You don’t have to go far from home for long to find interesting things. I enjoy the small places in between. This is an account of my trip through Vermont in 2009, which was the first time I drove more than two hours away from my home by myself (I lived in New Hampshire at the time). If you have an eye for detail, there is always plenty to see.
Harriman Reservoir - June 8
After parking and walking to the opposite side of the Harriman dam, I discovered a snowmobile path that ran for a very long ways. I decided to make a hike out of it. I eventually gave up walking and turned around after what must have been more than three miles. This entire time, I did not see a single human on the path. Nor did I ever see anyone on the opposite shore, nor a single boat in the water. It was very peaceful. The water was unsuitable for wading. It was full of leaves, muck, and branches. Trees grew right up to the water. There was no proper beach anywhere. Besides, the water was colder than I expected for June.
Highlights: There were large, yellow butterflies everywhere. In one location, there was a dogpile of them on the ground. I gave chase but they got away. They all seemed to have great difficulty getting off the ground. Eventually, all but one did, and it was still there when I returned that way to my car.
Molly Stark State Park – June 8
Turning east on route 9, I headed for Molly Stark State Park. A trail from the park leads to the top of Mount Olga, which is really more of a big hill. It is quite steep, but the length of the trail was slightly disappointing. Also, the top is covered with trees, blocking any view. There is a fire tower at the top, but the plastic windowpanes are cracked and dirty. It was still nice.
Highlights: The air all the way up the trail was strong with the scent of Christmas trees.
The Maple Museum – June 8
Off of route 9 is a gift shop named The Maple Museum. It closes at 6, but since she was awaiting a package from UPS, the lady there let me in at 6:20. The store has maple syrup of all grades and blends, plus maple candies of all kinds. It also carries baskets, shirts, books, postcards, salsas, sauces, figurines, and all the usual stuff you find in any gift shop. The one thing that really intrigued me was the maple soda. It wasn’t as good as I expected.
91-North – June 8
I decided to begin heading north that evening to the Willoughby area so I would have less distance to go the next morning. All the way north on 91 on both sides were small mountains and large hills covered in trees catching the light from the setting sun. Also, it seemed at times that I was the only one out on the road. Traffic was almost zero. It was very scenic and peaceful.
The Wells River Motel – June 8
I stopped at the Wells River Motel for the night. It was nice, but more than I like spending. Also, I couldn’t get hot water in the shower the next morning. That was fun.
89-North – June 9
Since it was raining, I decided to skip Willoughby and head northwest on 89 to the aquarium in Burlington. If you think mountainous landscapes in the sun are cool, you’ve never seen them in the rain. Great, curling tentacles of mist wrapped around the mountains on either side of me barely a thousand feet over my head. These mountains were really more like very large hills, actually, although some were quite steep.
ECHO Aquarium – June 9
The ECHO Aquarium in Burlington is directly on the shore of Lake Champlain. Its exhibits primarily concern the history, geology, and ecology of the lake, but there was also an exotic frog exhibit. There are no very large tanks, but I did see numerous fish, turtles, and frogs. I learned that a freshwater variety of dune grass grows nearby and that foreign zebra mussels encrust anything left on the lakebed.
Isle La Motte – June 9
Later, I drove north to the Chazy Reef on Isle La Motte. The white-powder dirt roads of the islands turned my tires white by the time I got to the end. Half of the island is fossil reef including stromatolites, bryozoans, stromatoporoids, sponges, coral, and various mollusks. There are trails to take through the woods to see different rock formations with fossils in them. I didn’t see much. Most of it just looked like rock to me, but I did learn how to recognize fossil stromatoporoids, which are long-extinct, cabbage-like relatives of sponges that I had not heard of before. By this time, the rain had stopped, but it was still cold and windy. There was one location where the rock under my feet sounded hollow.
Highlights: I saw a black and yellow snake, a long, thin, bright green beetle, and a bright red beetle with bright blue wing covers.
Stillwater State Park – June 9
Returning southeast on 89 and route 2, I pulled into the Groton State Forest. A cluster of state parks are there. I pulled into Stillwater State Park hoping to find a campsite to spend the night (much cheaper than a motel). The park borders a lake and has restrooms, pay showers, a sandbox, a badmitten net, half a basketball court, and a swingset. I was one of only two campers in the entire campground of over fifty sites. That night it became extremely cold. I had to put on a sweatshirt, change into long pants, get out my heavy blanket and my beach towel just to be warm enough – and this was in June!
Highlights: I saw a rabbit, a lightning bug, and heard what I think were owls all night.
Owl’s Head Mountain – June 10
Still in Groton State Forest, I drove to Owl’s Head Mountain to do some mountain climbing. I was a bit disappointed with it. I drove ninety percent of the way to the top (that’s where the parking lot is) and the trees at the top only allow a 100-degree angle view. Still, it was a decent view for what it was.
Afterwards, I took a trail down the non-steep side of the mountain and looped back to my car by way of the main road. In the half-hour it took me to walk on route 232, only four cars passed me.
Highlights: I saw a very young, diseased, maple tree with hot pink blotches on the leaves. I saw two types of slugs, both up to four inches long.
Kettle Pond – June 10
Still in Groton State Forest, I visited Kettle Pond and took the trail that wraps around it. Despite the flat grade, it was hard going due to all the rocks, roots, and mud. It took longer than I expected. There were no suitable beaches.
Highlights: I saw two types of newts.
93-South – June 10
Deciding to return home early because of the unusually cold weather, I took 93 south to see the White Mountains. I noticed as soon as I passed the border from Vermont to New Hampshire that the thousand-foot hills that lined the road on both sides suddenly became vast mountains that sloped off away into the distance. The drive was largely uneventful.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.