The family and I returned home this week from our camping adventure in the wonderful wilds of Vermont. I have been intrigued by this state within our union for some time. Being a progressive hearted and minded woman and hearing about all the amazing things they are doing in this mountainous, mostly agricultural state of roughly 600K residents, naturally, I just had to experience it myself!
Besides all the delicious offerings of maple syrup, bakeries, cheese, ice cream and wineries (and breweries) Vermont's on the cutting edge of technology in renewable energy! They are helping to preserve natural resources by harnessing and producing sustainable, renewable electric power to 100% of its residents within their largest city, Burlington. Everywhere we traveled, we noticed solar power panels in farm fields, on rooftops of homes and even noticed a small solar powered camp site where we pitched our tent for 5 days at Button Bay State Park. Even the bath houses at the park had solar panels! They are putting the environment and their people first and foremost for the good of all - what's not to LOVE?!
Our first stop: beautifully tranquil Lake Champlain
Our first full day in Vermont was spent exploring Burlington and Waterbury. It just so happens that a fellow high school classmate of my husband's (another Twin Valley grad!) owns and operates a bakery & café in Burlington, about 2 blocks from Burlington's Shipyard on Lake Champlain called August First. This was our first stop for an early lunch. They serve breakfast all day on Sundays and the menu was chock full of amazing offerings - there aren't many bakeries/cafes where we live that offer tofu scramble or avocado toast with feta cheese and roasted red peppers, if any for that matter! August First is also a wifi-less, real face-to-face conversation encouraging kind of place. They even offer shelves loaded with books and kids toys to interact with as opposed to the screens of today. Wow, how refreshing this was! Not only was their fare deliciously nourishing, the down-home ambience and top-notch service was pleasing to the senses. We were sad though that we missed Kurt's classmate, Jodi and her husband, but it was so neat to meet their adult daughter. It would have been great fun to see Jodi after all these years. Many fond, generous thanks to August First for the treats and smiles!! Keep up the good works, friends!
After lunch we walked down to the shipyard. I spotted a loon dipping and diving under the water. What a life to live on the water!
Rocks, rocks and more Rocks! These girls love to collect them! Anybody else find rocks galore in pockets, under the car seats, in between car cushions... after your own excursions?
Then we were off in search of ICE CREAM!! And, guess what! We found it! Ben & Jerry's factory tour was as flavorful, colorful and euphoric as you can imagine only Ben & Jerry's to be! Nobody is allowed to snap pictures within the factory - so you'll just have to go yourself and experience the tour. You won't leave hungry, and that's a promise. I did manage to get a few shots though to share with you...
I love how forward their thinking is and how they are making a positive impact on our planet and its residents with sustainable practices and only non-GMO ingredients in their goodies. Our tour guide told us that he is given 3 pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream a day (a day?!) - holy cow!! Talk about earning company dividends to enrich and nourish your, uh, tummy! ;) How thoughtful of the kind and generous folks at Ben & Jerry's to take such good care of their employees.
A new day and a new bottle of maple syrup to keep the family smiling first thing in the morning. Kurt whipped up some good ol' fashioned flapjacks on the griddle over the Coleman stove.
Well, not everyone in our family has a happy face first thing in the morning...
We were off in search of a boat rental. A canoe, more specifically. I was a bit hesitant and nervous to take my gear out on the water, but the adventurer in me said "go for it!" Thankfully, all went well and we had smooth sailing. We found the available rental at the next state park to the north of Button Bay - Kingsland Bay State Park. Another absolutely beautiful park to visit.
The next few images are common scenes for summertime in the Vermont countryside: bales of hay; classic New England architecture; an organic vegetable roadside stand; and miles and miles of farmland (with solar panels).
Storm warning! I captured this one with my iPhone as thunderstorms moved in over Lake Champlain and rained on our parade. It wasn't for long, as they traveled fairly light (lucky for us campers!).
The morning after a rainy, dewy night always brings some beautiful surprises all its own.
We were off again! This time in search of waterfalls and possibly some hiking. We heard from the locals that there was a well known swimming hole with falls in the quaint town of Bristol called Bartlett Falls running along the edge of the Green Mountain National Forest. Before seeking out the falls and swimming hole, we decided to explore Bristol and get some lunch. I was enchanted by this sweet Vermont town of Main Street shops and businesses and the variety of goods and services they had to offer to local residents, as well as visitors passing through. A common thought continuously ran through my mind by this point in our VT visit, "how do the local people sustain themselves so well?" Over and over again we hear about small businesses, "mom-n-pop" shops shuttering as the corporations move in and "progress" takes over. The bulldozers come and level ground, large department stores are built and then the inevitable happens - small businesses suffer the cost and close. I felt like we had gone back in time somehow as we traveled around Vermont's countryside and even in their larger cities. There was an independent sensibility that kept bubbling to the surface for me. I couldn't help but deeply admire this paradoxical spirit of forward thinking and innovation found in the care and resourcefulness of Vermont's energy policies, yet rejection of "progress" in the form of large corporate owned businesses, bulldozing their way through the small towns. It's apparent to me that Vermont's way of doing business, maintaining a sense of independence while respecting their natural resources is something of a learning curve for all. By George, I think they've got it!
Cubber's Restaurant, with its streaming 80s music and wall-to-wall nostalgic throwback images, was packed full of patrons during lunch hour on a Tuesday. Another chance to feel like we had gone back in time, recalling songs we hadn't heard in decades! What a classic gem this eatery served up! Their food was exceptional, taking care to cater to the vegetarians amongst us! And the complimentary fruit infused water was absolutely refreshing!! We can see why they were so busy on a hot summer day - without A/C, no less! Stop by when in Bristol and tell them "Pizza, Love & Harmony" is the perfect recipe!! :)
After peering into most all of the main street businesses and spending some dough, we found the falls and the swimming! There were a lot of folks out sunning themselves and dipping in the water to cool off.
As a kid, I did a load of camping every summer with my dad, stepmother and sister at state parks (and off trail, too!). I can remember that some of the best parts of camping in state parks were the friendships that were formed with other campers. And even though the friendships that were made were brief in the grand scheme of it all, those new friends are still some of my fondest memories of camping. So, when we (the girls included) noticed a bright, energetic girl biking around the campground who happened to be at the campsite across from us, and who looked to be about Emilia's age, I nudged the girls to go introduce themselves, say "hi!" They rejected my suggestion, playing shy, until their curiosity finally took over. After that they were so thankful that they made new friends, spending as much time together as possible. See, sometimes wisdom in years does pay off. ;)
Anyhow - funny story to share! It was our last night of camping and the neighbors invited us over for s'mores! Sure thing!! Who doesn't love s'mores?! Plus, getting to know new friends is always great fun!! So. While preparing for the s'mores, our new friends' grandpa injured his thumb while whittling the end of a stick for marshmallow toasting. He thought a band-aid would do the trick, but inevitably the cut was too deep and had to go to a hospital for suturing/bandaging. We all felt terrible for him. But we pushed on and while he and his son-in-law spent the evening at the hospital we sat around the campfire making s'mores, the kids played with other neighbor kids and we got to know one another a bit more. In all the commotion of the injury, and the s'more date our hosts had forgotten to put their trash away before it got dark. Kurt noticed it first. "Is that a skunk?!" Sure enough a rather large skunk had entered the campsite and proceeded to dig in the trash, finding his "spécialité du jour," ... a grilled cheese sandwich! Yikes!! Tail up and not intimidated by us humans whatsoever, we all just kept our distance as we watched him (or her?) hungrily devour his score. We tried shining a flashlight directly into his eyes - and at first it didn't seem to phase him - but then became irritated and growled at us! YIKES!! Tail up, but he eventually gave up and scurried back into the tall brush and trees along the shoreline of the lake. Whew! Quickly, our hosts cleaned up and put their trash away. Our new friend, Kera, named Mr. Skunk "Grilled Cheese." And it stuck! We finished up our s'mores and had some laughs about the craziness of the night and off we went to bed. The next morning we found out that "Grilled Cheese" came back for dessert - s'more remnants - at the feet of the ladies waiting for their guys to return from the hospital!!! Talk about an exercise in patience and steadiness (and not freaking out!!!). Eventually, "Grilled Cheese" had his fill and scurried off again. The ladies were fine, nobody was harmed or caught wind of "Grilled Cheese!" Talk about an eventful night of camping stories to pass along!
The following morning the girls met at one of their favorite spots, The Watering Hole. ;) They played as we packed up the car to head home.
I asked "Emmy" what was her favorite thing about camping in Vermont. She replied, most assuredly, "making new friends and Grilled Cheese!" Thanks for all the fun memories new friends! :) If you're ever in our neck of the woods, you'll have to visit with us for s'mores (no Grilled Cheese involved!!). ;)
Leaving Vermont taking the Champlain Bridge into New York and heading southward, home. I think our girls had a blast and made memories to last a lifetime. :) We <3 VT!!!