A Travellerspoint blog

Day 38 (10.9.07) - Stowe, Vermont (Video's Added)

We didn't go very far, but saw lots of things.

overcast 60 °F
View (Re) Discovering America on jl98584's travel map.

Miles Driven: 51
Weather: Overcast, but occasional sun breaks (Rain at night again)

After a hearty breakfast topped off with some Vermont Maple Syrup, we drove up to the Von Trapp Family Lodge, in Stowe Vermont. This is the family made famous by the movie: "The Sound of Music". Of course, the movie took a lot of liberties with the family story, but it was loosely based on the family. Marie and Georg von Trapp bought their kids (eventually there were nine in total) to the United States after leaving Austria and bought a farm in Stowe, Vermont for the family. After Georg died in 1947, the family started taking in guests to help make ends meet. The original lodge burned down in 1980 and a new lodge completed in 1984.


The lodge area now includes several extra buildings and facilities. In addition to the gift shop (where of course we both spent money), we stopped at a wonderful little bakery and met Sue, who was glad to help us part with our money (and expand our waistlines).


You can get a sense of the view from the lodge behind the bakery however, splendid! As we drove down the hill, we passed the Horse & Buggy ride offered by the lodge. We didn't take it since it was quite cold, but in warmer weather it looked like it might be fun (also, check out the view again). Also, we passed some Austrian Cattle raised by the lodge, then later some wild turkeys.


We headed back towards I-89 about 8 miles away and passed the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. It looked a little like a tourist trap but I decided to stop anyway (we'd been enjoying their cider since we arrived in VT a couple of days ago). In the front is a big gift shop, but in the back is a room where you can watch the cider being made. They also have a huge vat of cider you can sample (I took at least a couple of cups). Perhaps it is a tourist trap, but a very interesting and tasty one!


We also bought a couple of small pies, one Apple and one Pumpkin. We tried the Pumpkin for dessert tonight and it was wonderful - they use apple cider in the recipe somehow. Of course, you can learn more at their web site:


A couple more miles down the road was the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, with tours available. This wasn't the type of thing we normally stop at, but as we were in the neighborhood we decided to check it out. It was interesting, but maybe we should have skipped it. There was a six minute video about the history of Ben & Jerry's, then a short viewing of the factory (very automated) and finally they gave everybody a small scoop of their banana rum ice cream at the end of the tour. I loved it, Mom - not so much. No pictures were allowed inside during the tour, which will probably save us both some time now!


Somehow, we finally managed to make it back to the freeway and drove on the Montpelier. I decided I wanted to see this city because it is the smallest state capitol in the US, with about 7,900 people. The small town where I'm from, Shelton, WA has about 8,400 people so yes, Montpelier is small. The capitol building was built using granite from Vermont (see tomorrow's entry...). Several of the grand, old homes across from the capitol building have been converted into government offices.


<<Caution: The following is my perception of a conversation & interaction that took place at the Visitors Center in Montpelier, VT. I have since learned that the visitors center staff have a completely different perception of the same events, in that I walked in angry and they were trying to respond with humor. So in the interest of fairness, keep in mind that my comments are only from my perception, which may or may not accurately reflect what happened, so my conclusions may or may not be correct either. If you want to read the comments about the 'angry tourist', this is the link . Motto - be careful about what you write in blogs, somebody might actually read it!


It was interesting that when I drove down the main street ("State Street"), they had a visitors center - but there was no parking for it. I found a parking place down the block and walked back to see what I could learn about Montpelier, but when I mentioned to the man behind the desk that I'd never seen a visitors center without parking before, he said "Well, you've seen one now." I tried to explain that I just thought it odd because it was hard to use the visitors center if I couldn't get to it and he said: "We're awfully busy here. We're not going to build a parking garage just for you." I'm only relating this because it so represented the attitude I often found while visiting this state - his was more extreme than most, but folks often here seem to have a cool, almost stand-offish attitude compared to other states we've visited. I'm sure they're friendly after you get to know them, but not at first contact. This is odd because tourism is their largest industry!

Maybe the origion of Vermont as a disputed territory defended by rugged individualists has stayed with the people somewhat? Anyway, I wasn't in much of a mood to spend any more time visiting Montpelier, so I decided to head on out to a Maple Sugar/Syrup farm on all the maps and brochures.

The Morse Farm is still a working Maple Syrup producer (and a big host to many big tour buses). The farm isn't really that big, the gift shop is bigger then the sugar house, but at least it's authentic (they also buy sap from neighboring farms of course, but farm their own tree's as well). Mom was tired so stayed in the RV. I went through their sugar house and walked out to visit the trees (as well as the gift shop). I picked up a video of the operation for $10 which we'll share with the school back home.

Maple tree's produce sap in the early spring in March or April. The sap starts rising to help grow leaves once winter starts coming to an end and the sugar producer's can tap some of that sap. The American northeast (including Canada) is the only place in the world that produces Maple Syrup and sugar - I'm not sure why, certainly other area's have Maple trees? Anyway, the sap comes out of the tree looking a lot like water. They tap the tree using a drill, then insert a hollow tap to allow the sap to drip out. Traditionally, they used a metal tap and hung a sap bucket off the tap (with a 'roof' to keep debris out). Today, most sugar growers use plastic taps and pipe to collect syrup. It is much cheaper and faster as well as cleaner (since there is no way for bugs or debris to get into the sap).

The sap drains into (or is transported to) the sugar house where it is boiled down into syrup. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. Originally the farms produced maple sugar that pioneer households used as a sweetener. When railroads became common, sugar from the south was much cheaper so New England farmers started selling syrup instead. The process is the same, but syrup isn't boiled down as far. However, even though the product is now syrup, the process is still called 'Sugarin'.

Most of the pancake syrups available in supermarkets today contain little if no maple syrup. If you read the label however, you can still find real maple syrup and it is quite good. The Morse farm still uses wood to boil down the sap, so keeps a wood shed next to the sugar house (you can see the roof of the sugar house behind it). In the off season, it doubles as a theater to show visitors how the syrup is made.


After leaving the Morse farm, we wandered around the back roads quite a bit -very bad roads - the gift of harsh Vermont winters I suppose). We finally found the "Rock of Ages" granite operation. The gift shop was still open, but tours to the quarry were over for the day. This is the largest granite quarry in America and I'd really like to see it. Also, we were both tired and there was a nice RV park just a block or so from the operation, so we decided to stay here for the night and take the tour in the morning.

The good news is that after the granite quarry, we should be able to head back into New Hampshire and continue pressing east again. Maybe we'll make it to Maine before next summer?

Posted by jl98584 18:34 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents


Oh, Jeanette, all this sugarin' reminds me of one other contact/site we should have told you about. I hope we're not too late. Several years ago now, Bob and I went to Westmoreland, NH, when I was lecturing just over the border in MA. We intended to hunt up the grave of your ancestor Marietta Aldrich (whose Aldrich ancestors are also my ancestors a bit farther back). First, we found it a charming old New England town, with a central green, church, etc. We went into the general store to inquire, and a very typical Vermonter was the proprietor--worth the visit alone. He pulled out a book on Aldrich family history from under the counter--one Bob had bought elsewhere, but they created it there. He sent us to the high school to look up someone who might know where the grave was. He was some interesting man who took us to his home and showed us a bunch of stuff, too. If I could remember the date, I could look up the details in my diary, but there probably isn't time now, as you're heading there tomorrow.

Just before heading out of town, we returned to the general store to see if the guy could once more phone the pastor's wife, who he'd said was making a list of all cemeteries and graves, but was out earlier when he'd tried. But before he could call her, in walked a man with a load of fresh maple syrup for the store's shelves. The proprietor said, "Oh, here comes an Aldrich now. Maybe he can help you. Ken Aldrich." Bob told him of our connection, and within a few minutes they found they were something like second cousins! Further, though he was a teacher, he made syrup during the season, and in an old Aldrich sugaring barn that he thought might be the oldest in New England! And he offered to take us there. It was by an old Aldrich homestead, built in the 1600s, I think, with uneven planks, etc., log cabin. He'd just moved his father from it to a nursing home, so he took us all through it.

by msj

That got too long. Continued: He took us to some cemeteries with various Aldriches, then returned us to the store and our car. He also gave us enough maple syrup bottles (with the Aldrich sugaring barn logo on them) for us and each of our kids (I think we paid, but wholesale price, and he may even have mailed them for us). He was very pleasant and helpful.

He also told us of another house on one of the main roads in town that had been built very early also, by another ancestor (Aldrich, I think), with new owners then. We went by to take photos from the road, and the owner was in the yard and invited us in for a tour, without really even asking his wife inside first, and they took us all through this fascinating home, with the uneven flooring planks also and a tiny room upstairs that the early parson-owner had used for weddings, I think, or something like that. With the family connections, you would find this area fascinating, and the town would be anyway on its own. I looked in my address file and don't find Ken Aldrich, and I'm not sure whether I never put it in there or whether he may have moved. But the town is small enough that others would know. And the book on the gravesites might be done now, or list, or whatever. I just recalled the name of the new owner then of that other old family home: Sutton. But it was several years ago.

by msj

And more. So you finally did do Ben & Jerry's. I agree it wasn't the most typical VT thing, but it was interesting. We got to the Trapp Lodge much later than you and just stepped into the lobby for a few minutes; you saw much more. The bakery must have been closed, and we had 2 very hungry little girls and had to go down the hill and hunt for a small bakery elsewhere.

The maple-syrup operation you visited was probably smaller than the one we saw, but I'm sure you saw how it is all done. But VT is not the only place that produces it. In fact, for several years the grounds supervisor at Andrews University here tapped the maple trees on campus and produced syrup each year of a high quality. When did the boiling and bottling in a shed behind his home not far away. I did a photo essay for the alumni journal on it one year. When he took another job in town, he told me it was too much to keep it up, and it didn't really pay, as the government regs and inspections and all kept the operation pretty costly.

I think we noticed the capitol from the highway but not closer. And we didn't visit a granite operation. You're making the most of this trip and building wonderful memories you'll treasure the rest of your lives. Continue, go well, enjoy.

by msj

Good post Jeanette. Sorry you had the experience you did at the state-run visitors center in Montpelier and it ended up causing you to feel like not spending "any more time visiting" here at the time. Understood. Yes, parking is a huge problem here and, yes, one would think someone would finally do something about it, particularly since tourism is such a major part of our local and regional economy. Go figure! By the way, you might find my blog post about that portion of your blog post of interest, including the updates to it as well: Wednesday, October 10, 2007; Montpelier Matters; Why it is Good to Be Polite and Kind to Tourists:

It is my hope that (unless you ended up coming back already and, thus, checking out the city as you had wanted to), if you ever get the opportunity to do so again, you will give us our small city another chance and visit Montpelier again sometime.

by norsehorse

Thanks for the update, I did check out your blog and the updates. It was very interesting how different people can perceive the same conversation so differently (the visitors center personnel both remember me as being an 'angry' tourist!) Perhaps I was more frustrated than I realize, I will try to keep my attitude in check going forward.

In case it didn't come across, there are a lot of nice things about Vermont as well. So while logistics make it unlikely we'll be back that way again, I hope my remarks don't discourage others from checking this state out (although if they decide to fix the parking situation at the visitors center, that wouldn't be such a bad idea.)

by jl98584

You're welcome Jeanette. Yes, indeed, it certainly is. Understood.

It came across both to me and many others. Understood. I doubt your comments will discourage anyone, in fact I am sure they will appreciate you shared what you did and were honest in the telling, as was I (agreed).

Thank you for your blog post posted to the blog post of mine on the Montpelier Matters blog. Much appreciated!

Safe journeys!

by norsehorse

Uff da! In my last comment posted above, I had *meant* to write:


Thank you for your *comment* post posted to the blog post of mine on the Montpelier Matters blog. ...

by norsehorse

BTW (By the way), I've always wondered - what does "Uff da" mean?

by jl98584

To MSJ - You're correct, by the time I saw your comments we were already in Maine. Always love to read them however, even if I can't always act on them! It's also interesting how many of these places you've been to also, it's just that you've probably done it over several different trips and we're taking it all in during one big trip. Either way, the travel is fun as well as learning about all these places.

by jl98584

Uff da! Sorry about that Jeanette.

Basically, it "... is an exclamation of Norwegian origin that is relatively common in the Upper Midwestern states of the United States. It roughly means 'drats,' 'oops!' or 'ouch!', ..."

via Wikipedia:

In addition, fyi:

All about the word "uff da!":
via Norwegian Joke Page:

"From Bud Halverson

"Uff Da is when you step over it. Fee DA is when you step in it."

Hope that helps.

by norsehorse

Ha! Jeanette, it sounds like you "Fee DA"! Quite a tempest in a teapot you stirred up there! I loved Vermont, but our family joke is that its economy must be based on garage sales. They were in everyone's front yard as we drove throughout the state.

by TexasRTJ

By the way, there is an old humorous saying I heard up years ago around these parts (that one Vermonter actually made buttons of), which sort of clues one in on the attitude some here have about what get termed as "flatlanders" or "leaf peepers": i.e.,

"Why is it called tourist season if we can't shoot them?"

by norsehorse

Love it! If we can't laugh at ourselves once and a while, life would be pretty dull.

by jl98584

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.