Aug & Sep 2011: Vermont – Trip report

A trip report about our trip to Vermont in August & September 2011. We decided to do a relatively laid-back and inexpensive trip this time as we had spent 12 days in Germany in 2010. Of course, I have Photos from the trip.

Cottage

We spent a lot of time looking for a place to rent on Lake Champlain. Most of our searching was done at VermontProperty.com, but we also used VRBO, HomeAway, and Craigslist. Originally we were looking north of Burlington including South Hero, North Hero, and Grand Isle. However, for various reasons, we ended up deciding to go south to Addison, specifically renting the Stephens Family Cottage. This worked out very and it was probably a good idea in the end to save a couple of hours drive. The cottage itself had a very nice traditional lake cottage feel. It wasn’t fancy, but we really enjoyed it. We had three bedrooms (two doubles + one with three twins), a good sized living room, a good sized dining room, a smallish kitchen, a huge screened-in front porch, and a smaller side porch without a screen. Our modest cabinWe ate dinner and lunch on the front porch almost every day. The lake was down a few flights of stairs, but that was okay. The beach itself was shale, but this is the case for nearly all of Lake Champlain. With a pair of water shoes, it was fine. Giving the modest price ($899 for 8 days), we were thrilled.

The cottage was in a fairly rural area, but there was a small general store and a great ice cream place (Goodie’s Snack Bar) 10 or so minutes away. Vergennes with a few shops and restaurants and a Shaw’s supermarket was about 20 mins. Middlebury was a half hour, Burlington was an hour, and Waterbury, where my dad and Theresa live, was about an hour and half. All in all, the location turned out to be pretty good.

Itinerary

Saturday 27-Aug-2011: We drove up to the cottage from home. The drive took around 6 hours all told, including a stop for lunch and groceries in Ticonderoga. Part of the way was along Lake George. We also had to take the ferry across Lake Champlain between Crown Point, NY and Chimney Point, VT as the bridge was being replaced. (It has since opened.) Kyle really liked this. Checking into the cottage was easy. The caretaker, Harlan, was great. I ended up helping him move the swim dock to the beach as we were expecting a storm the next day (see Sunday). My dad and Theresa also came down to see us for the day, which was great. They were planning to bring my dad’s boat, but they didn’t due to the storm.

Kyle in our living roomSunday 28-Aug-2011: This was the day tropical storm Irene hit the state. We were a bit concerned, but it ended up not being such a big deal for us. It got very windy and rainy mid-morning, so we spent most of the day inside. I checked the beach a couple of times and didn’t see anything amiss. We did lose power, but not until evening, luckily after we had finished dinner. He ended up turning in early as there wasn’t much to do after dark without lights. (It turns out that parts of the state we hit very hard, with many roads washed out. Some of these were the only links to smaller towns. At least one was cut off for nearly a week. Waterbury was also severely flooded. Luckily not where my dad and Theresa live, but downtown was devastated.) We were concerned with the situation with our house since NJ was hit hard as well. We had a cat sitter coming in, so she was able to check that everything was okay. Our big concern was power loss and we have had problems with the water in basement in the past when the sump quit. We may have lost power, but not for an extended period of time.

Monday 29-Aug-2011: This was our day to head to Burlington. We started at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center. Kyle enjoyed his time there. For lunch, we hit Henry’s Diner near Church Street. This was really good and Kyle enjoyed it as well. We then headed up to visit Gardener’s Supply‘s flagship store. We have ordered items from them in past and were quite impressed with the shop. We then headed back toward the cabin. Along the way, we stopped by Magic Hat Brewery. Kyle really liked the self-guided “tour” through the brewery and I was able to try a number of their beers, which are really nice, and buy a couple of six-packs to take home. We also stopped by the Vermont Teddy Bear factory for their tour and shop. After a brief stop at the supermarket in Vergennes, it was back to cottage for dinner and a quiet evening.

Tuesday 30-Aug-2011: Today it was down to Fort Ticonderoga. On the way there, we crossed the lake with the Fort Ticonderoga Ferry which is a historic, chain-pull ferry. We were the only ones on the boat at the time. The fort itself was a very interesting visit. We were there for quite a long time. Kyle really enjoyed the musket demonstration. After lunch at a diner downtown and a great cremee (soft-serve ice cream) at The Wind Chill Factory, it was back to the cottage.

Wednesday 31-Aug-2011: In the morning, my dad came down from Waterbury with the boat. There was supposed to be a ramp close by the cottage, but it wasn’t really usable. Instead, we drove back near Chimney Point and used the marina there. It wasn’t a bad ride back, but my dad did miss our cove and ended up going way out of his way. (When I did it later to get gas, it was about 30 mins — my dad’s boat isn’t designed to speed along.) The real highlight of the day was that Kyle caught his first fish. This ended up happening within minutes of him dropping his worm in the water. He was very excited. I didn’t have a camera at the time, so I had to yell to Suzanne to bring one down. Later in the afternoon, we headed back to Burlington to the Champlain Valley Fair, where we also met up with Theresa. This was the first state fair that Kyle had been to and he had a great time. He wanted to sit on every tractor there was. Suzanne and I also had a good time, and I got to finally have my maple cremee. My dad and Theresa were nice enough to buy Kyle some ride tickets, so he was thrilled with that. We ended up not getting back until 10:00 or so, but we had a great day.

The Rock of Ages QuarryThursday 1-Sep-2011: Today was our day to head out toward Waterbury. One of the cool things I came across in planning was that you can visit the Rock of Ages granite quarry. Given Kyle’s penchant for things industrial, we thought this would be a must-see. After a short bus ride, we got to watch them work in the very deep quarry pit. Back at the factory, we could walk along a viewing platform and watch the workers cut, polish, carve, and etch memorial stones. Kyle did really like. Best of all was the free chunks of granite you could grab for souvenirs. (We also picked a few very inexpensive things from their shop.) After lunch with Theresa, we hit up Ben & Jerry’s for their factory tour. We had visited here in May, it’s around 1/3 mile from my dad and Theresa’s house, but didn’t do the tour as it was a Sunday and they weren’t operating. This time we did. Of course Kyle was first in line to get a sample. After visiting another few spots near here, we headed back to the cottage after quite a full day.

Friday 2-Sep-2011: This was a pretty quiet day. We spent a bit of time visiting Middlebury, about 30 minutes from the cottage. This was a nice small city/big town. We hit a few shops downtown, did some walking, and then headed out of town to visit the Otter Creek Brewery (I thought Magic Hat was better both in terms of visiting and in terms of beer) and the Maple Landmark wooden toy factory. After returning to the cottage, we all took the boat down to the marina to fill up. This was a decent ride and Kyle liked it. (It was the first time he had been on a smaller, private boat.)

Saturday 3-Sep-2011: My dad and and Theresa came down to visit. We basically just hung around the cottage. My dad, Kyle, and I took the boat out fishing for a while. We ended up using worms and catching a bunch of little perch. While not great in terms of fishing, Kyle caught five or six fish and had a blast. After taking the boat back to the marina and pulling it out of the water, we had lunch at the Bridge Family Restaurant, which was very good and very reasonably priced. For the rest of the evening, we packed up our things and did some cleaning in preparation for the trip back to NJ.

Kyle and Grandpa fishing from our dockSunday 4-Sep-2011: Left mid-morning for the trip back to NJ.

Summary

All in all we had a very nice trip. It was a very different vacation than the previous two (Disney World and Germany) we had taken as it was much less planned and intense. It was nice to be able to simply get up in the morning, have a leisurely breakfast, maybe spend some time on the beach, and then do whatever we had planned for the day. It was also nice to simply drive to the cottage, unload the car, and then not have to repack anything until we left at the end of the week. I would definitely do a similar vacation again, but I don’t think I’d want to do that type of thing every year. I also haven’t decided if I’d want to go back where we were again and again. We really liked the cottage and the area, but I like to experience new places.

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