Today we decided to drive less, and spend more time at specific places. Laura had spotted an Audobon property about 20 miles from here. After breakfast, we headed out of town on Quarry Road to Highway 116. We were on the original road that we took into Middlebury on Monday, but this time it wasn’t raining, and the rural valley was quite scenic, including the small town of Bristol. A couple more country roads later, and we were in the village of Huntington. A sign just on the other side of town pointed the way to the Audubon site, which was down another dirt road.
At first we drove past, and wound up at Bill Pierce’s Bird Museum, just up the road. According to AAA, this looks like a real tourist trap trying to cash in on the nearby Audubon property. It features stuffed birds on display. I think I’ll stick to the real thing. We soon got turn around and came back the barn and house, and were able to spot the Welcome signs from this direction. Three carpenters were working on the barn, and a rich baritone belting out German lieder came from a jam box. Nope, we’re not in South Carolina. One of the workers told us about the site, and gave us a map with various trails and parking areas.
We made a quick trip back to the village and Jacques’ General Store, where Jacques gouged us for bug spray and batteries, then came back to the beaver pond parking area. We started along the pond trail, walking slowly because we were distracted by all the birds. We regretted not bringing our bird book, and we also regretted not buying a second pair of $10 Tasco binoculars. Oh well, even though we couldn’t identify much, we enjoyed, watching the birds. Several bird houses had young ones that looked about ready to fledge. I’m sure if we hadn’t been disrupting things, they would have ventured out.
Pond with beaver lodge.
The trail zig-zagged through a hemlock swamp and around several beaver ponds with some amazing lodges. At the edge of one pond, there was an observation blind. we entered, and were immediately attacked by a small bird. It had built a nest in the timbers, and its young were also about ready to fledge. Leaving quickly, we wandered through more woods, and eventually reached the banks of the Huntington River. The trail came to a maple syrup house, then back to our car. After our relatively short hike, we decided to cross over to the other parking area, and hike along the river banks some more. Soon, we were hot, hungry, and tired, and ready to find something to eat.
From the Audubon site, we headed north to the village of Richmond, which features an unusual round church, and houses its library in an old gothic-styled church. Lunch was a couple of fantastic sandwiches at the Tuscano Bistro, then we headed east on Highway 2 to Waterbury (and dessert.)
Highway 2 parallels I-89, and it felt weird being on the “wrong” side of the highway until we passed underneath. We took a northly turn on 100, and were soon at the entrance to the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory. We entered a multi-colored psychodelic wonderland, and bought tickets for a factory tour. A six-minute propaganda film told the story of Ben and Jerry, and how they built their empire. The most disappointing thing for me, was the revelation that they had sold out to Unilever, and were no longer involved with the company. The weird thing is, if you go to the Unilever website, you are hard pressed to find a listing of brands owned by the company. Now B&J is in the some corporate family as Country Crock, Bertolli, Lipton, and Slimfast. At least Unilever seems to be continuing the progressive policies that Ben and Jerry put in place.
After the film, we were shown the factory floor, which is surprisingly small. Only about 23 people at a time work on a shift. Laura lamented that our guide didn’t give many details, such as why a multi-step, very slow process is used for freezing. I said that most of these people couldn’t handle as many details as her scientific mind, and they probably wanted to get this over to get to the free samples.
Eventually we did get to the samples. We could taste both a new strawberry-chocolate concoction, and a caramel swirl. The elderly tour group that was with us moved faster than I had seen them move all tour, and descended on the samples like piranhas. Still, we got our taste, and were allowed back for seconds, and thirds. They were bite-sized samples. Our tour guide said that she was given three pints of ice cream each day to take home. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. She did state that the company has a health club and offers frequent cholesterol screenings.
We left without purchasing anything more. As we headed north on 100, it occurred to me that that was the first time I can remember actually tasting Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Since Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip is nature’s perfect food, I had never really found an opportunity. It was good, but I still like my favorite.
Our final target for the day was the tourist community of Stowe. When we were getting the rental car, the clerk asked us if we were going to Stowe, as if that were the only desination for someone touring Vermont – almost as if anyone going to Missouri MUST go to Branson. Stowe pretty much lived up to our expectations – the only bit of overdevelopment we have seen this trip, with horrendous traffic. Stowe is a ski area at the foot of Vermont’s tallest mountain, Mount Mansfield. Also in this area is the Trapp Lodge, founded by the von Trapp Family of “Sound of Music” fame. As we skipped the turnoff to the lodge, Laura started singing Edleweiss, and I couldn’t get the song out of my head for the rest of the drive. I think they call that an “earworm.”
We turned northwest onto highway 15, heading up the mountain and toward the ski area. More development, which thankfully stopped as we approached the peak. The road narrowed to one lane which wound through some amazing boulders. There was a parking area at the highest part of the road, Smuggler’s Notch. The area was bordered by more boulders, and I had to get out and scramble on the rocks. Before we got married, I used to go rock climbing and rappelling, and crawling among the monoliths reminded me of that feeling. After climbing as high as I could before freaking Laura out, I climbed back down to the car, and we continued down the other side of the pass to the town of Jonesville.
|The sign reads “District No 5 School”. I didn’t know we had any schools up here.|
Jonesville was our northernmost stop, and the trip back to Middlebury was uneventful, tiring, and loaded with traffic. At one point, we passed a white frame school house with a sign that said District No. 5 School. I just had to stop and take a picture. For the most part, the trip was the same tiny roads and small villages we had seen elsewhere, and we were fighting sleep.
Back in Middlebury, the town was hopping. The old town hall directly across the street from the Inn had just been restored as a community theatre, and tonight was opening night. The show was “Little Shop of Horrors”, and we watch folks coming and going wearing some very unusual outfits. These were the patrons there for the gala, and weren’t in the cast. Looked like fun.
Dinner was pseudo-Mexican at Amigos, just down from the Inn, and afterwards we went for a casual stroll around the town center. We learned that the guy who designed the Ben & Jerry’s cows lives here, and has a studio and gallery in town. We also learned that John Deere learned blacksmithing in Middlebury before moving to the Midwest. The rest of the evening was spent online with someone from tech support because this website wasn’t working.