Shakespeare meets Calvin Coolidge.

The Labor Day weekend at the October Country Inn signals the end Summer while also signaling that Fall is just around the corner. If you have put off taking a Summer break, or are just looking for an end-of-summer outing, consider visiting us to take in the Labor Day weekend event at the Calvin Coolidge Homestead and State Historic Park in nearby Plymouth Notch. Besides just letting the pure Vermont country surroundings wash over you, amble over local walking trails, peruse the Coolidge homestead, schoolhouse, and the oldest Vermont cheese production facility, recently revived, before the Stand Up Shakespeare Company presents a free public performance of their Bard-Based Variety Show after which the annual Plymouth Folk and Blues Festival fills the air with live music performances for the rest of the afternoon.

Stand Up Shakespeare Company Troupe.

Stand Up Shakespeare is a collective troupe of New York City-based actors who have traveled to Vermont each Labor Day weekend annually for the last 13 years to present a new one-hour show made up of romance, tragedy, history, and comedy, all based in the works of William Shakespeare. The show is held at noon on Saturday, September 1, at the 173 year-old Union Christian Church located on the grounds of the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. Starting at 2p.m., and running until 5p.m., Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine, the 14th annual Plymouth Folk and Blues Festival showcases Vermont and internationally know musicians for a two-day festival of folk and blues music performed in the pure Vermont country air.

For a little historical context, the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site preserves the birthplace and homestead of our nation’s 30th President. Also on the grounds are the Wilder Barn which examine Vermont farm life at the turn of the 20th Century; The Vermont Cheese Company first started in 1890; Coolidge Hall, used as the Summer White House as well as Grange meetings, dances, and other events; the Coolidge Homestead, birthplace, and nearby nature trails. Combine an end-of-summer visit to the Vermont countryside (time spent in Vermont is never wasted) with a dose of history, culture, and a down-home good time. Labor Day weekend at the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site. You won’t regret it.

 

There is fungus among us.

Photo of Indian pipe plant.

Indian pipe shows its single flower.

It’s been rainy for the last few days here at the October Country Inn.  An uncommon dip in the jet-stream opened up a path for moisture laden Gulf of Mexico air to sweep north in a procession of wet thunderstorms.  The rain is welcomed.  It’s what gives the Green Mountains their name.  The rain-soaked earth also produces the explosive growth of  myriad varieties of mushrooms, fungus, and unusual plants. I came across many on this morning’s walk in the woods.  One such plant, called ghost plant or Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), only appears when the ground gets moist after a dry period.  Unlke most plants, Indian pipe is white because it does not contain chlorophyll.  It is parasitic.  Instead of generating its own energy, it gets the energy it needs to grow from trees through a complex relationship with certain host fungi.  In western herbal medicine Indian pipe is used to calm the nerves.

Photo of yellow patch mushroom.

Yellow patch mushroom.

Another eye-catching mushroom that I encountered along the path is called yellow patch (Amanita flavoconia).  The genus Amanita contains about 600 species including some ot the most toxic, as well as some well-regarded edible species.  Amanita alone is responsible for about 95% of mushroom poisioning fatalities.  One species, death cap, as the name implies, accounts for about 50%.  For this reason, although I like the subtle taste and texture of mushrooms, I leave it to the experts to pick them out for me.  I often find various species of Amanita along the path, they’re often colorful and unusual looking and fun to take pictures of, but I leave it at that.

Photo of chicken of the woods fungus cluster.

Chicken of the woods cluster on a maple tree.

On the other hand, there’s chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus).  This is an edidle variety of bracket fungus that is relatively easy to identify due to its bright orange color.  Although wild mushroom connoisseurs claim they have the texture and taste of chicken, and often use them as a substitute for it, I still didn’t harvest any from this healthy batch.  I’m not all that fond of chicken.  Sadly, this live maple acting as host for this fungus is doomed.  It will not survive.  Personally, I’d rather have the tree.

 

Bookstock: Woodstock celebrates the arts on the Green.

Woodstock's Book FairChuck and Edie, hosts at the October Country Inn, with an eye toward keeping our patrons informed about local events of interest, thought that you would like to know that we noticed that they’re putting up the tents on the Town Green for Bookstock, Woodstock’s annual bookfair, and literary festival. Bookstock is presented in support of cultural richness and diversity, and celebrates the arts. New England is home to many talented writers representing diverse genres, from national Poet Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners to emerging young writers and those who have found their compelling voice at midlife. Bookstock encourages appreciation for good writing and other artistic endeavors by introducing residents and visitors of all ages to writers, musicians and artists.

Donald Hall reads poetry

Local poet Donald Hall reads some of his work.

This year, Bookstock is a three day event held on July 27, 28 & 29. Events are all free, and most events take place in historic buildings around the Woodstock Green, a short walk from the center of Woodstock village.  In addition, ArtisTree Gallery in nearby South Pomfret, hosts the opening reception, as well as the UnBound exhibition of book art. Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park hosts a writing workshop and presentation. Bentley’s Restaurant holds a brunch reading Sunday morning.

Bookstock workshopBookstock hosts two book sales at once. Norman Williams Public Library (NWPL) offers a selection of vintage books of interest to both serious and casual collectors. In addition, NWPL and the North Universalist Chapel Society collaborate to put together an extraordinary used book fair. Thousands of quality secondhand books are available at yard sale prices under a tent on the Green, carefully arranged by genre and topic. Check out the schedule at www.bookstockvt.org.

 

20 Mile Stream Road loop – a local bike ride favorite.

Town of Ludlow

Town of Ludlow

The 20 Mile Stream Road loop bike ride is of modest length that starts with a long gentle downhill section, adds a quiet, slow (mostly uphill) ride along an idyllic country backroad, and then finishes with a breezy, brake lever clutching downhill. The ride starts out though a lake front residential section along a scenic state highway, then goes through the towns of Ludlow, and Cavendish before you turn off the highway, your thoughts and concerns dim as you become one with Vermont’s bucolic splendor. If you want to extend the ride, start and end this ride at the October Country Inn for a total of 44.3 miles.

20 Mile Stream Road

20 Mile Stream Road

For the 20 mile option, park at the Tyson Church parking lot off Route 100 across from the Echo Lake Inn. Ride south on Route 100. The road has narrow shoulders, and winds through a residential area that front lakes (from north to south) Echo, Rescue and Pauline that are fed and drained by the upper reaches of the Black River. Turn left where Route 100 south intersects with Route 103 south (3.4 miles) and continue into the town of Ludlow where Route 100 and Route 103 split (5.4 miles). There are several opportunities for restrooms, food, and drink in Ludlow. Continue through Ludlow, about 2 miles, and beyond on Route 103 south.  Turn left on Route 131 east (8.5 miles). Singleton’s General Store, in Proctorsville, is on the right (8.9 miles). A little bit further (9.0 miles) you will come to Depot St. Two blocks down, on the left, is the Opera House Café & Bakery. Riding on, following Route 131 east, without warning, and for no apparent reason, the town of Proctorsville suddenly becomes the town of Cavendish. Be sure to keep an eye out on your left for Twenty Mile Stream Road (9.3 miles) It’s the longest street sign in Vermont.

20 Mile Stream Loop MapTurn left on 20 Mile Stream Rd (9.3 miles), it’a paved road with no marked shoulders, but little traffic. It begins as a bit of a climb and then goes up and down, mostly up winding through a haphazard mix of residences before it opens up through a meadow filled valley. It just feels good to ride through it. The pavement ends (13 miles), turns to hard-pack dirt and steadily increases in pitch until it intersects with the Tyson/Reading Road (16.3 miles).Turn left on Tyson/Reading Road, and slip into the big ring. With the exception of one small up and down section by Colby Pond, the rest of the ride is a peddle free downhill ride on a winding paved road (no marked shoulders but little traffic) through shaded forest and open meadow until you reach the end of this loop a the junction with Route 100 (19.3 miles).

A nearby library is home to a national art treasure.

Panel of Orozco muralOur guests come to the October Country Inn for many reasons. Sometimes they come to hike, bike, kayak, shop, hunt for antiques, pan for gold, or just kick back and feast on local foods. Sometimes they come just to absorb Vermont. It is a special place. Time spent in Vermont is never wasted. For whatever reason our guests stay with us, there’s always the possibility of an unexpected bonus. The cherry on the cake. For example, who would have thought that a trip to Bridgewater Corners, Vermont puts you in the neighborhood for the option to view one of the finest Mexican wall murals ever produced.

Jose Orozco

Jose Orozco

The Epic of American Civilization,” a nearly 3,200 square feet mural of 24 panels painted by José Orozco between 1932 and 1934 on the walls of the reserve corridor of Dartmouth College’s Baker Library in nearby Hanover, New Hampshire. The mural depicts the history of the Americas from the Aztec migration into Mexico to the industrialization of modern society. Orozco, together with Diego Rivera, and David Siqueiros, was one of the big three muralists of the Mexican Mural Renaissance. Orozco was the most complex of the Mexican muralists, fond of the theme of human suffering, but less realistic and more fascinated by machines than Rivera. While Rivera was a bold, optimistic figure, touting the glory of the Mexican revolution, Orozco was less comfortable with the bloody toll the social movement was taking.

Dartmouth's Baker Library

Dartmouth’s Baker Library.

This national historic landmark is considered on the finest examples of mural painint in this country by one of the greatest twentieth-century practitioners of public art. Sections of this mural are named: “Migrations,” “Human Sacrifices,” “The Appearance of Quetzalcoatl,” “Corn Culture,” “Anglo-America,” “ Hispano-America,” “Science,” and “Modern Migration of the Spirit.” In addition to the mural, Dartmouth owns more than 200 preparatory drawings and historical photographs which are not generally on public view. However, Dartmouth invites you to explore this material in conjunction with the finished mural. See Digital Orozoco Project. This interactive journey reveals Orozoco’s creative process, methods, and the evolution of this great work. As a final point of somewhat unrelated interest, Orozoco also illustrated the 1947 book “The Pearl” by John Steinbeck.

 

 

The best kept secret in the greater Woodstock area.

A view of Woodstock Village.

We are often puzzled that on some certain weekend all the inns in Woodstock seem to be completely booked, and yet the October Country Inn is not close to capacity. Not that Woodstock isn’t worthy of such attention, it’s a charming small New England village. There are good restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and plenty of shops and galleries all within walking distance from any of several inns that are located within the village. But then what? After you’ve spent a half-day wandering the village, you will want more; and more is available, but it’s outside of Woodstock village. It requires getting in your car and driving to one or another of the many, many points of interest in the greater Woodstock area.

The October Counry Inn–The best kept secret in the greater Woodstock area.

At this point, staying at an inn within the Village has lost its home field advantage. You’ve already exhausted all that’s within walking distance. So why not meet Chuck and Edie, and stay at the October Country Inn in Bridgewater Corners? It’s in the adjoining town of Bridgewater. In fact, the Woodstock town line is in the middle of Bridgewater. The October Country Inn is slightly more than one mile outside of Woodstock’s town line. Truth be told, we know the answer. It’s because you didn’t know about us. You are not in on the best kept secret in the greater Woodstock area. It’s not your fault. The system is set up to key on location, and Woodstock has become a name destination. You would have to be some kind of black-belt, travel master to be able to pierce the search-engine veil of mystery to get a complete view of the area you are interested in visiting.

Bridgewater Corners Country Store.

This is the point of this posting. Although you might argue that because this post appears on the October Country Inn blog, anybody reading it would already be in on that best kept secret. However, the internet is a complex enterprise. Perhaps this post is like the ripples of water from a small pebble that spread across an enormous lake. In any case consider yourselves let in on the best kept secret in the greater Woodstock area. Stay at the October Country Inn. Check our reviews on Trip Advisor, Google, or Yelp. Woodstock is fine, but Bridgewater Corners’ October Country Inn is sublime. It’s still as close to everything outside the Village, closer to all that the Killington area has to offer, and is outside the Route 4 traffic corridor and all that goes along with it. It’s quiet here. We’re in the country, we have a swimming pool set on a tranquil hill overlooking the Green Mountains, the Longtrail Brewery is across the street, and the Bridgewater Corners Country Store, to serve any of a multitude of personal needs that may arise, is within walking distance.

America’s most famous folk artist calls Vermont home.

Folk artists gallery: Brandon Artists Guild in Brandon, Vermont

Brandon Artists Guild.

Life at the October Country Inn in Bridgewater Corners, Vermont can be said to be the act of living folk art. Without trying, the inn epitomizes the folk artist lifestyle: relaxed, an appreciation for simpler living, surrounded by an understated depth of natural beauty. It seems fitting then that Warren Kimble, America’s most famous folk artist, got his start in nearby Woodstock. Kimble’s work reflects the folk art ethos that, in the fast-moving, technology-obsessed modern world, people enjoy images that speak to a slower, less complicated time. At 80, Kimble has not stopped creating. “Warren Kimble: Folk Art 2017,” an exhibition showcasing the artist’s current mood of nostalgia opens in nearby Brandon, Vermont at the Brandon Artists Guild June 30 through August 29, 2017.

Kimble's folk artists view of an oversized pig.Kimble’s work transports you to a whimsical world where pigs take flight, red barns perch on brightly colored patchwork farms, and everything is as American as apple pie.  Over his lifetime, Kimble has absorbed a lot. “Art is the sum total of one’s experiences. The Jersey shore, the boardwalk, the color … I love the circus. I was taken to the circus every April. That’s art,” he says enthusiastically. “So you may not use it tomorrow or you may not use it 10 years from now, but the experience always comes back to you and makes the creative process happen,” he adds.

Kimble's folk artist view of a house on a hill.Kimble moved to Brandon in 1970, and taught art at nearby Castleton College. Struggling to make ends meet he says it all came together in 1990 at an antiques show in Woodstock. A local couple who were launching a publishing business saw and liked his work and wanted to make prints of his pieces.  John and Laurie Chester of Wild Apple Graphics chose six of his paintings, reproduced them and headed for New York City. “So there we are in New York at Art Expo,” says Kimble, “The big, huge, art show and they’re selling these reproductions like crazy.”  The paintings included a couple of animals, a painting of a house on a hill and two cows with the state of Vermont on their rumps kissing. “I just did that for fun,” says Kimble, who says that’s just his sense of humor. “But it just took off — it just went bananas,” he says.

The battle of Hubbarton: Revolutionary War enactment.

Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site.

Many of our guests at the October Country Inn come to Vermont to sample its rich and varied place in U.S. history.  The only Revolutionary War battle fought in Vermont took place at Hubbardton in 1777.  Visit the Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site on the July 8 – 9 weekend, and witness reenactors stage this fight on Vermont soil between the British and American troops.  The Battle of Hubbardton involved approximately 2,230 troops–1,000 to 1,200 Americans, 850 British, and 180 Germans fighting for the British. It resulted in the deaths of 41 American, 50 British, and 10 German soldiers. Of the 244 wounded, 96 were American, 134 British, and 14 German. The British took 234 American prisoners. Total casualties, including prisoners, were roughly 27 percent of all participating troops.

British reenactors on the march.

In June 1777 British Lt. Gen. John Burgoyne began implementing his plan to split New England from the rest of the Colonies.   The plan was for Burgoyne’s troops to head south on Lake Champlain and join two other British leaders,  one of whom was traveling from the west along the Mohawk Valley and the other from the north up the Hudson River. All were to meet following their victories in Albany, New York.  As Burgoyne drew near Mount Independence and Fort Ticonderoga in early July, Major General Arthur St. Clair made the tough decision to withdraw the American Northern Department Army from these forts and save his troops for another encounter under more advantageous circumstances with the British.  The roughly 4,000 American soldiers retreated as quickly as possible with little time to gather up supplies and under the cover of darkness on the nights of July 5th and 6th.

Reenacting the Colonial battle strategy.

Major General St. Clair and the main army marched over 20 miles to reach the hills of Hubbardton.  There he appointed Colonel Seth Warner of the Green Mountain Boys to take command of an expanded rear guard of 1,000 to 1,200 soldiers, while the main army continued southward to Castleton.  Rear guards have been a standard military security strategy to protect retreating troops.  Their mission is to delay the enemy in their pursuit, force the enemy to deploy all their troops into action with the rear guard, engage the enemy in such a way as to avoid close combat, and to then withdraw safely as quickly as possible.  The American rear guard successfully accomplished its mission, fully deploying the pursuing British, delaying them long enough so St. Clair and his main army could safely retreat southward.  The rear guard soldiers also skillfully disengaged their enemy, fighting the British to a near standstill, and avoiding further American casualties and pursuit by the British.

Artisans’ Park–a lot of facination within walking distance.

Path of Life gardens overlooks the Connecticut River.

Path of Life gardens overlooks the Connecticut River.

A common breakfast table query from our guests here at the October Country Inn is: “What is there to do around here.”  This question always gives us pause, because there’s so much to do around here we don’t know where to start.  Our typical follow-up discussion would then try to match a local activity or attraction with our guests interests, and if successful, to then provide the necessary logistics including directions.  As is often the case, there may be multiple options from which our guests may choose, each option with its own specific logistics.

pathoflifeArtisans’ Park makes our efforts of being good Vermont ambassadors more efficient by the accidental location of several fascinating attractions within walking distance of one another.  Located between Route 12 and the Connecticut River just north of Windsor, Vermont, the artisans in Artisans’ Park refers to either: Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, Sustainable Farmer, Harpoon Brewery, Silo Spirits, or Simon Pearce.  The park part of Artisans’ Park refers to either: Path of Life Garden, or Great River Outfitters. That’s a lot of options from a single parking spot.

Longest covered bridge in the U.S.

Longest covered bridge in the U.S.

At the Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company you can learn all about cheese making while sampling from a wide variety of their artisanal and speciality cheeses.  Sustainable Farmer serves wood-fired pizza, as well as offering maple syrup, honey, and other local Vermont products.  Kick back at the Harpoon Brewery and sip one of their cold craft brews.  Step up the kick and sample vodka distilled from local corn at Silo Distillery.  Amble over to Simon Pearce and watch local glassblowers ply their trade.  On you way over to Great River Outfitters check out the longest covered bridge in the U.S. spanning the Connecticut River.  Season permitting, you can kayak the Connecticut River, or wander around the Path of Life gardens.  In other words, a full and fascinating day awaits those who venture to Artisans’ Park.

A Fall afternoon on the Slack Hill Trail.

Slack Hill Trail vista.

Summer is over, here at the October Country Inn.  Clear skies and cooler weather usher in the changing of the forest’s colors from brilliant greens to muted reds, oranges and yellows.  This will soon turn to white as the temperature continues to drop and Winter’s snowfall sets in.  We’ve been putting off an afternoon’s exploration of the Slack Hill Trails all Summer, and realized that window was soon to close if we didn’t seize the moment.  The Slack Hill Trails in Coolidge State Park are a short drive from here.  The entrance to the Park is a narrow, steep paved road leading off of Route 100A about 6 miles south of Bridgewater Corners junction at Rt. 100A and U.S. Route 4.

The trail can be accessed from the Park entrance station, or a mile up the park road across from the picnic area.  The trail is well-marked with blue blazes, and is easy to follow, even when the entire forest floor is covered with a blanket of fallen leaves.  When starting at the park entrance station trailhead, the trail climbs moderately through the mixed hardwood forest for about 1/2 mile when you will come to a marked junction.  A signpost shows the way to a .3 mile spur trail that returns to the park entrance station.  The main trail continues in the opposite direction climbing moderately in places before descending a short distance to a vista overlook near the 2,174 foot summit of Slack Hill.  A log bench invites you to take a break.  The summit of Mt. Ascutney is seen in the distance.

 

Leaf covered Slack Hill Trail winds through mixed hardwood forest.

The trail continues, alternately climbing and descending, for another mile to the picnic area parking lot.  It’s another .8 of a mile downhill along the paved park road back to the starting point for a total loop distance of 3.2 miles.  A 2 mile out-and-back to the Slack Hill vista point option is to start from, and return to the picnic area trailhead.  Or, the loop option can be extended from the point where the trail meets the picnic area road by picking up the CCC trail and following it back to the park entrance station for a total loop distance of 3.6 miles.  The park is open year round, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing is a Winter activity option.  During the Summer, a day use fee may be charged.