Staytripper, Spring 2022

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That’s Lit

Book it to the Brattleboro Words Trail


Taste of Place

Spring dining destinations with a view


Flock to It

An avian adventure at Birds of Vermont




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Flower Power

ON THE COVER: Emily von Trapp of von Trapp Flowers skiing at Mount Ellen at Sugarbush Resort PHOTO BY JENN WHITTINGHAM

STORIED STREETS..................... 6 Discovering “Print Town” on the Brattleboro Words Trail

S PRIN G 2022

Springtime may conjure visions of cheerful tulips and fuzzy baby lambs in freshly green fields, but let’s be realistic: In Vermont, our vernal equinox looks pretty much like winter. The calendar says spring will be in the air soon enough, so we’re sniffing it out in this issue of Staytripper, Seven Days’ road map to rediscovering Vermont. Tap in to the sweetness of this transitional time at the statewide Maple Open House Weekend or Killington’s all-outdoors Vermont Brewers Festival, both of which return for the first time since the pandemic began. Or see the season change at Huntington’s Birds of Vermont Museum, where avian enthusiasts can catch sight of migrating species. But watch out for mud! Though it’s tempting to break out the hiking boots at first thaw, we’re sharing tips from Vermont State Parks staff on how to choose your outdoor adventures wisely. Until the higherelevation trails are ready, allow us to suggest the Brattleboro Words Trail, a literary celebration of southeastern Vermont. We’ve also got three scenic dining destinations for you to try, plus an overnight at the distinctive Wilburton resort in Manchester. By the time Ballet Vermont leaps into action with its Bees & Friends program in May, those tulips really will be sprouting. — CAROLYN F OX, EDITOR


TASTE OF SPRING...................... 10 Dining delights in mud season and beyond BY SALLY POLLAK

FREQUENT FLIERS..................... 14

20 Burton Island

Winging it in and around Huntington’s Birds of Vermont Museum


PART OF THE FAMILY................ 16 Three generations welcome guests to Manchester’s Wilburton resort BY MELISSA PASANEN

S. Burlington





SLIPPERY SLOPE........................ 20 How to safely and respectfully access Vermont State Parks in spring






Vermont Brewers Festival............. 22







St. Johnsbury




Maple Open House Weekend........ 22 ‘Bees & Friends’........................... 23


22 North Chittenden



North Pomfret




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

16 Manchester

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Storied Streets


Discovering “Print Town” on the Brattleboro Words Trail BY M EG MC I NT Y R E




rom the vantage point of Brattleboro’s tiny Pliny Park, history is all around. To the right across High Street stands the 1871 Brooks House, a former hotel and favorite destination of 19th- and 20th-century literary figures such as Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book, who lived for a time in nearby Dummerston. Across Main Street, the American Building, now dotted with shops and restaurants, once housed the Brattleboro Reformer, the Vermont Printing Company and the Stephen Daye Press. To the left, you can see the former site of the town hall, where African American abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass delivered his first speech about president Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1866. These are just a few of the locales highlighted on the Brattleboro Words Trail, a collaborative research project celebrating southeastern Vermont’s rich literary past and present. With more than 90 destinations featuring dynamic audio narrations — and more being added all the time — the tour takes residents and visitors on a journey through the region’s long-standing love affair with words. “My appreciation of this place has increased a hundredfold since beginning this work, because every building, every street, every hill — it’s filled with these stories for me now,” trail cofounder and producer Lissa Weinmann said. The project began in 2017, when several local organizations, including the Brattleboro Literary Festival, the Brooks Memorial Library, the Brattleboro Historical Society, Write Action and the nowshuttered Marlboro College, joined forces to apply for a grant

discovery during the research process was the work of writer Mary Wilkins Freeman. Freeman’s poems and short stories were published in the Vermont Phoenix and a slew of children’s magazines. One 1891 story, “The Revolt of ‘Mother,’” recounts the frustrations of a rural New England woman whose husband has neglected the construction of their family home in favor of other projects. In retaliation, she moves herself and her children into the barn he’s building instead. The author’s father owned a dry goods store on Brattleboro’s Main Street in the current site of a jewelry store. “I’d love to see her get popular again, because she’s a lot of fun,” Rouse said of Freeman. Weinmann noted that one goal of the project is to “reflect the community back on itself” by elevating stories that aren’t widely known. The Brattleboro Words Trail highlights the history of the Abenaki, Indigenous people who have inhabited the area for centuries, with segments on ancient petroglyphs preserved in Brattleboro and Bellows Falls. There’s also a historic marker memorializing William Apess, author of the first Native American autobiography, which was published in 1829. The trail’s sites take concrete form in a series of ceramic maps created by local artist Cynthia ParkerHoughton. Currently on display at the gallery 118 Elliot, they STORIED STREETS


from the National Endowment for the Humanities. After months of community engagement and many more of research and audio production, the project released dozens of audio segments in December 2020. They cover not just Brattleboro but the surrounding region, from Grafton to Dover to Colrain, Mass. The audio stories are accessible online or via a downloadable app, but visitors can also pick up a printed map at sites along the trail and read the companion book, Print Town: Brattleboro’s Legacy of Words. Whether you peruse the downtown sites or venture farther afield, an afternoon on the trail makes for a stimulating spring outing. Some of the subjects are well known locally and beyond. Saul Bellow, for instance, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976, spent much of his later life in the area and is buried in Brattleboro’s Jewish cemetery. Other subjects are figures whose legacies have not received their due, including Lucy Terry Prince, the first known African American poet. You can visit the land where Prince and her husband, Abijah Prince, settled in Guilford in 1764 and opened their home as a gathering place for freed and enslaved Black people. Her only surviving poem, “Bars Fight,” chronicles a violent massacre that occurred in Deerfield, Mass., in 1746, when Prince was still enslaved there. For Sandy Rouse, cofounder and director of the Brattleboro Literary Festival, a favorite

Clockwise from left: Using the Brattleboro Words Trail app at Brooks House; E.L. Hildreth Printing Company employees; Abijah and Lucy Terry Prince marker; Print Town: Brattleboro’s Legacy of Words book; details of the Words Trail map



Storied Streets « P.7 feature the names of local landmarks in Wabanaki as well as English. “Part of the intention is to really create what we consider a deep mapping of our community — empowering people to tell these stories, helping people who might not ever really think of telling a story like this to do the research [and] source primary materials at different historical societies,” Weinmann said. “It’s all based in this philosophy of Who gets to tell the stories?”

location at the confluence of the Connecticut and West rivers positioned the town to thrive in the printing industry. Weinmann explained that the purity of the water supply was ideal for producing highly reflective, high-quality paper, and a number of paper mills popped up as a result. The town’s proximity to New York and Boston has also made it a perennial destination for artists, writers and creatives.

Every building, every street, every hill — it’s filled with these stories for me now. LISSA WEINMANN

The effort has been driven by artists and writers who call Brattleboro home today. Stephanie Greene, a local writer and organizer with the Brattleboro Literary Festival, researched and produced a segment about her parents’ publishing company, the Stephen Greene Press, which released regional and nonfiction titles for more than 20 years, starting in 1957. Her two sons, Isaac and Graham Brooks, voiced the narration, making it a multigenerational affair. At the heart of the project is the question of what has attracted so many literary-minded folks to the region over the centuries. “Why is Brattleboro so unique? What are the elements from the landscape, the land, that have led us to where we are now, an extraordinarily creative place?” Weinmann asked. “At the same time, we also believe that any town can trace its history of words and will find interesting artifacts and stories therein.” One theory is that Brattleboro’s



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The pristine waters drew famous visitors such as poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe to the region. Both traveled to Brattleboro in the mid-19th century to test the healing properties of the Wesselhoeft Water Cure, a natural spring that still bubbles up in the basement of the fire department on Elliot Street. Stowe sought treatment for



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INFO Learn more about the Brattleboro Words Trail at The trail app is available for download via the Apple App Store and Google Play, or at

the “melancholia” that plagued her after several consecutive pregnancies and the death of her brother. “And she stayed and stayed and stayed, and her husband, who was taking care of all the children, including the newborn, kept writing her letters saying, ‘Honey, when are you coming back?’” Greene recounted. “She was at the water cure for nine months and then finally went home and within three years had published Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Starting in March, organizers plan to add markers to the downtown segment of the trail, which will allow walkers to scan a QR code that automatically pulls



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up that location’s audio story. Soon, the trail will also greet travelers visiting Brattleboro by train. The ceramic map murals created during the project will adorn the side of the town’s new Amtrak station, construction of which is scheduled to break ground this spring. In 2021, the Vermont Historical Society honored the Brattleboro Words Trail with the Richard O. Hathaway Award for best historical project. Organizers hope its success will inspire other communities to trace their own literary lineages. “The more you learn about the history of the town,” Rouse said, “the more you learn about what makes it great.” m

Clockwise from top left: Visitors at the Brattleboro Words Trail mural; using the Words Trail app at Latchis Theatre; sign acknowledging Indigenous settlement (and submerged petroglyphs) at Retreat Meadows



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The setting offered all we needed:

Taste of Spring Dining delights in mud season and beyond BY SA L LY P OL L A K •


n the dreary days of March, when Vermont is cloaked in mud and the greens of spring have yet to sprout, dining out should be a moodlifting experience. Luckily for us, the Green Mountain State has an array of special settings that serve up sustenance for the body and soul — whether that means dining by the pastureland where your food was raised or near a greenhouse brimming with lush plant life. And when was the last time you ate pizza by the woodstove in a one-room cabin? Read on for three restaurants with alluring ambience — each suffused with a vibe you’re unlikely to duplicate at home. 10


American Flatbread 46 Lareau Rd., Waitsfield, 496-8856,

Eating pizza in the old woodsplitting shed at American Flatbread in Waitsfield is like drinking sparkling wine in a vineyard in the Champagne region of France or eating lobster on a fishing boat off the coast of Maine: as close to the source as you can get. The shed was built in 2001 by George Schenk, who founded the original American Flatbread 37 years ago. In the simple wood-frame structure with a dirt floor, he and others split the logs that fired the pizza oven. Schenk also made the oven, crafting it from local clay that

he shaped around an armature of alder saplings. These days, the logs that fuel the oven are delivered split. So Schenk transformed the shed into a private dining cabin, one of three open by reservation to parties of up to six. (The restaurant dining room is temporarily closed, with tentative plans to reopen in May; food is available to-go.) The woodshed is past the gardens and greenhouses on the 25-acre Lareau Farm, where Flatbread settled in 1991; the farm is a source of its ingredients. A lone balsam fir growing outside the cabin door is a guidepost to the building. Inside, a woodstove warms the space, and a stack of split

logs invites stoking. A red-checkered tablecloth covers a table in the center of the room. The flame of a single candle complements the glow of a lamp and a string of lights that hang above a window. “It’s pretty rustic,” Schenk said on a February evening in the shed, “but beguiling in its own way.” The three private dining spaces at Lareau Farm include the woodshed, a heated and insulated office, and the Christmas Tree Log Cabin. The latter has a stone fireplace and is used during the holidays as a warming hut for folks who participate in an annual Christmas tree sale to benefit Harwood Union High School.

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“It’s a great little place for little kids,” Schenk, 69, said. “Magical.” The dining huts are available by reservation in 90-minute blocks and at no additional cost to a meal. Schenk established the option, designed for safe dining during the pandemic, in mid-December, and it will continue into the spring. Parties place their orders by phone a few hours before their reservation. Dinner is timed for the guests’ arrival, which gives them the full 90 minutes to enjoy pizza, salad, drinks and dessert in their cabin. My party on a recent Friday

included longtime Flatbread regulars, and we had our order ready when a staffer called for it: a Punctuated Equilibrium pie (olives, onions, red peppers and goat cheese) with pepperoni, and a second flatbread that was divided in two: half Medicine Wheel (cheese, tomato sauce, herbs) and half Revolution (onions and mushrooms). We each had an Evolution salad — a must-eat, with its standout raspberry-ginger-tamari vinaigrette — and a local beer. In the cabin, we unpacked our salads and fresh-from-the-oven flatbreads and ate by candlelight. The setting offered all we needed: warmth, family and flavorful pies just minutes out of the fire. I stood by the woodstove to finish my beer and wished I could move into the cabin. On that evening, the reservation after ours happened to belong to Schenk, his wife and some friends. It was the first time he shared pizzas with friends in the wood-splitting shed he built two decades ago. A few days after the meal, Schenk told me by phone that eating in the woodshed was a “fabulous experience.” (I concur.) “One of the things that’s powerful about it is, it’s so in contrast to our normal understanding of shelter,” Schenk said. “It’s kind of reaching TASTE OF SPRING

» P.12

From left: George Schenk outside one of the three private dining cabins at American Flatbread at Lareau Farm; local beers, salads and freshly fired flatbreads inside the cabin

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Taste of Spring « P.11 back to the very beginnings of how people imagined shelter. “And, in some ways, it parallels the beginning of Flatbread,” he continued, “which was reaching back to the beginnings of bread baking.”

Cloudland Farm


1101 Cloudland Rd., North Pomfret, 457-2599,

About a century after the Emmons family’s 1908 purchase of Cloudland Farm in North Pomfret, the current Emmons clan added a feature to the agricultural enterprise: on-farm dining. On their 1,000-acre property near Woodstock, Bill and Cathy Emmons raise Angus cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys. They also grow some produce and tend the apple trees. In 2010, the couple opened a restaurant at Cloudland, where they offer three-course, prix fixe dinners ($55) that change with the harvest. “There’s not a lot of farm-to-table


dining where you’re actually on the farm,” she said. “All the meats that we serve come right from Cloudland.” A pair of meals in mid-February highlighted the farm’s beef with a brisket entrée one night and a strip loin the next. Accompanying dishes included beef chili, cheddar gnudi with shaved turnips and carrots, warm potato salad, and parsnip cake. The meat is amazing, but chef Mike Borraccio will prepare a vegetarian entrée and accommodate other dietary requests made in advance. Borraccio, who grew up in a restaurant family in Michigan, regularly makes homemade pastas. At an elevation of roughly 1,450 feet, Cloudland is located about four miles up a dirt lane. Guests are welcome to stroll the road near the restaurant, Emmons said, where they might see


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upcoming menus. The meals could be served by Meg Emmons, one of Bill and Cathy’s three grown children. “She’s wherever we need her,” Cathy said. “A server or in the kitchen.” In that respect, Meg takes after her mom. “I am on the farm and in the restaurant,” Cathy said. “I’m at the restaurant every night we’re open.”

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Garden of Eatin’ Café

Purchase before March 18, 2022: $349 Purchase on or after March 18, 2022: $379

472 Marshall Ave., Williston, 872-7687,

Maple, apple and butternut bisque and the Vermonter sandwich at Garden of Eatin’ Café; inside the greenhouse at the Williston location of Gardener’s Supply

grazing animals on the surrounding farmland. More avid hikers pass through Cloudland on the Appalachian Trail, which traverses the farm on its 2,190mile route from Georgia to Maine. In past years, those hikers often stopped at Cloudland’s farm store to fill their backpacks. Due to COVID-19, farm store access and hours are limited, but the store is open during restaurant service. The farm restaurant is closed for the month of March and will reopen in April for service on Friday and Saturday nights. Dinner menus are posted on Tuesday; expect ramps, rhubarb and other early spring crops to appear on

With its close proximity to the calming influence of bromeliads, cacti, Norfolk Island pines and jade plants, the Garden of Eatin’ Café in Williston is a refuge from big-box shopping and suburban sprawl — not to mention a verdant spot for a quick bite. The café, open daily, is in the Williston location of Gardener’s Supply. The counter-service eatery offers a selection of housemade soups, sandwiches, frittatas and wraps. Table seating is available next to the café; in non-pandemic times, customers can carry their food to tables in the greenhouse section of the store. There is also seasonal dining outdoors. Even with the tropical setting of the greenhouse off-limits to diners for the time being, customers can stroll the plant aisles after lunching on a bowl of Long Trail cheddar ale soup and a Caprese sandwich. With gardening days on the near horizon, diners might be inspired to do more than browse. After all, a houseplant can help carry you through mud season, and there are seeds and bulbs packed with the promise of warmer days. m


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Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge, April 2 The Woodward Wind Down, April 9 Dazed & Defrosted Festival, April 16


May Day Slalom Race, May 1

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Frequent Fliers Winging it in and around Huntington’s Birds of Vermont Museum BY KE N P IC A RD •


he weather wasn’t at all springlike as I arrived at the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington on an early Saturday morning in late January. With the temperature hovering at minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit and the windchill gnawing at 22 below, I felt certain that no one else would show up for the museum’s monthly bird-monitoring walk, including the birds themselves. Like many of my assumptions about birds and birding that day, I was wrong. Among the first arrivals was a hardy couple from western New York. Ray Kasprzyk of Buffalo and his partner, Lauren Watkins, of Rochester are avid birders who were visiting Vermont for the weekend. The couple braved the arctic weather to learn which feathered fliers could be seen in the Green Mountains. We were soon joined by Kathleen Stutzman, a conservation forester who lives in Huntington. She started attending these monthly walks last year to get more adept at identifying the species she routinely encounters in her work. “There’s so much to know, but I’ve definitely learned a lot in the time I’ve been coming here,” Stutzman said. Our guide for the morning was Erin Talmage, executive director of the Birds of Vermont Museum. The nonprofit conservation and education center hosts these monitoring walks year-round on the last Saturday of the month as part of its larger mission of teaching the public about the diversity of avian species that live in and migrate through Vermont. Cofounded in 1987 by naturalist, author and educator Bob Spear and his life partner, Gale Lawrence, the museum houses life-size, realistic and intricately detailed wood carvings of Vermont birds — raptors, waterfowl, and endangered and extinct species — including more than 500 carved by Spear, who died in 2014 at age 94. In addition to two floors of exhibits, the museum has a one-way viewing window ideal for watching wild birds up close. The monthly monitoring walks are more than recreational activities; they also serve a valuable function as citizen science. As Talmage explained, the collected bird sightings are entered into eBird, an online database maintained by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, N.Y. That info allows researchers to see, 14


Above: Wood carvings at the Birds of Vermont Museum Below: Museum and walking trails in springtime

Every bird walk is really different, depending on the season. ERIN TALMAGE

in real time, which species are where, and to build computer models for mapping migratory patterns and changes to bird habitats. Birders with an eBird account can also use the app to look up which species they might encounter in places they travel. Watkins noted that she’s seen a lot more robins in Vermont than she normally sees in Rochester this time of year. Though I had always assumed that robins were harbingers of spring, Talmage explained that many of the ones seen in Vermont this time of year are actually northern robins from Canada that winter here. Because of the severe cold, Talmage led us on an abbreviated loop through the woods across the road from the museum. Visitors are free to explore the trails on the museum’s 100-acre property, which is adjacent to Audubon Vermont’s 250 acres. Together, these contiguous woods provide a rich habitat for resident and migratory species alike. “Every bird walk is really different, depending on the season,” Talmage said. “Even standing here in the parking lot, we’re hearing a lot more birds than we did at the end of December.” Bird monitoring is pretty straightforward. Our group would walk a short distance, then stand quietly for a few minutes, listening and scanning the trees with binoculars. In spring and summer, Talmage explained, some birders will engage in “pishing,” which involves mimicking the alarm call of a predator, such as a screech owl, in order to attract flocks of smaller birds, which will fly over to check out the threat. However, because the practice requires the birds to expend precious energy, Talmage said, it’s not advised in winter. Though I often search the trees and skies for interesting birds, especially the raptors that hunt in the fields alongside my house near Mount Philo, I was the only one in our group of five who wasn’t an experienced birder. Even as I scanned the woods, trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to distinguish a bird from a clump of dried leaves or twigs, others in the group were quickly calling out different species they heard or saw. “I’m thinking I’m hearing a titmouse, but it might be a chickadee,” Watkins chimed. Several in the group identified two woodpeckers a mere 10 yards from the road: a hairy and a downy. I couldn’t tell them apart, even when I looked them up later on the internet. Both are black and white, and the males of both species have a red patch on their heads. “That’s a red-bellied woodpecker,” Talmage said, adding a third to our list.

She noted that the species has only been seen in this area for about a decade. After a few minutes, we continued on toward a shallow, snow-covered pond with a bird blind beside it. Talmage noted that last year a beaver took up residence there and built a lodge, which changed the water flow and prevented the pond from drying out in the summer. Whether the increase in insects would attract more birds over time, Talmage couldn’t say. Come spring, visitors often can see rose-breasted grosbeaks and red-winged blackbirds near here, she said, as well as great crested flycatchers, which sometimes nest nearby. By Mother’s Day, Talmage said, the hummingbirds arrive. These and other species can be seen more easily through the one-way viewing window inside the museum. After a few minutes, we continued around the pond and trudged up the hill — and suddenly there was a brief commotion in a stand of hemlocks. Talmage immediately identified it as a ruffed grouse we’d flushed from its slumber. Ruffed grouse often sleep beneath the snow, she explained, where the ground temperature can be 30 degrees warmer than the air above it. At the conclusion of our hourlong walk, the group went inside to warm up, drink tea, and explore the dioramas, gift shop and viewing window. The Birds of Vermont Museum has fared well through the pandemic, Talmage noted, in part because many of its educational programs are held outdoors. Indoors, Spear’s intricately carved creatures vastly outnumber the museumgoers, which have been limited to no more than 20 at a time during the pandemic. For live birds, we documented 11 species, not including the rooster crowing down the road. “That’s pretty good for January and this temperature,” Talmage said. But come May and June, bird monitors can see as many as 30 different species in a single walk. According to eBird, the museum has documented a total of 135 species on its property; the neighboring Audubon Society, 141. “Not that there’s any competition,” Talmage said with a smile. m

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And on the seventh day, we do not rest. Instead we bring you...

INFO The Birds of Vermont Museum holds monthly monitoring walks on the last Saturday morning of each month. $510 suggested donation; preregister at Trails are open yearround. The museum is open by appointment from November through April, then open for drop-ins Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., from May through October.

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Part of the Family Three generations welcome guests to Manchester’s Wilburton resort BY M E L ISSA PA S A NE N •





uests at the grand turn-ofthe-20th-century Wilburton mansion — or at one of the property’s five private vacation homes and 12 villa suites dotted across the 30-acre grounds — can truly relax and get away from it all. Or, if they so choose, they can plan their southern Vermont visit with a more specific purpose. The Manchester resort’s Become a Vermonter Experience, for example, is an add-on option to a four-month stay. The package description starts with a question: “Do you have what it takes to be a Vermonter?” The hands-on “training” includes an organic, vegetarian cooking class; lessons in wood chopping and maple sugaring; a curated list of real estate brokers, schools and rescue shelters “for your new Vermont dog”; and, naturally, a gallon of maple syrup. For those who seek a shorter sojourn

and already have a family fur baby — or a princess of any species, age or gender — the Royal Doggie Slumber Party & Princess Ball Mother’s Day Weekend Extravaganza from May 6 to 8 might appeal.

Everyone will mingle at a welcome “paw-ty” and take a group doggie stroll through historic Manchester Village. Guests will dress to the nines for a Princess & Puppy Parade followed by a Princess Ball with a live concert

and ballroom dancing lessons in the Wilburton’s tented, marble-floored wedding pavilion. The jam-packed schedule also includes a pajama party campfire with s’mores, a Mother’s Day pancake breakfast and a professional photographer to capture the memories. Such original itinerary options are just the tip of the creative iceberg at the Wilburton, a family-run vacation and event destination that the Levis family has hosted with warmth and ingenuity for 35 years. “We didn’t buy it to run it like a Hyatt,” proclaims the Wilburton’s theme song, composed by second-generation innkeeper and singer-songwriter Melissa Levis. She is rarely seen without her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Jetson, by her side. Prior to working full time for the family business, Melissa had a successful career as a children’s performer in New York City. She shares innkeeping duties


mark his 50th birthday. The couple, who also have two sons, owned a vacation home in Manchester, where Georgette and her brood had lived full time since 1976. Albert maintained his clinical practice in Connecticut and commuted back and forth until 2005. Albert and his family were Greek Jews who narrowly escaped the Holocaust. That experience has driven his lifelong quest to understand and teach conflict resolution. He initially bought the Wilburton property “to have a place to share his scholarship,” Melissa explained. “It was supposed to be a retreat center.” Although that plan has never fully come to fruition, the estate does host his Museum of the Creative Process. It’s full of detailed posters diagramming how creativity is a “scientific conflict resolution phenomenon.” Today, the family patriarch is an active 84-year-old who swims daily and lives in a home neighboring the Wilburton. He occasionally offers classes or talks about his work. His four children revolve around him like planets circling a sun. About five minutes away from the Wilburton, the family’s original vacation property is now Earth Sky Time Community Farm, an organic vegetable farm and bakery run by son Oliver with his family. They are often at the Wilburton to cater events. Max, the youngest, has a doctorate in psychology and teaches at Dartmouth College, but he helps out, too. “We do this as a team,” Tajlei said. “There’s something about hospitality that’s deeply personal,” Melissa added. In that vein, the Levises balance the Wilburton’s Gilded Age roots with distinctive, intimate family touches. Take, for example, the elegant rosepink Bridal Suite on the second floor. It is furnished with beautifully preserved antique dressers, richly upholstered PART OF THE FAMILY

» P.18


Clockwise from top left: The Wilburton mansion; the Bridal Suite; guests enjoying the view of the Battenkill Valley; the spring lawn at the Wilburton; the Green Mountain House; the Levis family on the Wilburton grounds

with her older sister, Tajlei Levis, a lawyer and playwright. Tajlei manages the busy summer and fall wedding season at the picturesque site, which is perched on a hill with panoramic views of the Battenkill Valley. “We call her the Lady Wilburton,” Melissa said of the mansion before a recent tour for this reporter and a couple from New York who was considering booking a family reunion on the property. Built in 1902 by a railroad tycoon from Chicago, the 15,000-square-foot, 11-bedroom brick country home has been a progressive boarding school, an invitationonly summer resort, and RKO Pictures’ country getaway for business meetings and movie star dalliances. The Wilburton is decorated as befits a lady — and, oh, the tales that lady could tell. Antique crystal chandeliers glitter with memories of a century of dinner parties. Walls bloom with flowered paper and gilt-edged mirrors. A china coffee service sits on an ornate silver tray as if waiting for a butler to glide by and swoop it up. An original grandfather clock stands solemn witness. Above the massive carved-stone living room fireplace, Melissa and Tajlei’s mother, Georgette Levis, smiles warmly down from a large framed photograph. “The more joy at the Wilburton, the more Mom laughs in heaven,” Melissa said of her mother, who died of cancer in 2014. Across the mansion living room hangs a theater poster for The Sisters Rosensweig by Georgette’s sister, the late Tony Awardand Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein. Creativity clearly runs deep in this family. In fact, thinking outside the box is exactly what drove the Levises to buy the Wilburton. Georgette became the original family innkeeper after her husband, Albert, a psychiatrist, bought the inn in 1987 to



Part of the Family « P.17

We didn’t buy it to run it like a Hyatt. MELISSA LEVIS


chaise lounges and a four-poster bed. It also displays personal treasures, such as a wedding portrait of Georgette’s mother and Albert and Georgette’s intricately illustrated ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract. These details make the Wilburton memorable, as does the sculpture trail that meanders across the grounds to illustrate Albert’s analysis of conflict resolution. The eclectic art collection includes repurposed farm machinery, filing cabinets and bathtubs; a grouping of larger-than-life golden pharaohs that was once displayed at New York City’s Lincoln Center; and murals that deploy the Wizard of Oz as a metaphor for the emotional stages of conflict resolution. Exploring the art is an interesting and active diversion for visitors, whether or not they choose to puzzle through the philosophical complexity. “I’m sure people are 50-50 on Doc’s art,” longtime guest Pam Ogden of Hudson Falls, N.Y., said with a chuckle. Ogden, however, is 100 percent in on the Wilburton experience. She and two close friends discovered it 17 years ago for a girls’ weekend and have returned twice a year since, except during the first year of the pandemic. From the friends’ inaugural visit during a blizzard, the Levises “just made you feel like family,” Ogden said. “You drive up that long, winding driveway, and it’s such a feeling.” The women always stay in Room 5, which has been dubbed the Best Friends Room in their honor. An entire bookshelf of photographs on the second floor of the mansion chronicles their biannual visits. The trio doesn’t venture far from the Wilburton grounds, except for a little outlet shopping. In the winter, the women cozy up by the fireplace and decorate the Christmas tree. In the

summer, “We take a blanket to the lawn for a picnic and have drinks by the pool,” Ogden said. “It’s so quiet, a great place to self-reflect.” For those who crave more activity, the area offers plenty to do — from snow sports at Stratton Mountain Resort or Bromley Mountain to hiking trails in the Wilburton woods and on Mount Equinox. Nearby landmarks include the Southern Vermont Arts Center and Hildene, the impressive estate built by Abraham Lincoln’s son Robert. Manchester also boasts a good number of restaurants for its size. On a recent visit, my husband and I relished a regionally sourced, beautifully executed dinner at the Crooked Ram. We also picked up excellent freshly baked almond croissants and granola, along with a tub of local yogurt, from Earth Sky Time for breakfast. Although the Wilburton used to offer breakfast to guests staying in the mansion, COVID-19 prompted a shift away from the bed-and-breakfast model to more group events: family reunions, retreats and theme weekends. Individual travelers are still welcome but are more likely to find availability in the comfortably appointed villa suites, fitted with kitchenettes, than in the mansion. Dogs are also welcome for an additional charge, except in the mansion. Cavalier King Charles spaniels always stay for free, and all Vermont dogs stay for free this spring. Other current specials include A Room of One’s Own, a midweek writer’s getaway of four nights for the price of three. If there’s any place with the creative ambience to inspire the next great American novel, the Wilburton is it. m

INFO The Wilburton, 257 Wilburton Dr., Manchester, 362-2500,

Clockwise from top: “Fairies” in the gardens; Wilburton Hall; Melissa Levis’ Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Jetson, in a wicker chair on the grounds





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Slippery Slope

How to safely and respectfully access Vermont State Parks in spring BY JORDA N A DA MS •


n Vermont, cabin fever is real — and not just because many Vermonters live in log cabins. While there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor winter recreation, they’re not for everyone. Many people find December through March some of the most difficult months to get through. So the earliest signs of warmth and life can motivate folks to spring into action. With a whopping 55 state parks scattered around these Green Mountains, most people live within a short drive of our treasured network of trails and scenic areas. But eager hikers and bikers beware: Just because the weather may feel palatable doesn’t mean forested paths are ready for boots and wheels. To get the dirt on springtime hikes, Staytripper talked with some Vermont State Parks staff: director Nate McKeen and sales and service manager Rochelle Skinner.

sections may be closed off because of construction or other stuff going on. But, in general, you can find a parking spot outside the gate and certainly walk through. There are some nice hikes up Mount Philo in Charlotte or Mount Ascutney in Windsor County.

What’s the first thing people should know about accessing state parks in springtime?

ROCHELLE SKINNER: Most of our state parks open Memorial Day weekend. And the mantra in Vermont is: Stay off the trails until then. NATE MCKEEN: People can always walk in the parks through the park roads, to the campgrounds, access the waterfronts. These are all great walks.

Aside from risk of bodily injury or property damage, why is it important for people to avoid wet trails?

NM: If people don’t mind walking in the mud, that’s their personal choice. But the impact on the resource is something we’re charged with stewarding and protecting. There aren’t enough resources to recover a muddy trail that gets beaten down. It snowballs. There are erosion areas that just get worse and worse. It’s really a significant resource risk. RS: When you walk a wet trail, it compacts the soil and makes the soil not able to breathe. So things can’t grow in that. That’s one problem. And then people tend to walk around the muddy spots. So a trail that might be three feet wide turns into seven feet wide. Again, it creates all kinds of erosion and possibly unsafe conditions. Another thing: It could be a beautiful, hot, sunny day in the Champlain Valley. Everything could seem dry. And then you start going up in elevation, and it changes very quickly. One of the things we don’t want is people saying, “Oh, I’ve gotten this far. Let’s finish.” So the upper parts of the trails get trashed even though it might have looked fine down below.

What are people missing out on by venturing into the parks during this off-season?

RS: We don’t have staff in the parks until later on. So there are no restrooms. You have to park outside the gate. There’s no visitor or support staff. They can’t get any potable water. They can’t call a staff person to help them if their car breaks down or if there’s a dog off leash or a creepy person that’s bugging them. NM: Obviously, the parks are open year-round. Some

INFO Visit for operating schedules, camping reservations and a list of park amenities.

What are some other things people can do to be good park stewards?

NM: We’re always looking for park staff or volunteers. We’d love to talk to anybody who’s interested in volunteering or helping out in the park. We have a lot of work in every park around protecting the shorelines. And there are simple things, too. If you’re going to a popular place like Mount Philo, you can choose to walk up the mountain road instead of the trail until it dries out. And you can choose places like bike paths and rail trails. Just try to tamp down your enthusiasm to go up to the top of the mountains until the trails dry up. It’s a personal choice where you go. Nobody’s there to stop you from going over a muddy trail. It’s personal responsibility, because we have no patrol or anything like that. It’s just everybody working together to care for our resources.

Is there anything new in the Vermont State Parks system coming up this season?




NM: We’re building a new nature center in Groton State Forest. RS: There’s also a new program called Vermont Parks Forever ... that helps enhance what we do. They have an access fund for underprivileged folks or people


Try to tamp down your enthusiasm to go up to the top of the mountains until the trails dry up.



that have a hard time accessing the parks. They’re at the stage of their development where they’re reaching out more to the general public. They’re looking for board members who are committed to parks and the outdoors. What are your favorite state parks?

RS: Well, I don’t want to give up my secrets, but Burton

Clockwise from left: Hikers on the stone staircase at Mount Philo State Park; a wooden “bridge” across a muddy trail; the view from Mount Philo’s summit, accessible by road; canoes at Burton Island State Park; bikers enjoying paved roads at a Vermont State Park

Island [in Lake Champlain] is, of course, a favorite just because of the uniqueness of it. You feel like you’re at a coastal location much more than Vermont, like Cape Cod or something. And I love New Discovery State Park. It’s one of our least visited, and it’s like the hub of all the trails in Groton. You can remote camp on Osmore Pond. There are loons there. It’s beautiful and not very crowded. NM: I always say Little River State Park in Waterbury. It just has everything, any time of year. Jamaica State Park is great for spring — a lot of whitewater rafting there. It’s a beautiful hike along the West River. And Allis State Park [near] Brookfield. You can make it right up to the fire tower, even in mud season. m This conversation was edited and condensed for clarity and length. SEVEN DAYS STAYTRIPPER SPRING 2022






Saturday, March 19, at Bear Mountain, Killington Resort. Buy tickets and view the COVID-19 policy at

What’s better than spring skiing? Kicking back slopeside with après-ski brews. The Vermont Brewers Association intuited this when, after more than two decades of hosting a summer festival by Burlington’s waterfront, it added the cold-weather Vermont Brewers Festival at Killington Resort in 2018. “We wanted to play into Vermont being so beautiful,” festival and marketing manager Amy Cronin told Seven Days at the time, “and offer something in another part of the state, and make it special.” Indeed, among the more than 100 beers on tap at the base of Bear Mountain, 30 are exclusive collaboration brews created for this festival. Purchase a lift ticket with festival access or opt only for the fest; select an early afternoon session or one that continues into the evening. Whatever you choose, the alloutdoor affair showcases Vermont’s finest craft beers, poured into souvenir tasting glasses in three-, six- or nine-ounce samples. Featured breweries this year come from all corners of the state: Brocklebank Craft Brewing in Tunbridge, Dirt Church Brewing in East Haven, Foam Brewers in Burlington, Hermit Thrush Brewery in Brattleboro, Snow Republic Brewing in West Dover and Whirligig Brewing in St. Johnsbury, among many others. The festival offers a chance to meet the brewers and sip far and wide without all the travel. Don’t miss the many fun extras, from food trucks to music to roasting marshmallows at roaring firepits. Because nothing beats a stout with a s’more.

MAPLE OPEN HOUSE WEEKEND Saturday and Sunday, March 19 and 20, and March 26 and 27, at participating sugar makers statewide. Find specific events and a sugarhouse map at




Spring is Vermont’s sweetest season — when it comes to maple syrup, that is. This month, sugar makers across the state are preparing to welcome visitors into their boiling rooms and sugar bushes for Maple Open House Weekend. After two years off due to the pandemic, the maple madness is coming back bigger than ever, taking place over two weekends in March instead of one. The expanded event will allow participating members of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association more time to engage with visitors — and give guests more opportunities to see sugar making in action. As the association’s communications director, Cory Ayotte, noted, “Boiling times vary depending on which corner of the state you’re in ... [and] we get producers from every inch of the state participating in the event.” Vermont produces roughly half of the syrup in the United States and turned out a record-breaking 2.22 million gallons in 2020. Roughly 125 of those hardworking producers participate in Maple Open House Weekend, said Ayotte, offering everything from syrup samples to specialty items to sugarhouse tours. To plan a sweet road trip, check out the sugarhouse map on the association’s website and look for nearby partnering businesses, such as breweries and bed-andbreakfasts, that get in on the fun. One destination worth the drive is Baird Farm in North Chittenden. On March 26 and 27, the 560-acre farm pulls out all the stops with syrup tastings, outdoor activities, maple-themed beer from Proctorsville’s Outer Limits Brewing, and — wait for it — free coffee and rosemary waffles.


‘BEES & FRIENDS’ Opens on Sunday, May 22, at Wheeler Community Garden in South Burlington; additional dates and locations follow. See full schedule at

April showers bring May flowers. And May flowers bring Bees & Friends, a balletic celebration of springtime set to Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Staged at outdoor settings by Ballet Vermont, “The production itself is all about bugs and flowers and growth,” executive director Katie Decker said. “It is an excellent match for the spring.” A spirited exploration of pollination, metamorphoses, integrated pest management and bioluminescence, the show educates through characters like the ladybug: “She does this very slow, sultry, beautiful dance,” Decker explained, “but as part of it, she’s also sort of stalking these aphids ... because ladybugs are voracious whenever it comes to eating aphids.” Launched in 2015 with a mission to connect the arts with sustainable agriculture, Ballet Vermont leaps high to help audiences of all ages

gain understanding of what’s in their gardens. Offstage, the classical ballet company partners with educational organizations and food vendors to offer preshow festivals; highlights include Jerry Schneider, aka “the Butterfly Guy.” Bees & Friends debuts this season on May 22 at Wheeler Community Garden in South Burlington and continues on June 4 at Middlesex’s Camp Meade and June 5 at Williston’s Isham Family Farm; more dates likely will be added. Wherever you catch the show, expect “a family-friendly picnicking environment — lots of space for people to spread out and kids to dance along,” Decker said. “We’re really trying to make dance accessible in different ways.” That might mean performing a plié over a puddle — because spring in Vermont is, “you know, volatile,” Decker added with a laugh.


Find events, activities and local happenings that shouldn’t be missed in Notes On the Weekend. SUBSCRIBE AT SEVENDAYSVT.COM/ENEWS 2V-Now0322.indd 1



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