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AUGUST 2021

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Take Shelter

Hikers beat a path to the Norwich Inn

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Top Notch

Vermonting at the Willoughby Gap

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Canoe Can-Do

A lunchtime paddle to Burton Island Bistro

WITH SUPPORT FROM


Take the road less traveled

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STAYTRIPPER AUGUST 2021

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5/20/21 11:34 AM

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DiscoverWaterbury.com

Discover the Magic of

Waterbury!

Your Perfect Summer Starts Here! Experience the Arts Take a stroll through Waterbury’s recently transformed downtown and enjoy the lively arts and culture scene along the way! The area is full of public art, including sculptures, murals, paintings, and more pieces going up throughout the month. Plus you can take home locally-made artwork or watch the maker in action at one of the many galleries, shops, and artist studios. For even more arts and culture, come to town for the Waterbury Arts Fest on September 10 and 11, which features local artists, musicians, food, and more!

Dine Out In Town Waterbury has over 20 restaurants and cafés within walking distance of downtown, and half of them offer outdoor dining. Options include everything from casual cafes to candlelit fine dining, and there are also plenty of parks for picnicking downtown, so you can get food to go and find a nice spot to enjoy.

Explore More of Waterbury Discover Waterbury’s hidden gems while playing the Waterbury Adventure Challenge, a fun activity with puzzle-solving to stretch your minds and hiking to stretch your legs! Gather your friends and family to uncover the mystery on your own schedule, open through October 11. For the full experience, spend a weekend in Waterbury and save money with a Stay & Play package.

Fun happenings For All! Ongoing through October 11

Waterbury Adventure Challenge Thursdays through August 26

Concerts in the Park Thursdays through September 9

Waterbury Farmers Market August 13-15

Vermont Antique & Classic Car Show August 26-28

Celebrate & Commemorate: 2011-2021 September 10-11

Waterbury Arts Fest

For more info, visit DiscoverWaterbury.com

Now’s the time to ST1T-RevitalizeWtby0821 1

STAYTRIPPER AUGUST 2021

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7/22/21 3:26 PM


Amtrak’s Vermonter and Ethan Allen Express trains are fully back in service with COVID-19 safety measures in

I RIDE AMTRAK

place. So whether you choose Amtrak for school, work, or for fun, book your tickets now and find great deals. Get tickets and special offers at VermontVacation.com/Amtrak

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7/22/21 3:24 PM

With less of a crowd, your choice of

HE L LO

restaurants, and more room to roam, there’s no better time to visit

MIDWEEK ATI ON

h e l l o b u rl i n g t o nv t . c o m

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ST2H-helloBurlington062321 1

@helloburlington

Burlington than midweek.

Dine and drink at our fabulous eateries and brewpubs

Get out there and explore our region’s family-friendly museums.

Paddle, sail, or cruise on majestic Lake Champlain

6/18/21 1:45 PM


Just Add Water

AU GU S T 2020

Google “hidden gems in Vermont,” and Lake Willoughby appears in nearly every search result. Websites describe it as “breathtakingly stunning,” “an idyllic spot” and “almost too beautiful to be real.” In this issue of Staytripper, Seven Days’ road map to rediscovering Vermont, we’re setting off for the glacial lake deep in the Northeast Kingdom — and a number of the state’s other best-kept secrets. Since now is peak summer, many happen to be water-related. Do you know which Vermont state park has an island bistro you can canoe out to for lunch? How about where to float under a covered bridge on a lazy river-tubing adventure? Where should you head for a yoga session on a paddleboard — or with goats? What Vermont farm boasts the largest sunflower house in the United States? While this issue contains all the answers, don’t read it just for fun facts. Let it inspire some unexpectedly excellent in-state travels.

CURRENT AFFAIRS......................... 6 Clearwater Sports offers river adventures in Waitsfield

CA ROLYN F OX, EDITOR

BY DAN BOLLES

TRAIL BLAZERS............................... 8 Historic Norwich Inn welcomes guests on foot or by car SALLY POLLAK

MIND THE GAP................................ 10

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Burton Island

A getaway on and around glacial Lake Willoughby

Lake Willoughby

BY PAULA ROUTLY

FOR SHORE...................................... 14

17

Canoeing out to Burton Island Bistro for burgers and BLTs

Burlington

St. Johnsbury

BY JORDAN BARRY

DESTINATIONS

6

Cedar Circle Farm and Education Center.... 16

Montpelier

Waitsfield

Local Motion Interactive Biking and Walking Map.................................. 17 Retreat Farm........................................ 18 Sunflower House & Gardens at Billings Farm & Museum..................... 19

16

Middlebury East Thetford

8 19 Woodstock

Norwich

Rutland

Exploring the state? Follow the pins to find the fun in this issue.

18 ON THE COVER: Paddle boarding on Lake Willoughby

Bennington

Brattleboro

WITH SUPPORT FROM

PHOTO BY EMIR HOROZOVIC SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER AUGUST 2021

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JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR

Current Affairs Clearwater Sports offers river adventures in Waitsfield

P

ro tip: If you want to spend a lazy summer day drifting down the Mad River on an inner tube — and really, who wouldn’t? — bring a pair of sandals, water shoes or even sneakers. “I always tell people when they go out, ‘You need to wear shoes,’” Barry Bender said. “Most folks do. But some people…” he continued, trailing off with a wry grin and a roll of his eyes. Bender is the owner of Clearwater Sports, an outdoor gear outfitter and guide center in Waitsfield that offers river tubing. He recalled two young women in a tubing group last summer who learned to heed his advice the hard way. They had floated farther down the river than they should have and had to walk back upstream barefoot. It did not go well. “They came back, and their feet were all torn up,” Bender said. “And their friends kept saying, ‘Barry told you!’” For nearly half a century, adventure seekers 6

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in the Mad River Valley have flocked to Bender and Clearwater for their water-sports fixes. In addition to tubing, the funky Main Street outfitter offers canoe, kayak and paddleboard rentals, as well as guided excursions along the Mad and Winooski rivers that thrill paddlers of all skill levels — or at least those who follow the guidance of Bender and his employees, presumably. “Best day ever for parents and kids alike,” wrote one emoji-happy Facebook reviewer following a guided kayaking excursion on the Mad River. “Great instruction and assistance.” Bender opened Clearwater in 1976, renting canoes out of a barn in nearby Moretown. As it expanded, his shop moved around Waitsfield before finally settling in 1983 at its current location, which backs up to the Mad River. These days, tubers can walk five minutes from the shop’s front door to the put-in spot and then drift the day away. Riders on Clearwater’s

colorful tubes are a regular sight bobbing beneath the covered bridge that crosses the river on Bridge Street. But when Bender first opened here, the draw was not relaxation but adrenaline. Whitewater kayaking and canoeing were Clearwater’s main attractions. “The Mad River was very different back then,” longtime store manager Craig Richardson explained. “It was known for Class II and III whitewater.” A major storm in 1997, as well as Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, dramatically changed the river. Floodwaters washed away boulders and deposited gravel into deeper channels. Coupled with drought conditions the past few summers, and this one, the result is a decidedly less-angry Mad River. “Now it’s just more of a mellow floating river,” Bender said. A tubing trip can last anywhere from one to three hours, depending on the water level. It takes longer when the river is

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CLEARWATER SPORTS

BY DA N BOL L E S • dan@sevendaysvt.com


low, because you may have to walk through shallow sections — hence the shoe recommendation. As such, most of Clearwater’s guided canoe and kayak trips take place on the Winooski River, which Bender said is “bigger and deeper.” Two longtime guides, Kim Poach and Tyler Willis, lead the majority of those excursions. “It’s not just a float down the river,” Bender said. “They make it an adventure.” A reviewer on the travel website Tripadvisor agreed, writing, “We had an incredibly fun time and the staff at Clearwater Sports is wonderful and extremely accommodating.” Lately, paddleboard rentals have been popular at Clearwater; the shop regularly hosts demos at nearby Blueberry Lake. It does a good business in retail sales, as well, selling both handmade and inflatable boards. Clearwater also hosts paddleboard yoga classes. For those wary of wet downward dog poses, Bender assured, “It’s actually easier than you think.” He added that “98 percent” of paddleboard yogis don’t fall. “It’s easy and fun,” he said. Business-wise, the pandemic held some rapids for Clearwater, which operates year-round and also caters to winter sports. As at other outdoor

It’s not just a float down the river. They make it an adventure.

Clockwise from left: Tubing on the Mad River; a guided kayak tour on the Winooski River; and a paddleboard yoga class on Blueberry Lake

BARRY BENDER

gear retailers, sales were often brisk, though supply-chain problems made certain items hard to come by. “You can’t get kayaks anywhere right now,” Richardson lamented. Tours were affected, too, Bender said. They’re

on the rebound this summer, though with some lingering pandemic restrictions. For one, Clearwater operates its shuttle van for tubing trips on a limited basis, preferring not to mix groups of customers. Bender and Richardson are relieved that the pandemic has eased in Vermont and business is somewhat back to normal. However, they noted that COVID-19 isn’t fully in the rearview, especially for businesses that rely on out-of-state tourists. Signs by Clearwater’s entrance alert customers that masks are still required inside the store. “I do think it’s ironic that it took a pandemic to get people outside again,” Bender observed. “But it’s good that they are, and Vermont is a good place to be outside in.” Just make sure you’ve got shoes. m

INFO Clearwater Sports, 4147 Main St., Waitsfield, 496-2708, clearwatersports.com

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SALLY POLLAK

Trail Blazers Historic Norwich Inn welcomes guests on foot or by car BY SA L LY P OL L A K • sally@sevendaysvt.com

SALLY POLLAK

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he Appalachian Trail emerges from the woods at the top of Elm Street in Norwich, where a white blaze — marking the 2,193-mile path from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine — guides hikers downhill into town. At Main Street, the trail heads south before crossing the Connecticut River into New Hampshire. A short walk in the other direction leads to the center of Norwich. There, it’s not uncommon for long-distance trekkers to stock up on groceries, hit the post office and crash at the Norwich Inn, a block off the trail. “When it rains, they come in like ants,” said Gretchen Dwyer, who works at the front desk. Earlier this month, a hiker who goes by the trail name of Reef stayed at the inn before continuing his 440-mile walk over the White Mountains, across Maine’s Hundred-Mile Wilderness and on to the summit of Katahdin. Before checking in, Reef made a patio pit stop, during which he drank three bottles of chocolate milk and ate two containers of pasta salad — a snack he purchased at Dan & Whit’s, the fabulous general store next to the inn. His bright-yellow backpack occupied one chair at the table. “This isn’t food; this is just to sustain life,” Reef, a fortysomething engineer from Massachusetts, said between bites of pasta. “I’m going to get a room, take a shower and destroy a large pizza with every topping they have.” While there is far more to recommend the inn, Reef said his room — which he secured for a hiker’s reduced rate of $139 — was desirable because it was dry, clean, and equipped with a bed and a shower. The Norwich Inn, a stately clapboard building at the corner of Main Street and Beaver Meadow Road, has been lodging weary travelers since 1797. That long history “certainly makes us unusual,” said co-owner Joe Lavin. “In our market, there isn’t anything quite like us.” Lavin thinks the inn complements the culture of the Upper Valley. For people who want to experience a certain local flavor, he said, “The Norwich Inn is that spot.” The inn — which has had numerous names over the years — was founded by


PHOTOS COURTESY OF NORWICH INN

INFO The Norwich Inn, 325 Main St., Norwich, 649-1143, norwichinn.com

colonel Jasper Murdock, a graduate of Dartmouth College in nearby Hanover, N.H. According to a history of the inn, he welcomed travelers to the grand home he built in Norwich. It’s been in continuous operation since the end of the 18th century, except for about a year after the inn and several nearby buildings were destroyed by a fire in December 1889. During the pandemic, the Norwich Inn stayed open, thanks to innkeeper Dave Burtonbush, who assumed many roles to keep the business running. (Federal and state loans and grants also helped, Lavin noted.) Some nights the inn hosted only one guest, Burtonbush said. He added that it’s exciting to see the business begin to rebound. “We’re starting to turn a profit,” Burtonbush said. Set back from Main Street on a big lawn, the Norwich Inn today encompasses three buildings that together hold 40 guest rooms. Seventeen of those rooms are housed in the Victorian mansion, which includes gathering spaces such as a lounge, a dining room and a pub. The front porch and back terrace are lovely seasonal spots to enjoy drinks (chocolate milk or otherwise) and bar snacks. The in-house brewery and restaurant, Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse, is open five evenings a week for pub fare, with expanded hours and offerings to come as the inn revamps post-pandemic. Hikers seeking respite from the woods aren’t the only storied characters who have spent time at the inn. On July 22, 1817, president James Monroe ate dinner there, though he didn’t spend the night. More than a century later, in 1926 and 1927, Dartmouth student Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, dined at the inn with fellow classmates. Drawings on pages of the inn’s ledger, which inn management thinks were made by Geisel, document those occasions; framed copies of his art hang above the front staircase. As depicted

by Geisel, the college students are having a blast — and maybe drinking during Prohibition. (Booze is in the eyes of the beholder.) Geisel labeled one of the events he immortalized in the sketch as “The Last Supper.”

In our market, there isn’t anything quite like us. JOE LAVIN

The inn’s more recent history can be traced to the Dartmouth-Columbia homecoming football game in the fall of 2005. Joe and Jill Lavin attended the game with their son, Tyler Lavin, who was a placekicker for Dartmouth and worked at the inn during college. At a tailgate party, Jill told an acquaintance who worked for the football team and the inn to tell the owners that her husband wanted to buy it, Joe recalled. “I think she wanted me out of the house,” he said with a laugh. “Two days later, I got an email from [then-owner] Tim Wilson that said, ‘Well, it’s not really for sale, but let’s have a beer.’” That beer turned into a long discussion that resulted in the Lavins purchasing the inn in 2006. “It was sort of like karma,” Joe said. For Joe, acquiring the inn marked rookie ownership of a lodging property after a long career in hospitality. He’d retired earlier that year from his position with Marriott. “I like the edge of being the last bastion of responsibility,” Lavin said “It has some energy to it.” The Lavins live primarily in Potomac, Md., but come up to Norwich for extended stays a couple of times a month. On a day-to-day basis, the inn is run

by the 36-year-old Burtonbush, who relocated to Norwich three years ago from Pennsylvania. He was a food and beverage manager at a casino in the Poconos that had 15 bars and restaurants on-site — some open 24 hours a day. “In a lot of ways I feel like, without doing that job, I wouldn’t be able to handle this one,” he said. Burtonbush values the inn’s place in the community. It serves guests who come to the Upper Valley for connections with Dartmouth or nearby King Arthur Baking, as well as those who want to recreate in and explore the region. He and his staff want every visitor to get the most out of their stay in Vermont, Burtonbush said. “I’m contributing to a community something greater than myself, hopefully,” he said. Staffers offer recommendations for summer hikes and paddles, as well as winter skiing. Dwyer, who works at the front desk, takes guests on tours of local breweries and distilleries. “They can drink, and I can drive,” she said. Long before Appalachian Trail hikers

became a summer fixture at the Norwich Inn, it was a place where travelers stopped en route to the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire. They might have arrived by stagecoach, rather than on foot. By whatever means guests show up today, they will find a welcoming and helpful innkeeper; house beer on draft; a continental breakfast in the morning; and a shaded porch for people-watching, reading and quiet conversation. And, of course, running water is a plus, noted Reef the hiker. “Showers are big-time,” he said before heading to his room to take one. “Because you’re living in dirt.” m

Clockwise from top left: Norwich Inn exterior; a room at the inn; a drawing in the inn’s ledger thought to be made by Theodor Seuss Geisel in 1926; Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse; a room at the inn; and Reef, an Appalachian Trail hiker on the patio

SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER AUGUST 2021

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Mind the Gap A getaway on and around glacial Lake Willoughby STORY & P HO TO S BY PAUL A ROUT LY • paula@sevendaysvt.com

N

othing adequately prepares you for the spectacle of Lake Willoughby, a glacial gash between two fjord-like mountains in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Although it’s been around for at least 11,500 years, the state’s most dramatic landscape has a way of surprising visitors — including returning ones, like me. Its ice-carved splendor reveals itself, like a secret, and takes your breath away. The northern approach, on Route 58, is arguably the most awesome. After passing through the rural towns of Lowell, Irasburg, Orleans, Brownington and Evansville, the road climbs to a stunning view of the Willoughby Gap, aka Notch. The sheer cliffs of Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor rise up on either side of the deep blue water, two halves of a whole cleaved by nature. “It’s like you’re in the geology,” my traveling companion noted on a recent midweek visit to the popular vacation spot. It feels that way at lake level, too. An expansive public beach at the northernmost point — with plenty of parking and port-a-lets — marks one end of the mostly seasonal settlement of Westmore. From there, the town extends along Route 5A, an engineering marvel that winds around the steep east side of the 10

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lake. Five shoulder-less miles lead to the south end of Willoughby and WHITE CAPS CAMPGROUND, which rents kayaks, paddleboards and canoes. Across from it is another parking area and a second public beach. This one is clothing-optional. Between the two beaches are summer camps of all varieties, rental cabins, a boat launch and the all-purpose WILLOUGHBY LAKE STORE, which sells everything from bait to Barr Hill gin, seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Made-to-order sandwiches, pizzas and pub food are available for takeout or to eat at outdoor tables behind the store. From Wednesday through Sunday, you can get a drink with that. The most distinctive commercial property in Westmore, the all-seasons WILLOUGHVALE INN AND COTTAGES, closed its bar and restaurant during the pandemic. It also changed ownership. The new proprietor, Massachusetts-based Edwin Alexanderian, said he

considered converting the building to a private residence, but the inn’s housekeeper convinced him to keep it as is: a lovely place to stay for approximately $200 a night.


COURTESY OF LAUREN-GLENN DAVITIAN

You have to commit to at least two nights to score a waterfront cabin on the property. But the view from our room, in the inn, was almost as good. We could also see the WilloughVale’s waterfront lawn and various boats available to guests. We arrived at 5 p.m. and, despite a foreboding weather forecast, immediately set out in kayaks on the famously deep, cold lake. There’s no better way to see the charming camps that dot the shore, some with punny names like Brookadoon and Restmore. The west side of Willoughby has residences, too, but there is no through road, so it’s less developed. Not a single motorboat interrupted our

Clockwise from top left: South end of Lake Willoughby; an illustration of Routly’s travels by Lauren-Glenn Davitian; a summer camp on Lake Willoughby; kayaking on Lake Willoughby; and the Willoughby Lake Store

IN THE AREA

paddle, and the skies cleared, turning the water from slate to brilliant blue. We would have lingered longer on the lake, or braved a swim, if the two of us weren’t so concerned about finding food. On the way into town, we’d passed the understated summer-only WILL O BARN SNACK BAR, specializing in fried seafood delivered twice weekly from Maine — and the killer view described above. We later learned the only full-service, sit-down restaurant in Westmore is little farther down the hill. The GAP PUB & GRILL serves lunch and dinner from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The MIND THE GAP

» P.12

• BARTON BAKING COMPANY, Facebook, 525-4894 • BREAD AND PUPPET THEATER, breadandpuppet.org, 525-3031 • BUSY BEE DINER, Facebook, 525-4800 • CRYSTAL LAKE STATE PARK, vtstateparks.com, 525-6205 • THE GAP PUB & GRILL, thegappub.com, 525-4187 • OLD STONE HOUSE MUSEUM & HISTORIC VILLAGE, oldstonehousemuseum.org, 754-2022 • PARSONS PUB & GRILL, parsonsgrill.com, 525-4129 • WHITE CAPS CAMPGROUND, whitecapscampground.com, 467-3345 • WILL O BARN SNACK BAR, Facebook, 754-2718 • WILLOUGHBY LAKE STORE, Facebook, 525-3300 • WILLOUGHVALE INN AND COTTAGES, willoughvale.com, 525-4123 SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER AUGUST 2021

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Mind the Gap « P.11 “pub” is open seven days a week from noon to 10 p.m. The Gap has outdoor seating, too, but we opted to eat inside. Dark and low-slung, the place seemed more like a bar at first. But it turned out to have an ambitious and varied menu; a great vibe; and prompt, friendly service. The food was flavorful and satisfying, from the “Gapetizers” — cream of asparagus soup and fried green beans — to the Pisgah burger with grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms. Filled with the Gap’s hand-cut sweet potato fries, we drove back to our inn, crawled into our respective double beds and fell asleep to the sound of loons calling to one another. The next morning brought another culinary challenge: the search for a decent cup of coffee. The WilloughVale provides in-room java only, and we were looking for breakfast, too. So, we set off in the car for Barton, home of CRYSTAL LAKE STATE PARK and BARTON BAKING COMPANY, seven miles east on Route 16. We found that the waterfront didn’t open until 10 a.m., and even though its sign suggested otherwise, the bakery was shuttered. Like so many businesses in Vermont, this one is apparently just one crisis away from having to close for the day. I asked two men in a pickup truck to recommend an alternate breakfast spot. They directed us just a few miles south on 16 to the BUSY BEE DINER in Glover, of BREAD AND PUPPET THEATER fame. That route would have brought us by the former beloved Parson’s Corner Diner, which 12

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reopened in May as the PARSONS PUB AND GRILL. It serves lunch Wednesday through Saturday, dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and Sunday brunch. But no breakfast. We never laid eyes on the resurrected restaurant because we took a wrong turn and wound up in West Burke. In the end, the best bet for coffee turned out to be back at the Willoughby Lake Store. While the selection there was more Maplefields than Starbucks, there was a saving grace: In a nearby cooler was an open container of maple syrup, Vermont’s favorite coffee sweetener. Plus, baker Windy Currier had recently removed a tray of giant blueberry muffins from the store’s outsize oven. Now caffeinated and full of carbs, we were ready for a walk in


the woods. In addition to boating, swimming and fishing, hiking is a big reason people visit the Lake Willoughby region. The most popular climb is Mount Pisgah; all three trails that lead to the summit — from the east, north and south — afford dizzying views of the lake below. On the other side of the water, Mount Hor offers a different, equally dramatic perspective. Some of the routes to the summit incorporate old Civilian Conservation Corps roads.

is only 2,712 feet — and the rounded top offered three different views. I gratefully took in the whole range of Northeast Kingdom mountains, including Jay Peak and Bald Mountain, in all their purple majesty, as well as seldom-seen lakes such as Mud and Newark ponds. On the way down Haystack, my friend whispered conspiratorially, “It’s still not raining.” We’d dutifully brought our rain gear up the mountain, expecting the worst, but apparently

SALLY POLLAK

Although it’s been around for at least 11,500 years, the state’s most dramatic landscape has a way of surprising visitors.

From left: View from Haystack Mountain; baker Windy Currier with blueberry muffins at the Willoughby Lake Store; artist Katie Runde painting the Old Stone House Museum; and Amish signage

I had my eye on Haystack Mountain, a blob next to Pisgah that I had noticed two weeks prior from the top of Burke Mountain. To reach it, you drive uphill due east from the Willoughby Lake Store on Long Pond Road, which quickly turns to dirt. But first we got a close-up look at serene, sparsely populated Long Pond, with its lone lovely island. The road skirts it enticingly, conjuring second-home fantasies. We took the south trail up Haystack, which started out as an easy walk on a wide path with wildflowers on both sides. Then it turned into the woods, narrowed to a trail and got significantly steeper. But the hard part was short — the peak

the meteorologists had gotten the forecast wrong. Our good luck held through a visit to the OLD STONE HOUSE MUSEUM & HISTORIC VILLAGE

in Brownington, the former home of Vermont’s first African American college graduate and legislator, Alexander Twilight. The view from a lookout tower on the property rivals the one from Haystack. We also stayed dry while buying produce at an Amish farmstand and for most of the two-hour drive home through rural Lamoille and Franklin counties. We were almost back in Burlington when the skies finally opened up — a good reminder never to let a bad-weather forecast prevent you from exploring Vermont. m ST2V-OGE0821-right 1

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JORDAN BARRY

For Shore

Canoeing out to Burton Island Bistro for burgers and BLTs

STINA BOOTH

BY JORDA N B A R RY • jbarry@sevendaysvt.com

W

hen I head out in my canoe, it’s usually chockfull of supplies. Paddling becomes a precarious balancing act; I kneel instead of sitting so that I don’t tip and lose my beer cooler, bug spray, tent or bag of snacks. But as I pushed off from Kill Kare State Park in my bright red Nova Craft on an early July morning, I only packed my wallet. All that stood between me and lunch was a 20-minute paddle. I was headed for Burton Island, a 253-acre state park in Lake Champlain, just off the southwestern tip of St. Albans Point. The island is accessible by ferry — the Island Runner shuttles people and bikes between Kill Kare and Burton Island several times a day — but my two canoeing companions and I decided to make a real adventure of it. According to the Vermont State Parks website, when Burton Island State

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Park opened in 1964, “original plans to build a causeway were abandoned for the unique appeal of an island campground without cars.” And the park is certainly appealing. Reservations for the island’s campsites open 11 months in advance and book quickly. As day-trippers, we were looking for lunch at Burton Island Bistro, a brown building tucked back among the trees overlooking the marina. Part general store, part breakfast-and-lunch restaurant, it is the island’s unofficial downtown. Unlike at many state parks, where the bare-bones offerings don’t go much beyond firewood, the shelves here are stocked with everything from sunscreen and bug spray to s’mores fixings and beer — and you can order a garden-fresh meal. It hasn’t always been this way, said bistro proprietor Juanita Manley. When her island adventure began, “They sold ice,” she said with a laugh. Manley was working at a restaurant in St. Albans, where she lives, and one of the other employees happened to be running the store on Burton Island. “He asked me if I could make a couple of salads,” she said. Manley agreed. Soon after, he asked if she could come over

and work for the day. Next, he asked if she would do the ordering. “Then I was basically running it,” Manley explained. “And when he got done, I took it over.” This is her 25th year in charge of the business — a milestone that would have occurred in 2020, but the bistro was closed due to the pandemic and Manley had her first summer off. She’s built up the biz over the years. In the early days, she worked in a smaller building with just a little griddle to cook breakfast on. Now in a larger space, she has a full kitchen with a hood system. The array of items on the shelves includes customer requests and potential necessities: charcoal, ketchup, batteries, tampons, sponges and Simple Green. “I think about people’s needs. That’s it,” Manley said. “And things to have fun with. People don’t have time to relax, so when they’re camping, that’s what they should be doing.” Campers often forget the fun stuff when packing their gear for the trek across the lake to Burton Island, she said. But not to worry — the bistro sells fishing poles, Frisbees and cribbage

boards to help pass the time. Artists can pick up a sketchbook and the medium of their choice: watercolors, pastels or crayons. There’s even an Astroturf rug for next-level campsite comfort. The bistro serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week, all summer long. The fare isn’t fancy, but it’s made-to-order and full of fresh herbs and vegetables from Manley’s own garden. “Really, this is just a concession stand,” she said modestly. “We called it a bistro because we wanted more people to come. Sometimes people are disappointed that this is it, but then when they get their food, they’re happy.” Whether it was the work of paddling in the lake or the anxiety of each choppy wave coming our way, my canoeing companions and I had built up an appetite on our short excursion, and the bistro served exactly what we were after. The lunch menu consists of summertime classics: burgers, hot dogs, grilled cheeses and veggie patties made in-house. Manley, a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute, likes to get creative with the specials; on the Fourth of July, she offered a lobster omelette and a breakfast sandwich


STINA BOOTH

JORDAN BARRY

From left: Canoeing to Burton Island; a burger on a picnic table overlooking the lake; Burton Island Bistro; bistro proprietor Juanita Manley; and the Island Runner ferry

with grilled pineapple and rainbow and jalapeño peppers. I ordered the “BLT made with TLC” ($8.99) and grabbed a lemonade and a container of watermelon chunks from the cooler. My fellow explorers both opted for a cheeseburger ($13.99). One got a soda; the other, a cold tallboy of local beer. We claimed a bench on the porch to wait for our food. There we gazed at the flower- and herb-filled garden out front and watched kids zip by on bikes, unworried about traffic. A steady stream of customers headed through the shop’s screen door. More than once, we heard someone say, “I’m so glad they’re back this year.” Soon our order was up, and we went back inside to pick up our paper plates full of food from the open kitchen. We carried them out to the many picnic tables that dot the lawn, choosing one in the sunshine with a view past the ferry landing out to the lake. Each of the meals came with a pickle and two rotating side salads — coleslaw

and potato salad that day. The burgers were large enough to test the strength of the paper plates. My BLT was made with TLC, as promised: The thick slices of bread were perfectly toasted and slathered with mayo, the bacon was crispy, and the proportions were spot-on. The lettuce came from Manley’s home garden — like everything else for the bistro, she’d brought it over on the ferry. After lunch, my paddling companions and I wandered past the horseshoe pit and through the disc golf course on a path to the southern tip of the island. We veered off-route to explore a nature trail, passing through junglelike trees and watching birds flutter through a wetland area before we scurried down a bank to a rocky beach. We hardly saw another soul, aside from the birds and a snake sunning itself on a rock. The island has been quiet this year without its regular influx of Canadian tourists, Manley said. But running the business keeps her busy, and she doesn’t spend a lot of time wandering around Burton Island. When she finds a moment

to sneak away, her favorite spot is near the dog park. “The water there is really peaceful,” she said. “Once you come to this island, you realize what a great little escape it is.” We didn’t make it to the dog park and instead bushwhacked until we found a path back to the bistro and our boats. I contemplated buying an ice cream sandwich or a bottle of wine for the trip back but quickly realized my canoe copilot would prefer if I focused on paddling. We strapped on our life jackets and pushed off from shore, full and relaxed after a day on the island. The trip back was easier, thanks to fewer big boats and calmer water, and we arrived in just 15 minutes. But I think I’ll take the ferry next time I head to Burton Island. Since I missed breakfast, there will definitely be a next time. m

INFO Burton Island Bistro, Burton Island State Park, St. Albans Bay, 524-2212, facebook.com/burtonisland. Open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Labor Day.

Once you come to this island, you realize what a great little escape it is.

STINA BOOTH

JUANITA MANLEY

SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER AUGUST 2021

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Destinations

Vermont Canoe & Kayak

CEDAR CIRCLE FARM AND EDUCATION CENTER

Canoe, Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals & Guided Tours on the Lamoille River

10% OFF FOR VERMO

NTERS!

Exploring the outdoor wonderland is a gift we have as Vermonters. Come enjoy the beauty of the Lamoille River. Adventure is out there. You just have to paddle it.

(802)644-8336 vtcanoeandkayak.com

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May Tadlock and Ni the cat

225 Pavillion Rd., East Thetford, 785-4737, cedarcirclefarm.org

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Erin Dupuis

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Oh, to be Ni, one of the Cedar Circle Farm cats. On any given day, she might be tucked into a basket on the farmstand counter, watching a parade of farm-grown veggies, fresh-baked scones and locally raised meats head into the shopping bags of happy customers. Or she In the area… might be hanging out in one of several verdant greenhouses, • COPPER MINE FALLS, 1640 S. Vershire Rd., Vershire supervising seed starting for the extensive pick-your-own • THETFORD HILL STATE PARK, flower fields or the wide variety Academy Road, Thetford, of potted landscaping and vtstateparks.com vegetable plants. • VERMONTASAURUS, 104 Robinson Hill Rd., Thetford If the handsome tigerstriped cat could talk, perhaps Ni would confide that her favorite spot is basking in a puddle of sunshine and being doted upon by youngsters in Cedar Circle’s twice-weekly Little Farmers drop-in program before they head off to learn how ladybugs help the farm maintain Earth-friendly growing practices. No matter where this people-loving cat happens to be, there’s always something to see on the 20-year-old organic farm, which celebrates its first year as a nonprofit in 2021. Families can pick sun-warmed berries and rainbows of flowers. Picnickers can settle at wooden tables to tuck into crisp salads, focaccia sandwiches and chewy rosemary-ginger cookies, all made in the farm kitchen. Visitors can also take a self-guided farm tour while sipping an iced organic espresso from the on-site Hello Café. According to executive director Eric Tadlock, every offering at Cedar Circle revolves around helping people see, taste, smell and hear “how food choices are their daily opportunity to play a role in reducing negative environmental impacts.” M E L IS S A PAS ANE N

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Welcome Back Our outdoor patio seating is now open! MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS TODAY

LOCAL MOTION INTERACTIVE BIKING AND WALKING MAP Local Motion, 1 Steele St., Burlington, 861-2700, localmotion.org

802.865.5200 • asinglepebble.com • 133 Bank Street, Burlington, VT 8H-SinglePebble071421 1

7/13/21 1:16 PM

Discover our newly expanded collection of local art and gifts! breakfast • lunch • weekend brunch outdoor seating first come, first served order in-person or online for takeout

FILE: CALEB KENNA

Though it might be nice to have a Pacific Coast Highway-style route along Lake Champlain, Vermont has largely kept roadways away from the littoral gem. The only way to cruise alongside the 125-mile body of water for an extended period of time is on bike or foot. Cyclists and pedestrians in the Burlington area can soak up miles and miles of its beauty on the Island Line Trail, a 14-mile path that spans the South End of Burlington to the southern tip of Grand Isle County. To help intrepid travelers on their journey, Local Motion — a Queen City bike rental shop and nonprofit advocacy organization that also runs the Colchester Causeway bike ferry — has introduced a fully interactive webbased map at vtbikeped.org. The map traces the Island Line Trail from its starting point in Oakledge Park across the causeway to its final destination in South Hero. Noteworthy attractions, parks, restaurants, shops and other sites are marked on the map and pointed out along the way.

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“A majority of Local Also try… Motion’s bike rental customers and bike ferry • LAMOILLE VALLEY BIKE TOURS, passengers are from out 661 Railroad St., Johnson, 730-0161, of town,” Tom Clark, lamoillevalleybiketours.com • SOJOURN BICYCLING & ACTIVE VACATIONS, Local Motion’s director 166 Athletic Dr., Shelburne, 425-4771, of services, noted in a gosojourn.com press release. “It’s really important that we welcome • VERMONT BIKE & BREW, 242 Academy Rd., Thetford, 274-2277, vtbikeandbrew.com visitors by helping them to get around and discover all the cool places to drink, eat and shop.” The map includes locations directly adjacent to the trail, as well as other hot spots nearby. And since it’s brand-new for the 2021 summer season, expect more and more points of interest to be added as the days roll on.

5/25/21 2:20 PM

CHAMPLAIN VALLEY EQUIPMENT VENTRAC AVAILABLE AT OUR BERLIN, VT LOCATION! 802-223-0021 • champlainvalleyequipment.com

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Destinations

Quincy Hotel OF ENOSBURG FALLS

RETREAT FARM 45 Farmhouse Sq., Brattleboro, 490-2270, retreatfarm.org

Located on the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail. Relax in our clean & comfortable rooms, airy balcony, porch and lounge.

MAKE YOUR RESERVATION TODAY! quincyhotelvermont.com 802-933-8300

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Sept. 16-19

Angels

Oct. 15-31

GET TICKETS ONLINE AT:

ARTISTREEVT.ORG 2095 Pomfret Rd. | So. Pomfret, VT

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COURTESY OF RETREAT FARM

Come visit Vermont’s Great Northwest!

Re-opening our doors this Fall! HONKY TONK

7/15/21 4:42 PM

Two words to pique your interest in Brattleboro’s Retreat Farm: goat yoga. Downward dog arched over an adorable baby goat? Yes, please. It might not be the chillest yoga class, but it certainly would be the cutest. (Just don’t bring your best yoga mat; goats like to taste everything!) If goat yoga isn’t your In the area… thing, the nonprofit Retreat Farm offers a full schedule of mostly free and enticing • BRATTLEBORO MUSEUM & ART CENTER, agricultural, outdoor and 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro, arts activities, as well as 257-0124, brattleboromuseum.org bushels of good eats. The • GRAFTON VILLAGE CHEESE latter includes produce and SPECIALTY CHEESE & WINE SHOP, pastured meats from a pay400 Linden St., Brattleboro, what-you-can farmstand, 472-3866, graftonvillagecheese.com maple creemees, cold-brew • HERMIT THRUSH BREWERY, coffee, and fresh-squeezed 29 High St., Suite 101C, Brattleboro, lemonade. 257-2337, hermitthrushbrewery.com There are 10 miles of trails for exploring, a vegetable and flower garden labyrinth for meandering and snacking, and plenty of friendly farm animals for visiting. An interpretive pathway explains the land’s history as the former working farm of the Brattleboro Retreat. “We want to be a grounding hub,” said Retreat Farm’s Lindsay Fahey, “a place of connection to the land and to the community.” Retreat Farm’s team creates a monthly forest storybook walk — August features Milo Imagines the World, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson — and presents regular guided tours of the piggery and the meadows. Wednesday art sessions for kids offer a treasure chest of nature crowns, painted rocks and mud sculptures. Thursday evening’s Food Truck Roundup showcases global flavors, from South Indian dosas to Jamaican jerk, along with music by area bands. On August 21, the farm and the Brattleboro Music Center copresent a free outdoor concert featuring Caribbean beats by Brooklyn’s Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra. Hope the musicians arrive in time for Saturday morning goat yoga. M E L IS S A PAS ANE N


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SUNFLOWER HOUSE & GARDENS AT BILLINGS FARM & MUSEUM 69 Old River Rd., Woodstock, 457-2355, billingsfarm.org. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. See website for season schedule and special events. C

Sunflowers can grow up to a staggering 14 feet tall. Imagine being surrounded by 20,000 square feet of the towering golden blossoms. Talk about flower power! This summer, the dream comes true at the Sunflower House & Gardens at Woodstock’s Billings Farm & Museum. The jaw-dropping spectacle opens on Saturday, July 31, and is expected to remain a glorious sight through early September. Landscape architect and master gardener Benjamin Pauly designed the Sunflower House and nearby pollinator gardens. Billings Farm is a Bee Friendly Farm In the area… certified by the nonprofit Pollinator Partnership, which • ANDREW PEARCE BOWLS, helps farms take steps to 59 Woodstock Rd., Hartland, 735-1884, ensure the health and wellandrewpearcebowls.com being of pollinators of all sorts. • MARSH-BILLINGS-ROCKEFELLER “From building a bee bath NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK, 54 Elm St., with clean water to creating Woodstock, 281-2446, nps.gov/mabi small stick houses for laying • MON VERT CAFÉ, 28 Central St., eggs, there’s a lot to learn Woodstock, 457-7143, monvertcafe.com about pollinators,” Pauly said in a press release. “Although it’s popular for its picturesque structure, the sunflower house serves the greater purpose of providing native flowers for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.” Upcoming events focus on the floral and apiarian attractions. Visitors can enjoy a midmorning guided meditation among the sunflowers on Sunday, August 22, as well as mindfulness programs every Monday through August 30. Plus, a pollinator celebration replete with food and beverages from White River Junction’s Trail Break taps + tacos hits the farm on Saturday and Sunday, August 28 and 29.

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COURTESY OF BILLINGS FARM & MUSEUM

JORDAN ADAMS

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7/19/21 11:06 AM


OUTDOOR ARTS PERFORMANCES Come out and enjoy a live performance this summer! The calendar is full of outdoor arts showcases throughout the state, including free concerts in the park, poetry readings in the woods, jugglers at farmers markets, world-class theater in outdoor amphitheaters, and many others. Enjoy a performance in your community or make a day of it and travel the state. Complete calendar of events at VermontVacation.com/stages

Photo of Lettuce Dancers: © Brandon Parrish, 2017, Farm to Ballet at Shelburne Farms

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7/22/21 1:04 PM

Profile for Seven Days

Staytripper, August 2021  

Hikers Beat a Path to the Norwich Inn; Vermonting at the Willoughby Gap, A Lunchtime Paddle to Burton Island Bistro;

Staytripper, August 2021  

Hikers Beat a Path to the Norwich Inn; Vermonting at the Willoughby Gap, A Lunchtime Paddle to Burton Island Bistro;

Profile for 7days

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