How can I convey to you the sheer awesomeness that is Vermont? Let’s start simple: it is amazing. I’ve heard from numerous sources over the years that it’s a beautiful state, the fall colors are gorgeous, and the people are rad… but I don’t think I fully comprehended the full scope of what they were trying to convey until I was there in person.
We stayed in Burlington, specifically in a campground nestled back in the trees along the shore of Lake Champlain. I’ve become used to the voracity of ocean waves and beaches, so I was pleasantly surprised at how calm the lake was and at the deep sense of peacefulness it evoked. It was far too chilly to go swimming, but we walked hand-in-hand along the empty beach and watched the sailboats glide slowly over the water. Koa broke the rules and frolicked in the lake when no one was looking, then chased falling leaves and bounded over the playground equipment like a goofy puppy. All in all it was a soothing way to recharge our batteries after the last few weeks of constant traveling.
One of the many motivations for this RV trip is to hopefully discover new places where we might like to live. We envision ourselves ultimately settling back in the SF bay area, but we’re still open to finding new locales that catch our hearts… if not for a lifetime, then perhaps just for a year or two. In the three months we’ve been on the road, though, we’ve yet to find any place that we wanted to add to the list (with the possible exception of Seattle)… until we got to Vermont.
The only slight hiccup in our plan (lakeside home, a dock, acres for Koa to romp on, and maybe a small apple orchard) was the realization that it snows here — a lot! The four people we spoke to about the infamous New England winter storms tried to reassure us that the winters aren’t nearly as bad as we thought — It’s really only ten feet of snow! — There are only a couple of blinding snowstorms a year! — The temperature only drops to -10 degrees! We’re acclimated to San Diego, so all in all none of this was as reassuring as they seemed to think.
During our stay in Burlington we had dinner with Kali’s cousin, Sarah, who is currently a student at the University of Vermont. She gave us quite an honest assessment of the winter weather (yes, it can royally suck), which we appreciated, but she assured as that living in Vermont was well worth it. We still need to collect some more experiential data, but for now Vermont stays on the list.
Burlington itself is quite the charming little New England college town (as well as the largest city in Vermont… though also the smallest “largest city” in any state), so it was a perfect location for us to use as our staging ground while exploring other areas. We desperately wanted to see brilliantly hued trees, pumpkin patches, falling leaves – anything that made it feel like autumn! – so we packed the Jeep and set off for a long day of driving along back roads and through small towns.
We made a stop at the original Ben & Jerry’s Factory, where we took a short tour that included a huge sample of freshly-made ice cream and a visit to the Flavor Graveyard. A few miles down the road was the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, which still had an old-school cider press in use! It was basically just a machine that exerted over 1000 pounds of pressure on a bunch of apples, which squeezed the juice out of them and through a cheesecloth (and also onto the walls). After trying samples of various treats (apple cider spread, pumpkin butter, fudge, maple candy) we got a hot cup of apple cider and their special apple cider donuts, which we then ate on their porch swing while reading for a short spell.
We saw a number of covered bridges, lots of cool streams and strange rock formations, and what looked to be an abandoned ski-lift on a back road we probably weren’t meant to be driving on. We only got through 1/3 of our planned route because we kept following random signs, turning down random roads (many of which ultimately proved to be driveways… whoops), and taking pictures of random things along the highway. It was wonderful.
In a lot of ways the area reminded us of the Pacific Northwest, but with maple trees instead of evergreens. I’ve never seen “fall foliage” on the east coast before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. In my mind I envisioned every single tree being a brilliant orange or red hue… which isn’t exactly realistic, and it certainly didn’t prove to be the case. Once I adjusted my expectations, though, it was incredible to see so many different colors on trees next to one another, and sometimes on the same branch. Coming in and out of Burlington in the RV, I was struck by how different it was driving on Vermont’s highways than anywhere else we’ve been thus far; for the first time driving that behemoth I felt myself truly relax and enjoy taking in the scenery lining both sides of the road.