Friday, March 14, 2014

Road Trip: Snow Mountain Vermont

To say it was hot on this Friday was an understatement. I suspect the surface of the sun might have been a more pleasant place to be. Less humid. Sweat poured down my neck as I loaded the last of our luggage in the car for our weekend away from the city, and hopefully from the heat. Pulling the TSX out of the driveway, A/C running at full tilt, the outside air temperature read at a touch over 100 degrees, though the humidity drove the heat index to well over 110. Still, my wife and I pressed on, spurred by the promise of cool mountain breezes and a relaxing weekend in a state I had yet to visit in my travels.

Massachusetts flashed by quickly, every mile away from Boston bringing with it cooler temperatures and milder conditions. The greenery was extremely lush thanks to the endless rains we had experienced all summer and the shade along the road was a welcome reprieve. As we passed through Western Mass and swung up towards the Snow Mountain area in Vermont, the roads became increasingly windy and shaded. As we entered Vermont for the first time, we passed through a number of sleepy little towns, populated with quaint covered bridges and artist colonies. In fact, many of the artists were participating in an open house over the weekend as we saw many signs indicating as much.

As we approached our bed and breakfast in West Dover, the roads became nearly entirely serpentine, giving me the opportunity to wind out the TSX, enjoying the sound as the intake greedily swallowed the much cooler, though thinner, air up in the mountains. Around the final bend I slowed my pace as we hunted for a sign, marking our accommodations for the weekend. Among the first to arrive, we checked in with the innkeepers, and stowed our luggage. Settling down on the broad porch of the house, we enjoyed a bottle of cabernet with a plate of cheese and crackers as we watched the bees and hummingbirds dance around the flower beds. The temperature here, over 20 degrees cooler than the suburbs of Boston, proved most inviting with a glorious view of the haze shrouded mountains off in the distance.

That evening, we ventured into the only town nearby with any real restaurant options to wander around and pick up a few supplies for our planned hike and to grab a bite for dinner. Of course, as with most small towns in New England, most shops closed promptly at 6PM, with only a single sporting goods store remaining open, its sidewalks decked out with all sorts of merchandise on closeout from the previous winter season. Of course, with the stifling humidity still lingering about, we opted to skip the mittens and wool caps and seek out a nice air-conditioned restaurant to sit down for a meal, ducking inside just in time to avoid the first drops of rain that signaled a line of thunderstorms that would pass through the area overnight.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we packed a small day pack and followed a map provided by our hosts to a choice hiking spot. With the skies looking a bit ominous, we decided to keep the hike on the shorter side, hoping to avoid getting caught in any surprise downpours. The trail we selected would take us through the Hogback Mountain Conservation Area and into the Molly Stark State Forest. Along the way, it became evident fairly quickly that the surrounding area had once been part of a ski resort as we passed by several old supports for chair lifts and even happened upon the rusted remains of a lift station. Climbing further up, we stumbled upon a Forestry Service observation tower, surrounded by hundreds of dragonflies buzzing around. Seeing the opportunity for some spectacular views, I climbed up to the top, camera in tow, to see if there were any potentially awesome pictures to be had. Unfortunately, the combination of the heavy cloud cover and the visible dark rain clouds in the distance conspired to make most of the photos a bit drab, but being able to see for miles on end was awe-inspiring nonetheless.

Continuing along the trail, we kept going until we felt it was necessary to make it back before the weather took a turn for the worst. Emerging from the trail, we took a moment to walk around the Hogback Mountain Gift Shop before returning to the car. At some point during our hike, the New England TT Owners club had shown up, apparently out for a weekend cruise. It is hard not to smile to see that many of the little coupes all together. Hopping back into the TSX, we took the long way back to the inn, by way of another small village in the area where we grabbed some lunch and supported the local economy with a small souvenir purchase.

Before dinner, we decided to drive around the back roads of Vermont a bit and explore a few random locations. Between the cheese shops and the maple syrup tastings, we discovered a variety of amazing roads, some coated in fresh asphalt that provided an extra tacky surface allowing the car to grip well and for me to maintain a spirited pace. Best of all, many of the roads had rather high speed limits so there was little fear of running afoul of local law enforcement either. Several covered bridges dotted the route, requiring everyone to slow to a crawl and take turns crossing as they were very narrow and sometimes just barely wide enough to fit a car. Still, it is hard not to appreciate the charm that New England has to offer and these bridges are just a part of that character.

The next day, we woke up a bit late and took the morning to relax a bit after another hearty breakfast. We decided to take the scenic route back towards Boston, avoiding the major highways and instead opting for the random web of roads woven between Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. I also, stupidly, opted not to use the GPS, which resulted in a few wrong turns down some dead-end streets, but aimlessly wandering through the back roads of New England certainly is relaxing, especially with music running through the TSX's sound system and the waning afternoon sun filtering through the dense foliage. As we pulled back into our driveway, I reflected upon the drive and could not help but smile to myself. While this was my first trip to Vermont, I know that it has made it onto my list of places to go back to, especially on two wheels. It offers many options during the warm summer months and plenty of places to ski and snowboard in New England's chilly winters. Definitely a possible

Tags: automotive, road trip, travel, Vermont

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