Final stop on this trip… another small town in the northeast, St. Albans, Vermont. This sojourn in the journey was marked by extremely snowy hikes in the Vermont wilderness. And severely cold temperatures. Yes, even lower than the teens and 20s we had been experiencing thus far. We dipped into the single digits several days with a brisk wind, which made going outside somewhat unbearable at times. Even the truck wouldn’t start regardless of the fact that the engine block heater was running. Why in hell do we keep traveling to stupidly cold places for vacation?!?! Something is wrong with me.
Anyway, St. Albans is another quaint town in New England. Quaint is probably being a little too nice actually. Boothbay Harbor was quaint, St. Albans was bordering on morose. With many of the shops shuttered, either permanently or temporarily, the “downtown” strip was dismal, and the poor weather certainly did not to remedy that. The weather while we were in St. Albans proper was punctuated by gloomy, overcast skies, with wet, brown slush-slick sidewalks, and frigid temperatures. We spent a very abbreviated time walking the area before heading down to Burlington (the locale I should have found an AirBnB in). You live, and you learn.
The owner of this rental was a bit deceptive about the state of their property. It essentially consisted of a loft perched atop a locked garage on a completely isolated and empty lot. The furniture was decades old, completely mismatched, uncomfortable, and awkward. It was obvious someone usually lived there, and likely, just relocated when a traveler elected to rent the place. Unfortunately for us, the owners had failed to take photos of the bedroom in all it’s dated glory. The bathroom and kitchen had been decently renovated, which was a plus. Just ignore the fact that very user specific toiletries and items where present EVERYWHERE (aka. men’s used personal razor, personal reading library “hidden” away, clothing that certainly wasn’t ours in the closets, preferred shampoos and soaps also “hidden” away, and bedroom drawers full of gender-specific attire). Don’t forget that general “lived in” feel you get staying at a friend’s home, NOT rented accommodation. In lieu of adorning this post with photos of the place, I will instead feature adorable Guinness snapshots.
Moral of the Story #1: I recommend staying in charming Burlington, in a less misleading domicile, should you decide to visit Almost-Canada, Vermont in the dead of winter. There is a superb main drag in the college town, with very walkable shops on every corner, and it appeared far less bleak, since the residents are not despondent creatures and have figured out how to properly clear the sidewalks of brownish-yellow snow.
Wow, I am really painting a horrible picture of this area in Vermont. Let’s try again… These half-frozen DINKs did not let any of the negatives spoil the trip. We located two remarkable hikes while huddled in our odd AirBnB. And I baked Blue Corn Cookies with Prickly Pear Cactus Marmalade from Arizona courtesy of my awesome aunt. Yumm!
First up, Camel’s Hump State Park via Burrows Trail. Naive Hubs and I underestimated the weather, the state of the trail, and our gear. I’m from Georgia, where we don’t believe in snow… give me a break! Anyway… Upon parking in the snow-covered lot, we quickly began questioning just how prepared we were for this hike. We were proudly armed with hiking sticks, but everyone else embarking on the trek was also sporting hiking poles, along with either snow shoes or crampons or both. Hmm… do they know something we don’t know? The answer was yes, yes they did. As it turned out, the trail was well worn, but not quite so stable. Atop the trail was two feet of semi-packed snow from the previous blizzard that had rocked New England. We regularly sunk knee deep into the snow, but we had fun doing it. Hubs ate it a few times, while I stood by laughing hysterically and taking photos of his misery like a good wife should.
The trail started getting exceptionally steep as it shot up the side of Mt. Ethan Allen Peak. Several times we were almost crushed by other hikers armed with another tool we were unaware we needed… a packable sled. Apparently, that was the preferred method to get back down the mountain, and caused the kid in me to be very jealous of these innovative trekkers. Once the trail ceased switchbacking, and instead just headed straight up, we found the lack of proper footwear to be a hike ender. I would climb two feet just to slide back down four. Given the almost vertical nature of the footpath, we elected to run back down. Not the greatest idea for our general health and wellbeing, but it was a blast! The snow cushioned our falls/face-plants. Moral of the Story #2: Not the greatest hike in the winter (unless you’re properly prepare with gear), but a solid on in the other months (I assume).
Continuing with our outdoor adventures, we tackled Milton Town Forest Ridgeline Trails. Much lower in elevation, we were able to meander around all of the available trails. Particular routes were far better worn, namely those that stayed closer to Milton Pond. Wanting a more strenuous and lengthy hike, we followed the full ridge line trail. The path less taken, we basically just followed foot-deep prints wandering through the forest. Lots more sinking and falling occurred, including lots of videos of Hubs filming me attempting to skip as my chosen form of travel. We were put to shame by an older gentleman and his dog, as those two pros gained, and then passed us, with ease.
Another pro tip for any female hikers: Always bring a small pack of tissues. Especially, if you also fill your 2.5 liter backpack bladder and drink the entire thing while hiking. You’ll thank me later.
I did manage a single handstand this hike. It may have resulted in many failures, as my hands sunk into the snow, and I fell over and/or face planted. I eventually succeeded!
Continuing to improve on the negatives, I found an open and operational winery on South Hero Island out in Lake Champlain. Snow Farm Vineyard came to be after the owners refused to sell their farmland for commercial use, and instead reconstituted it as a vineyard. The unique location (identical to Burgundy, France’s growing season) allows for Snow Farm to grow cooler climate vinifera grapes, concocting them into delectable Seyval Blanc, Vidal Blanc and Riesling wines. At least, that’s what the dude behind the bar told us. We elected to partake in a flight, and retired to a table, Guinness in tow since the Winery welcomed dogs. Of course, she made all sorts of friends while we were there, immediately rolling onto her back to present her belly for rubs. Such a ham!
And just like that, our two-week road trip in New England came to an end. We drove the nine hours back through snowy Vermont, bypassed Boston, with a lunch stopover in Connecticut to reconnect with an old friend, through the chaos that is New York City, briefly entering the armpit of the northeast that is New Jersey, conquering the pathetic excuse of a state that is Maryland, and back into Virginia, the state we will call home for at least the next six years.
Thinking back on this excursion, I’m a little sad. We probably won’t be taking anymore road trips like this anytime soon… we can’t afford the diesel fuel costs! Other things that make me sad… I have yet to leave the United States in 2022. No bueno!