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Home > New England Part 2 - Around Montpelier Vermont

New England Part 2 - Around Montpelier, Vermont

After topping up our food supplies at the Shaw's supermarket in Montpelier we drove about fifteen miles ending up on dirt roads to arrive at our next cabin overlooking Mirror Lake (its official name was No. 10 Pond!) in North Calais. The towns around here consisted of mostly clapboard dwellings ranging from semi derelict to luxury holiday homes scattered among the woodlands, although East Calais on the main Route 17 had a general store, library and church. On the main road south of East Calais we passed a car graveyard with many old cars parked in the fields. Apparently they were all for sale for several million dollars the lot - land not included.
Mirror Lake North Calais
Mirror Lake North Calais
Old car graveyard near East calais
car graveyard
East Calais General Store
East Calais general store
Our few days around Montpelier were spent mostly dodging showers although the Sunday before Columbus day was sunnier and being a holiday weekend brought out the crowds. The centre of Montpelier was quite attractive with the gold domed State Capitol building, several traditional Colonial style houses and a large Historical Society museum. There was a farmers' market on the Saturday morning and we got the impression from the stalls and produce for sale that there is quite an alternative culture around here with many long bearded folk selling candles etc. After collecting some maps and leaflets from  the Tourist Information booth and lunch in the popular Skinny Pancake restaurant we returned to our cabin to plan our itinerary for the next few days.

East Calais chapel
East Calais chapel

On the Sunday we headed west on the freeway to Waterbury and the almost obligatory visit to the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory, an interesting if rather whacky place with a free sample to finish the factory tour. The flavors graveyard had examples of recipes that didn't make it to the bigtime including Cool Britannia (Strawberrys and Shortbread)! From there we drove up to Stowe, a busy town where we spotted a crowd of Japanese photographers with their camera gear and tripods capturing the view of the church in the trees. We then found a place to park at the end of the recreational path alongside the river a couple of miles out from the town centre. Most visitors were heading for the farmers' market with food and craft stalls and a lively blues band. We enjoyed a pleasant walk along the path shared with cyclists but here they sensibly called out "on your left" as they came up behind us - rather more polite than our experiences when walking along some of the shared trails in the UK. 

golden trees at Stowe
Golden trees at Stowe

The next day we headed south east to Groton State Forest passing through more spectacular autumn Fall colours, although having climbed up a steep rocky path to the Owls Head viewpoint the outlook was rather grey in the rain as most of the trees on the distant hills had by now lost their leaves. We decided to return to Mirror Lake passing through the small towns of Marshfield and Plainsfield where the 4x4 pickup truck seemed to be the most popular vehicle. We also passed a couple of campgrounds which appeared to be occupied by long term residents in large RV trailers.

Another grey day followed so we headed for the "Granite Center of the World", Barre (pronounced berry) and a visit to the Rock of Ages quarry. After a look at the factory where mostly headstones and memorials are produced these days, we took a trip on their yellow school bus to see the quarry workings. For over 150 years massive blocks of light grey granite, up to 50 tons, have been cut using various methods including blasting and diamond cable saws. Luckily they were lifting a couple of blocks out using the derrick cranes as we arrived at the viewpoint and the guide explained how the stone was extracted from the deep quarry over the years, from when thousands of workers, many Italian, were employed to just a few these days.
State Capitol Building Montpelier    
Montpelier State Capitol building

At Ben and Jerrys Factory Woodbury
a Ben & Jerry's ice cream van

Stowe church
Stowe church

Photographers at Stowe       Ben & Jerrys Cool Britannia flavour gravestone

Rock of Ages quarry Barre VT
Rock of Ages quarry at Barre

Rock of Ages quarry workers
Granite cutting

Hope cemetery granite car headstone       and aeroplane        Another amazing headstone
Hope Cemetery at Barre - granite headstones

On our way back from Barre we called in to Hope Cemetery, so large you can drive around it, where there were amazing examples of carved granite headstones some amusing others rather strange. We then drove to a nearby shopping mall at Berlin to visit a Walmart. As in many towns in the UK since the recession the mall was virtually deserted with several empty shop units and hardly any customers around in the middle of the afternoon - perhaps evening and weekend shopping trips are more usual in the US. We headed back to North Calais passing two large RV dealers whose stock seemed to be mostly massive fifth wheelers at what appeared to be quite low prices - probably ex rental.

The next morning we set off for our final accommodation in New Hampshire, topping up the car with "gas" at just under $4 a gallon (about 65 pence a litre!) and driving via the large town of St Johnsbury where we detoured to the Dog Chapel, a strange place in the countryside set up by wood carver, painter and children's author Stephen Huneck several years ago (he died in 2010). At the chapel entrance stands a group of carved and painted dogs with their owner and inside were more carved dogs of various breeds and all the walls were covered in messages and photos of dogs that had passed on - Rainbow Bridge being the favourite destination. Not being dog lovers, to us it seemed a bit bizarre and only in America maybe.

Stephen Huneck's Dog Chapel near St Johnsbury VT        Dog chapel interior
Stephen Huneck's Dog Chapel near St Johnsbury, Vermont


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