The Kingdom Road Trip

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Vermont lies buried in snow.  Beautiful, white, fluffy, stuff-dreams-are-made-of type snow. Snow that delayed a business trip to Boston – and a much needed museum and city escape.

While the blizzard rages outside, I indulge in far away dreams of a summer landscape in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, where the skiing is probably really good right now.

This far-flung corner of Vermont, remote as it is, is not really so far away – and it is strikingly beautiful – with small towns breaking up lovely, long stretches of back-country roads and dense forests, mountains, upland pastures, and farmlands.

Rather than shooting up the highway, we followed the Connecticut River Byway – aka Rt 5 – most of the way north. At times parallel to Rt 91 – with plenty of places to hop back on the highway – it winds along the river at a slower but much more pleasant pace, and passes through woodlands, small towns, and river valley farms with gorgeous, majestic barns. The scenery was the main draw, but it was food that lured us to stop frequently. As we drove north, the soft hills of southern Vermont eventually gave way to the rugged forests of the northeast.

Tea and a pastry at King Arthur’s proved to be a delicious and perfect start to the trip. A must stop for any baker with a little extra money to spare.

A little further up the road, a large, beautiful historic grist mill looming over the Waits River housed The Perfect Pear. Comfortable outside seating, a cooling breeze from the river, friendly service, fresh salads and local fare sustained us for the rest of the long ride.

We cabin camped out along the Barton River at the Pinecrest Motel and Cabins. Tiny, and a little dusty, our very basic and remote cabin was clean and comfortable, affordable, newly renovated and – once I adjusted my expectations a wee bit – proved to be a good base for exploring the area, and for relaxing on the porch in early mornings with tea and toast. Resident hosts were helpful, friendly and accommodating.

Highlights of the trip included Claire’s in Hardwick for uber-local fare, a fresh and hearty breakfast at the Parson’s Corner Cafe, views of the beautiful, glacial, not-quite-a-fjord Lake Willoughby, a british afternoon tea and garden tour at Perennial Pleasures Nursery. On the list for next time will be the Parker Pie Co., which – though seemingly in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the week – was packed.

Also of note – the Old Stone Museum in Brownington with its stone buildings and spectacular 360 degree views of the Kingdom from the outlook tower on Prospect Hill, Martha’s Diner in Coventry, and further north, Derby Line’s Library and Opera House where neighbors have to cross an international border to visit with each other.

Newport’s lake sparkled in the sunshine, and efforts to re-vitalize the historic Main Street and the Waterfront were visible. The Woodknot Bookshop and Cafe lured us in with tea, books and air conditioning. Sunset over the lake was the star of dinner at the East Side Restaurant.

The trip south included a fresh and local organic breakfast at the Runaway Cafe, a Cabot cheese tour, and a last stop for tea and wi-fi at The Local Buzz.

A short and sweet trip. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful and varied Vermont is – in every season.

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