Niagara Falls

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niagara  001Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve wanted to visit Niagara Falls.  And even though we lived in New York City for awhile, my family didn’t have the opportunity to take the trip at that time. Later in life, other places captured my interest, and I moved on.niagara  002

But now that we’d spent some time on the east coast, it was time to take care of this childhood wish.  So Hector and I planned a short stop in Niagara Falls on the way from Southern Vermont to Cincinnati, Ohio.niagara  028

Four Mile Creek Campground in Youngstown, New York, just north of Buffalo, was quite lovely and our site looked out over Lake Ontario.

niagara  006niagara  003niagara  007Niagara Falls is actually three waterfalls, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls on the American side, and Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.

Walking into the park from the parking lot on the American side, I was surprised to immediately hear the sound of the falls, and to actually see them shortly after that.  I’m used to hiking to waterfalls and had no idea what to expect.  But this area is very developed with a sidewalk along the side of the Niagara River and by the waterfall, parking lots, gift shops etc.

niagara  004In spite of the highly developed surroundings, the falls are a very impressive sight.  The sound alone makes you appreciate the power of the water tumbling down from the river.   And the rapids just above the falls are pretty impressive as well.  But at times the falls seem surreal in this “theme-park” like setting.niagara  015

niagara  010We purchased tickets for the Cave of the Winds, one of the “attractions”.  The name of the attraction refers to a cave that collapsed years ago.  The attraction now includes an elevator ride down to a series of walkways designed for a very close look and feel of the American and Bridal Veil Falls. niagara  014

The highest portion of the boardwalk is about ten feet from Bridal Veil Falls.  And since the walkways would be damaged by ice in winter they are torn down and rebuilt every season!niagara  013niagara  012

A rain poncho and rubber sandals (mandatory) are included with the entry to Cave of the Winds, but I highly recommend wearing a rain jacket underneath the poncho.  If you climb to the top walkway, it’s a very, very wet experience, so it’s also important to be mindful of camera equipment.niagara  009niagara  008

niagara  016niagara  017It was a very cloudy day but we signed up to go out on “Maid of the Mist” boat cruise anyway, a longtime tradition at Niagara Falls. niagara  040

niagara  018niagara  019niagara  020These boats cruise past the American and Bridal Veil Falls (too rocky to get too close to), and over to the Canadian side, where the boat stops for a few exhilarating minutes right in front of Horseshoe Falls.  Horseshoe Falls are known for the mist they generate, sometimes creating a cloud above the waterfall.niagara  022

It’s relatively short, but highly recommended.  And in spite of the ponchos you WILL get absolutely drenched.  So plan accordingly.niagara  021

niagara  023Maid of the Mist boats leave from both the American and Canadian side and have the same exact route, but the tickets from the American side are a little less expensive.niagara  025

While on the boat, we heard the “Miracle of Niagara” story of a boy who’d fallen off a boat above the rapids (there is literally a line way up river where the water goes from calm to rapids).   He came down the rapids and falls unprotected except for a life vest and was rescued by someone on the Maid of the Mist.  And survived.   Unbelievable.niagara  026

A tradition of people who intentionally went down the falls started in 1829 when someone who called himself “the Yankee Leapster” jumped from a high tower to the gorge below the falls and survived.  Then, in 1901, a 63 year old teacher was the first person to go over the falls in a barrel.  It was a publicity stunt and she survived.niagara  049

niagara  029niagara  050niagara  048We’d heard that the views from the bridge across to Canada and from the Canadian side were even better than the views from the American side.  So the next day, we walked over to Canada across the bridge, figuring that going through immigration and customs on foot would be much easier than doing so in a car.  Especially since we always carry a lot of “stuff” piled up in our car.

And we were right, after the approximately ¼ mile walk across the bridge, it only took a couple of minutes to get through immigration.  And there were some great views from the bridge.  Not to mention that “walking to Canada” was kind of cool.

There is a bus you can take that tours the falls and a couple of other sites, it’s one of those “hop on, hop off” affairs.  We didn’t want to pay extra for stuff we weren’t going to see, so we took the approximately one mile walk over to Horseshoe Falls.niagara  051

niagara  049niagara  044On the way, there are great views of the American and Bridal Veil Falls.  And Hector and I agreed that Horseshoe Falls were even more impressive than American Falls.   Surprisingly, the Canadian side is just as touristy (if not more so) than the American side, and we opted out of the “attractions”.  So we just walked around to different viewpoints to gawk at the falls.
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niagara  034niagara  033niagara  042niagara  041niagara  045niagara  046And we learned more about daredevil traditions.  Wire walking across the gorge began in 1859 and continued through 1896.  Then, in June, 2012, Nik Wallenda became the first person to walk across the falls in 116 years.  He walked across 1,800 feet of tightrope near the brink of Horseshoe Falls, further upstream than previous walkers.  According to Mr. Wallenda, it was the longest unsupported tightrope walk in history.  He carried his passport on his walk, and was required to present it when he reached the Canadian side of the falls. Amazing.niagara  039niagara  043niagara  038

niagara  032Walking back towards the bridge to the U.S., we stopped by the Skylon Tower to explore the possibility of riding to the top, but it got really cloudy once again, and we held off for a possible return trip that evening.  At 775 feet in height, I imagine the view must be fantastic on a clear day.  While in the tower, we succumbed to a touristy activity, having a photo taken of us “going down the falls”.

It was quite a full day but we still maintained the possibility of returning later that evening to see the falls lit up with colored lights.  And once again getting through immigration on the U.S. side of the bridge was a cinch.niagara  047

That evening it rained quite a bit, and we didn’t return to Canada.  But I finally got to see Niagara Falls and they were beautiful.

~ Brenda

Falling Leaves in Southern Vermont

arlington vt  066arlington vt  004We stayed in the town of Arlington in Southern Vermont on our last week in the area.  Again we headed south in order to chase the peak colors.arlington vt  015

Along the way, we saw more beautiful covered bridges, we never got tired of seeing them.  In total, we saw dozens of covered bridges all over the state.  So charming.arlington vt  053arlington vt  008arlington vt  054

arlington vt  011There was a corn maze/garden store near our campground.  It was a little one for kids, but I’d never been in one and wanted to see it, and Hector humored me. arlington vt  009

So we just had a silly time, drinking cider from the farm, walking around the maze and looking at all of the Halloween characters throughout the property. Somehow we escaped without being eaten by the dreaded Pumpkin Rex!

arlington vt  041arlington vt  039The cloudy days continued, and many of the colors were muted.  After the storm and more windy days, we found a number of areas that were ”post-peak” – with many bare trees and leaves on the ground.  But we continued to chase the colors, heading further south on various drives, on one occasion crossing over into Massachusetts.

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We visited another farm, the Merck Forest and Farm Center.   It’s a non-profit organization with  a 62-acre farm a 3,100 acre managed forest.  The center offers demonstrations, apprenticeships, workshops and school programs. arlington vt  016

Visiting the farm is free, and many of the buildings are open to the public.  The farm center has 30 miles of trails and allows primitive camping anywhere except for the trails for $5 a night, and also has some cabins that they rent.  They make organic pure maple syrup and offer other farm fresh products.  While visiting, Angel met a sheep and some piglets.  She was just fascinated.  She was especially interested in the chickens and bunnies, who ran for cover when they saw her.  
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We hiked along one of the trails to a beautiful view of the Adirondacks.

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After the farm, we stopped at an interesting building with a sign out front saying “The Roy Egg Shop”.  We weren’t quite sure what it was or whether it was open, then the proprietor, Mr. Roy Egg, came out and welcomed us in.  He’s a longtime artist and gallery owner and the building is his farmhouse style gallery.arlington vt  030arlington vt  031

Mr. Egg had a nearby road named after him – “Egg St.” in honor of his chicken paintings and woodcuts.  He also has a prize-winning painted egg archived in the White House Gallery.arlington vt  032

arlington vt  033He is a very colorful person and took time to tell us about the building (several hundred years old), his paintings (he’s done landscapes, lots of chickens and some other animals), the Vermont/New York border (it runs through his house!) and other fun stuff.

arlington vt  034arlington vt  036When we left, I asked him for a recommendation for some good local cheese, and he recommended a farm down the road that makes some award winning cheeses.  Consider Bardwell Farms had an open barn door on the property with a refrigerator that was stocked with cheeses for sale. arlington vt  035arlington vt  037

Purchasing the cheese was set up as an honor system asking people who took cheeses to leave cash or a check in a cash box.  There was also cut up cheese in the refrigerator for people to taste.  And they were wonderful cheeses.  We bought three types.  Then we visited a while with the goats at the farm.

arlington vt  001And where would all of this farmland be without tractors.  We found an incredible antique tractor collection on a large piece of land in the area with a convenient road that drove alongside the various vehicles.arlington vt  044


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arlington vt  051The southwest area of Vermont around Bennington had more beautiful farms rustic buildings.  One pretty scene after another.arlington vt  052arlington vt  055arlington vt  047arlington vt  057

arlington vt  062arlington vt  061The last place we visited was Okemo, a small ski area.  Hector actually skied there after a business trip in the 80’s.  We had a picnic halfway up the mountain and drove to (almost) the top.  Once again the trees at the top were already bare.arlington vt  068

arlington vt  067So even though we did not see peak colors in Southern Vermont it was still really beautiful.

And we learned that peak colors are very elusive; you don’t “catch” the peak, the peak catches you.

~ Brenda

Where to next?

Where to next?

Chasing the Peak in Vermont

randolph  046randolph  097Continuing on our leaf peeping quest, we headed to central Vermont.  Our plan was to “follow the fall south”.  The Lake Champagne campground in Randolph Center had beautifully manicured grounds and a lovely view of the mountains.

randolph  096randolph  061The weather was quite variable while we were in this area.   And one day the tail end of Tropical Storm Karen came through with monsoon like showers and strong winds.

But we also had several sunny days.randolph  060

randolph  043randolph  031On Saturday, we headed back to Montpelier, the capital of Vermont, for their farmers market.  This time we took Angel to the market which was another really good one.

Lots of organic produce, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, more great cheeses and maple syrup and LOTS of varieties of apples.  And Angel got some nice roast beef – yum!randolph  033

randolph  052We toured around some more along the beautiful roads of Vermont and saw more charming covered bridges along the way.randolph  003randolph  025

And, of course, many scenic little towns along the way.  Each with at least one pretty little church.randolph  079randolph  073


randolph  068randolph  067Then more covered bridges.  It’s incredible how many of these bridges there are.

One local I met while she was photographing a bridge shared that this year Vermont has not had as many red trees as they normally have in this area – she said the red color was at about 75%.randolph  022

randolph  017The conditions needed in order for the most intense colors to be revealed include:  rain in the spring and summer (which she says they almost got too much of), then a series of clear, sunny days and cooler temperatures (night and/or day) in the fall.  This fall there has been quite a mix of cloudy and sunny days, and the weather has been warmer than usual.randolph  004randolph  044randolph  029randolph  009randolph  049randolph  013randolph  005randolph  056randolph  071randolph  012randolph  023randolph  015randolph  072

randolph  026With all of this farmland, there are many very interesting and rustic barn buildings around.randolph  006randolph  058randolph  057randolph  024randolph  059randolph  055

While Hector was photographing yet one more covered bridge, a bunch of cows appeared.  They are rotated from one field to another to maintain the fields and so the cows can always get some fresh grass.  The guy that was herding them called out to each cow (there were about 30) by their individual name!randolph  019randolph  020

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And, speaking of cows, we visited one more farm, Sugarbush Farm.  They make maple syrup as well as cheese.  There we learned quite a bit about the process of making maple syrup.randolph  011

randolph  094Vermont is the largest producer of maple syrup in the U.S.  Maple syrup is considered Vermont’s first agricultural harvest of the year and is considered “seed money” for many farmers who use the sale of their maple products to purchase seeds to plant when the weather warms up and help keep their farms going.

randolph  095The production of maple syrup is a sustainable activity and one that keeps the beautiful maple trees in the state – approximately 25% of the trees in Vermont are sugar maples.  Lucky for us since they are so beautiful in autumn.randolph  083

randolph  048randolph  047Vermont was the first state to pass a law to establish purity and quality regulations for maple syrup, and their syrup is 100% natural.

It takes four maple trees, at least 40 years old, to yield enough sap in six weeks (40 gallons) to produce one gallon of maple syrup.  No wonder it’s expensive!

Then on to another ski town,  Killington.

We brought Angel along, and stopped for a short hike down the Queechee Gorge on the way there.  It’s a smaller gorge but pretty scenic with lots of trees and fallen leaves along the way.randolph  062randolph  066randolph  064

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One more stop along the way was the town of Woodstock, which had some cute little shops.   Here we discovered the Vermont Flannel Co., which had nice quality flannel clothing.  I bought a robe to prepare for the colder weather we’re about to experience the next few weeks.  Very warm and furry.randolph  070randolph  069randolph  085randolph  087

Killington is a pretty large ski area (for Vermont).  The trees at the bottom were very pretty but the top was definitely post-peak.  Peak colors are very elusive.randolph  081

Killington was getting ready for the Killington Hay Festival to be held that weekend, yet another fall festival.   People from various businesses construct animals out of bales of hay to display in front of their storefronts.  There were some pretty elaborate ones.

While driving around we stumbled upon a wedding inside of a covered bridge!  There were people on both sides directing traffic and asking cars to drive by as slowly and quietly as possible.  What a romantic idea to have a wedding in a covered bridge.randolph  054

Next, Southern Vermont.

At this time, we’re in Kentucky headed towards Denver via Kansas City, and catching up on blog posts.

~ Brendarandolph  053

The Farm and the Museum

shelburne  013Two great places to visit while in Burlington are the Shelburne Farms and the Shelburne Museum.  Both are located in Shelburne (on the outskirts of Burlington), and are separate entities but there is a family connection that links them.shelburne  003

Because I’ve lived in cities all of my life, I’m very interested in farms, how they are run, what the day to day life is like etc.  I’d read that the Shelburne Farms was an interesting place to visit, and convinced Hector to go.shelburne  005

We took a guided tour of the farms (you can also tour the property via various walking trails).  This tour takes you around the property on a wagon pulled by a tractor, pretty charming.  And the tour guide provides information about the farms’ interesting history.shelburne  004shelburne  006shelburne  008shelburne  009

In a nutshell, 3,800 acres of land, located on the shores of Lake Champlain was purchased in the 1880’s by Dr. William Seward Webb and his wife, Eliza ‘Lila’ Vanderbilt Webb, who had inherited $10 million from her father, William Henry Vanderbilt.

They’d planned to create a model agricultural estate and their plan was initially a success.  In addition to a horse breeding facility, the property had a dairy, a pheasantry, a piggery, yachts, golf links, 25,000 square feet of greenhouses, state-of-the-art electrical and communications systems, and hundreds of employees.

Around 1910, the farm operation began to shrink, and the couple’s heirs (Dr. and Mrs. Webb’s children) struggled to make it profitable.  They sold and leased various parcels of the land.  As they continued to struggle to maintain the estate and pay taxes, they considered selling some parts to big companies.

At this point, their children (Dr. and Mrs. Webb’s grandchildren) came up with a plan to create a non-profit, which they founded in 1972.  The remaining 1,400 acres of the farm are now used for conservation education “to inspire a sense of stewardship around the environment”.

shelburne  012shelburne  011The organization offers education programs for students, teachers and others.   Children of all ages can learn about sustainability and their connection to the natural and agricultural world.  Much of the land is under conservation easements, and there have been various renovations and rehabilitations of the buildings.

shelburne  002The non-profit is funded through tours such as the one we took, sale of the (delicious) cheese made on the farm, the gift shop, the inn that is now located on the original family residence and the programs.

shelburne  010The tour includes a partial tour of the inn and its grounds and provides an insight into their cheese making and their programs.

One of the children’s programs has the children harvest vegetables from the garden, milk the cows and make cheese, grind wheat berries and make dough, then make a pizza with their fresh ingredients.

The grounds of the farms are lovely and have a gorgeous view of Lake Champlain.   A fascinating place.

In 1913, James Watson Webb, the oldest of the four children of Dr. William Seward Webb and Lila Vanderbilt Webb, married Electra Havemeyer.  The couple received the southern portion of the Shelburne Farms estate as a wedding gift.

shelburne  074shelburne  014Electra (great name!!) Havemeyer Webb founded the Shelburne Museum at this location.  Electra’s parents had been collectors of European and Asian art.  Electra became a collector in her own right, but with a focus on American art and architecture.  The Shelburne Museum “is one of the nation’s finest, most diverse and unconventional museums of art, design and Americana”.

shelburne  104shelburne  075Electra collected 18th and 19th century buildings from New England and New York and relocated more than 20 buildings to Shelburne to house the museum collections.  The museum has a total of 38 buildings (25 are historic) housing 150,000 artifacts.

We decided to visit the Shelburne Museum after reading about it on fellow fulltimer, blogger, island girl and new friend, Mona Liza’s blog.  She and her husband visited the museum this last summer and wrote an intriguing post about it.

The collections are truly amazing and include:shelburne  015

shelburne  029About 225 carriages and horse-drawn vehicles from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries, including a Conestoga wagon, a wide variety of sleighs, a “school bus”, stagecoaches and farm and trade vehicles.

shelburne  023shelburne  016A 1946 gift of 28 elegant carriages from the estate of Dr. and Mrs. Webb was what prompted Electra Havemeyer Webb to create the Shelburne Museum.

The barns where the carriages are housed are also quite unique:  one, a 1901 80-foot diameter round barn, is one of only two dozen built in Vermont, the other, a horseshoe-shaped barn, completed in 1949, was modeled after a unique horseshoe-shaped dairy barn in Georgia.  It’s 283 ½ feet long and 32 feet wide.

We’ve never seen such a complete cross section of carriages and sleighs with all their different uses. Formal ones, sporty ones, public transport, business uses.  It is also interesting to note many design details that carried forward into the age of motor vehicles.

Then there is an exhibit devoted to the golden age of the circus in America.  The horseshoe-shaped building that houses the collection was conceived in 1950 and constructed on site in 1965.  Its unique shape was purposely adapted to the artifacts it contains.

shelburne  031shelburne  042The main display that runs the length of the building is of a hand-carved miniature Arnold Circus Parade, measuring 525 linear feet. It’s carved on a scale of one-inch to one-foot and is the equivalent of one of the two-mile long processions that used to travel routes up to ten miles long.

shelburne  048shelburne  057This miniature recreates the pomp and pageantry of the extravagant processions that once heralded the arrival of the circus during the Golden Age of the circus between 1870-1950.  It took the artist 25 years to create with the help of five assistants.  Wow!

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shelburne  046The building also houses antique circus posters and a complete set of beautifully restored carousel figures.

shelburne  061And an intricate 3,500-piece miniature three-ring Kirk Bros. circus, which is considered a masterpiece of American folk art.  A brakeman for the Pennsylvania railway created it during his work breaks for his four children.  He used a simple penknife and foot-powered jigsaw and spent forty years to complete it!

shelburne  030There is an operating vintage 1920s carousel outside.  Something about carousels brings back happy memories of my childhood :).

shelburne  086shelburne  088Then there is the Ticonderoga, a 220-foot Lake Champlain steamboat that’s a National Historic Landmark.  Electra had not intended to collect a steamboat, but she was persuaded to save it from the scrap heap.    And she spent millions relocating it to the museum and renovating it to its 1923 glory.

shelburne  089What was fascinating to us about the Ticonderoga was how luxurious it is.  The boat was basically a ferry that made day trips across Lake Champlain from various points in Vermont to various points in New York.  But it existed during a more glamorous era.

shelburne  092The woods, fabrics and other materials are luxurious.  The Ticonderoga is the last walking beam side-wheel passenger steamer in existence.

Thank you, Electra for rescuing and preserving this beautiful example of another era.

A railroad exhibit with a 1915 10-wheel steel locomotive, a fully equipped railroad station and telegraph office and a private luxury railcar used by Dr. Webb and tons of other railroad themed items.

A log cabin designed to resemble an Adirondack hunting camp.  It contains lots of game heads, hunting trophies, woodcarvings, and Adirondack-inspired furniture.

A fully stocked general store with a barbershop, post office and taproom and an Apothecary Shop with patent medicines (still contained in the flasks) and medical equipment.  Amazing!

The Electra Havermeyer Memorial Building – furniture, art, even original molding from the founder’s New York City apartment were relocated to a faux house built for the purpose of showcasing them.  Some excellent old west bronzes were on display in one of the rooms.

An antique toy collection.shelburne  099

shelburne  103A weaving and quilting display.shelburne  102

shelburne  106shelburne  105They even had a covered bridge!shelburne  077shelburne  078shelburne  076

We spent almost an entire day at the museum and didn’t see everything.  For example, we didn’t see the firearms collection which apparently is pretty extensive.  And we missed a number of art, furniture, and decorative arts collections because we simply ran out of time.

shelburne  073We left right at closing.  The tickets to the museum  are good for two days, and, even though we managed to see quite a bit in one day, we can certainly understand why!

~ Brenda

The Adirondack Mountains

adirondacks  023adirondacks  002adirondacks  003adirondacks  001burlington  061adirondacks  091adirondacks  004Burlington’s location by Lake Champlain is ideal for a side trip to New York.  And, upon the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Rebecca!) we decided to take the ferry over to the Adirondack Mountains.

There are several ferries crossing the Lake to New York, but we chose the longest route, which was also the closest to Burlington.  This ferry is considered the most scenic.  But because of the cloudy, rainy weather, we waited it out for a few days, and wound up taking the ferry on the final day of its season (the other two ferries continue year-round).

We’d learned recently that there is a “sea monster” that is said by some to inhabit Lake Champlain, who’s been nicknamed Champ.  There have been hundreds of reported sightings.

The first reported sighting was in 1883 by Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney, described as a gigantic water serpent about 50 yards away.  The first sighting of the Loch Ness monster occurred 50 years later.

One theory is that Champ may be a plesiosaur (same theory as the Loch Ness monster), because both lakes have a lot of similarities; over 400 feet deep, and both formed from retreating glaciers.

Others believe that people are mistaking common species or other objects for a “monster”,  or that it’s all a hoax.  But the marketing department in Burlington has taken full advantage there are a number of cute sculptures of Champ around.

adirondacks  005adirondacks  006The ferry ride was very pleasant, although we did not see any prehistoric creatures, and we met some nice folks.

Once across we travelled some pretty country roads headed to Whiteface Mountain and Lake Placid.  It was a beautiful drive with the colors not quite at peak but still lovely.

adirondacks  009adirondacks  010adirondacks  019adirondacks  018adirondacks  017adirondacks  007adirondacks  008There is a road to drive up to the top of Whiteface Mountain and there is also a gondola that takes you to the top.  We had Angel with us, so we couldn’t do the gondola and there was a huge traffic jam at the entrance to the road to the top so we bailed.

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adirondacks  020We continued to Lake Placid, Hector and I were eager to see the town where the 1932 and 1980 Olympics were held.  Lake Placid is a very cute town.  The lake setting is quite striking and there are gorgeous homes surrounding it.  But it was pretty congested and crowded.

adirondacks  024So we continued our dirve to check out some of the Olympic sites.  Our first stop was at the ski jump ramps, which are free standing and built on top of the mountain.  The previous ski jump we saw is in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and is built into the mountainside. The ones here were even more impressive.

adirondacks  027adirondacks  028Standing next to the ski jump ramps makes you appreciate just how crazy the ski jumpers are.  Amazing!adirondacks  026adirondacks  025adirondacks  029

adirondacks  030adirondacks  021Next, we drove over to the bobsled track area and found out that they offered bobsled rides on the old Olympic track.  Not my cup of tea, but Hector was pretty excited.

We arrived there just in time to take the last ride and he signed up.  It’s pretty pricey, but a once in a lifetime experience for him.adirondacks  031



As he was transported to the top, I was feeling a bit nervous about having the responsibility of capturing a photo of the bobsled as it made it to the finish line.  I knew I’d only have a couple of seconds to take the photos. Happily, I got a couple of good shots!  That’s Hector in the middle between the driver and the brakeman.

adirondacks  034adirondacks  091 (1)Hector loved his 42.54 second ride and that made me happy.adirondacks  037adirondacks  039adirondacks  038adirondacks  032

It was time to drive back and we made it just in the nick of time for the ferry ride back.

adirondacks  042adirondacks  041adirondacks  040Although it was a very short tour of the area, we really enjoyed seeing the beautiful Adirondacks and Lake Placid up close.

And Hector got to ride the bobsled, something he’s always wanted to do.  Not bad for a quick day trip.

~ Brenda

Vermont’s Champlain Valley

burlington  076Okay, it’s official.  We LOVE Vermont.  Granted, she is wearing her beautiful autumn petticoat, but it’s not just the beautiful mountains and quaint towns we love, it’s the people and the vibe.  Huge focus on the environment and a pervasive local food movement.burlington  042

We stayed at North Beach State Park in Burlington.  From our campsite, we could walk to the “beach” at Lake Champlain, overlooking the Adirondack Mountains in New York.

burlington  036burlington  035Burlington is a college town and has been called one of the most livable small cities in the U.S.  Downtown has lots of restaurants, bars, art galleries and shops.  There’s also a pedestrian mall with more shops, street vendors and performers.  And of course, there is the waterfront at Lake Champlain.burlington  034

burlington  071burlington  012As we went for one of our leaf peeping drives in the area, we found more of the charming covered bridges that Vermont is famous for.   In fact, Vermont has the largest number of covered bridges in the United States, there are just over 100!  Sadly, during Hurricane Irene two years ago, two covered bridges were destroyed and many sustained some type of damage.burlington  070burlington  013burlington  021burlington  065burlington  066burlington  064

burlington  041burlington  063But back to Burlington.  We toured the town, located the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop 🙂 and did a little shopping,burlington  031

The next day we went to the farmers market, a good size market with lots of great food.   Lunch options included Peruvian, African, Indian and others.  And we found more great cheese and many options from local farms that focus on sustainability.  Many of the offerings were organic as well.
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That evening, we went to that most traditional of Vermont activities:  the reggae party cruise ;-).   We noticed announcements about the cruise at the farmers market.  It sounded like a one time deal, as opposed to the typical tourist cruises, and was featuring a singer who was “actually from Jamaica”. We love being on the water and we love reggae, so it was a perfect combination.

We realized that the party was going to take place not on a regular tour boat but on one of the car ferries that goes over to New York – interesting.  It had been raining on and off since we arrived in Vermont, but fortunately, this was a perfect afternoon for a sunset cruise.  Clear and calm. burlington  037

burlington  043And so we set off with lots of college students and a few other older fogies like us. Well, as a genuine island girl I must say the reggae music was just ok, but the setting was fabulous.  We watched the sunset from the party ferry, had a few rum punches and danced.  A great time.burlington  052burlington  050burlington  045burlington  044burlington  055burlington  053burlington  051burlington  048burlington  049

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burlington  081We continued our leaf peeping by driving out to some other areas near Burlington, including Stowe, a very well known ski area.  The back roads of Vermont are stunning.  We often would just turn down a random road to see what we would find and more often than not would be rewarded with a beautiful scene.  burlington  068burlington  019burlington  025burlington  080burlington  003burlington  067

burlington  020burlington  008burlington  001burlington  026burlington  011burlington  079burlington  009burlington  083burlington  002burlington  088burlington  028burlington  085burlington  029burlington  086burlington  005burlington  077burlington  007burlington  084burlington  010burlington  017burlington  018burlington  075burlington  069burlington  073The weather was variable with some sunny days and some cloudy “white sky” days.  But the fall leaves were stunning just the same.

And we found more of those beautiful covered bridges.  Why were these bridges covered anyway?

burlington  014burlington  006There are theories that they were covered so the horses wouldn’t get spooked when they realized they were above flowing water, or to protect the flooring from snow.  But the real reason is that they were covered to protect the structural members – the trusses.  That is why most have lasted so long.

burlington  022burlington  082burlington  015And another thing, the covered bridges were sometimes called “kissing bridges” because couples could kiss in private.  So Hector and I decided to stop the car in the middle of one of the bridges that had a sign saying “kissing bridge” and kiss.

A woman was driving to the bridge from the other side and, rather than getting irritated at having to wait, gave us a big thumbs up.  I love Vermont.

~ Brendaburlington  089

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom

vermont NEK  109When I heard that there was an area of Vermont called the Northeast Kingdom, I knew that I had to go there.  It just sounded like a fairy tale.  It’s located, of course, in the northeast corner of the state and is the most undeveloped area in Vermont.vermont NEK  018

vermont NEK  001vermont NEK  003We had a lovely campsite by the Moose River in St. Johnsbury (Moose River Campground … imagine that).  We’ve come to really appreciate the smaller, privately owned campgrounds.  Many of these campground owners are very proud of their campgrounds and keep them immaculate and nicely decorated.  Much appreciated.

Moose River Campground had several really nice antique tractors that were still in use around the campground.vermont NEK  004

vermont NEK  060St. Johnsbury is the largest town in the Northeast Kingdom, by population (over 7,000).   We arrived just as the leaves were starting to turn, which was our intention, since we planned to be in the state for a month.vermont NEK  005

On our first day we took a nice drive around the area and stopped in at Dog Mountain, 150 acres of privately owned land on a mountain stop nearby.   The artist Stephen Huneck, who made beautiful paintings and carvings of dogs, usually black or golden labs, bought the property and turned the barn into a studio space.  During a near death experience, Mr. Huneck was inspired to build the Dog Chapel on the property.  It opened in 2000.

vermont NEK  010vermont NEK  006I was not prepared for the impact that the Dog Chapel would have on us.  As we walked in, the first thing we noticed was that the walls were completely covered (more than once over) with notes and photos memorializing dogs.  Combined with the beautiful place, stained glass windows and wood carvings designed by the artist, it took our breath away and made us choke up.  What a wonderful inspiration.vermont NEK  009vermont NEK  007

Sadly, Mr. Huneck commited suicide a few years ago, after financial problems forced him to close down some of his galleries and lay off a number of employees.  His wife, Gwendolyn, committed suicide earlier this year.  The chapel now memorializes them as well, making it even an more impactful place.vermont NEK  008vermont NEK  016vermont NEK  017

vermont NEK  019After visiting the chapel and the gallery with Angel, we drove over to Montpelier, the capital of Vermont.  Montpelier is also the smallest capital city in the United States – charming.

vermont NEK  025Next we took a tour Ben & Jerry’s Factory, located just outside Montpelier.   I must confess that I never tried Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  I’m not sure why, but I was always more of a Hagen Dazs kind of girl. vermont NEK  021

Anyhow, the tour was great fun, and the story of these two guys, who built this ice cream empire after splitting a $5 correspondence course on ice cream making from Penn State University, is very cool.vermont NEK  026vermont NEK  027

vermont NEK  022vermont NEK  023Ben & Jerry sold the business a few years ago and it’s now a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever with “a (very!) independent Board of Directors that’s empowered to protect and defend Ben & Jerry’s brand equity, integrity and product quality”.vermont NEK  029

After tasting some of their ice creams, I’ve become a Ben & Jerry’s fan, and have been chasing down their ice cream shops since then.vermont NEK  028

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vermont NEK  040Staying on the food topic, on Saturday we went to the farmers market in St. Johnsbury, continuing our “tour” of farmers markets.  When we arrived in the town center, we saw a very cute town parade, which kicked off their fall fair.  And the farmers market was a smallish but quality market.

The fall fair also included various outdoor concerts and activities at the Catamount Arts Center.  We spent some time watching women drumming at the Arts Center.  I find drumming very hypnotic and fun.

vermont NEK  048That same jam packed day, we took a quick peek at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium and found out that the Planetarium was offering free shows as part of the festival, so we stayed.  The museum is northern New England’s museum of natural history and the planetarium is Vermont’s only public planetarium.

vermont NEK  049This museum is possibly one of the most unique museums I’ve ever visited. The building itself is magnificent, made of red sandstone, with towers, rounded arches, eyebrow windows and carvings.  The interior has an oak barrel vault ceiling running the length of the building.

The museum was a gift to the town by Franklin Fairbanks, nephew of inventor Thaddeus Fairbanks, who invented the platform scale, and his wife, Frances.

vermont NEK  053vermont NEK  050The main floor of the museum is dedicated to natural science.  There is an extensive collection of preserved animals including snakes, a Kodiak and Polar bears, a koala, birds of all kinds including a fascinating collection of hummingbirds and many, many more.  Mr. Fairbanks’ original collection was housed on the third floor of his mansion, referred to as his “Cabinet of Curiosities”.  It contained 450 birds, rocks and minerals and various artifacts from several countries including Japan, China and Egypt.

The museum’s late taxidermist, William Balch, of Lunenburg, Vermont, was one of the first to create lifelike dioramas.  The museum contains dioramas of flamingoes, opossums, muskrats, Birds of Paradise, bison and moose.  All of Mr. Balch’s work was accomplished without the help of plastic, Styrofoam or aluminum.

vermont NEK  047The second floor’s collections include artifacts donated by friends and employees of the Scale Company who brought these back from their travels.  These include fossils, arrowhead, Egyptian mummies, early toys, a doll collection and objects from the Civil War.  In total the museum contains over 175,000 objects.

The Northern New England Weather Center is located in the basement of the building. where two of Vermont’s meteorologists broadcast weather forecasts on commercial radio and Vermont Public Radio.  They are called the “Eye on the Sky” and get it right most of the time by the way.  The meteorologists from Maine and Eastern Canada could use some coaching from these guys :-).

vermont NEK  051vermont NEK  052The planetarium show was pretty interesting, though not exactly “out of this world”.  What was out of this world was their Omniglobe, a 60-inch diameter sphere that allows viewers to display patterns and trends of our planet by pressing different buttons.  The globe can show tectonic plate movement, weather graphics, languages of the world, antique map views, and global systems and how we experience them locally, for example, there’s a display of the Japanese Tsunami and its global reach.  The globe can also become the moon and other planets.  I could have played with it for hours!  But the museum closed :-(.

vermont NEK  068vermont NEK  069The next day we took advantage of the fact that St. Johnsbury is located six miles from the New Hampshire border and crossed over to New Hampshire.  We drove around a loop called the White Mountains Trail, New Hampshire’s most scenic drive.vermont NEK  078vermont NEK  054

vermont NEK  079vermont NEK  057vermont NEK  081vermont NEK  080vermont NEK  105vermont NEK  110vermont NEK  085vermont NEK  075vermont NEK  108vermont NEK  071vermont NEK  106vermont NEK  055Of the multitude of options for hiking and touring found along the drive, we opted to take the short loop trail in Flume Gorge, a natural gorge located at the base of Mount Liberty and extending 800 feet. vermont NEK  102

A boardwalk was built on the side of the gorge to allow visitors to walk easily through the gorge and to a 45 foot waterfall, Avalanche Falls, at the top.  A pretty spectacular place.vermont NEK  091vermont NEK  092vermont NEK  095

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vermont NEK  098vermont NEK  099We took another short walk to see Sabbaday Falls, a very pretty waterfall, and one of the most popular in New Hampshire due to its accessibility.vermont NEK  100vermont NEK  077

vermont NEK  073vermont NEK  070vermont NEK  058vermont NEK  056vermont NEK  094vermont NEK  107vermont NEK  076vermont NEK  065vermont NEK  063vermont NEK  067vermont NEK  062Continuing our drive, we also saw a number of pretty covered bridges which are found throughout the area.  And of course the beautiful colors of fall all around us.  So far, fall did not disappoint.

~ Brendavermont NEK  066vermont NEK  096