Vermont Beer-cation . . . and a Chair!

 

IMG_0484 (1)Last year, my husband and I travelled to the Burlington, Vermont area for a week. You can read all about it in Biking, Birding, and Brews. This year, we went back to the same area again. I considered calling this entry “Second Annual Biking, Birding, and Brews”, but even though we did mount the bikes atop the Subaru again, we didn’t ride this time. And our birding adventures were carefully planned around beer delivery times. So, really, let’s call this four-night trip a thinly disguised beer run. I’m not complaining, mind you. (If I feel the need to say that, does it mean I actually am complaining? Hmm.) Anyway…I did get a chair out of the deal! Stay with me here…

We arrived in Burlington just before dinner on a Saturday and serendipitously (gotta love that word!) met our nephew and his girlfriend in our hotel parking lot. Their brewery tour van was delivering guests to our hotel before bringing them to their hotel. We made dinner plans for the Farm House Tap & Grill. Once there, I enjoyed a delicious piece of salmon while my husband savored Hill Farmstead’s “Edward” on tap. 🙂 Our nephew described all the spots they’d visited on their brewery tour and recommended Zero Gravity Brewery. Of course, we dutifully checked it out the very next day…

Church Street in downtown Burlington is lined with small shops that range from chain IMG_0197stores to novelty, one-of-a-kind places. After our late dinner, most of them were closed. I remembered being disappointed by that fact last year, too. So, we peered into a few windows on Saturday night and vowed to come earlier on Sunday so that we could actually browse in the shops. Which we did.

In Ten Thousand Villages, I found a chair. I was first attracted by its colorful woven fabric which turned out to be recycled saris. But when I sat in it, I fell in love! I stand a whole five feet tall, so a chair small enough to allow my feet (not just my toes) to reach the floor is special. And the front edge of the seat curved downward rather than cutting into the back of my knees. A rare quality! The price seemed a bit high, but my husband suggested it would look great in my “meditation room”. The room he was referring to is my spare bedroom/ sewing room/ craft room that I also use for meditating. I’d painted the room “spring leaf” green several years ago — a bright green that makes me smile every time I see it. And my husband was right: the chair would be perfect in that room!

There was only one problem: the Subaru was full of beer coolers and bike tires and we needed room for our backpacks and suitcase, as well. There was no room for a chair. Could we make room? We weren’t so sure. Ten Thousand Villages has stores in other locations a lot closer to home, but even if one of those had a similar chair in stock, chances were the colors would be different. I really wanted this one. I think the clerks were as sad as I was when we left the store. But we had a few days to figure something out.

The cool, wet weather of Saturday and Sunday gave way to warmer sunshine for the beginning of the week. We scored several cases of Heady Topper

from Route 7 Liquors, the Beverage Warehouse in Winooski, City Market Onion River Co-op in Burlington, and even a local gas station. We also picked up some Lawson’s Super Session #2. The coolers were filling up. But the outlook for chair-purchasing was bleak.

We visited the Ethan Allen Homestead two days in a row for some early morning, pre-beer-delivery birdwatching. We heard more birds than we saw, but the trail was pleasant.

We did see the usual sparrows,DSC_0214 (1) red-winged blackbirds, woodpeckers, goldfinches, robins, nuthatches, and even a lone mallard floating in the swamp. DSC_0182 (1)We also spied the back end of a deer that was snacking on swamp grass and a colorful frog attempting to hide near the path. DSC_0243 (1) It was hard (for me) to leave all the wildlife behind to go stand in line for beer, but that was the deal. Meanwhile, I found myself brooding over the chair…

We spent a few hours one day hiking a 4.5 mile trail around Shelburne Farms. The trail started behind the farm’s street-front country store, and led us back over a hill to the farmhouses hidden from view, through the woods behind the farmhouses, and along a mowed path through the fields, stretching to the edge of Lake Champlain.

The views were breathtaking!

We met a few people along the way, but not many. We spied a few birds, sheep, donkeys, chickens, and goats, too. But mostly just the two of us walked through the expansive fields under the huge sky together. It almost took my mind completely off the chair. 🙂

On Tuesday, we knew we’d be checking out of our hotel the next morning. It was our last chance to figure out if we could fit the chair in the car. Maybe we could squeeze the large suitcase on top of the bigger cooler, which was already full of beer. I was willing to move my passenger seat forward and upright. Heck, I’d carry stuff on my lap, too, if it meant we could maneuver a chair in behind me.

We drove into downtown Burlington one last time. I carry a small tape measure in my IMG_0486purse which comes in handy every once in a while. So, we measured the space we’d made in the car, parked a block away, fed the meter, and headed to the store. When I saw the chair again, I almost laughed. It looked so small! It had grown bigger in our minds as we tried to imagine stuffing it into our cooler-laden vehicle! A different clerk greeted us and asked if we were the ones that the whole staff had been talking about and were hoping would come back for the chair! We were. She invited us to drive up to the back door and actually try to fit it into the car. If it fit, then we could buy it! And guess what??? It fit!

On Wednesday morning, we packed up the car, carefully storing smaller bags under and around the chair. I was so thrilled to have my chair that I hardly minded spending most of the day in the car. First, we drove northeast to Hill Farmstead in Greensboro for the limited release of Damon (an imperial stout named after a dog). Then we drove several hours south to Treehouse Brewery in Monson, MA for some Alter Ego and Green. Finally, another couple of hours brought us home. And at the end of the day, my chair was home, too. 🙂

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Biking, Birding, and Brews: A Vermont Vacation…

IMG_0181On Sunday morning, with our bikes secured to the roof of the Subaru XV, a bit of luggage and two empty hundred-quart Coleman coolers in the back, we pulled out of our driveway and headed north. We had reservations at Smart Suites in South Burlington and a semblance of a plan: to do some biking and some bird-watching, and to investigate the local craft beer scene. Those who know me well might be confused about that last part. But keep in mind that a good marriage is built on mutual respect, which means a good vacation includes compromise. Let’s just say that my husband has a built-in designated driver! And I come in pretty handy when there’s a one-case-per-person limit. For my part, I got to choose our accommodations: amenities and a good deal beat a room with a view.

After pulling over at a covered bridge on Route 9 in Southern Vermont
DSC_0550to eat a lunch freshly prepared at the Vermont Country Deli, we arrived at our first destination: Southern Vermont Museum of Natural History in Marlboro, Vermont.
DSC_0566A small place with big name. Here, we got an up close view of a lot of dead birds. But it was fascinating…really! The museum houses the collection of a man named Luman Ranger Nelson, who was able to preserve more than two hundred bird specimens of the northeastern United States in the early 1900s ( a time when humans beings were still in denial about our ability to render a species extinct). A few live, rescued birds also reside at the museum. My favorite were a pair of tiny screech owls. 🙂

Outside, we took in the tri-state, hundred-mile view…

…then headed north to Burlington.

IMG_0197On Sunday evening, Church Street in downtown Burlington provided window-shopping, a stroll (under an umbrella), and dinner. The Farm House Tap & Grill became our new favorite! (We ended up there three nights in a row.) My husband enjoyed his first taste of Hill Farmstead’s Conduct of Life. (That’s a beer — for those who have no more of a clue than I do!).

Monday morning saw our first beer run of the week. A delivery of Heady Topper from The Alchemist brewing company was set to arrive at Route 7 Liquors in South Burlington between 10 and 11 a.m. We showed up early and got in line.

Our reward: two cases of Heady Topper!

Lots of ice needed to keep things cold for the week!

The drizzle of Monday morning let up enough for us to get in a bike ride along the shores of Lake Champlain…

At lunchtime, we checked out the Fiddlehead Brewing Company in Shelburne, bought a couple of growlers, and a wood-fired pizza at Folino’s next door….

then headed to the Switchback Tap Room in Burlington for a quick beer flight.

The rain moved back in, so we decided to hit the Roxy Cinema in Burlington for a movie before dinner.

Tuesday morning, we made our first attempt at bird watching along the Intervale trail. Unfortunately, it rained on our birding parade…
DSC_0634and we had plans to pick up two more cases of Heady Topper at the Winooski Beverage Company.

So, we waited in line outside and the truck arrived incognito. A few minutes later, they unlocked the doors and snaked us in an orderly fashion through the store and around to the back to pick up our one-case-per-person!

Afterwards, we made one more attempt at the Intervale trail, but it was already late morning. There was evidence of wildlife, but no bird sightings. 😦

A quick stop at the hotel to shower and pack a lunch, then we ran into Burlington for one more case of Heady Topper (are you counting??) at City Market…
DSC_0647…then off to the Shelburne Museum. The main attraction for me here was an exhibit called “Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic.” Remember the I Spy books? They were Wick’s creation. My kids loved them and the photos impressed me. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the exhibit. We found several other interesting exhibits there, as well: paintings, photography, historic buildings, and quilts, among others.

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Wednesday morning, the City Market in Burlington was expecting a delivery of Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine. No lines and hardly a wait!

DSC_0685After that, we headed back to the Shelburne Museum, since admission pays for a two-day pass and a headache on my part had cut Tuesday’s visit short. This time, we explored the inside of the Ticonderoga.

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It was late afternoon when we stopped at Shelburne Farms, just down the road. I had originally wanted to take a tour and see the cheese-making in progress, but it was too late in the day. So, we shopped: three-year aged cheddar (soooo good!) and a birthday gift for one of my daughters. My husband rode his bike from the farm back to the hotel…that was all the biking we ended up doing for the week.

Thursday morning brought sunshine for our second birding attempt. Back in Winooski, we started at Salmon Hole. The plan was to start there and then drive up to the Ethan Allen homestead trails. We ended up spending three hours at Salmon Hole instead! The following photos are not the best quality, but they were indispensable in helping me to identify some of the birds we saw…

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We also caught glimpses of a cardinal, Canada geese, some type of plover, a slew of black birds, and a crow.

On Thursday, we had a dinner invitation from friends, Tom and Patty, who live in Stowe, VT. Our plan was to drive through Waterbury and Stowe to Greensboro, about an hour north of Stowe. There, we hoped to find Hill Farmstead Brewery. And we did… miles off the paved roads, up on a hill. The place was hopping!

Dinner at Tom and Patty’s was great! My husband brought a few non-Vermont beers to share: Trillium Vicinity, Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, and Trillium Pot & Kettle oatmeal porter for desert. He also shared one of the growlers we bought at Fiddlehead Brewing Company.

The view of the mountains from their front deck was amazing! I even got to do a bit of bird-watching while my husband shared his beer finds with them. A large bird hid in the tall grass of their sloping side yard. They thought it was a wild turkey and I couldn’t tell, even with binoculars. So, I took a few photos. The bird was well-hidden and I couldn’t  see it when I came down the slope onto even ground with it. Here’s the very fuzzy glimpse I got…I’m thinking ruffed grouse?? Any other guesses?
DSC_0871Friday morning we packed up and checked out of our hotel. We planned to drive south, down Route 7, all the way to the top western corner of Massachusetts, where our youngest would be graduating from college on Saturday. Along the way, we had to stop at Robert Frost’s former house in Shaftsbury, VT.

No photos were allowed to be taken inside. But the highlight for me was seeing the original scratching of “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” framed in the room where he wrote it. 🙂

Friday night, we landed in North Adams, MA, at the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA. All in all, it was a full week and fun Vermont vacation!