Finding summer bliss in Vermont

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of June 11-17, 1998
Exploring the Outer Cape: Activities galore
Selecting a trek in Nepal
Finding summer bliss in Vermont
Wildlife vacations fit for families

Finding summer bliss in Vermont
Question: I'm staying in Jeffersonville, Vermont for a week this summer. I was wondering what historical and interesting places are nearby. What are some activities enjoyed there during the summer season?

Chrystal Kozora
New Martinsville, West Virginia

Adventure Adviser: A better question would be what isn't there to do in and around Jeffersonville during the summer. A week's stay will give you a mere glimpse of this area's endless offerings. Natural wonders — like Mount Mansfield, Lake Champlain, and the Winooski River — abound, as do a fair amount of cultural happenings. Summertime activities include virtually anything outdoors, be it biking, hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, kayaking, or rock climbing. If you're not an outdoor enthusiast, fear not. Vermont has successfully positioned itself as a specialty-food state, and it shows. Everywhere you can indulge in the local maple syrup & butter, hand-crafted cheddar and goat cheeses (try Grafton's sage cheddar), Lake Champlain chocolates and, most revered, Ben & Jerry's. There's also a multitude of fine microbrews, so sample pints of Long Trail Ale, Otter Creek Amber, or Magic Hat's special brew to name a few. A drive along VT 108, the Stowe-Jeffersonville highway, is stellar anytime of year, particularly during summer when the surrounding mountains are velveted in green and the state's signature black-and-white cows dot the landscape.

Of course the area is most renowned for its stellar outdoor offerings. Jeffersonville is the base town of ski area Smugglers' Notch, which encompasses three peaks: Madonna, Sterling, and Morse. Here you can find plenty of hiking, guided walks, birders' breakfasts, fly-fishing, and canoeing excursions. To scope out your hiking options, flip through the Green Mountain Club's 50 Hikes in Vermont or pick up a copy of the Long Trail Guide. In Stowe, after filling up with Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia, stop by the Green Mountain Club on Route 100 (802-244-7037); the folks there will set you up with maps, guidebooks and advice. Tackling Mount Mansfield, the state's highest peak, is always a thrill, and the easiest route up climbs from Route 108 near Smugglers' Notch. If you're not up for the hike, at least drive the sinuous, 4 1/2-mile toll road to the summit. Other hikes include any stretch of the notorious Long Trail, Sterling Pond, and Moss Glen Falls. For something more extreme, there's lots of adventure climbing in the rock ledges and walls of Smugglers' Notch. Check in with either Peak Concepts (802-644-5385) or Green Mountain Guides (802-644-5918), both in Jeffersonville. If you'd rather see a trail from the comfort of a four-legged beast, try a trail ride with Vermont Horse Park. Or, if you're a birder, visit Huntington's Green Mountain Audubon Society Nature Center (802-434-3068), home to a 230-acre preserve and the Bird Museum of Vermont.

As for biking, the 42-mile loop from Stowe to Smugglers' Notch is one of the area's many good rides. There's also a pleasant (i.e., not too hilly) 40-mile loop from Jeffersonville that takes you past five covered bridges and through cow-dotted pastures, wetlands, and pastoral vistas. Magic Mountain Cycling (496-2614) offers guided bike tours. For off-roading options, call AJ's Mountain Bikes (253-4593).

The Lamoille River is the closest premier spot for paddling, and it runs right through Jeffersonville. You can put-in near Johnson and paddle an easy seven miles to a take-out point just past Cambridge. Call Smugglers' Notch Canoe Touring in Jeffersonville (1-888-937-6266) for gear and shuttle info. The Lamoille is also full of rainbow and brown trout, so you might want to rent some fishing gear while arranging your canoe trip. For a different boating experience, you could enroll in a day sculling course at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center (800-729-7751). And if you dislike boats all together but still want to be one with the river, join the locals at a swimming hole. Two good spots are in nearby Johnson, just above the village on Route 100C, and Jeffersonville, a 1/2 mile south on Route 108.

Culturally-speaking, there's plenty of city fun going on in these woods. The Opera House in Hyde Park boasts a full season of performances, and Stowe has several concerts and festivals (call 1-800-24-STOWE). Booming Burlington always has something going on, like the Mozart festival during July. In Montpelier, the state's capital, you can fashion together a nice little walking tour of the historic center. Check out the Vermont Historical Society (802-828-2291) in the Pavilion Building and the nearby State House, topped with a gold-leaf statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. While ambling down Main Street, be sure to stop in at one of the New England Culinary Institute's two side-by-side teaching restaurants. And if you're a cheese lover like me, it's worth the scenic drive to Cabot, the state's best known cheesemaker, for a tour and unlimited samples.

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