Next Sunday is All Species Day in the capital city of Vermont, a spring festival that sounds like it would be as old as the Green Mountains itself, but actually took off during the 1980s. Unfortunately, we missed the party in Montpelier by just a few weeks, but managed to enjoy an unseasonably warm day in northern Vermont and appreciated the species we did encounter along the trail and on our dinner plates.
I’m now convinced the time to enjoy Vermont is not October for its foliage or February for the slopes but in April when there are fewer people around. In the winter Mount Mansfield– just shy of 4,400 feet, Vermont’s tallest mountain–dominates scene and sky in Stowe, attracting hikers and skiers from all over. Traffic chokes the little downtown area. Winter gives way to spring, and the state flows with mud and maple syrup. That’s when you get Vermont to yourself. Because then vacationers trickle back for summertime swimming and hiking along Lake Champlain, about a half-hour drive from Stowe, and then the traffic peaks again for fall foliage. We visited at the perfect time–early April when the skiing season was over plus the lack of heavy winter snowfall meant a not-so-muddy-spring, so for 48 hours at Top Notch Resort and Spa we enjoyed Stowe mostly to ourselves.
Top Notch ended up being a centerpoint of our short time there and it was from Top Notch where we enjoyed Mount Mansfield. We took advantage of the outdoor heated pool, the outdoor hot tub, and then once our skin had puckered from so much time in the water and the sun had set, we bundled up in fleece from head to toe and sat by the fire, which is near the pool, and for about $8, roasted a bowl full of marshmallows and made S’mores. How many resorts claim S’mores among their amenities?
Top Notch S’mores are affordable, but their breakfasts and dinners are on the pricey side, especially since we had blown through too much money in Quebec thanks to the lack of street meat for sale. Coming toward the end of our vacation as well as the end of our budget, we explored breakfast and dinner options in downtown Stowe. McCarthys delivers on inexpensive, wholesome, big old-fashioned American breakfasts. We filled up on eggs, bacon, toast, granola, home fries, orange juice and coffee for under $25 for three people. The best way to work off a big New England breakfast is with a contemplative walk through the woods. A few minutes down the road from Top Notch is Smugglers Notch State Park and a trail to Bingham Falls–a path that’s pretty family-friendly although there was some mud and kids need to be aware of, and I love how the sign stated this, “the unstable environment.” Basically, don’t veer from the path and roam toward the edges where it can be very muddy and people can slip and fall.
Continuing with our perfect Vermont day, our hike was followed by the famous Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory tour in nearby Waterbury, and a wonderful impromptu stop at the glass blowing studio of Glenn Ziemke who was demonstrating the craft he had mastered over 37 years to whomever walked in that day.
Peace, love and ice cream…
…followed by watching shards of glass melt into a tumbler. Rather mesmerizing, actually. Glenn uses old spaghetti sauce jars to store his supplies.
Learning about glass blowing (and purchasing some blown glass) was followed by more swimming to work up an appetite for Frida’s Taqueria and Grill in downtown Stowe. I was initially skeptical about Mexican cuisine in Vermont, but some tourists from Ohio who were unwinding in the hot tub the same time we were persuaded me to give Frida’s a go. Only in New England will you find a hopping cantina on the ground floor of an early 19th century Colonial that’s decorated with the work of a 20th century bisexual Communist Mexican artist of German heritage. The guacamole prepared tableside is truly delicious, and while I’ve been spoiled by some delicious cantinas here in metropolitan New York, the entrees at Frida’s were surprisingly good.
I wish we could party at Frida’s this Saturday to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, then we could grab a few zzz’s before heading to Montpelier for All Species Day on Sunday. Now that would be an awesome Vermont weekend.
Hiking along Bingham Falls
The guacamole at Frida’s was completely consumed shortly after this photo was taken.
And these S’mores disappeared shortly after this photo was taken.
Saying goodnight to Mount Mansfield…
Your photos are amazing, they are really describing a nice family holiday story..:) Glass blowing seems quit interesting!!