Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Enveloped in Northeastern Wonder: Discovering a Gem Hidden amidst the Rain

Soon after Departing From Saratoga we crossed the border into Vermont, the first new state of the trip for both of us!

Sunset shortly after crossing into Vermont
We spent our first night in the Green Mountains at Woodford State Park. It was dark when we arrived, but we were still able to enjoy dinner and a nice fire while looking up at the stars overhead. Somewhere in the early hours of the morning it began to rain. We both awoke several times to the sound of rain in the early hours of the morning, but I was sincerely hoping the storm would soon pass over and we could go on with our plans for the day. When I checked the forecast the day before we left it had showed no chance of rain that early on our trip, but apparently the weather gods had other plans. It did not stop raining.

About 8:30 we ran out of the tent to the car and drove back to the entrance to the campgrounds where we could pick up enough cell phone service to try and look at the radar. This only served to further prove that the rain was not planning on leaving any time soon. So we returned to the campsite and enjoyed the pleasure (not for the last time) of breaking camp in the rain. We actually managed to do pretty well. I even succeeded (more or less) in taking the tent down while leaving the rain fly up, which helped to keep the actual tent mostly dry. Despite the rain we were still able to appreciate the color around us, though it was really only just beginning to make its way into the southern end of the Green Mountains where we were camped. 

Once we had everything back in the car we continued on our journey through the Green Mountains. As we passed through Wilmington, VT we came across this bookstore, which was especially fun as Alison’s parents have a Scottie named Bartleby! 

We also came across the Paradise Farm Sugarhouse stopped to partake of some hot apple cider, freshly made apple donuts and maple candy. 

Since it was raining our ability to explore the mountains was limited so we decided it was a good opportunity to check out the only National Park Service site in the state of Vermont, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. What is the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park you ask? Good question. I didn’t know either, and we would not have gone to see it were I not such a National Park nerd. Since it is the only site in Vermont and we were not that far away, we went to find out exactly what it was and why it had been preserved.

It turns out that there is quite a lot to the park, most of which we were not able to take advantage of due to time constraints and the rain. But even in the time we were there I realized that this is one the largely unknown gems of the National Park system. The park preserves the site of a farm that was owned by three different men over the course of three generations.

The Marsh-Billings House
Each of these men (George Perkins Marsh, Frederick Billings, and Laurance Spelman Rockefeller ) played key roles in advancing conservation and expanding the National Park system. The latter is the grandson of John Rockefeller (and son of John Jr) and continued the work his father began of trying to use the family money to preserve beautiful and unique American landscapes. The interpretive opportunities at this park are unparalleled. The connections at this park include (but are certainly not limited to) strong ties to the Civil War, the early preservation movement, the founding of the Park Service, John Muir, Yosemite, Grand Tetons, Acadia, westward expansion, Manifest Destiny, the Industrial Revolution, and sustainable farming.  Among the 397 units that currently make up the system I have yet to encounter one that offers such a variety of interesting stories and possibilities for interpretation.

After departing from Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller we headed northwest, back across the Hudson River, to Fort Ticonderoga. This fort is unique in that it played key roles in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. It is also unique because it is still standing!

About 2/3 of the way to the fort we finally drove out of the rain and enjoyed several hours of precipitation free weather (though the rain would come back later that evening). We didn’t have much time and they charge admission fees as if you were going to Disneyland, so we elected not to pay to go into the fort itself in hopes of returning with more time to properly appreciate it.

 Instead we headed up to Mount Defiance (which was free) where we found ourselves overlooking the fort from the same position that Johnny Burgoyne and the British occupied when they captured the fort in 1777. This recapture of the fort for the British came after two years of colonial occupation following its famous capture by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys in 1775.

When we first got to the top fog had rolled in and obscured everything below.


Even as we looked from above we saw the fog move off and had a splendid view of the fort, the end of Lake Champlain, and the edge of the Green Mountains. We didn’t actually take the fort, but we certainly appreciated the power of the vantage point from Mount Defiance!

Firing the cannon

After crossing back into Vermont we ended the day with a walk around Burlington, the largest city in northern Vermont, which sits alongside Lake Champlain. It was a fun city and we enjoyed walking around and observing a variety of oddly colored bears.We also took advantage of the boardwalk alongside the waterfront park to partake of a splendid sunset over the lake.

All told, it was a good introduction to a new state.
For more pictures of Vermont Click Here

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