Our first morning out was a bit damp and cool, but it didn’t stop us from making our trek. We set out for Woodstock, and the nearby Sugarbush Farm. Along the way we spotted our first Covered Bridge. Vermont is home to over 100 covered bridges. While covered bridges weren’t necessarily on our checklist, they are cool, and we stopped for several more during the trip.
After following the old winding roads that follow the river and lead to the farm, we arrived at the Sugarbush Farm. The goats greeted us, one was eagerly trying to get us to spend money to give him food, but they had a huge bale of hay, so we didn’t feel bad. We found our way into the cheese wrapping area and store where we sampled several delicious cheeses. But more importantly, sampled REAL VERMONT MAPLE SYRUP! Our hostess explained how the different grades occur, and told us about the sugarhouse, which was open to see how maple syrup is made.
After touring the sugarhouse, we made our way back to the byway and headed toward Brattleboro. Driving the byways is both beautiful and educational. There are many pockets of small populated areas, some are actual towns. One of our checklist items was Witch Windows (aka Coffin Windows). We saw only a couple during our drive the first day, and inevitably Jim would say, “There’s one.” and the car behind us would be too close for him to slow down or stop so I could take a picture.
We found our way to downtown Brattleboro and the Vermont Artisans Designs. The gallery displays beautiful arts and crafts made by Vermont Artisans. We spent quite a bit more time on the 2nd floor than I would have anticipated walking in. There were many unique items and a wonderful gallerist, Greg Worden, who told us about some of the work as well as American Craft Week. We wandered up the street to a local restaurant and had soup, New England Clam Chowder, and chili for lunch before heading out to find local Blacksmiths.
Our next destination was Grafton. There is a blacksmith shop there, and the website advertised that the smith would be in on Friday. We found a closed shop and stopped in the local gallery. The gallerist there pointed us to Chester. So we drove to Chester, most of the way GPS-free, because we entered a “No (cell) Service” zone in this part of the state. We found a small artisan outlet, though not exclusively Vermont artisans, but no Blacksmith. Jim had looked up another smith before we left the hotel and we pulled up his information and headed to Saxtons River to see if Ian Eddy was in. He was, and gracious to let us drop in, gave us a tour, Jim and Ian talked shop and tools while I admired his very fine work.
Ian said we needed to visit the Vermont Country Store which wasn’t too far up the road. And that’s where I found Anti Monkey-Butt Powder! Seriously, I had never heard of or seen it before – I know many of you have because you commented on my Facebook post. I must admit, I’m not sure why it’s the VERMONT Country Store, I’d guess only about 10-20% of the store is stocked with local merchandise. They do have a covered “kissing” bridge between the two parking lots.
Our final destination for the day was Bennington. I did the driving on this leg, so no photos of any of the pockets of houses and towns we went through. The drive was beautiful as it wound up, down and around the mountains. One of the things I noticed is that the houses in Vermont are very colorful! Sure, many white, cream and tan houses, but the houses in periwinkle, yellow, purple, pink, blue and rich greens easily outnumber them. The newer houses were generally double-wides, most with multiple additions. Many are very close to the road, similar to old Europe. I’m sure this is mostly to minimize snow removal.
We drove past ski resorts and down into Bennington. It’s not hard to find Bennington because the Bennington Battle Monument stands out. It was dinner time when we arrived, and found that most of downtown Bennington was, well, closed on a Friday night at 5:30. What made this more interesting to us is there was a lot of car traffic, and Standing Rock pipeline protestors on the main corner – but we’re not sure why since there really wasn’t anything to “do” as far as we could tell. We shared a Cottage Pie (YUM!) and Chocolate Mouse Pie (also yum!) at the Madison Brewing Company Pub before driving over to the monument. I wish I had my SLR and a tripod, the monument was beautifully framed by the stars that night.
Then back on the road to White River Junction for a good night’s sleep. Despite MOOSE signs on the interstate, we encountered none. I guess that’s good, they’re pretty big. By the way, the featured image at the top of this post is a flower pot in Brattleboro, I had never thought of planting cruciferous veggies as decoration, but why not?