Essence of skunk, with Ben and Jerry's for dessert


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October 22nd 2017
Published: October 23rd 2017
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Leaving Canada our 'plans' for the coming two weeks or so - the period up to our final week in Boston - is just to bimble about in New England with a rough intention of following the Fall leaf colours as they change, using Internet Leaf Watch Live reports to guide us.

But, before leaving Canada we needed to book somewhere for our first night back in the US so that we had an address to give to US Border Control if asked. Not being sure how long we may be detained at the border, we had been held up for 4 hours at Niagara once before, we limited how far we targeted to go into New York State that first day back (Friday 13th!). We had booked a motel in Malone, barely an hour's drive into the state. At the border the guard asked some standard questions - where from, why Canada, any weapons, had we been to Dubai , and where going. When we said Malone he looked very surprised as to why we would be going 'there', but when we explained it was just convenience he was happy with that and away we went. Later, when we arrived at Malone we understood his incredulity - Malone was a total and utter dump of a place. Fortunately the motel itself was passable and there was a Walmart to get food & we did find a beautiful spot to sit by a lake for an hour or two that afternoon.

Saturday we pressed on into Vermont. The leaf colours were really starting to show now, but they do change in quality in very short distances. Our Vermont route took us east but our north/south variance whilst travelling across was 70 miles or so. It was clear that the quality, intensity and completeness of the colour varied roughly north/south. At that time, over a week ago now, north still had plenty of green, middle was at peak, and south was already over with large numbers of trees already without any leaf colour. The best trees for colour are maple & beech, sugar maple has a beautiful intensity of red colour but they tend to be off the main routes so less easy to find.

The range of colours is all that you may expect from pictures you may have seen. In actuality the fall leaf colours are their natural state, it's just that that natural colour - orange, yellow, red etc - is masked by the chlorophyll green that the leaves have during summer.

On the way we drove passed several road-kill skunks, at least 6 that day. And boy, dead they may be but the scent gland clearly lingers. Each time we had to endure several minutes of skunkiferous odour in the car before we could blast it out by winding up the air fan 😨

There is a lot of french influence in northern Vermont, whose name means Green Mountain. And there were many French placenames as we drove through - Gagnier, Chateaugay, Isle de la Motte.

Vermont is famous for its cheese and we passed a sign that said 'World's Best Cheddar '. We don't think so!! Not the right gorge, not the right county, not even the right country!

We stopped in Montpelier for three nights. A charming place with a nice vibe, State Capital of Vermont. That first night we got tickets to a local production of Sense and Sensibility. An amusing production, done in the round. Some of the accents were interesting to say the least. The stage management was strange too. For one scene there were 7 players sat around a dining table, but the table and chairs were all on wheels. As the scene progressed all the players and the scenery rotated about the table's centre, twice.

Sunday morning we started by visiting a Sugaring works. During February through to April Morse Farm Mapleworks taps around 8000 maple trees in the surrounding forests and drain off gallons of sap. This sap is around 2% sugar, and they boil it down to the maple syrup we eat at around 70% sugar. The collection pipes are in place in the forest but there is no tapping at the moment. A jolly video though shows the whole process though. We couldn't resist buying some of their darkest syrup to bring home. Pip has promised to make pancakes for breakfast a little more often!

We next headed for the Stowe ski area, but had a short detour to the Von Trapp Family Lodge. Yes, this was, once, the place that the Sound Of Music family emigrated to when they escaped from Austria. The Lodge is hidden now - we didn't see it - because there is a socking great big Tyrolean lodge hotel complex at the site. The family graves are there though. Maria, the former nun who became the Baroness, lived til she was 82, passing away in 1987.

At Stowe the summer gondola was on its last weekend. We took a trip to the top and were rewarded by some wonderful views. We asked when the ski season would start and were told it would be on November 17th. No ifs or buts.

On the way back we passed the Ben and Jerry's ice cream factory. They do tours, but we planned that for Monday. Just as well. The place was packed. We had to queue for 45 minutes just to buy an ice cream!

So Monday we started by said visit to B&J's. More of a stand and watch actually, with a guide explaining what is happening as we watch the production line below. B&J would be regarded as a very generous employer. In addition to health and dental insurance, and many other benefits, every employee receives, every day, 3 pints of ice cream. Think on that. That's 15 pints - over 2 gallons - a week; 5 gallons a month! Good job they get free chloresteral tests too. They can't sell it, but they are allowed to trade. Our guide hasn't paid for coffee at his favourite coffee shop for 4 years 😀. Nor has he paid for any of the local Cabot cheese.

At the B&J site they have signs directing you to the Flavour Graveyard. At the end of the trail is a 'graveyard' with over 30 granite headstones with descriptions of flavours which have been 'deceased'. 😀

On to Burlington, a lovely town on the edge of Lake Champlain. There we found an enormous mural depicting many famous Burlingtoners / Vermonters, including the Von Trapps, Rudyard Kipling who wrote and illustrated Jungle Book whilst in VT, Bernie Sanders city mayor and Presidential candidate, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn a VT resident.

On Tuesday morning the car was well frosted before our move off towards New Hampshire. We drove through Bath, a small settlement that has what could be possibly be the US oldest general store, and also has an enormous covered bridge, nearly 400 feet long.

Next stop was Littleton, and as we arrived we saw many references to it being 'The Glad Town'. Turns out Littleton is where Pollyanna originated. The author, Eleanor H Porter was born and raised in Littleton, and sure enough there is a Pollyanna statue in town. We also drove through Lincoln, though no sign of an 'imp' anywhere!

Our next three night stay was a B&B in Campton, just south of the White Mountains where the fall colours are showing as peak at the moment. On Wednesday we did 'The Loop' a steady 120 mile circle of the White Mountains and its scenery, looking particularly good in its fall blanket at the moment. We took a walk through the Flume Gorge, a watercourse produced by the erosion of a basalt dike inclusion from between granite walls. It's strange to think of basalt erosion, it being a quite hard rock, being quicker than its surroundings, but when the surrounding is granite this is what happens.

Thursday we went south to the lakes, and took a lake cruise for a couple of hours enabling us to see the surrounding fall colour hills from the water. Lake Winnipesaukee is New Hampshire's largest lake and the 3rd largest natural body of water entirely within a single state. It normally freezes in winter, to 2-3 feet, and it is common to see villages of ice fishing huts on the ice, along with snowmobiles, pickups and even RVs (motor caravans to you and me). At the end of the lake, one of the cruise stops and somewhere we drove through later is Wolfeboro, the 'Oldest Summer Resort in the US', a title it gained once Governor John Wentworth built a holiday home there in 1771. It also has an impressively placed private school on the water's edge with fees of $57000 per year! Average class size 12, teacher ratio 6:1. Even now the town had homes for Prince Rainier, Grace Kelly, Drew Barrymore, Nicolas Sarkozy. We returned via Squam Lake where the film, On Golden Pond was filmed, spotting a few loons at the water's edge.

Friday we came into another state, Maine, famed for lobsters and wild blueberries which is fine by us. Our destination was Bar Harbor on the eastern side of Mt Desert Island. The island has one of the US most popular National Parks, Acadia, which, when it was established in 1916, was the first in eastern US.

Bar Harbor is jumping, even though for a lot of places on the way in their season finished on Columbus Day, the first weekend of October. That means that some places we wanted to use, particularly the choicest lobster pounds - shacks that sell lobster meals - were already closed. But we were still able to get ourselves a lobster meal the night we arrived - lobster chowder, blueberry pie.

Yesterday we took a very slow, very 'stoppy' drive around the park using an audio guide provided by our B&B. Lots of great ocean views, great Fall scenery. So much so, that's pretty much what we did today too. In the 1880s the island and land around Bar Harbor became the place for the wealthy elite - Rockefeller, Vanderbilt , Pulitzer, Ford etc, - to have summer 'cottages' built (mini mansions to us). Regretably there was a big fire in 1947 which wiped out thousands of acres of the park, and over 60 of these 'cottages'.

Tonight we are having a Guided Ghost Tour, after all it is Halloween season over here, pumpkins everywhere.


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23rd October 2017

"Fall colours & pumpkins"
Just wanted to remind you it is also Halloween here in a big way, big pumpkins everywhere!! Also the fall colours in the Devon countryside take some beating, hope you don't miss the spectacle here! Enjoy your trip. Judy & Rod

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