I know New Hampshire much better than I do Vermont; I had not expected Stowe to be so much fun and so interesting! I was pleasantly surprised by Vermont and we could easily enjoy another day, but we chose to push on. We took 100 south and passed the Ben & Jerry Ice Cream Factory. I asked, “Should we stop?” Ellen, “They’re probably closed” Ron,”Yeah, but we should take a photo for David” Ellen, “Ok, let’s go back”. I AM getting good at turning around. Turning into the B&J factory, the sign said open ’till 7pm. It was now 6:40! Amazing. I had a maple walnut sundae, Ellen had a maple walnut cup of ice cream. It was far too late to take a factory tour: B&J Ice Cream Factory
Maple Syrup, St. Johnsburg, Moose River Campground; Vermont
We continued on SR 100 South to I-89 east and SR 2 north through St. Johnsburg Vermont. We were surprised at the size of St. Johnsburg. I expected a small square with a few shops. We found a number of shops lining a few streets “downtown” as we drove through.
A few miles past town, we camped at Moose River Campground. We arrived after dark and chose one of the open sites based on an after-hours map at the office. Though AllStays says the campground is “year round”, the campground will close next week on 10/19. The next morning we walked Moose River Campground. It is comfortable. Many of the sites abut a small river, one sits across from a small waterfall with the sound of bubbling water in the background. The shower is not heated, which would not be a problem in warm weather, and the dual shower heads with ample hot water and a flow control was heaven. By far this was the best shower I’ve had camping, ever.
We discussed our options and decided to go back through St. Johnsburg to see in daylight what we passed in the dark. On the way we saw the Maple Grove Factory far enough in the distance to make the turn into a parking lot. This lot was very uneven and Li’l Beast rocked side-to-side with enough force to open and close the kitchen drawers. Bummer, I have not yet installed the second set of latches. As I pulled in to park, Ellen pipped up with, “but it’s not level”. I barked at her, no doubt in part because I knew she was right and in part because I’d now have to turn around AGAIN, which I did. We found level parking in a lot just past the factory. The factory has videos playing in a self tour that describes the history of the factory and how maple syrup is made. It was fun, though we did not have the patience to sit through the whole video. Ahhh, pure maple syrup. There are three grades of maple syrup: Grade A Golden Color, Grade A Amber Color, and Grade A Dark Color. Grade A Dark was once called Grade B. After tasting all three, I prefer the Dark syrup as did Ellen! This stop was a find.
We spoke some with Mike about syrup and covered bridges. He showed us a map of Vermont that has covered bridge markers on it. Surprise, we have that same map. Mike mentioned that there were five covered bridges in and around Lyndon. We went on and through St Johnsburg finding nothing interesting and decided to look for Lyndon, Lyndonville, Lyndon Center, and covered bridges. I turned onto a side street and stopped. Ellen popped out to photo some trees. There was a small group of people talking between two large lion statues lining the entry. One of the fellows engaged Ellen when she came back and they chatted for a while. Back in The Beast, Ellen said the building is a museum, that we should go in, parking is behind us (of course it is), that Fairbanks build the museum to house his dinosaur artifacts and that it has the largest collection of hummingbirds in the country. Ok, did I say I’m getting really good at turning around? We parked and went to the museum.
Fairbanks Museum, St Johnsburg Vermont
The Fairbanks made their fortune in scales; they were apparently very successful at it. I’m not big on stuffed animals, I’d much prefer seeing animal behavoir in the wild without the need to shoot or trap them. This museum houses a vast number of well preserved birds and animals. Though some of the dinosaur displays were clearly models, it was difficult to know which were real in other exhibits. All of the fossils and minerals on the 2nd floor are real and some look to be quite valuable. This stop was a find too, and thoroughly unexpected. There were troops of elementary school children on an outing with their teachers filing in and out of the museum. It is a very good museum for children.
Cool as a Moose
Vermont Covered Bridges, Lyndonville
Stopped, now where are the Bridges?
We returned to our trusty steed and headed off in search of covered bridges. We found two.
School House Bridge, Lyndonville Vermont
Chamberlin Bridge 1881, Lyndonville Vermont
then stopped at AGWAY for some DEF and chatted Chuck about local restaurants and covered bridges. We ate at Hoagie’s Pizza and Pasta in Lyndonville right across from the AGWAY. My meatball sub was great, Ellen’s personal pizza was just ok. Chuck had mentioned three more covered bridges nearby. We found another bridge,
Miller’s Run Bridge, 1878
but while trying to find the last two near Lyndonville, I had to cross relentless traffic and ultimately we chose to skip them.
Crazy Horse Campground near Moore Reservoir, New Hampshire
On the Road to New Hampshire
We headed off to New Hampshire on I-91 and I-93, leaving a bit late once again. The rolling hills of Vermont and New Hampshire here are beautiful this time of year. We crossed into New Hampshire on a bridge over Moore Reservoir and stopped at Crazy Horse Campground off I-93 and Hilltop Road, not far from the reservoir. Crazy Horse Campground is comfortable and “year round”, though only a very few sites are setup for winter camping.