By Sharon O’ ConnorThe entire state of Vermont was cited as one of the “Top 50 Destinations of a Lifetime” in the bi-centennial issue of National Geographic Traveler! Discover why our state enjoys this prestigious status: take an afternoon to explore backroads deep within the Green Mountain National Forest. On this route you will get a sampling of the entrepreneurship of our people, the simplicity and allure of our quaint villages and the serenity and splendor of the wilderness.
All of this brings us to John’s Car Corner. John Hamill began to repair and service VW’s in the mid 1960s. John expanded and opened a used VW dealership in 1974, buying and selling a car he truly loved. John moved to his current location on Route 5 in Westminster in 1984. John has opinions on all Volkswagens, but will tell you “the heart and soul of the whole Volkswagen scene is the Type II, which is the Transporter, camper, van combination.”Start at the junction of Routes 11 & 30 (a few miles east of Manchester). Follow Route 30 East 1.3m and notice a colorfully creative Indian face painted on a roadside boulder. Turn left onto French Hollow Rd. (3/10m), bear right and proceed 2.8m, turn left then quick right into driveway with the name “Eustace.” This is the home of French Hollow Alpacas, owned by Bob & Lou. Please call 802-297-9353 before arrival; they will enthusiastically introduce you to their “pets” and their alpaca business, which supports Vermont and American fiber mills. Alpacas are gentle, graceful members of the camel family; their fiber is 2nd softest in the world, surpassed only by the vicuna. You’ll have a chance to touch the animals, learn about their habits and uses, plus view a plethora of alpaca products. Ask to see Larry, the guard llama; he loves to have his picture taken with people.
When leaving, turn left, go 4/10m & make a right. Notice Stratton Mtn. looming in the distance (1.7m). The Indian name for Stratton is Manicknung, translating to “Home of the Bear.” Turn left (1.8m); follow to Rt. 30, make a left entering the burg of Bondville (1.8m). Winhall Market greets you with the aroma of barbeque chicken, baked goods and VT-made delights. Just past the market, turn right onto Stratton Access Rd. and park in the lot 3.7m in on the right. Stratton was founded in 1961 and has grown into a 4-season resort area and mecca for hikers and mountain bikers. Visit the mountaintop, via the gondola, for spectacular mountain/valley views. At the base, the Swiss-like village is dotted with unique shops and eateries.
From the parking area, turn right and proceed down the lesser-traveled backside of the mountain (1.8m) bearing right onto Pikes Falls Rd. Follow this about 2.5m to Rt. 30, turn right and go 1/4m, and visit the Butterfly Heaven/Bird Aviary. This family-run establishment is a world “set apart.” Walk among exotic butterflies, birds, fish and more in a 3000 sq. ft. indoor tropical paradise.
Travel back to your starting point; turn west on Rt. 30. Explore Jamaica with buildings dating to the 18th and early 19th century. Jamaica State Park is believed to have been an Abenaki Indian Village with archeological evidence dating back to “before the white man!” The park is the site of the National Canoe & Kayak Championships held in May. A hiking trail to the exotic Hamilton Falls starts here; ask the ranger for a map and hiking conditions. Proceed west on Rt. 30 passing “Horses for Hire” (4.7m) offering wooded trail rides. Just beyond, Outback Steakhouse is a hide-away which has a riverside deck for hungry or thirsty travelers.
Route 30 West will bring you back to the starting point & offers a wonderful view of the slope-sides of Bromley mountain.
Sharon O’Connor is a regular contributor to THIS IS VERMONT and is our resident backroads expert. Sharon has been in love with Vermont ever since she first visited and is owner of Backroad Discovery.