Day Drive to Waterbury and Stowe

There is a lot of great places within an hour’s drive or so to get out into nature. I live in Burlington, which is a small city on Lake Champlain about an hour south of the Canadian border. Vermont’s largest city, with a greater metro area population of just over 100,000. If that gives you any indication, yeah, humans are a rarity around here. Half the places you can drive to in the state look like a postcard image. Green hills and church steeples and barns and covered bridges. So when we have no plans on a warm, cloud-free Sunday we can simply get in the car, put the top down, pick a direction and drive.

This particular Sunday we decided to head down to the Stowe area. It’s a mountain area for out of state tourists and their money. Mostly a place to either ski or get married. Ben and Jerry’s factory is just a few minutes away in Waterbury, so that adds to the tourist appeal. That doesn’t mean locals stay away, there are just as many things for locals to do there and enjoy. That’s a common theme in much of Vermont, it’s designed for tourists but appeals to locals. That is, of course, unless you don’t care for the outdoors. There’s no major shopping centers, amusement parks or casinos or nightlife. Nothing is really walk-able.

I had three goals, I wanted to go to the Waterbury outdoor flea market, I wanted an ice cream cone, and I wanted apple cider donuts. Everything else that happens along the way is what happens along the way. It was a full day.

We started with a stop at the Waterbury flea. A large field filled with tables and tents covered in other people’s junk. There could be treasure, there could be nothing. We found deer antlers, a fez hat, and that’s it. It was windy so people were packing up early. These things usually have a lot of old tools, old clothes, old books, pocket knives and coins, a table filled with Trump flags and “2nd Amendment” themed stuff (there’s always one), and then an assortment of oddities. Not much in the way of cameras. An obsolete Kodak that the dealer wanted way too much for, as well as an Argus brick that had a sticky aperture and an equally hefty price tag. “It’ll look good on a shelf” he tells me, I neglect to tell him how many non-broken cameras line my shelves already. I smile, nod and move on.

We walk the circle, take a couple pictures, then head to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for some donuts and hard cider. The place is busy. This place is always busy. Lot’s of Vermonty things inside, mostly food items but also the usual mix of shirts and sweaters and glasses and fridge magnets. We get half a dozen donuts, sample a glass of hard cider, take a couple pictures and move on… but not before making some new friends in the parking lot and taking their picture. Vermonters are neighborly, it’s jarringly easy to make new friends of random strangers in a parking lot.

Where to next? Stowe is here, do we want anything in Stowe? Not really. Take a drive through the main downtown area (it’s really just one street that stretches four blocks or so) then get on the Smugglers Notch access road. I wrote about it a few years ago, it’s a neat road to drive on. Today we’re going to park and wander down the trails to Bingham Falls. It’s not marked, you kinda need to know where it is. We did not, but we have an All Trails app on my phone, so we eventually found it. Sat, took pictures, wandered around, skipped rocks, normal waterfall in the woods fare.

Since we’re here wanna hike up to Sterling Pond? Hmmmm. Nah, so much of the day has passed already (because nothing is done in any particular hurry on a day like this) let’s just go get ice cream and figure out what we’re going to cook for dinner tonight. And this was my Sunday. Not a bad way to burn a socially-distant day. I think part of the reason that Vermont consistently had the lowest number of Covid cases per capita is because everything we do together is pretty much outside. Sure enough, when winter hits we are back up in the 100-200 new cases a day, rather than the 4-8 new cases a day we get in the spring and summer. More than 75% of the state’s landmass is forest, so if “outside” is your jam, you’re in luck.