Vermont welcomes the arrival of the first day of fall! Nature’s color palette will soon be ablaze here at Pond Mountain Inn – birches with brightening yellows, vibrant red maples still to come all with mountain backdrops of fading green. Frosty mornings will give way to cool crisp days perfect for mountain hiking and coming together once again with nature.
Heading south on Vermont Route 30 from Wells to Manchester you’ll discover five general stores – four of which are still operating! What makes them so interesting? First, it’s the simplicity and thoughtfulness of early New England architecture. Then, it’s the incredible variety of goods and services from one general store to the next that make each so fascinating – mostly locally-sourced products you’d never find anywhere else and the ice cream is simply local. But, writing a treatise about their varied product and service offerings is no substitute for discovering them yourself. I always like seeing the hoof cream not far from the deli counter… makes me curious about the extent of vertical integration here in Vermont. Below are two farther afield general store standouts and the five you’ll discover leaving Pond Mountain Inn on your way to Manchester. Pursuing Vermont’s Historic General Stores is a great way to spend a day or an afternoon!
F.H. Gillingham General Store, Woodstock; since 1886 this store is renowned throughout New England. A quintessential Vermont General Store! Step back in time when you visit this 131 year old store and find both traditional and latest products all in one place. See why they have always been the “source” for gift boxes of all shapes and sizes for any occasion throughout Woodstock and New England and don’t miss a visit to the archives of the building that has a vast collection of artifacts and documents about the Gillingham family and Woodstock’s social history. https://www.gillinghams.com/
J.J. Hapgood & Eatery, Peru; is the longest continuously running general store in the state. Over the past 150 years it has been a post office, market, hardware store and a meeting place for friends and neighbors. Well known for their creative lunches (a must have is the authentic wood-fired pizzas) and dinner is enjoyed with their fine wines or beer. They also have exceptional dry goods and is far more polished than its general store counterparts. The interior is wonderfully decorated with exceptional local artifacts since its renovation in 2013. A fun fact from their website: “The store—and a local cow—was famously featured in the 1987 film Baby Boom, staring Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard.” http://jjhapgood.com/
From Pond Mountain Inn Heading South on Route 30…
The Wells Country Store, Wells; people from all over including our guests come for the baked goods! The sandwiches, homemade pizza, soup and ice cream is incredible! But what makes this place so special is Juli & Tim’s love of community. Funny story… Juli & Tim once drove to our inn to return one of our guest’s packages that had been left behind – they met our guests, joined the party and stayed for a glass of wine! https://www.facebook.com/TheWellsCountryStore/
Mach’s General Store, Pawlet; closed last year is said to become a microbrewery and eatery was originally the Franklin Hotel, built in 1808 that gave way to Mach’s Store in 1945 has a brook and waterfall running through its center, which is visible from inside. We look forward to its opening.
Sheldon Market, Pawlet; the only gas station on Route 30 between Wells and Manchester. The store is small, but don’t underestimate its contribution – the parking lot is always full for a reason.
The Dorset Union Store, Dorset; celebrated its 200th anniversary last year, the owners succeed with staying true to its authentic character and is exceptional in every way! Purveyors of Necessities and Frivolities since 1816 they offer a Deli with made-to-order sandwiches, soups and more. A Bakery with breakfast treats such as freshly baked muffins, scones, croissants, and donuts. Their wine room offers a wide selection of wine, champagne, a selection of local, domestic and imported beer. Their Dinner to Go menu offers entrees such as grilled chicken, fresh salmon or veggie lasagna, with sides and salads. If your looking to take home some Vermont treasures then you must visit their grocery store and don’t leave without picking up what Vermont is known for, Vermont maple syrup and maple candies. https://www.dorsetunionstore.com/
H.N. Williams General Store, Dorset; is the quintessential Vermont country store dating back to 1840 is where we always buy our Vermont Darn Tough socks! A simple and unassuming appearance gives way to a rich product offering from animal feed to hunting and fishing supplies! They have it all including a great deli! https://www.hnwilliams.com/
A cursory glimpse at our local Vermont’s general stores is more about harkening back to a time when life was far simpler. Join us in Vermont for one of the many things that make this place so special. We have a complete listing of all Vermont Country and General Stores.
Intrigued by the clarity of the night sky and the absence of any artificial light we joined the Dorset Astronomy Club. Our first question, like many others, is “what can I see through a $200 telescope?” The short answer – a lot!
Star Gazing at Pond Mountain Inn Without a Telescope
Let’s begin by mentioning what can be seen without a telescope – quite a bit! The International Space Station (ISS) passed by twice last week while having dinner outside with friends. And, with an untrained eye, having ISS Detector app on my telephone is the best way to distinguish the space station from roaming satellites. After only a few sightings, the two are easily distinguishable – the space station has a much larger and brighter footprint. Satellites are quite common – we saw three in fifteen minutes the previous Sunday night!
The broad swath of milky light stretching across the night sky is, of course, the Milky Way Galaxy that never disappoints. The Big Dipper sits directly above our home in the summer, which is somehow very comforting. And, the annual Perseid Meteor Shower two weekends ago was disappointing again this year with large amounts of cloud cover. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for next year…
We see shooting stars about 30% of the time – last summer we saw an incredible meteor streaking across the night’s sky that lasted just a split second – absolutely magnificent!
Planets are easily visible to the naked eye, especially the notable three – Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, but are virtually featureless. The meteor strikes on the moon are nicely apparent with a pair of department store binoculars.
And, there is so much more to see….
A $200 Telescope Certainly Improves Things – A Lot!
The Moon’s craters come alive with a telescope and it’s easily the most impressive object in the sky given its proximity to earth. There are now eight planets, with the absence of Pluto. Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are the “big three” in the sky revealing nice surface characteristics that we hope to share with you in the future!
Kay and I certainly look forward to learning so much more about the night sky and will share photographs of what we see and experience from Vermont… Stay tuned! And, it may be even better in the winter!
Sunday drives are magical especially in Vermont whether you’re destination-oriented or just like to tour the rolling hills alongside a meandering river. Sunday was magnificent, the only thing missing was a wicker picnic basket filled with essential luxuries and a crisp-cold bottle of Sancerre. Kay and I along with our “adopted parents, Hoa & Orland, of Manchester” were determined to see a few of the southern Vermont Covered Bridges we had yet to visit. Following the Battenkill for about ten minutes a distant view of the day’s first covered bridge became clearer! No matter how many times you’ve seen a covered bridge each is met with a new sense of exhilaration. The feeling is indescribable – set back in time one can almost feel the presence of those that traveled before us likely by horse across this timbered structured.
West Arlington Bridge, Built in 1852 is arguably the most beloved and most photographed in the state.
This is the quintessential Vermont photograph that everyone should personally experience… What makes this photograph even more treasured is that it was taken in front of Norman Rockwell’s home!
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) lived in this house in Arlington, Vermont from 1943-1953.
Sunderland is where we found the Chiselville Covered Bridge, named for the fine quality chisels and edge tools manufactured nearby. The bridge spans the Roaring Branch Brook and was built in 1870.
Orland and I traversed the steep riverside bank to gain a unique perspective from below.
A brief history… Vermont is rightfully famous for its covered bridges – more than one hundred span the state (Pond Mountain Inn has a complete listing). A covered bridge was built for necessity to protect their wooden structures, extend their lifespan, and protect Vermonters and perhaps their animals from the elements. Vermont Covered Bridges are architecturally very pleasing, fun to experience and remain an important part of Vermont’s legacy.
We will soon publish the first of our Self-Guided Tours, which will include more covered bridges.
The serenity and peacefulness of snowshoeing is second to the natural beauty always on display in every small town in Vermont. As we walked through the woods we occasionally stopped to examine each animal footprint – we saw deer tracks, fox and where a bird of prey may have found a late afternoon snack. As we approached the top of the ridge a large open field came into view with a distant tree line and the magnificent Taconic Mountain Range further off in the distance. A spectacular day spent with nature only thirty minutes from Pond Mountain Inn.
Many of us are already talking about an early spring after the recent snowfall and warmer temperatures forecasted this week. Sacrilegious yes, given there’s likely two winter months left; however it gave pause and a thought of a hike I took last summer not far from the inn. The Lewis Deane Nature Preserve, an 85-acre forest located on St. Catherine Mountain is just over one mile north of Pond Mountain Inn. Last summer, together with two guests, we enjoyed this moderate twenty-five minute one-way hike to the top — however, there’s a slightly longer more leisurely option to the mountain’s summit. I elected the more aggressive route up the mountain, which I had no difficulty ascending; however after my third knee surgery two years ago maybe I’ll think about taking the easier path back to base next time – the descent was tough on the knees. Once we reached the top we were completely awestruck with the picture postcard mountain views. My photograph certainly suggests that this is a “must do” again this spring / summer.
We asked a native Vermonter where’s the best place to cross country ski in the greater Manchester, Vermont area? Without hesitation he said, “Wild Wings.” Wild Wings Ski Touring Center is located in Peru, Vermont situated on 50 acres, but with access to over 1000 acres – 9 trails totaling over 25 kilometers is where we sent our weekend guests yesterday.
Patty and Dan had the perfect day – spectacular blues skies, not too cold and magnificently groomed trails made for an impeccable cross country ski day! They rented everything and the staff there couldn’t have been more helpful and hospitable. This was Dan’s maiden voyage on cross country skis – and at 67, he performed marvelously. That’s Dan in the photograph – beautiful technique!
After hearing about this perfect day at breakfast this morning; Kay and I will visit Wild Wings in the coming weeks and give cross country skiing at try! We’ll let you know… stay tuned! Pond Mountain Inn is only 45 minutes away from the Wild Wings Ski Touring Center.