After seeing my brother’s pictures of his fall foliage trip, we were quite taken with the idea of a leaf peeping trip! Read about “Leaf peepers” who follow the changing colours from region to region. We decided to plan a trip “sometime” and shelved it.
We flew Swiss, via Zurich.. and I learnt an important lesson the hard way..Zurich duty-free is one of the most expensive ones.. A bottle of J’ adore, absolute for 200$.. WT**^&&**! I wasn’t really paying attention to the price, getting lost in the fragrances…only after making the purchase did I realise the foolishness of the whole deal! The ordeal didn’t end there…as soon as I took out the bottle to use it, dropped it on the floor, thankfully not breaking the bottle but majorly denting the metallic nob!
Hubby had researched and learnt that the more north and east we go, and the higher we go, the more colour we see…he booked us in Stowe, Vermont, which is a skiing resort and we decided to work ourselves east and south to New Hampshire in October (the best time to visit for fall colors is the second Monday of October- Columbus Day weekend, which also is the most expensive and difficult to get accommodation). Hubby kept reminding me not to expect too much colour or get disappointed if we see only Green!!
We were trying to reach Stowe by 3Pm, as Oktoberfest was being celebrated in this town, that day! However, we got late, stopped here n there.. Reaching Waterbury, a small town proximal to Stowe, by 4:30 PM. DH had (as always) researched about multiple local points of interest, one of them being the “Cold Hollow Cider Mill”.
Pumpkins at the entrance and pumpkin spice in the air .. Pumpkin spice for the uninitiated is a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger, that is the essence of pumpkin pie.. Here, we tasted their famous Cider Donuts (which did not live upto the fame), the hot n cold (disappointing, apple juice) apple cider, multiple jams n relishes as well as fudge; the latter two, making up for the disappointing former items!! Ended up buying couple of absolutely delicious sauces, namely the maple mustard and maple-zucchini relish!! We then took the obligatory photos of with pumpkins! The rest of the attractions including wine tastings were shut down by this time..
Happy & satisfied, we proceeded, finally, towards Stone hill Inn, where we were booked for next 3 nights. Met by our cheerful inn-keepers George and inc.. I expected it to be a boutique, small scale B & B, but was pleasantly surprised to see a luxury resort!
|Entrance to the inn..|
We were floored by our room which was humungous with a huge bathroom, separate wash basins for his and her, a twin Jacuzzi, a two way fire-place and backdoor, opening onto a lush garden (with some more coloured trees)!
George helped us in getting reservations at a local fine dining restaurant called the “Michael’s on the hill” http://www.michaelsonthehill.com/.
So we decided to drive on the scenic route 108, towards the smuggler’s notch, which is a mountain pass, located in the Mount Mansfield National Forest, named so, because of some smuggling & Boot-legging activities through this region, predominantly in the prohibition times of early 19’s, via Canada! This region, in my opinion, had peaked in colour at that moment, as it was so vivid and breathtakingly beautiful that we spent better half of the morning, stopping n clicking innumerable pictures! This was the first time, that we witnessed the “Autumn colours” on this trip & fell overwhelmed by this Nature’s spectacle!!
Feeling content, my husband drove onwards to the largest town in Vermont called Burlington, along lake champlain. This could have been a nice touristy spot, with many activities on the lake side, had it been a nice sunny day! But, alas, it was pouring by the time we found a parking spot, n rushed to a nearby restaurant to find shelter. This turned out to be an Italian joint called “three tomatoes” n had some good pizzas!! The rain hadn’t abated when we finished our meal…we tried to stroll around the market…in a way a letdown.. we nature lovers were not really keen on a biggish town experience, that early in the trip…and trudged back in a glum mood towards the car park..heading back towards Stowe!
Back at the inn, in time for the evening wine n cheese hour, we were, uncharacteristically, not in a very social mood, picked up our wine glasses and chose to lounge around in the living room. There’s a nice DVD collection to choose from and we spent the evening cosily in bed, ordering in some Pizzas and watching movies.
After hiking for a bit, unexpectedly chanced upon a small pond where we got our very first breathtaking shots of foliage reflections in the water…
….contented for the day, we started hiking back to the parking lot when I suddenly heard a low grumbling noise..was just starting to wonder what..when the sound suddenly appeared louder and closer. We had seen enough landmarks saying “Bear Trail” or “BEAR Crossing”.. and we literally ran to the car… avoiding a potential close encounter with a live bear!
Stopped at the Cabot farm for some cheese tasting and tried the Lake Champlain chocolates, nex door! One of the “bestest” hot mocha latte that we’ve ever had was at this chocolaterie..what with perfect temperature, and perfect balance of sweet n bitter!! (which our server made sure using a kitchen thermometer)..
….came back to stowe and did some cool shopping!!
|Town of Stowe|
Not wanting to still call it a day… we decided to pay a quick visit to the Trapp family lodge, having heard about their brewery with delicious locally brewed beer and some awesome valley views. … For a change, the experience lived upto the expectations!! This is the same, Sound of Music fame, Trapp Family who eventually came and settled in Vermont!
|Awesome Valley view from the brewery at Trapp Family Lodge!|
Perfect setting atop a hillock.. the most awesome views of the valley were to be had here, at a perfect time of the day, that is dusk.. with tasting of four Austrian beers (as a part of Oktoberfest- Oktoberfest beer, an Austrian Wheat beer, a stout, and a lavender beer). DH tried the “bratwurst”, a german-austrian sausage, to make the entire experience more authentic!
This would have been a great way to wind up a fruitful day..but alas..the quest for the perfect finale…DH, in best of faith, wanted me to have a nice vegetarian meal, as I could not really have anything at the brewery. He had read about a nice vegetarian restaurant, called the Mint, in Waitsfield, doing innovative cuisine (lot more than the standard cheese, pasta n vegetables for us poor vegetarians). Since we were already in Stowe and had driven around enough for the day, I wasn’t so keen but DH insisted and seeing the love in his eyes, I agreed upon the 45 minute drive back, through pich dark country roads .. By the time we reached Waitsfield, it was already dark, the town was much smaller than expected and nobody seemed to have heard about this restaurant.. got lost, made the stupid mistake of not finding the exact address or the phone number, made no reservation and hence a total disaster. An idea occurred and we called our hosts at the stone hill lodge, requesting us to find the address online, fed it into the GPS n promptly found the place on the very next turn! However,… the restaurant was deserted, no lights, folded chairs,, n we learnt the hard way that this restaurant was usually closed on Mondays n Tuesdays!!! Little can one imagine our plight, especially my sweethearts, whose only intention was to delight me!! So we drove back, on a dark, scary road back, with no streetlights, bought some take away pizza n plonked ourselves on the bed!!
|Queueing up to climb Mt Mansfield!|
After waiting nearly 45 minutes, finally started the slow drive up the mountain…we had read about this being a hair raising ride.. And it was wimpy compared to Indian roads, thus was a cake walk.. With every car being very polite, giving way to upcoming traffic..
Only after entering the NH territory, did I realize why leaf peepers, throng this region of New England. There is no comparison between VT n NH, VT has beautiful foliage colors, mainly shades of yellow n orange but NH has such vivid reds, violets and shades of pink (depending upon the sugar content in the maple leaves), which need to be seen to be believed!!
We reached north Conway by 6:30 or so, had an easy n friendly check in at Wyatt House country Inn, by a gregarious hostess Elaine.
Out of the many eat-out recommendations given by her, we were glad we chose “Moat’s”.. a gastro-pub, a very busy place, expansive cuisine with many vegetarian options n free wifi!! We could do video-chat with family back home while having dinner!! And DH could do a great beer tasting from their microbrewery!!
Easily accessed by a winding road to the top of the hillock! We spent an hour or so just sitting and soaking in the vista, the weather gods obliged for a change with the sun shining intermittently and we could get a few nice pictures!! DH and I had a major argument at this point…as he accidently deleted a few pictures…the argument continuing all the way to Diana’s bath… which was a bit difficult to find and by the time we reached the start of the trail..it was pouring!! Decided to give it a miss and headed back to Moat’s for a nice hot lunch!! Obviously a contented tummy translates into a contended soul and our moods drastically improved…the sun reappeared and we finally could hike back to Diana’s bath!!
By the time we finished, it was already about 5 O’clock! Both of us knew that if we went back to the B & B…we would not get out again…feeling tired and cold at the same time!! A major part of the attraction in North Conway was the tax-free shopping at “Settlers Green” so we (mainly to please me) decided to head there, straight! It was already dark, we were already tired so scoped out a few outlets, collected the maps and decided to come again next day…
Come next day, and the weather was still playing up!! Heavily overcast with predictions of a lot of rain….we headed towards the “Kanc” which can be accessed via a bypass on 302, near Bartlett, called the Bear notch road!
Passed by Jacksonville, celebrating Return of the pumpkin people!!
Though the day was very dreary, very wet n cold… we did stop at many of the scenic viewpoints, well marked on the trail including the sabbaday falls, the lily pond and the franconian notch!
|The Kancamagus highway|
|fog rolling in..but still breathtakingly beautiful!!|
|Mount Washington Valley|
At this point, I am falling short of adjectives, not wanting to reuse the awesome, breathtaking, scenic ones again! But the ride was one of a lifetime and no words can describe the brilliant vistas that kept rolling in at every turn of the road!!
|Franconia Notch State Park|
We drove down again on 302, completing the loop, and gladly stopped for photo-ops that we seemed to have missed on the previous day!!
|Conway Scenic Railroad|
Saw another historical covered bridge in Bartlett…and realised why they are such popular landmarks of this region!
|Wiley House Historical Site|
|Happy feet..happy souls!!|