Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Exploring Beautiful Southern Vermont

Along the western border of southern Vermont is the scenic Stone Valley Byway (Route 30) that traverses through fertile pastures, pristine lakes, and historic villages.  This byway certainly comes alive in the fall when towering trees glowing in hues of yellow and red stand in contrast to the green pastures.  The byway got its name from the marble and slate quarries that dot the land and helped shape much of the development in the area.  These sites remain important today both as active quarries providing economic resources in the area and as historic and recreational sites.

A campground in Dorset served as our base for exploring the area.  Dorset was chartered in 1761 and shortly thereafter the first marble quarry opened, which is thought to be the first such commercial operation in the country.  Over the next century and a half over 16 million cubic feet of marble were removed.  The remnants of those quarries are still visible today and serve as popular swimming holes and those up in the hills are fascinating places to hike.  The town of Dorset is tiny, barely one square block but packs a lot of Vermont charm.  The Village of Dorset is included in the National Register of Historic Places due to its outstanding and well-preserved colonial architecture.  The Dorset Inn is Vermont’s oldest continuously operating inn and with its picturesque charm draws many to the area.  Across the street is another staple the Dorset Union Store (in operation since 1816) which is where locals come to pick up a cup of hot coffee and a newspaper and where tourists gawk at Vermont-made treats and discover their freshly made baked goods and homemade ice cream.  Head next door to the 3 Pears Gallery which has two floors of original art pieces, handcrafted gifts, glass, pottery, and jewelry.  Another great store is the H.N. Williams General Store where centuries old wooden floors creak and shelves are filled with necessities like work gloves and dungarees, interesting curios, and food items.

Across the street from our RV Park was JK Adams, a kitchen supply store that has been hand making high-quality, wooden cutting boards, entertaining and kitchen storage products since 1945.  As you wind through the store you come to an upstairs viewing deck overlooking the factory.  Here you listen to the buzzing of band saws and smell sawdust as rough cut wood is turned into beautiful cutting boards, utensils and home d├ęcor.  On Sundays in the winter time, the quiet factory becomes the setting for the Dorset Farmers Market where you shop a myriad of vendors scattered among saws and stacks of wood products.   

Just north of Dorset, we discovered The Merck Forest and Farmland Center.  This was a great place for us to hike and soak in more of the majestic fall Vermont scenery.  The Center is a nonprofit educational organization on a mission to inspire curiosity, love and responsibility toward our natural and working lands.  The property consists of 3,162 acres which includes a managed forest, maple sugaring operation and a 62-acre farm open to the public for exploring.  The center is funded with income from the sale of sustainable forest products, maple syrup, lease payments, and cabin rentals which allows access by the public to remain free.    

The neighboring town of Manchester is known for its shopping with plenty of stores to drop your dough, but the reason we came to the town was to visit the American Museum of Fly Fishing.  The museum promotes stewardship of the history, traditions, and practices of the sport of fly fishing and promotes the conservation of its waters.  As a repository for the fly fishing sport, their collection includes 22,000 flies, 1,200 reels, 1,400 rods and some 700 artistic prints and paintings.  If the museum inspires you to cast a fly into a river then you are in luck because right next door is headquarters to Orvis and their flagship store where you can get all your fly fishing gear and apparel.

Also in Manchester is the Southern Vermont Art Center that was established in 1922 and is a regional hub of cultural, educational and creative expression.  The center sits on a hilltop surrounded by 100 acres of land at the foothills of the Taconic Mountains.  Here you will find art, sculpture, and performances that evoke thought and inspire creativity.  Admission to the museum is free and when you are done exploring the galleries, take some time to roam the grounds with beautiful sculptures and hiking trails.
What is a trip to Vermont without visiting a covered bridge?  These historic landmarks were built for function but their iconic structures conjure up a fond nostalgia and represent a beautiful part of our past.   Vermont is home to more than 100 covered bridges, boasting more covered bridges per square mile than any other U.S state.  The bridges date back to 1820 but most were constructed during the mid and late 19th Century.  Tucked down a quiet road in the town of Arlington is the Chiselville Bridge which spans the Roaring Branch.  Built in 1870 the bridge is also known as the “High Bridge” for surviving a major flood but its most famous for the sign declaring there is a “One Dollar Fine for Driving Faster than a Walk on This Bridge.”  Basically, slow down and enjoy a piece of the past.

After our visit to the covered bridge we stopped in at the nearby Sugar Shack.  Not only do they make pure Vermont maple syrup and an assortment of hand-picked products from Vermont but they have an exhibit about the famed illustrator Norman Rockwell.  Rockwell was a resident of Arlington, Vermont from 1939-1953 and the Sugar Shack has an exhibit that focuses on Rockwell’s work during the time he lived there.  His use of over 200 local people as models that were featured on some of his most famous covers and illustrations.   Rockwell was noted for his paintings of everyday people and situations that represented life in small towns in America.   The exhibit is free, but be warned, you may fall prey to the homemade maple candies, cider donuts, and other baked goods.

Our three days in Dorset were pretty busy.  Fall is a beautiful time to visit Vermont as the autumn colors illuminate the countryside.  Whether it is shopping, history, and being out in nature, there is a lot to enjoy along the Stone Valley Byway and in southern Vermont. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nancy and Betty we bought a house in Ocala headed there now stop in anytime plenty of room foryour rv.921 ne 3rd str Ocala Fla putschy and laurie


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