So far, this is the top contender for a place to live on the East Coast. As soon as we crossed into the state, we were in love. The forests are thick and green, the towns are sparse but still have what you need, and the people are overall neutral.
Our first two nights we stayed in Grand Isle State Park which was on the island in the middle of Lake Champlain. There, we were able to chill on the lake beach and watch other campers enjoy the warm weather either boating, fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, etc. It was nice to see such strong enjoyment of water sports, and the lake was not too cold. I am also quite partial to bodies of water with mountains in the background. The site we stayed in (101) was perfect. I was sad to move on so quickly, but our goal was to see as much of the state as we could with keeping a strong focus still in nature.
Staying in Grand Isle allowed us to explore Burlington, which was about 40 minutes away. Both Eric and I agree, as far as places we could see ourselves living in, Burlington takes the cake. It is a perfect size, has the University of Vermont (which actually has science and engineering graduate studies,) has a heavy focus on outdoor exploration and conservation, and a diverse community (as diverse as it gets in the North East outside of New York City.) Burlington has an international airport, but it is also a close drive to many others, as well as only an hour and a half from Montreal, which hosts more of the city type events. We were happy to be there on a Saturday because we saw the town during a few community events. Early in the morning we went to the main Burlington farmers market and were stoked to find out they give samples of alcohol! Not only were there a ton of candy, food, and art vendors, there were all these artisan breweries, wineries, and distilleries handing out samples of their small batch brews. I got true maple candies for the first time for a quarter, and now I am afraid I will never be the same. I also got a delicious Himalayan dumpling for free with MoMo sauce!
After indulging in the fine fair at the farmers market, we walked the stores along the main strip down to the wharf were another event was lining up. We never figured out exactly what it was, but music was playing and everyone was wearing 'Twiddle' shirts, which apparently is a very popular band from Vermont. As we walked along the lake coast we could really envision weekends in this town. Just small enough, just big enough. And then we discovered Outdoor Gear Exchange in the marketplace district.
So many coats, so little time. We were starting to plan for the ski season coming up in winter, and knowing we needed a bunch of warm clothing, we dove into their giant consignment collection with ferocity. I had to run back to the parking meter twice just to feel content that we had looked through it all. At the end of the day, we returned to camp with our first piece of art for the trailer (Tiny Dancer), new ski coats for both, a few shirts, puffy vest, and a new synthetic fur lined coat all for under $100. Can't beat that!
We were sad to move on so quickly from the Grand Isle campground, but we were headed to Lake Willoughby for Eric's birthday. On the way, we took a tour of the infamous Ben and Jerry's factory and both had a hearty serving of ice cream before heading back on the road. This was an oddly satisfying stop for me. When I was a kid, I remember watching a show covering the tour of the factory and the 'flavor graveyard' and thinking it would be cool to visit but I'll probably never be up in Vermont. Walking through the 'graveyard' years later was a great moment of realization of just how randomly awesome this trip has been. I also wished I could teleport people to join for certain parts of the trip, because we both agreed my dad should have been there for the Ben and Jerry's tour.
Continuing north we headed to Lake Willoughby thanks to Owen and Sarah's suggestion (along with a few stranger's suggestions) for some swimming and air conditioning.
One of the highlights of having the trailer is we can have a 'hotel' when ever we want. It has been a bit hot and for Eric's birthday we booked an RV site with hook ups for some luxury living for a few nights. Air conditioning, showers, and plenty of quiet forest land all around made for a relaxing few days. We spent the days floating in cool northern waters surrounded by a fair amount of french Canadians on clothing optional beaches. It was......different, but it took us out of our norm and made us feel like we were in a different country. Lake Willoughby looked like a Nordic Fjord and was not crowded at all, so we floated, swam, and hammock-ed with some good Vermont beer and cider in hand. Eric also had a bottle of the best gin, Tom Cat by Caledonia Spirits, we've tried which we enjoyed thoroughly celebrating the start to his last year as a twenty something.
After birthday festivities, we headed south east to continue exploring as much of the state as we could see. Adding to the random stop list, we drove through St. Johnsburry and East Corinth before camping at Grifford Woods State Park. St. Johnsburry gave us two treats; 1. I had a maple late with real maple syrup and it was new and delightful. 2. Oddest museum we have ever been to. The Fairbanks museum was an old personal collection of Franklin Fairbanks and opened in 1891, and hasn't changed too much since then. For how small it was, it did hold a unique collection of curiosities and Eric and I both enjoyed the detour more than expected. Continuing south, our next stop was the town where Tim Burton's Beetlejuice was filmed. Once again, an unusual destination I always thought would be cool to see, but I would never specifically travel for, so being so close I couldn't resist and it was just as satisfying as expected. Teenage me would be really proud.
We camped at a few of the Vermont state parks as we toured the state, and all of them were easy to get a site, clean, beautiful, and had showers/fire rings/ flush bathrooms etc. We both agreed they would be great weekend getaway parks and were sad to breeze through so fast. Except Fort Dummer State Park, where we experienced the worst mosquitoes yet on this trip. It was terrifying how fast they covered us, we were very happy to have the trailer and separate bug tent, and also happy to be heading out after a night.
We took time to walk and drive around Woodstock, stopping at a few nature preserves before heading to our cheese and maple syrup tour at Sugarbush Farms. There we were treated to a self guided tour of the maple farm and learned how the sap was harvested and converted to liquid gold. We were also surprised by the generous cheese tasting, so much so that we bought some Vermont cheddar and maple syrup to enjoy on the rest of the drive. Also we got to pet goats which is always a plus.
Heading down into the Green Mountains we passed a bunch of small farms and country shops filled with homegrown/ handmade foods and crafts, my favorite of which was the maple creemee. This amazing desert is high butterfat soft serve made with milk from local dairy farms, mixed with real Vermont maple syrup, frozen and swirled into this light fluffy frozen maple custard that will make your head float into the clouds. I had about 4 across the state, and the best one was on our last day at the Sugar Shack where Eric was fortunately able to eat it too. I had mine with a side of apple cider donuts and then passed out in a very content sugar coma.
Exploring in the Green Mountains we were surrounded by lush green hiking trails, a variety of mushrooms, NEWTS! and heavy flowing waterfalls. We both loved hiking out here and could absolutely see exploring and camping more in the Green Mountains. A surprise additional float and swim day was added at Emerald Lake State Park where we were staying while we hiked around, but the weather was warm and the waters were crisp so we hiked/fished/swam/floated around camp for a day before heading on to New Hampshire.
To sum up, I would like to leave you a link to this video, which I hate to say is a pretty good description of the state (thanks Paul!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKcUOUYzDXA
Even with low diversity as a detractor, we enjoyed Vermont thoroughly and at least will travel back at some point in our lives for space to breathe, vibrant foliage, quiet forests and all the maple creemees I can eat.
Jump in the line – Harry Belefonte
Hedwig's Theme – John Williams