Celebrating Our Independence in Vermont

As we left the coast of Maine, we reached a turning point in our adventures, and started to near the end of our time on the road.  From here, we traveled west for the first time in months, moving into the mountainous regions of Vermont known as the Green Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian chain.  The fourth of July weekend was upon us, and we made sure to secure reservations back in early February since campgrounds tend to book up fast both on  weekends and holidays.  

Mountain View Campground, Morrisville, VT

We decided to spend our fourth of July at Mountain View Campground, located about 20 minutes north of Stowe, Vermont in the heart of the mountains.  The staff were really friendly, the main office had a well stocked general store, and there were lots of amenities on site.  The amenities included two pools (one heated and one not), a spa, mini golf, horseshoes, playground equipment, river access for tubing, and more.  The laundry, bathroom and shower facilities were all very clean as well, and we took advantage of them during our stay. The only issue was cell and WiFi service.  Being in the mountains, there simply isn’t anything you can do about it, so prepare to disconnect. 🙃

Mount Mansfield

The tallest mountain peak in Vermont is Mount Mansfield, with an elevation of 4,395 feet.  I was determined to hike this peak despite many hiker comments saying it was very difficult.  I didn’t let that deter me on Old Rag Mountain in Virginia, and I wasn’t going to let it stop me here. 😉 The biggest challenge with hiking Mount Mansfield, like Old Rag, is that you have to clamor over boulders as you get closer to the top, and the entire hike, no matter which direction you come from, is incredibly steep.  After doing quite a bit of research, I decided to hike up Sunset Ridge Trail, one of the more well traveled trails.  The other popular route is Long Trail, which passes through several peaks and can be used for multi-day through hikes.

After Matt dropped me off at the trailhead, I registered at the office, paid my $4 fee, and began to hike up the mountain.  I decided  to make a game day decision whether I would come back on Sunset or Long Trail for my return trip down the mountain.  Like Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, most of the trail was rock, and I had many stairs to climb for the first mile or so before tackling a combination of slab and boulder sections.  Around the 2-mile mark you finally reach the tree line and can finally see the valley below.  However, I still had a mile of clamoring left and a constant gradient to contend with.

At around 1/4 mile remaining, you meet up with the Long Trail for the final push to the peak, which turned out to be the easiest part of the whole hike. 😂 I was fortunate that it was a clear, sunny day, and though still windy, it was mild compared to most people’s accounts.  From the top, I soaked in the expansive views of the other mountains, the town of Stowe nestled below us, and Lake Champlain on the horizon while I ate lunch and applied another layer of sunscreen.  By the way, make sure you have sunscreen, a wind breaker, and plenty of water and food for this hike.

After talking with a few folks along my way up Sunset and hearing how wet Long Trail was, I decided Sunset would be the safest choice to go back down, despite some tricky boulder areas.  Even though I felt trepidation heading into the boulder section, the hike back down turned out to be a lot easier than I envisioned, and I made it back safe and sound.  My total round trip was about 5.7 miles, with 2,478 of elevation gain and total hiking time was just over 3 hours.  I was tired, but satisfied and reveled in the beauty of my surroundings.  Though there are a few sections where you need to be careful and deliberate about your footing, even as a person who is afraid of heights, I felt safe doing this hike and recommend it for those looking for a challenge with some rewarding views at the top. 

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe is very cute town south of our campsite that we visited on a few occasions.  It was pretty packed with people during the holiday weekend, so parking was difficult, but we lucked out by finding a free open lot. We picked up a few sandwiches at Cafe on Main, and perused the wares downstairs at the Stowe Mercantile while we waited for our order.  This shop had so many fun items, that I was very tempted to get a few things, but alas space in our trailer is always an issue for us.  Another time, perhaps.

While I was hiking up Mount Mansfield, Matt returned to Stowe to check out the shops and had lunch at their farmer’s market.  After he retrieved me from the trailhead, we went back one more time to have a celebratory beer and a few appetizers at Doc Ponds.  They have a wonderful selection of beers on tap, and the food was also excellent.  Their calamari was unique because it wasn’t fried, but instead served in a smoky broth with breadcrumbs on top, and it was the best calamari I’ve ever had.  I also ate their braised greens, which had a spicy broth, and indulged in some mac and cheese.  Everything we had was superb and I would love to return here if we head up through Stowe again. 👍

Burlington, Vermont

Burlington is the largest city in Vermont at approximately 45,000 people, yet it is the least-populated “biggest city” in any state in the country.  This college town is nestled next to Lake Champlain, often referred to as “The Sixth Great Lake,” and lies between the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondacks of New York, offering stunning mountain views along the shoreline.

We wanted to take advantage of this beautiful backdrop by heading to the downtown Waterfront Park for a bike ride along the 9-mile greenway, courtesy of none other than Bernie Sanders while he was mayor of this fair city. It was a hot, sunny day, so residents were taking advantage at the waterfront by swimming, boating, or heading to the parks.  Our bike ride was a bit chaotic at first, dodging walkers, bikers, skateboarders, and others using seemingly every creative form of transportation one could get away with on the greenway.  

Thankfully, the crowds eased as we headed north, and our trip culminated in a unique ride on the Island Line Trail that takes you along the Lake Champlain Causeway, a strip of land that juts out for 3 miles into Lake Champlain.  There is a gap in the causeway to allow boats through, so if you want to continue your journey across the lake you can take the Local Motion Bike Ferry to the other side.  They even have a little food stand to enjoy while you wait.  This causeway has its own array of trees and plant life, and affords picturesque views in every direction, so I highly recommend it if you are visiting the area. 🚴‍♀️

Afterward, we were definitely hungry, so we walked up to the Church Street Marketplace, a 4-block pedestrian mall, for a bite to eat.  This mall is very similar to the one we saw in Charlottesville, VA, and is a wonderful feature to encourage more community-oriented spaces that are pedestrian-friendly in the city center.  I wish more cities would incorporate this idea, because heavy car traffic can discourage residents from heading into any downtown area.  

We settled on an Italian place called Pascolo Ristorante on their outdoor patio along the pedestrian walkway, which gave us ample opportunity to people watch and soak in our surroundings.  I wanted something refreshing to start, so I ordered an arugula salad, followed by fagioli rigatoni, while Matt decided upon their pesto rosso gnocchi.  It was all delicious and satisfying, but we couldn’t resist saving room for dessert, so we could get some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, which originated in Burlington. 🍦

Vermont is a beautiful state, and provided a nice reprieve during the busy holiday weekend.  Our trip is beginning to wind down from here on out as we travel through Upstate New York, continuing westward.  For the remainder of our journey, we are grateful we have the opportunity to catch up with friends and family along the way.  Though it is nice to explore new places and meet new people, it is always so wonderful to reunite with those dear to us. ❤️ 

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