A Vexillology Lesson in the Green Mountains

Well known around southern Vermont, Molly Stark was the wife of an American Revolutionary. He said of her, “There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!”

“Why do you ask about that flag?”

“I don’t know. We have a recent interest in flags from places we have been to. Neither of us have ever seen that flag,” I respond. I’m fidgeting as I wonder exactly what I may have gotten myself into by asking a simple question about a brightly colored (red, white, blue) flag with eight pointed stars that looks as similar to “the” American flag as it does different.

“You like flags, do you? Do you know what a flag canton is?”

“No…”

“Well you have a lot to learn about vexillology,” Albert replies as he begins to relay his thoughts on the the history of American flags.

Albert tells us about his trip to D.C. to represent the North Eastern states in a vexillology conference that focused on creating a law to make it illegal to burn an American flag. However, he was more interested in defining what is and isn’t an American flag and why we would want to create more laws around how we treat the flag. His voice rings in pure excitement as he mentions that the trip ended when he was kicked out.

“Now you can say you met someone who was kicked out of a national vexillology conference.”

A giant block of cheese divides the two of us and the smell of cheddar fills the store. Anthony and I end up listening to Albert’s history on flags for close to a half hour before we make a $25 offer on the flag. We watch as Albert slowly climbs on top of an old wooden chair to unpin the flag from the ceiling. He is excited to sell this flag so that he can finally replace it with a more popular Vermont flag.

Albert and his hometown of Wilmington, Vermont ended up being the highlight of my weekend to southern Vermont. Our route started at the Waterbury exist on 89S down to the floating bridge in Brookfield via the Northfield exit. I wasn’t very impressed with the floating bridge which is no longer used by cars and had begun to mold where the water sits on top. Our next stop was at our favorite Irish pub which resides in Killington, VT called McGrath’s. The pub is part of the Inn at Long Trail which sits right off of Vermont’s Long Trail. We had a couple of Guinesses before making it to our final destination of Bennington.

The best place to grab a Guinness in Vermont.

 

Bennington has a lot to offer in terms of history. The Battle of Bennington took place during the American Revolutionary War and the Bennington Battle monument is the tallest structure in Vermont. The battle even has its own American flag. However, I was surprised by the lack of character Bennington seemed to have. It seemed somewhat lost when compared to my favorite towns of Vermont and we ended up spending most of our time down by the river enjoying the weather and the clear, warm water. We did make a stop to Madison’s Brewpub to give the local brews a try. The beer was great, but once again, the bar was lacking in atmosphere and we didn’t end up spending much time there.

Madison Brewing – Bennington, VT

Sunday is when we mosied around much smaller towns on our way back home. We stopped in West Dummerston to see the covered bridge. I was impressed with how long the bridge was and how many locals claimed the spot as their weekend beach. We also stepped through time when we stopped in Grafton where there are a few, original buildings (post office, inn) and the Grafton cheese company. However, Wilmington won for the most character and most to do. This quirky small town had wonderful little shops and eateries sprinkled along the river. It was one of the many southern towns that was horribly hit by Hurricane Irene which can still be detected.

West Dummerston Covered Bridge

I couldn’t get a picture in before I took a bite out of the Maple Cream Pie.

Before returning home, we pulled into one of our favorite diners in Vermont, the Wayside. After a Vermont-centric weekend, I was craving a slice of maple cream pie. I thought that was the perfect ending, however, a half hour later, we passed an outdoor concert that just happened to have a performer from one of our favorite folk bands. We were able to catch the last four songs of Brittany Haas before finally considering the weekend over.

Brittany Haas at the Skinny Pancake in Montpelier, VT

Breaking Bread in Glover, Vermont

On Sunday, I found myself, beer in hand, watching half naked kids roll down the hills of a natural amphitheater while larger than life paper-mache puppets danced around them. While it was unlike anything I have ever seen before, it was quite evident by the parked busses-turned-eccentric-homes, that the headquarters of the Bread and Puppet Theater had called this land in Glover, VT home for quite some time.

Just hours earlier, our day had started in Craftsbury, VT.  Craftsbury is about 14 miles, 4 dirt roads, and 2 horrifically smelling dairy farms away from our home. In Vermont, that means it is about 40 minutes away. We threw back some beers while playing a round of disc golf at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center before heading to their lake to swim with Pup. The Outdoor Center is devoted to promoting year-round outdoor sports such as cross country skiing, running, and rowing. Their land encompasses over 50 miles of cross country skiing, running, and biking trails and over 2 miles of lake.

As though drinking and playing outside all afternoon wasn’t enough, around 4pm we decided to make our way a little farther north to check out the theater’s weekly summer show. Pulling into the theater’s grounds, we passed school bus after colorful school bus, permanently parked in the woods to house the performers for the summer. The Bread and Puppet Theater company started, not surprisingly, in the 60’s. Since then they have gone from New York City to Plainfield, VT to the current farm. Although I wasn’t able to see the animals (cow, pigs, chickens), I was able to make it to the outdoor performance area, museum, and printshop which all reside on the farm. The theater is most well-known for the gigantic paper mache puppets but, as we saw in the museum, they have done quite a variety of puppets and art. Every year the summer shows are devoted to a different cause and after every show, bread that was made during the show is handed out. The bread is a way of creating community and to show that bread and theater belong together.

On the way home, we stopped at Pete’s Greens farmstand. The farmstand had fresh greens, tomatoes, broccoli, and cheeses along with frozen dough. We loaded one pizza full of tomato, basil, and mozzarella and the other with broccoli, spinach, and a mixture of blue cheese and cheddar. I can’t imagine ending the day better.

Eating Through New England: Vermont Maple Wine

I cannot “pass through” Vermont without devouring something maple. Most likely, my maple craving will be fulfilled with either a maple creemee or maple cream pie. However, we will save those for another day.

Vermont may be known for the abundance of breweries it has, but Vermont is also home to many wineries including Fresh Tracks Vineyard and Winery located in Berlin, Vermont. We made our way to Fresh Tracks on Saturday for their annual Mid-Summer Party. They had music, barbeque, and of course, wine. Fresh Tracks actually owns their own sugar house, also, so it is only fitting that they combine both maple and wine together. I fell in love with this concoction  immediately upon putting the glass to my lips. All Vermont wineries seem to have amazing woodwork, great tastings, and an abundance of cheese; Fresh Tracks is no different. Anth and I ordered a couple glasses of wine and then spent the remainder of the night walking around the vineyard, taking in the sunshine and folk music. When visiting Vermont NEVER pass up a local maple treat!

This Car Climbed Mt. Mansfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I climbed Vermont’s highest peak on Saturday. Yes, I cheated by taking the “toll road” most of the way up, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see what all of the fuss was over this four mile road which leads you to Mt. Mansfield’s “nose”.  The road is located at Stowe Mountain Resort which owns most of the Stowe side of the mountain. It costs $27; yes, $27. It seems like a steep price, but the road is also quite steep so, unless you want to put in upwards of eight hours (roundtrip) hiking, it ends up being worth it.  Besides, how else are you going to get a “This car climbed Mt. Mansfield” sticker?’

The toll road is actually quite historic. It was constructed in 1856 and used by horse and carriage to get to the Summit Hotel, which was then just below the mountain’s nose. Surprisingly, only ¼ mile of the road is paved, which gives visitors a chance to experience true Vermont dirt roads for the other 3.75 miles. I can’t imagine riding a horse and carriage up this road. It took me about 20 minutes of constant gear changing and pothole dodging to get to the top, where the visitor center is located. Behind me, Pup tried to get as much of her body out of the window, while to my right, Anth judged my driving skills just about the whole way. Needless to say, I was feeling ready to hit the hiking trail by the time we pulled up to the top.

The hike was a little difficult for Pup due to some of the gaps between rocks. Overall, though, the mile and a half hike wasn’t too strenuous and gives you amazing views from beginning to end. During the entire hike, you are surrounded by actual alpine tundra that survived the Ice Age. Only two other spots in Vermont can claim that. Much of this hike runs along the Long Trail and by the time you reach the summit, you are 4,395 feet up. What do you do once you finally make it to the top? Well, the majority of Quebecois, broke out cheese, bread, and assorted dried meats. We gave the dog water and took in the views.

IPA’s and Covered Bridges

There is a unique feeling of content you can only get from simple pleasures. As I stand outside of an unfinished barn, with a plastic cup of Society and Solitude #4 (Imperial IPA), surrounded by dirt roads, I have that precise feeling.  It comes from the fact that the dirt road I took to get here had so many horizontal bumps in a row that I could feel the vibrations run through my chest. It also comes from knowing that any wrong turn would have lead to pulling over and asking a stranger for directions because a smart phone can’t save you in Greensboro, Vermont.  Mostly, it comes from knowing that my current buzz is the result of an IPA brewed right behind me.

This is reason #1 why I loved visiting Vermont and why I now love living here. In Vermont, the simplest of pleasures are usually the result of a few small adventures. It is impossible to have an uneventful weekend in Vermont.  The brewery of choice for us this weekend was Hill Farmstead Brewery which is located in the Northeast Kingdom. It is almost impossible not to get lost on your way since not only is there no phone service to call for directions, but you can only also only get there via dirt roads. Even once you pull in, you will still feel lost as the brewery is nothing but a big barn. There is no brewpub or fancy bar but if you are looking for a good, strong IPA, then you’ve come to the right place.

Pup swimming under the bridge.

On our way home, we stopped at a covered bridge that I pass daily on the way to work. I love covered bridges and what they mean to Vermont, so I can’t believe I have never stopped before. This covered bridge, in Wolcott, VT, was the last running railroad covered bridge. I immediately felt the size and strength of the bridge, which although completely made out of wood, would have withstood the power of a locomotive day in and day out. I couldn’t help but feel that simple pleasure again, as I through a stick to Pup in the pristine clear water underneath it.

Weekend in the VT

A reoccurring theme on this blog will likely be trips around Vermont. I live and work in Vermont, so showing what VT has to offer is extra easy. This weekend will be one of those weekends where we stay put. Luckily for me, staying put in VT is just as exciting as hitting the road. On the agenda: local food in Morrisville, brews at The Hillfarmstead Brewery in Greensboro, and a canoe trip to Joe’s Pond in West Danville.