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Road Less Traveled: Exploring The Wonders And Beauties Of Vermont

A church made of marble in Proctor, Vermont.

A very long period of staying relatively close to home, caused my spouse and me to break out for an impulse trip. Our only goal was to head toward New England. We planned to take the road less traveled and turn where we saw signs telling of something of interest ahead. We did a bit of backtracking, but not much. Besides, who cares?

As of this writing we have spent three nights in New York and two in Vermont.

After finding a room in Rutland, VT, we set out to explore and found something of interest as we drove into nearby Proctor. John Sutherland, the first settler in Proctor, came in 1767. He built a mill at a 123-foot waterfall, the highest in Vermont. The Humphrey Brothers first quarried marble in Proctor in 1836. Other marble companies followed them. Senator Redfield Proctor, who owned much of the town, took over the Vermont Marble Company in 1870, which was the largest marble company in the world. Marble in the US Supreme Court, Jefferson Memorial and the rotunda columns in The National Gallery of Art were fabricated by the business. Over a period of 25 years, workers came from 23 countries to work at Vermont Marble. The last quarry closed in the 1990s.

In 1915, the Proctor Marble Arch Bridge was built to replace the last of three covered bridges that crossed Otter Creek. The bridge was rebuilt in 2004. The restoration project was awarded the Marble Institute Award of Merit because it preserved the original stonework. Many marble structures remain in the town, such as the fire station and a very large church.

We drove down many of the streets of Proctor and found no rhyme or reason for the layout of the town or for the multiple dead-end streets, with the exception of a few that bypassed hillsides and gullies. We asked two young police officers, one who said he grew up in Proctor, if there was a vantage point to see the waterfall. After being told they did not know of any, we drove around the area until we found a canoe portage path. We got a closeup view of the falls that was hidden by the factory and a steep embankment. I also found a piece of souvenir marble for the perennial garden.

A glimpse of farm life from the past is represented in this model of a farmer's workshop at Billings Farm and Museum.

On our short drive back to Rutland, we saw two things that drew us in, a road sign that indicated a dead end and an old railroad bridge. When we got to the end of the short stretch, we discovered another waterfall that supplied power to the Center Rutland Hydro Station. The little building was made of marble blocks and a large black tube was sitting on marble supports.

We drove around the back roads of the Green Mountains the next day. During our travels, we came upon the Killington Ski Resort and surrounding area. We spent a second night in Rutland and drove to Woodstock, VT the next day. I noticed that many homes in this area were attached to barns.

A national publication called Woodstock “the prettiest small town in America.” This could be due to the beautiful architecture and varying colors and varieties of stone used in many of the buildings and houses. It is the only town in the nation with five church bells cast by Paul Revere and Company.

While we were in Woodstock, we visited the Billings Farm and Museum. The dairy farm was established by Frederick Billings in 1871 and later as a museum by Laurence and Mary Rockefeller in 1983. It gives the visitor the opportunity to see how a modern dairy operates and to get a close look at goats, chickens, sheep, draft horses and Jersey cows. The barn-type building has numerous displays of what rural life looked like many years ago, not only on the farm, but of small businesses that would have been found in the village. A large inventory of hand tools and farm implements is displayed. Fred, my sweets loving husband, was sorry to miss the Billings Farm 150th birthday to be celebrated with free cake just a few days after our visit.

We left Woodstock and traveled toward White River Junction, which was just 15 minutes away, with a planned stop in Quechee, a town Fred had found in some of the literature he had been looking over during the evenings in the hotels. As we rounded a curve, he said “we have to get a picture of that.” That was a long, bright red covered bridge that was reflected in the still water below with a cloud sinking into the wooded area beyond. A sign on the 200-foot bridge read Taftsville Covered Bridge. It was constructed in 1836 for $1,800. After Hurricane Irene came through on Aug. 28, 2011, it was closed for two years while extensive repairs were made.

As we drove into Quechee, we crossed a covered bridge with an attached walkway, a few feet before the road ended at the main street. We were excited to see long, shelf-like layers of rock in the water below, but the real excitement came with what we found on the other side of the bridge. The town had erected a beautiful, two-level, stone terrace that overlooked a roaring waterfall.

When we checked into our hotel in White River Junction, we learned they were offering sack breakfasts in place of the continental breakfast due to Covid-19. Some hotels in Vermont replaced their breakfast with a discount at a neighboring restaurant. The sack breakfasts allowed us to add wrapped breakfast sandwiches, yogurt, granola bars and juice to our supply of strawberries, apples, bananas, water and my five or six day per week latest breakfast staple, avocados. We use a small refrigerator/heater that runs off 12 or 120 volts to keep the food cold while we are traveling. We either carry it into our room, or carry in the bag we use to hold the food.

We headed back to Quechee the next day to check out the gorge at Quechee State Park. It was a short, but very pretty drive. In one area tall pines lined both sides of the road. When we stopped at a large pond we found wildflowers and ferns. We were happy to find the first pressed penny machine of the trip in the visitor center. The actual walk at the gorge was disappointing, because we only got a few very small glimpses of the water below, due to the overgrowth. When we walked on the sidewalks lining either side of the highway bridge over the gorge, we got a better view. We drove to another area where we found a pond with hundreds of lily pads.

While in Quechee, we saw a sign by the road in front of a supermarket that proclaimed they had cremees. To my husband’s delight, a cremee is a soft-serve ice cream cone. The flavor options at the self-serve machine were chocolate, maple or a twisted combination of both. He chose the twisted variety and I want to tell you ice cream made with real maple syrup is delicious! I only had a couple of licks because I am trying to lose a few pounds and do not want to return home weighing more than when I left.

To be continued.

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