Friday, February 27, 2015

Woodstock, Vermont, in winter

(The Pogue, a small pond, at the Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Park)

The top item on my Christmas list, well, just about my entire Christmas list, read, "two nights away."  Bill and I had not had a vacation getaway together overnight since early June, and I had been missing New England.  In a card, Bill wrote "Two nights away--Vermont??"  By New Year's, we were thinking about possibilities.  Stowe has always been a favorite, but it's a long trip for just two nights.

Woodstock came to mind.  Some of you will remember my previous blog post about visiting Woodstock in August a couple of years ago. ( )   Woodstock has lots of charm, and a relaxed pace.  Bill booked The Applebutter Inn in nearby Taftsville for Martin Luther King weekend.

(Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Park, Woodstock, Vermont)

January had less than ideal snow conditions; five inches of packed snow lay under a layer of heavy crust with a couple inches of nice powder on top.  We took all of our gear: microspikes, snowshoes, and cross-country skis.  We would be ready for anything.  Arriving too early in the day to go to our B&B, we decided to make the most of the afternoon by getting outdoors right away.

(the summit of Mount Tom)

From our previous trip, we knew that the Marsh-Billings Rockefeller National Park had scenic trails. Microspikes would be sufficient for the carriage paths that wind through the woods, around ponds, and across fields of the park.  Map in hand, we chose a route that would take us to the summit of Mount Tom.

(Woodstock from Mount Tom)

A bright sun and deep blue sky, along with temperatures in the teens, made views crisp and clear.  Taking a leisurely pace, we reached the summit in just over an hour.  A couple of skiers came along, as did another couple wearing snowshoes. The skiers reprimanded us and the snowshoers for being on the trails maintained by the The Woodstock Inn, which require a paid ticket. It's hard to know where the free trails and the Inn-groomed trails begin and end, since they are all part of the National Park. Bill and I, and the snowshoers, studied the map and decided not to be concerned about the issue.

(Virginia on Mount Tom--what a great Christmas gift!)

Views were gorgeous from the summit of Mount Tom.  We could see rolling countryside and farms in the distance, with the village of Woodstock just below.

(view towards New Hampshire from Mount Tom)

When we returned to the car, we headed out of town about 3 miles to Taftsville.  In 2012, the devastation from Hurricane Irene had shocked us. Only remnants of the historic 1836 Taftsville covered  bridge had remained. What a pleasant surprise to see this restoration crossing the Ottauquechee River!

("new" 1836 Taftsville Covered Bridge)

We found the Applebutter Inn just up the road from the river. Our innkeeper, Michael, gave us the house tour with its charming bedrooms, cozy livingroom with fireplace, diningroom with fresh homemade cookies and water for tea on the buffet, and the breakfast room off the kitchen.

The bedrooms each had an apple name.  We put our things in the "Baldwin" room, and decided to go back into town for a late-afternoon dinner.  We entered Bentley's restaurant, on the corner of Main Street. Colored glass balls hung in profusion on long ribbons from the ceiling.  From my seat at our table by the window, I could watch people on the street as the day turned to darkness.

(Festive lights on a house on the green)

After dinner, Bill and I walked around the village green, by the Woodstock Inn, and down a couple of side streets.  Still decorated for Christmas, Woodstock's Colonial style homes looked festive with white lights and evergreen swags covered in a dusting of snow.

(Woodstock's village green)

Returning to Taftsville, we anticipated a relaxing evening at the inn.  Michael lit a toasty fire in the livingroom, and we settled in to peruse some of the many local books and magazines stacked on the coffee table.

(The Applebutter Inn, Taftsville, Vermont)

We had seen online that the inn boasted a grand piano in its "music room."  Michael showed it off proudly.  "Play it!" he encouraged.  I am not an adventurous pianist, but since we seemed to have this part of the house to ourselves for the evening, I decided to give it a try.  I had brought my grandfather's book, "Songs the Whole World Plays," copyright 1915, with me. This was the perfect time to sit down and play some old melodic love songs.

In the morning, other guests joined us for breakfast. Michael and Barbara's breakfasts are legendary, according to the newspaper articles posted in the hallway. Most unique are Barbara's apple butters. She claims that the apple butter is different with every batch, depending on what apples are used and how the season changes from year to year. I was surprised that the predominant and delicious flavor of her apple butter is actually apples, rather than the spices often used in apple butter recipes.  I wondered if she made the old-fashioned classic that just calls for sugar, a little lemon juice, and vanilla.

(A nearly buried stone wall on the trail up Mount Peg)

Since the weather forecast called for freezing rain beginning by early afternoon, we knew we had to get outdoors right away.  Most ski trails were closed.  The previous day, we had seen hills in a shiny glaze of slippery crust.

(Bill appears to be on a wintry tundra at Mount Peg)

We chose to snowshoe up Mount Peg.  The trail began in one of Woodstock's residential areas, and ascended through a small hardwood forest along a stone wall, to open field.  In just 25 minutes, we reached an expansive view of mountains and farms.  If I had Mount Peg in my neighborhood, I'd run up there every week.  What an amazing sight for so little effort!

(One of the views from Mount Peg )

Directly across the valley stood Mount Tom, where we had been the previous day, and below lay the Marsh-Billings Farm.  Marsh-Billings offered horse-drawn sleigh rides on this holiday weekend.  We were excited to see the sleigh crossing a farm field, as if in a Grandma Moses painting.

(A horse drawn sleigh at the Marsh-Billings Farm)

Exploring Mount Peg's summit, we found the junction of the Woodstock Inn's ski trails.  We made a mental note to remember these trails for a future winter trip to this area, when snow conditions were better.

(A quintessential Vermont treat for the hike!)

Aware of the dire forecast, we drove back to our inn, hoping we had enough time to take the walk near our lodging that other guests had recommended.  The air hung heavy, so we set out directly, walking on the dirt road past scenic New England homes, and a farm.  As we turned to head back, rain began to fall.

(Rural charm in Taftsville)

If you have to be stuck indoors, a country inn in Vermont can't be beat.  Michael started a fire for us; we enjoyed tea and fresh cookies from the buffet; and we settled in to read.  Eventually, though, we got hungry.  There is no place in Taftsville to eat.  We could either drive the few miles back into town or in the opposite direction towards Quechee.

Everything was a glaze of ice. Just getting from the door of the inn to the car was a challenge, but skipping dinner to avoid the bad roads would really put a damper on our pleasant day.  We chose to go to the Shepard's Pie Restaurant in Quechee.

(A New England road makes for a nice walk in Taftsville)

We were the only people in the restaurant. The owner/hostess/waitress cheerfully regaled us with stories about the restaurant, her life in food service, and the trials of living in Vermont in winter, which, we needed to know, was exactly where she wanted to be.  In the end, we also met her 8 year-old daughter and the daughter's friend, who were preparing snacks for their personal Superbowl party.

Generally, we find this kind of attention annoying, but on this night, when we were the only people in the place, with ice creating an ever thicker glaze outside, we found these cheerful Vermonters amusing.  And as we left, the owner preceded us to our car, shaking a can of rock salt ahead of our boots.

The couple of miles back to the inn in pitch darkness were scary. We were glad to return to the fire in the livingroom, a cup of tea, and a book. 

(Woodstock village homes after the rain)

After another wonderful and leisurely breakfast the next morning, we checked out of the Applebutter Inn.  There would be no outdoor fun on this day with the world under a fresh coat of ice.

Before starting for home, we went in a few of Woodstock's shops. Gillingham's General Store seemed to go for miles, with its endless selection of everything from hardware to gourmet foods, clothes, gifts, books, and more. Customer conversation revolved around the weather.  Gillingham's would do a brisk business on this day, since tourists could not ski.

(Gillingham's General Store since 1886)

The trip home was slow. For a while, we drove behind a truck spreading sand. Still, we never tired of the scenery.  Woodstock,Vermont, had, once again, left us relaxed and renewed.