Two perfect winter days.

Time and Space.

Space and Time.

It’s all I need really….time to heal, to reflect and recharge. Space to feel, to breathe, and to explore. To recalibrate and grow new ideas. Or simply, the opportunity to spend some quality time immersed in the pristine, calming world of Mother Nature.

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I hate to overuse the work “perfect” – but that’s what it was. Last week, I spent two nights at Wilson’s Promontory for the first time in about 20 years…when I was last there you could still buy a big bag of bird seed from the general store to feed the birds. Holidays as a kid were chaos in tents, icy cold swims and (equally) icy cold showers. Changeable weather, adventures up the creeks and across squeaky sand.

As a kid this was an endless wonderland.
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This trip it felt like I was transported to a different era – where the measure of time was not a watch but the waves carving into granite cliffs. Or the tidal river engulfing moss-covered boulders and trespassing into the wetlands. The sun peeking up over the mountains, fanning out to light the sky and sparkle on the seas. Where your eyes cast out across the ocean…to nothingness – so close to the edge of the universe.

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If you haven’t been there yourself, do. Put it one your list to visit and soon – winter is kind to this part of the world (if you bring your woolies and hiking boots!!).

The days seemed to start brighter and crisper than what I am used to.

The sun rises gently but firmly, changing the landscape and bringing the world to life.

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It really was just me and the birds on the beach that morning.

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Squeaky beach wasn’t as squeaky as I remembered, but I had it all to myself.

I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, or stop thinking just how lucky I am to live in this part of the world.

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If you’re blessed as we were, the weather will be kind. The days will feel long and glorious. The views will not disappoint.

We chose an ambitious 17km day walk, and didn’t regret a minute of it.

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There were chats and laughter (mostly on the downhill parts). Jokes and some serious debate.

A lunch picnic in the sun.

Wildlife spotting – poor little thing, didn’t like being the centre of attention really!

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Many beach strolls – the water blue and the sky bluer. The clouds all pretty and wispy.

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Obstacles to negotiate, icy waters to test.

Photos to take, and [more] food to eat.

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And sunsets to melt your heart and give strength to weary legs.

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Time and space – two days in paradise really is proof that the simple things in life give such pleasure.

How blessed I truly am.

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Going for a walk, in the woods…

Time spent in a state that is covered in more trees than not (80% of Vermont is trees to be exact) certainly lends itself to plenty of walks. In fact the state’s name comes from verd monts, which translates to “green mountains”………does that give you a better idea?

With the events in August 2011 (Tropical Storm “Irene”) leaving the Green State battered, there was more brown than green – but it still made for some lovely tramping, trekking walking etc. And I was lucky enough to be there for perhaps the nicest season of all….Autumn.

Six of the most memorable walks:

1. Mt. Peg, Woodstock VT
Right in the middle of tourist-town Woodstock is an easy ~1.5 mile  climb to some pretty views over the town and valley surrounding that give you a very good perspective of the sheer green-ness of the state. If you have a spare half an hour, or need to walk off lunch it’s a nice easy stroll through the trees. I wrote at the time:

on the south side of Woodstock, off the small back streets there’s a quick walk up Mt. Peg – a little lump of a mountain that pokes up to give views across the pretty town and valleys beyond. The walk itself weaves through thick spruce trees, under a canopy of autumn colour and behind houses nestled into the side of the hill, before emerging atop for the vista. Even though the weather was cloudy, looking at trees stretching for as far as the eye can see is truly good for the soul.

View across Billings farm and Woodstock

2. The Pogue and Mt. Tom, Woodstock VT
On the opposite side of Woodstock there are some 20 miles of trails and carriage roads to explore (you can take a sleigh ride in winter – how cool!!) as part of the Marsh-Billings-Rockerfeller National Historic Park. Despite the sunny autumn weather (definitely shorts and t-shirt weather) and holiday long-weekend when I visited, the place felt empty. You are literally a stones-throw from the main street in downtown Woodstock, yet the expanse allows you to feel you are miles away from any tour bus. All up, I walked about 3.6 miles (5.75km) along a fairly easy gradient, about 1 1/2 hours with plenty of photo/vista stops to breathe it all in!

First the trail is wide and gentle, walking beneath the shade of an autumn canopy
Then it widens to a field (paddock)
And then you stumble up the last bit to be rewarded with views across the Pogue (lake)

Farther along the road/trail is Mt. Tom itself – the extra milage for a round trip to the South Peak Overlook was so worth the view! You are literally standing on the edge of the summit, staring down across the busy world below.  I think this climb would be well worth it at night-time too – imagine all those pretty lights!!

Woodstock nestled into Mt. Peg behind

3. The Pinnacle, Stowe VT
The town of Stowe is normally known for it’s exclusive, but expansive ski slopes that make it a very popular destination in winter-time. We were lucky enough to have some nice-ish autumn weather (it’s all relative, no rain or snow but still pretty cold with the howling wind!!) to explore the countryside and decided on trekking up the steep 3 mile walk up Stowe Pinnacle before lunch.

Starts out gentle enough…

Nice enough, perhaps better if the recent storms hadn’t washed it out in parts. But because of the extra altitude the leaf change was the best I would see for most of the trip.

Yes, I said steep! There were people practically running this as their morning workout!!

The views from the top were pretty special (we started the climb down the very bottom of those trees!).

 It was also my first and delicious trip that involved sampling apples straight from the tree roadside (you’ll never go back once you’ve tasted fresh picked extra flavour-some apples!!). Then, with lunch taken care of, I was lucky enough to detour on the drive home to Ben and Jerry’s factory – no way could I have come this far without tasting their ice-cream 🙂





4. Moss Glen Falls, near Stowe VT
Despite the drizzle and inclement weather, it really was a pleasant 1/4 mile hop upstream from the car to the falls, ranked in the top-10 of most popular waterfalls in New England. As nice as it was, I was quite glad to be nowhere near here when the floods happened – there was debris half-way up 30-foot trees!! A poor beaver was busy rebuilding his/her home, gnawing through thigh-sized timber on the water’s edge!!!

Short steep pitch up the slope to see the falls…glad to wear decent shoes for this!
Beautiful, powerful…nature at it’s best

We then hiked on a little further along the river, through the beautiful sodden forest – the colours all the more vibrant because of the rain…

 If one set of falls is not enough – there’s a book out there detailing where to find more!
 

5. Hubbard Park, Montpelier VT
A more “suburban” setting but even Vermont’s capital city residents (all 8,000 of them) are not going to lose out on being “close to nature”. So, I found the perfect way to shake off jetlag…a run up the nearest mountain you can find! Set in 185 acres of land just above the State House for parliament, there was more than 7 miles of trail/road to explore – it really was food for the soul running through thick dense fir and spruce, as well as the elm, birch and maple trees all changing colour. I didn’t cover the whole 7 miles, but the climb was quite descent, so certainly felt the legs the next day!

Main street of Montpelier
The trail began climbing up a road overlooking the town
Then it was straight wilderness, I didn’t see another person!
50-foot above the ground
I even found a 50-foot tower to climb – that was my stair repeats to really kill the quads!!!! Glorious views over the surrounds helped ease the burn, then beyond the tower was more trail to explore….rock-hopping over streams, dancing around wildlife (2 squirrels, 1 snake!) and under the autumn splendor of late afternoon.

View halfway up the tower

Nature at it’s best

6. Rattlesnake Point/Falls of Lana, East Middlebury, VT
Thankfully I didn’t encounter a single snake on this 5-mile climb, just a few fellow hikers, one dog and a few lizzards trying to warm up in the sun! I was warm enough pretty soon too, given the sunny weather as well as the climb up ~1500 feet!! Mostly the trail wove through the trees up along old logging tracks, past the falls to the escarpment high above. Certainly strenuous in small sections, the views at the top were well worth the effort. Given the longer distance, it was a very quiet stroll too.

Gentle stream, near the falls; most people stopped about here.
Lana Falls

But far more fun to be had – off the beaten track….
Halfway along the escarpment, the fall foliage starting to pop!
Not a bad spot to stop and have lunch ay? Check out those views…..

 All in all, The Green State was a pleasure to discover on foot…and I really only scratched at the surface. Who knows, maybe one day I will make it back to do a walk along the Appalachian Trail. What? A girl’s gotta dream big!!