Current Location: Rocky Point, Oregon: 40 degrees F and partly cloudy at midday
Somehow Jeanne and Alan were calm and collected as the wedding day drew closer. Everything was well planned and on schedule, and with a few more days before guests and relatives were to arrive, Jeanne had no qualms about leaving town for a couple of days to take me on a driving tour. Alan joked that Jeanne had given him a 26 page list of “things to do when Sue gets here”. With smiles and hugs of encouragement, he sent us off to play at “the lake”, and to explore some of the hidden gems of Vermont that Jeanne wanted to share with me.
There is nothing quite as delightful as having your very own personal tour guide with an intimate knowledge of the countryside. Jeanne drove and I simply sat back with no agenda except for oohing and aahing as we passed through the countryside. Our first goal was Alan’s family place “The Lake Lodge” on the Vermont side of Lake Champlain, where we planned to spend the night.
Our route took us a couple of hours north toward the southern end of the lake where Jeanne decided that I should see the famous Lake Champlain bridge. What a beauty! The visitor center was open, and with this being a holiday (Columbus Day), even on this cloudy, somewhat blustery day, it was rather crowded. The original bridge had to be rebuilt in 2010, and the new bridge echoes the shape of the old bridge beautifully.
This area is thick with historical significance, with many forts and sites of pre Revolutionary War events. Across the bridge, on the New York side, we found the ruins of the French Fort St Frederic, built in 1734. There wasn’t much left to see, with the ruins buried by time and by the coming of the British, who occupied Crown Point in 1759 and began constructing one of the largest forts they would ever build in North America.
Here the wooden and earth fortified walls were still somewhat visible, with the ruins of the stone barracks and officer’s quarters still standing. Even though she lived nearby, Jeanne had never explored this area and we thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the walls and ruins without benefit of the little tour guide to describe what we were seeing. Neither one of us felt like paying the fee to go into the museum to buy the guide. We had other goals in mind for the day.
After leaving the forts, we didn’t dally much along the way, hoping to arrive and check out the water conditions on Lake Champlain. Big on my list was a kayak on this gorgeous lake, but once we arrived at the house, the winds were up a bit. Lake Champlain is big and can be surprisingly dangerous. We knew that our chances of still water were probably better the next morning rather than late in the afternoon, so we opted to wait for some time on the water.
The house is wonderful, built some time in the 20’s, with lots of sprawling enclosed porches, cozy chairs for reading and watching the water, and plenty of bedrooms. I opted for the “maid’s quarters”, a sweet room just off the kitchen entry, chosen especially for the cushy down comforter and perfect mattress.
Alan was glad to send us off, but of course was a bit jealous of our chance for time on the lake. He and Jeanne come here often to swim, read, kayak, boat, and fish. Over the last couple of years I have received countless photos from Jeanne of the lake from this vantage point, and it was wonderful to finally see it in person.
We didn’t linger long, however, deciding that a country drive to the little village of Vergennes was in order. On the way, we inhaled the lovely fragrance of fields spread with manure, a common occurrence this time of year in rural Vermont. I didn’t find it unpleasant, though, somehow it fit perfectly with the beautiful farms in the valley of Lake Champlain.
Jeanne took me to a favorite little haunt at a nearby state park, Button Bay, where we paid the $6.00 entry fee to drive into the park. It was the last day of the season, and we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. Just a short hike led to the rocky point jutting into Lake Champlain where we hunted for the fossils that Alan had previously found. We had no luck finding fossils, but the wild wind and waves on the lake and the dark clouds were incredibly dramatic and gorgeous.
There is RV and tent camping at this pretty state park, although I would imagine it could get a bit crowded during warm summer days. There were no hookups, but a dump station and nice showers are available.
We then meandered through the countryside to the nearby village of Vergennes, where Jeanne hoped to get some pastries at her favorite spot “Vergennes French Laundry”. Seems as though the place is only open a few days a week, and Monday wasn’t one of them. Instead, we opted for outside dining at the trendy little Three Squares Cafe.
Specials for the day included a butternut squash and pumpkin ravioli, in a sage cream sauce with roasted veggies. Oh My Yum!! I must say Vermont food is some of the best I have ever experienced.
Back to the lake house, we settled in for the evening with cognac and books in the big comfy chairs overlooking the lake. It was so nice to have quality quiet time in such a beautiful place with a good friend.
The next morning dawned a bit cloudy, but the winds were gentle, and by 7am we had the kayaks on the lake. With just a bit of chill to the air, we paddled across the bay toward Otter Creek (actually it looks more like a river) and paddled upstream against the gently current. Jeanne told a great story about a time when the revolutionaries were in the bay and the British thought they had them cornered. Benedict Arnold, the commander at the time, dug a trench through the natural levee to Otter Creek, and his army escaped. We kayaked to a spot where remnants of the trench are still visible.
Jeanne still had much to share with me however, and her route back to Dorset meandered over the mountains to the Appalachian Gap overlook and down into the little village of Waitsfield. Even though Jeanne was technically raised in New Jersey, the house in the mountains above Waitsfield was her preferred childhood home.
Here the family would come during the summers and on winter weekends to ski. Jeanne’s father took her skiing in a backpack when she was merely three months old, so she comes by her love of skiing naturally. Just up the road from the family home is the small local ski hill that Jeanne talked of so often, Mad River Glen. Once again, I delighted in seeing all the places I had heard about for so many years in person.
The Mad River flows through Waitsfield, and the covered bridge across the river was another treat. We meandered around the town, visiting a few little shops where Jeanne found a perfect little dress for her rehearsal dinner. Isn’t is amazing to have a friend that slips a size 6 over her head so effortlessly?! While we shopped, Jeanne regaled me with some kayaking stories of her time on the rapids of the Mad River.
Later she found the gravestones that were being hugged by trees in an old historic cemetery just outside of town. Sherry, I thought of you with these stones, instead of you hugging the trees, the trees are doing the hugging!
The rest of the return trip to Dorset was through the back roads, along beautiful rivers, and down some dramatic canyons, where Jeanne again pointed out the names of the surrounding mountains where she hiked and skied. By the time we rolled into Dorset, it was late afternoon, and more wedding guests were beginning to arrive.
As Alan said, when I arrived, he felt as though it was “really happening, the wedding was really happening”! But with the arrival of Alan’s best friends from around the world, Jeanne’s other friends from Oregon, and Tei and Cecil it was time to focus on the real reason I had come to Vermont. The wedding celebrations were about to begin!
Next: I do a little exploring on my own and then its time for a Wedding!