By Sharon O’Conner, owner of Backroad Discovery
The foliage season draws people from all over the world. Yes, the autumn leaves are beautiful, but many people miss the little details that make Vermont so very special! It has been nicknamed, “The State of Mind” by some … and one can well understand this euphemism when looking closely. Vermont is: rolling pastures surrounded by majestic mountains, rounded bales of hay dotting the hillsides and casting shadows in the late afternoon, crystal clear mountain streams gurgling through a wooded glen, immaculate well-kept homes garnished with colorful perennial flower beds, tiny family burial plots dating back to the time when our country was founded, obscure hamlets steeped in history and tradition. What Vermont is MOST about is its people (friendly, hard working, willing to help in any way) and how they choose to live!
This Green Mountain State consists of countless scenic routes and one of my favorites is a relaxing 45-mile route located in Bennington County. Pack a picnic lunch, fill the car with gas, and head out for a couple of hours of adventure, fun and a few surprises!
Start your trip at the intersection of 7A and River Road in the village of Manchester. This road winds through the valley between the Green Mountain and Taconic Mountain ranges. It is lined with stone walls and overhanging sugar maple trees. Watch for Hildene Meadows on the right (the site of many special events during summer and fall). Look for Burough Lane on the left (about 4 mi.) and follow to North Road. Continue on and make a left at Kelly Stand Road. The rock cluttered river beckons you to follow it along. A footbridge appears crossing the river. Where might it go? Why not find out? There are plenty of places to pull over and park the car. Take a stroll down the lane, picnic by the water, or sit on a fallen tree in the middle of the stream and ponder where the water began. Listen to the birds calling gently to one another or perhaps observe a moose and her calves lumbering to the waterside for a drink! After driving for about 4.5 mi. on Kelly Stand look for a water pipe on the left where you can refill your water bottle with the pure spring water.
Continue on and you will reach the Stratton Pond /Mountain Trailhead. There is a large parking area where you can leave the car and hike on trails averaging 2-6mi., or a l2mi. loop. If you are not a hiker travel back on Kelly Stand for approximately l.3 miles. A small parking area overlooks a spectacular view of the valley and distant mountains. Continue on and realize that you are in the wilderness, home to bear, moose, bobcats, coyotes, and loons. Notice the hidden homes seemingly untouched by technology.
Retrace your track back down the Kelley Stand to civilization, follow the sign to Route 7. This will bring you into the enchanting borough of East Arlington. Take a moment to visit the quaint theme shops, buy a piece of homemade fudge and sit by the waterfall. When you have finished, continue to the stop sign. Turn left onto East Arlington Road and then right onto Route 7A. You will pass the Norman Rockwell Museum (well worth a visit).
After the museum, travel a few hundred yards and turn left onto Route 313. Make another left onto River Road (.5 mi.), a bucolic byway which ambles alongside the Battenkill River. You will see canoeists winding their way downstream and fly fisherman hoping for tonight’s meal. The road is dotted with small antique stores, out-of-the-way inns, rolling pastures, and horse farms. Look for Covered Bridge Road and turn right. Stop to notice The Inn at Covered Bridge, which was Norman Rockwell’s studio for 14 years and the Battenkill Grange which is still the site of family potluck suppers and local gatherings. Take a walk through the Arlington Green Covered Bridge which was built in 1852 and touch the wooden pegs still holding the supports. Thrill the kids and honk the horn (only once) as you pass through.
Turn right onto Route 313, and then left onto Sandgate Road. Go 3.5 mi. and stumble upon one of my newest “backroad discoveries,” the Green River Inn. Stop by and ask the owners if you can visit the deck that they decided to build into the side of their mountain. If you have 4-wheel drive , you can drive up. If not, it takes about 1/2 an hour to stroll up the gentle slope. When you reach “the deck,” you will view one of southern Vermont’s most spectacular vistas! When you return, enjoy your favorite beverage on the Inn’s back veranda and make sure you visit the first floor hallway, which shows the enormous restoration process that owners Jim and Betsy Gunn have undertaken. Stroll around the grounds, take it all in and who knows? You may decide that you must spend just one more day in the area!