Interviewing Friends

Beautiful Vermont is MORE than just fall colors and maple syrup

February 22, 2016
Lake Shaftsbury_featured

I admit it, I don’t know too much about the Northeast, and specifically Vermont. It just doesn’t get the kind of attention that New York or Massachusetts gets, and I think it’s a travesty. Fortunately, Tara from Back Road Ramblers is here to show me the way and to tell everyone that, indeed, Vermont is more than just fall colors and maple syrup. Let’s get started!

NOTE: All pictures are courtesy of Tara. To see more great pictures and posts, check Tara out on her blog.

Tara from Back Road Ramblers

Tara from Back Road Ramblers

Up Up and a Bear: Please tell the readers a little bit about yourself.

Tara: Let’s see – I’m almost 40, married to my one true love, and mom to two teenage boys. I love exploring the outdoors – hiking, paddling, camping, and especially taking pictures. We homeschooled our kids for years and years which enabled us to live a pretty flexible lifestyle that included lots of adventuring and traveling. Now the boys have transitioned to public high school, so we’ve had to limit our excursions to school holidays. We’re still adjusting to that. I’m also a huge dog lover, and have been raising puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind for the past 10 years.

Up Up and a Bear: You know what your story reminds me of? A pamphlet outlining how to live a happy life. And wow, thank you for your time and dedication for such an incredible cause. 10 years is a long time – my fiancé is actually going on 3 years volunteering at the local shelter for kitties. Speaking of a long time, congratulations on making it to 10 years in Bennington, Vermont. I understand you’ve been a traveler all your life with itchy feet, what made you settle down in Bennington?

Tara: So, I didn’t actually plan to settle down – it just sort of happened. Owning a home and a garden kind of made me fall in love with domestic life. We raised chickens, adopted a couple of cats, and started volunteering and working locally. One day I woke up and realized that I knew everyone I passed on the street. I also realized that it was the very first time in my life that had ever happened. It was a good feeling.

 

Woodford State Park

Woodford State Park

 

Up Up and a Bear: You know I woke up this morning and realized that I knew NONE of my neighbors, so you having found a tight-knit community is something I’ll have to work toward. But anyway, let’s talk a little bit about Vermont. Everyone knows that Vermont is beautiful country in the fall because of the incredible fall colors, what should they know about the other seasons as well?

Tara: Obviously winter is enchanting if you love snow, skiing, and hot chocolate, which we do. Mud season comes next, and that can be a real drag. Luckily it coincides with maple sugar season, and when the sugar shacks start cooking down sap, you can smell and taste the syrup in the air. It makes mud season almost bearable. We usually fire up our own backyard evaporator in March, cooking down 5 or 6 gallons of syrup each year. Summer is perfect in Vermont, especially if you love the outdoors. The state is full of secret swimming holes, mountain lakes, and hiking trails. The local food movement is huge, and every town seems to have a farmers’ market. I could be a summer tourist in Vermont forever and not get bored.

One day I woke up and realized that I knew everyone I passed on the street.

Up Up and a Bear: Wait; hold on… you just call spring “mud season”? And you have your own maple syrup maker? AND there are tons of secret swimming holes in Vermont? I’m not a huge fan of maple syrup but swimming in secret swimming holes is what I’m all about! I have to get out to Vermont this year. And judging from the pictures on your blog, Bennington (and Vermont in general) is full of natural beauty, is that your favorite part of living there?

Tara: That’s my favorite part – the natural beauty. It’s not exactly wild and rugged like places we’ve explored out west – instead it’s a tamed beauty. The ancient mountains are pretty well rounded and the paths are pretty well worn. I love getting to know this place on a deeper level – watching the paint fade on my favorite buildings, and the saplings grow into shade trees.  

 

the famous Curtis Barbecue in Putney

the famous Curtis Barbecue in Putney

 

Up Up and a Bear: This is REALLY making me want to sip on some sake and compose a poem or two while gazing at the moon. It just sounds so poetic! Okay, before I get out of control… what would you suggest people do in Vermont if it’s their first time here? When would be the best time to visit?

Tara: Oh please – I could seriously be a tour guide in Vermont, so just contact me if you want to visit, but I’ll try and narrow down favorite spots for you here.

If you’ve never been to Vermont, you should start in and around Burlington and Lake Champlain, and you should visit in the summer. In Burlington, eat out as much as you can afford, stroll along the pedestrian-only Church Street Marketplace, peddle along the lake on the Burlington Bike Path, and visit the ECHO Center on the waterfront to learn about the lake’s fascinating natural history. The area was once a shallow, tropical sea and you can still visit the remains of the world’s oldest known fossil coral reef bed.

The state is full of secret swimming holes, mountain lakes, and hiking trails.

If you still have time, you should head west to the Green Mountains, where you can hike up Mount Mansfield in Stowe, Vermont’s tallest mountain. This is one of the few places in Vermont where you can experience the alpine tundra, plus the views are spectacular. Swimming holes are an institution in Vermont, so if you see a line of cars parked on a back road somewhere, be sure to pull off and check it out. We always keep towels and swimsuits in the car just in case. The Stowe area has some really good ones.

 

a serene scene in Bennington

a serene scene in Bennington

 

Up Up and a Bear: Okay we need to stop tempting me with these swimming holes references. I have to confess – if I could wear swimming trunks everywhere, I would. So after getting your swim on, what should people eat there beside the maple syrup?

Tara: Milk fresh from the farm. It’s unlike anything you get from the supermarket. There’s also been a huge interest in artisan cheese lately, which is really easy to find throughout the state. Ben & Jerry’s started up in Burlington back in the 70s, and you can still visit their ice cream factory in Waterbury. It’s a pretty tasty tour.

The ancient mountains are pretty well rounded and the paths are pretty well worn.

Up Up and a Bear: Vermont sounds so sweet! So to be honest, I don’t know too much about Vermont. Everyone talks about Boston or New York when it comes to the Northeast so I don’t get a lot of info on Vermont. What are some tidbits about this state that most people don’t know about?

Tara: Vermont has more dirt roads than paved roads – another reason why it has stolen my heart. Vermont’s capital city of Montpelier is the least populated capital city in the country, and the only state capital without a McDonalds. There are also more than 100 covered bridges in the state, the most per square mile in the US.

 

sun shining through Woodford State Park

sun shining through Woodford State Park

 

Up Up and a Bear: I’m starting to get the picture of why you love it so much there. Vermont sounds amazing! I read somewhere that 3/4 of Vermont is forest so that’s awesome for back road adventures, what are some of your favorite spots for outdoors activities?

Tara: I think I already answered that question when I talked about my favorite places to visit in the state, but I did forget to mention the Long Trail, America’s first long-distance hiking path. It’s a 272 miles trail that runs along the Green Mountains from Pownal, on the Massachusetts border, all the way to Canada. We’ve never hiked the whole thing, but we’ve covered a good portion of it.

Vermont has more dirt roads than paved roads

Up Up and a Bear: That’s awesome! That reminds me of the Pacific Crest Trail closer to home; to note, I’ve done about 10 miles out of that 2,663 miles trail. I have some catching up to do. I try to be outdoors as much as I can, and I usually end up in water somewhere. It’s clear that you and your family are an outdoor kind of family. What does that mean to you? Do you think that all the back road trips you’ve had with your family strengthened your relationships?

Tara: The natural world is fascinating, and we try to make connections with the land each and every day. The forest and mountains have always been an extension of our home, and our whole family feels really comfortable outdoors – in all kinds of weather, and for any length of time.

I do feel like our adventures have helped strengthen our family ties. When you simplify life to its most basic elements – which is what happens when we live out of a backpack or a car, there is so much more time to just be. We talk, we explore, we cook, we play games, and we make art. I can’t think of any better way to spend my days.

 

beautiful tree reflections in Quechee Gorge State Park

beautiful tree reflections in Quechee Gorge State Park

 

Up Up and a Bear: Tara, thank you so much for your candid responses and for helping to open my eyes to the wonders of Vermont. I have to find a way to get over there soon!

For more AWESOME off-the-beaten-path adventures, stories, and tips, visit and say hi to Tara at Back Road Ramblers. You can also find Tara on her Facebook Page and on Instagram @ back.road.ramblers.

Want to know how to travel like a local in New York, read Brave New Yorker tells all: Manhattan is SMALL! and other local travel tips.

Travel on my friends!

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38 Comments

  • Reply Laura February 22, 2016 at 9:13 am

    I love the Woodford State Park. The roots, the nature, the feeling it give me. Wonderfully processed pics.
    Laura recently posted this awesome article… 5 Most Unique and Interesting Places On Earth You Should Visit In 2016My Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai February 22, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      Thanks Laura! The inspiration is really from Tara so please visit her amazing site and connect 🙂

  • Reply Tara
    Twitter:
    February 22, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Great write-up, Hung. It’s been so fun to connect with you! I hope I’ve enticed you to visit Vermont sometime soon.

    • Reply Hung Thai February 22, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      Yes you have Tara! We’re looking at flights today for a trip to the East coast and will continue to do so until we find something 🙂 – thanks so much for letting me interview you. It’s been my pleasure.

  • Reply Tiffany February 22, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Wow! I just love fall colors. I’ve never been to the New England area but I definitely think I should now. Where is that lake in the featured picture?

    • Reply Hung Thai February 22, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      That’s Lake Shaftsbury in Vermont – it’s an incredible shot by Tara. Please check out her site for more great stuff. And yes, I agree. I need to go there as well :).

  • Reply Jon February 22, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Vermont has been on my list of places I need to visit for so long. This might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    • Reply Hung Thai February 22, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Break it!

  • Reply Corinne
    Twitter:
    February 22, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    I think Vermont is one of the prettiest states, especially in fall! I would retire there in a heartbeat.

    • Reply Hung Thai February 22, 2016 at 11:16 pm

      I think I’m coming to the same conclusion, but I must venture there first and see for myself before making the final decision.

  • Reply Leona
    Twitter:
    February 23, 2016 at 2:42 am

    Sounds like a great place to live.

    • Reply Hung Thai February 23, 2016 at 8:25 am

      Yeah, a great place to grow up and raise your kids too.

  • Reply shiv February 23, 2016 at 6:20 am

    but i am just floored by the colors!!

    • Reply Hung Thai February 23, 2016 at 8:24 am

      It is incredible isn’t it? Vermont remains on my list of places I NEED to visit but have yet found the opportunity.

  • Reply Becky Padmore
    Twitter:
    February 23, 2016 at 6:43 am

    Wow so beautiful it’s definitely on my bucket list!

    • Reply Hung Thai February 23, 2016 at 8:23 am

      And on mine!

  • Reply Natasha
    Twitter:
    February 23, 2016 at 7:25 am

    Vermont is gorgeous!! Even those beautiful nature views is enough to make me want to visit! 🙂

    • Reply Hung Thai February 23, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Agreed! I just love the fact that most of the state is covered in nature – it’s so beautiful 🙂

  • Reply Ana O
    Twitter:
    February 23, 2016 at 7:56 am

    So beautiful! Such vibrant colors!

    • Reply Hung Thai February 23, 2016 at 8:22 am

      Totally agreed with you! Tara does magic with her camera 🙂

  • Reply Maddy
    Twitter:
    February 23, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    This is such a cool post! I’ve always wanted to visit Vermont. It seems like one of the prettiest places in the US, and these pictures definitely back up that hypothesis! 😉
    Maddy recently posted this awesome article… The 6 Best Pizzerias in New York CityMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai February 23, 2016 at 7:06 pm

      Agreed. I think I’ve found my “autumn place” – next up: winter place.

  • Reply Stephanie
    Twitter:
    February 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    But…..The fall colours are absolutely beautiful! Vermont looks like a place I’d like to live someday, I absolutely love hiking!

    • Reply Hung Thai February 23, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      Haha you’re absolutely right Stephanie, the fall colors really are incredible. I’m with you on someday living in Vermont – excellent place to settle down in.

  • Reply dance
    Twitter:
    February 23, 2016 at 10:10 pm

    The scenery is so so beautiful. Love your photos.

    • Reply Hung Thai February 23, 2016 at 10:35 pm

      Thanks much, but the pictures are from Tara – please visit her blog for more pictures like these 🙂

  • Reply Rhonda Albom
    Twitter:
    February 23, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    What gorgeous photos – it is so vibrant.
    Rhonda Albom recently posted this awesome article… Two Powerful War Exhibits in Wellington New ZealandMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai February 24, 2016 at 7:24 am

      Agreed. I would to see the Vermont landscapes light up in the fall!

  • Reply alexa
    Twitter:
    February 24, 2016 at 9:13 am

    I’ve been trying to plan my summer with my son and you have made me consider Vermont. You got me at the secret swim holes and of course the food! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply Hung Thai February 24, 2016 at 9:57 am

      You’re going to get me going again with the secret swimming holes. My fiance is constantly telling me to not take unnecessary risks like jumping into bodies of water, but I just can’t help it :). I never thought of Vermont as a summer destination before but Tara steered me on the straight path.

  • Reply budget jan
    Twitter:
    February 26, 2016 at 3:52 am

    The Curtis BBQ in Putney shot is great. It captures the scene well. The Blue bus, the smoke (I always love smoke in a photo) and the colour of the chicken. Sooo good.

    • Reply Hung Thai February 26, 2016 at 7:34 am

      Thanks Jan! Tara is a great photographer. You can find more awesome pictures and stories on her blog – check her out 🙂 – HAPPY FRIDAY!

  • Reply Suzanne Stavert
    Twitter:
    February 26, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Beautiful post! The photos are lovely and the interview was so inspiring. It has been years since we went “leaf peeping” in Vermont. Thank you for the reminder! I did travel to Maine for the first time recently and loved it!

    • Reply Hung Thai February 27, 2016 at 8:39 am

      Thanks Suzanne, Tara is amazing with the camera :). And I’d love to hear more from your experience in Maine. That’s another destination that I’ve been dying to go to.

  • Reply Jim
    Twitter:
    March 3, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Awesome pictures! One of my good buddies is from the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont. There’s definitely a lot to see and do up in that part of the world and it is more than just maple syrup. My buddy’s family does run a syrup operation though, haha!

    Cheers,
    Jim
    Jim recently posted this awesome article… Best PFD for Paddle BoardingMy Profile

    • Reply Hung Thai March 3, 2016 at 9:25 am

      LOL – I’ve heard that people in China who worked in vinegar factories live a lot longer than those who don’t. I wonder if that’s true of maple syrup plantations as well… 🙂

  • Reply Wooclip March 3, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    Lovely to see your pictures,
    So incredibly beautiful! Those views,

    • Reply Hung Thai March 3, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      Yes indeed, Tara is a great photographer. She has the eye for it!

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