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.

Winter retro fun: snow sliding gets back to its roots.

It’s Winter once more at the October Country Inn, and it looks like there may be a lot more snow to play in than last Winter.  We love to play in the snow.  There are so many ways: alpine, telemark, or cross-county skiing, sledding or tubing, snowshoeing, fat-tire biking, snowmobiling, snowboarding.  Add snowskating to the list.  Snowskates come in many varieties but are distinctive in that the rider is not attached to the deck.  No bindings.

The two most common types of snowskate are the single deck and the bideck. For mountain riding, the bideck is the way to go.  This snowskate has a top skateboard deck which the rider stands on and a lower ski deck, which is in contact with the snow. Bideck snowskates were reportedly invented by a Stevens Pass (Washington) local named Steve Frink in 1994. Ridden in much the same way as a skateboard, bideck snowskates are gaining in popularity.  The device itself is way less expensive that a snowboard alone, and you don’t need bindings or special boots.  The savings is attractive, and you can ride these things anywhere you can ride a regular snowboard.

Unfortunately, some ski resorts don’t allow you to ride snowskates on their trails.  It’s kind of like the opposition to snowboarding that initially occurred.  Killington, our home mountain, falls into the “does not allow” category.  For all their bluster about being the “Beast of the East,” and a place for adventure, turns out they don’t walk what they talk.  Killington was also slow to allow snowboarding.  I guess leadership at Killington is still of the old-school variety. However, you can ride them at Stratton or Jay Peak if you don’t mind a little travel.  Or, much closer to home, at Woodstock’s Suicide Six, the first ski resort in the U.S. to allow snowboarding.  Suicide Six welcomes snowskate riders.  It’s nice to be welcomed.

A typical Vermont bike ride–a bit hilly in really beautiful surroundings.

 

PbarnFrom the Billings Farm this 24 mile ride involves about 1,100 feet of climbing.  This really sweet ride ranks second on the October Country Inn list of great local bike rides. There are two route choices.  The 24 mile loop starts and ends at the Billings Farm just outside of Woodstock. The route winds up and down along narrow shouldered, but lightly traveled country roads through classic Vermont hill farm, and river valley scenery. This ride can be increased to 42.2 miles when combined with an out-and-back from the October Country Inn.

PfallStarting from the Billings Farm’s overflow parking lot. Exit the parking lot; turn right on Old River Rd for a short distance. Bear right onto, and follow Route 12 north until you reach the “Y” intersection with Pomfret Rd. (0.6 miles).  Turn right on Pomfret Rd and follow it until Pomfret Rd. turns to the right when you reach the Teago General Store (2.6 miles). Follow Pomfret Rd. as it begins to climb, winding through incredibly beautiful hill farm country. When you reach the top of the climb (5.8 miles), shift into your big ring for a long downhill cruise. This leg starts out winding through open pasture land, and then funnels into a narrow creek side valley. Upon reaching the White River (11.8 miles), the road bends to the right, and follows the White River. This road dead ends at a stop sign (12.4 miles) at Quechee/West Hartford Rd. To the left is a bridge that crosses the White River, leads to Route 14, and the West Hartford General Store.

PmapTurn right onto the Quechee/West Hartford Rd. (unmarked) and begin to climb. At the top (15.9 miles) shift into high gear once again for a shorter downhill sprint. Keep on the lookout for a paved road on the right that intersects with the Quechee/West Hartford Rd. at a very shallow angle (17.6 miles). Carefully turn right on this road (Quechee Main St., unmarked), and almost double back in the direction you came. Follow this road through and beyond the Quechee Country Club.  Turn right onto River Rd. (21.0 miles) when you reach the Taftsville covered bridge. At this point, River Rd. is hard packed dirt following the Ottauquechee River. River Rd. turns to pavement (23.2 miles). Turn right into the Billings Farm overflow parking lot to complete the ride (24.0 miles).  Download Pomfret Loop map.  Download Pomfret Loop Directions.

Vermont is famous for its cycling, and this route is a local favorite.

Formet US President Calvin Coolidge's homestead.

Former US President Calvin Coolidge’s homestead.

October Country Inn has long been a home-base for visiting cyclists.  Quiet country roads, stunning scenery, and friendly local drivers make for great cycling.  Visit our website for a complete selection of cycling routes in the area.  Distances range from 109 miles to 9 miles.  This blog post’s featured cycling route is a local favorite.  It’s the October Country Inn’s home route. It’s short enough for an experienced cyclist to get in a morning ride before breakfast, and long enough to slow down the pace and enjoy the surroundings.  Every memorial weekend, the Killington Stage Race uses this course.  For Vermont, this route is relatively easy.  It consists of about 830 feet of elevation gain over seven miles, with several long downhill stretches.  The route consists of three legs that form an 18 mile triangular loop.  Despite its modest overall distance, this route has a lot of interesting features, not the least of which is the remarkable Vermont scenery.

Woodward Reservoir.

Woodward Reservoir.

The first leg of the route passes by the historic Calvin Coolidge homesite. A good place to take a break near the top of the initial 6 mile, 450 foot climb. There is a restaurant, an old-fashioned general store, a museum, and the Plymouth cheese factory at the site.  The second leg of the route passes by scenic Woodward Reservoir.  At the start of the third leg of the route, a small commercial area contains two convenience stores, a deli, a restaurant, and bicycle shop. This final leg follows the Ottauquechee River.

oci triangleFrom October Country Inn, head west on Upper Road to its intersection with Bridgewater Center Road (.11 miles), turn left onto Bridgewater Center Road to its intersection with U.S. Route 4 (.03 miles), turn left to the intersection with Route 100A (.21 miles), turn right and proceed along 100A to the intersection with Route 100 (7.36 miles), proceed along Route 100 to the intersection with U.S. Route 4 (5.63 miles), turn right and proceed along U.S. Route 4 back to Bridgewater Center Road (5.67 miles), turn left on Bridgewater Center Road, right on Upper Road back to October Country Inn.  Map & directions.

First Vermont Spring wildflowers along the trail.

Trout-lily

Eastern Trout-lily

A couple of days short of Memorial Day here at the October Country Inn and, after a few days of light rain, a spot of warm weather has settled in.  Our world has exploded in green.  Seems like in a week’s time, the maples have leafed out, lilac and apple trees have bloomed, and roadside weeds are knee-high.    Before this crescendo of botanical abundance, a mere couple of weeks ago, only the hardiest of Vermont’s Spring wildflowers decorated the trailside.

Purple trillium

Purple trillium

Trout-lilys (Erythronium americanum) were the first to appear.  The name comes from their leaves that resemble the color and pattern found on native brook trout.  Trout-lilys are native to north-eastern woods and grow in colonies that can be  300 years old. The Trout-lily is a myrmecochore, meaning ants help to disperse the seeds and reduce predation of the seeds. To make the seeds more appealing to ants they have an elaiosome which is a structure which attracts the ants.  Another early bloomer is the purple trillium (Trillium erectum). It is also a native to north-eastern woodlands.  It is a spring ephemeral, a herbaceous perennial whose life-cycle is synchronised with that of the deciduous forests where it lives.  Its name is derived from its three lobed leaf arrangement and a flower with three petals.

Common blue violet

Common blue violet

Lastly, the small but mighty common blue violet (Viola sororia) grows low to the ground and can be easily overlooked.  Also called wood violet, or the lesbian flower, it is also native to north-eastern woods, and is the state flower of Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.  This plant has historically been used for food and for medicine. The flowers and leaves are edible, and some sources suggest the roots can also be eaten. The Cherokee used it to treat colds and headaches.  The common blue violet is also called the lesbian flower because in the early 1900s, lesbians and bisexual women would give violets to the women they were wooing. This symbolized their “Sapphic” desire, so-called because Sappho, a Greek lyric poetess, in one of her poems described herself and her lover as wearing garlands of violets. This practice became popular in the 1910 – 1930 time period, and has become a substantial symbol for lesbian and bisexual women in the modern era as well.