Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Columbus Day Road Trip in Massachusetts and Vermont

There is nothing quite like taking that one last look at the beautiful fall trees just before they fall into ruin for the winter season.  I took a great road trip this weekend and just wanted to share.  It started out at my home in western Connecticut, and took me and my son all over the area.

We started up Route 7 which is known for being one of the most scenic routes in the area.  We had to stop along the way so I could take pictures of trees, churches, bridges and whatever else struck me.  My son is a patient guy and lets me play with my camera, even when he knows that the lighting situation is going to be impossible.
We stopped at Stockbridge, home of the Museum of Norman Rockwell.  This picturesque burg is a great place to just wander and look.  The Red Lion Inn is old and beautiful, and even if you're not staying the night there, you should try the little restaurant and pub for some food.  It's great ambiance.
In the fall you see the most beautiful views.  Old farm houses turn into photographs waiting to happen, just because New England and mother nature are providing a spectacle.
Virtually any spot along the side of the road makes a great picture.  That's the great thing about New England in the fall.  The great thing is that a trip in western Mass is relaxing, and takes you away for that last trip of the year.  Jiminy Peak in Hancock is right along the way, and they are open for the weekend.  There you can stop and take a ride on an alpine slide or a mountain coaster.  You can also go on a Segway tour.  It's a wonderful way to spend the day.

Another great stop on this trip is Mount Greylock.  It's in North Adams, Mass, and it's the highest peak around.  There is a road to the top, and when you get there you can climb the observation tower to get amazing views of the area.  There's a snack bar, and plenty of hiking to keep you occupied.

Natural Bridge State Park is also in North Adams, and is a cute little park with a real natural bridge.  I've been taken in by ads for natural bridges before and found them to be only in fantasy land a bridge, but this one is real.  It is small, but it is real.  The park is scenic and a great little stop along the way.

Further north on Route 7, you enter Vermont.  Bennington is the first real town on the tour there.  Bennington is a scenic town and is known for all of it's covered bridges, but one of our favorite places to stop is the Hemmings Garage and Museum, also home of the Hemmings Motor News for you car enthusiasts.
The museum is small, but it's free and is full of some great classics.  There's more than just cars there.  They have all kinds of stuff from bicycles to mopeds, to three wheeled cars, to tow trucks.  It's a lot of fun and my son will tell you, it's cool.
The Hemmings Garage and Museum is a great place to spend some time.  They have a great sense of humor and a great little gift shop.  If you need to fill up your car, they are also a regular old gas station.

Wilmington, VT was our next stop along Route 9.  This little hamlet is one of my favorite places in the world, and they are now official survivors of Hurricane Irene in 2011.  This tiny little town was virtually washed away in that hurricane and are still getting everything entirely back up and running.

The river that runs through the downtown of tiny Wilmington rose up over it's very high banks and took out everything in it's path.  Dot's Restaurant is still trying to rebuild.  We hope that they get all the donations that they need to finally reopen the heart and soul of this little town.  We miss Dot's, and can't wait to stop there again.
Wilmington is a wonderful little town along one of the prettiest byways in the area.  The shopping is second to none there, and Bartelby's Books is a great place to pick up an Archer Mayor novel.  They are only a few miles from Mount Snow, and not all that far from Bromley Ski Resort.  The area is busy all winter with skiers, and all summer with motorcyclists.  From May through October there is a large flea market every weekend just east of town.  The area is full of great hiking, canoeing and kayaking, shopping, and just plain meandering.
On the way to Brattleboro from Wilmington is Hogback Mountain.  It's just a little stop along the way, but it comes with great views, and a fabulous store.  The store has all the gifts and local stuff that you can imagine.  They have some great snacks too.  There's a little natural museum that represents the area if you like as well.
Brattleboro Vermont was really something in it's heyday as an outlet king.  Today it's more of a hippie town.  It's a great stop on a Columbus Day roadtrip though, and we took advantage of the lower hotel rates there.  There are a lot of restaurants and shopping, but be prepared to pay more for healthy food, and green shopping.  It is of note that author Archer Mayor, known locally for his mystery novels, lives and works as a forensics police officer in that city and some of his books take place there.

Day two was the completion of our loop, and the loop wouldn't be complete without a stop at Gould's Sugar House and Restaurant on Route 2 in northern Mass, also known as the Mohawk Trail.  Gould's is famous in the area, and has been in operation for years.  I've never really figured out when they opened.  I think it was 1929.  Helen Gould is still working in the diner on the premises, even though I don't think anyone really knows how old she is.  It's a wonderful experience.  You get to see how they make syrup, eat some great waffles with premium maple syrup, shop in a great store for all kinds of country things, and even have maple ice cream.  It's a great stop with wonderful people and a great view.

Of course, Shelburne Falls, MA is right along the way, where we switch from Route 2, to Route 112.  This is the home of the beautiful Bridge of Flowers, and beautiful waterfalls.  This little town is also wonderful to look at in the fall, and has great shopping.  They have a bookstore there where you can get most of Archer Mayor's novels.
Huntington, MA was the last official stop on our tour of the local foliage.  This little town has a great country store, a dam with great hiking trails all around it, and the old but still interesting, swinging bridge.  There are businesses in town named after the old bridge, but it's all but inaccessible.  It does make for some interesting walks in the woods though.

So, my advice is to take that last look at the leaves before they fall and someone comes along to rake them away.  Fall is a wonderful time to get out and enjoy the crisp blue skies and the fiery foliage.  The loop that we took was Route 7 from Great Barrington, MA to Bennington, VT.  Route 9 from Bennington, VT to Brattleboro, VT.  Route 5 from Brattleboro, VT to Greenfield, MA.  Route 2 from Greenfield, MA to Shelburne Falls, MA.  Route 112 from Shelburne Falls, MA to Huntington, MA.  Route 20 from Huntington, MA to Westfield, MA.  It was all beautiful and I highly recommend it.

Some other things to look at in the area.  You can always stop off at Yankee Candle Company's flagship store in Deerfield, MA.  Also in Deerfield is Magic Wings Butterfly Sanctuary, Deerfield Zip Lining, and Historic Deerfield.
In Greenfield, MA there is Poet's Seat Tower, and the French King's Bridge.
In the Holyoke/Springfield, MA area there is the Holyoke Mall which is a different kind of mall from the norm.  There is also Six Flags which has special attractions for Halloween.  There are lots of museums, including a Dr. Suess Sculpture Garden and the Basketball Hall of Fame.
It's a wonderful trip to take with a lot of things to see.  Don't miss the fall.  It can be the best time of the year.

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