It would be impossible to top our day at Mt. Washington, so we weren’t even going to try.
After so much strenuous exercise the day before, I admit to being tired today. It was a good thing I had a more relaxed day on our itinerary. Also, the weather was a mixed bag – rain overnight, then clearing somewhat, then spitting rain off and on throughout the afternoon and evening.
The plan for today was to drive into downtown St. Johnsbury and visit the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium.
The museum is housed in a beautiful Victorian building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Founded by Franklin Fairbanks, a St. Johnsbury native, the museum began as his personal “cabinet of curiosities” – a popular fad during the late 1800’s. Fairbanks made his fortune as a manufacturer of the platform scale and opened the museum in 1891. It is said to be the oldest science education museum in the world.
The downstairs area of the museum houses approximately 3,000 bird and mammal specimens from around the world – all collected between the 1870’s and 1920. Many of the dioramas were created in the late 19th century by noted Vermont taxidermist William Everard Balch and they have been changed very little over the past 100 years. I think one of the museum’s most popular pieces is the polar bear.
Non-flash photography was allowed throughout the museum, but due to all the glass display cases and the dark wood interior of the building, I didn’t bother trying to take any photos downstairs.
The upper gallery contains a wide variety of historic and geologic specimens, from prehistoric to Egyptian to the Civil War. The Civil War collection was very interesting because they were pieces connected to local men who served. Since I just finished reading two novels set during the Civil War, I was most interested in these artifacts. I was able to take a couple of photos from the upper gallery.
All-in-all, we both enjoyed the Fairbanks Museum. I would say, at only $8 per adult, it’s a bargain. For an additional $5 we could have viewed the show in the planetarium, but Mark opted to not do that part. I think it would have been very interesting and supposedly it is Vermont’s only public planetarium.
Upon leaving, I tried to frame an interesting shot from the museum’s long porch.
While planning this trip, Mark had cautioned me at one point to “not plan every moment of every day”. My concern about this was that if I did not have a plan, we would be a bit stuck and not know what to do with ourselves. But, I followed his advice and for the afternoon of this day, I had left our options open. It was a bit of a mistake because my fear was realized. With no real plan, we had no real idea of what to do with ourselves.
We found a combination coffee shop/book store and sat and had a cup of coffee (hot cocoa for me) and discussed possibilities. Driving out of the very congested downtown area of St. Johnsbury where there was LOTS of road construction, we went in search of my lunch plan for the day.
Before our trip, I did extensive research on every place I chose. Not only did I read the tour book, but I also looked up every option on-line and tried to verify through individual web sites that places were in business. Even these best efforts proved to be in vain when it came to my lunch choice. It was supposed to be a brew pub in the Green Mountain Mall – which looked nearly abandoned. It turns out the place was undergoing extensive renovations and was temporarily closed. We ended up back in Lyndonville where we ate at the popular Miss Lyndonville diner. Mark and I both chose to eat this ridiculous meal called The Vermonter – which was a toasted bun with a 5 oz beef patty and steak fries with the whole thing smothered in about a gallon of beef gravy. Needless to say, I only ate maybe half of mine. (Here’s one of my rare food photos, LOL.)
After such a heavy meal, I was overwhelmed with fatigue and we went back to our motel where Mark had to deal with some business matters for work. I wrapped myself in a blanket and took a nap. It was a good afternoon for napping because it rained for awhile.
When the weather looked like it was clearing, Mark roused me from my nap and said it was time to go in search of more adventure. We decided to head toward Burke Mountain and drive the toll road to the top.
To get to Burke Mountain we had to drive through East Burke which is an enclave for the really crazy outdoors people that come to the North East Kingdom of Vermont. There is an outpost here for the Kingdom Trails that are popular for hikers and mountain bikers. I’m telling you, it’s a whole different breed of people. I’m not saying this in a bad way, just stating it as fact. We certainly did not fit in.
Burke Mountain is a ski resort so not as picturesque as Mt. Washington and only about half as high at 3,267 feet. The toll was only $5 and we had the entire mountain to ourselves, which was pretty nice. There were some nice views along the way.
We could see this notch in the mountains afar off.
When I zoomed in, I was able to get the lake, which I believe we were told is Lake Willoughby. The mountain on the right is Mt. Pisgah, which I guess is a great one to hike. I can’t remember what the one on the left is called.
For me though, the ski trails and lifts take something away from the beauty of the mountain.
Looking at those lifts, Mark and I both concurred that skiers are CRAZY people!
There were more beautiful views from the top.
The weather was still iffy – one minute we would see sun, the next it would be spitting rain. We found a trail and walked part of it, neither one of us could believe that this trail is used by mountain bikers. Seriously! More crazy people. 🙂
We climbed our way to the summit where we found an observation tower you can climb.
Mark wanted us to climb it. I have real issues with heights so only made it up the first flight of steps and that was far enough thank you very much! It was windy and there was thunder rumbling. All I could think was that the tower was made completely of metal and we were going to get struck by lightening and fry right there on the top of Burke Mountain. The views were spectacular though.
Coming down off the mountain, Mark was still not tired and wanted to go looking for wildlife. We drove Darling Hill Road and didn’t see a thing. But we did get some good views of Burke Mountain.
Eventually our Vermonter wore off and we headed back toward town in search of some dinner. We ended up at this funky little place called The Stage. From the outside it didn’t look like anything – just a barn, really – but it was run by college kids who were very personable and it was taco Tuesday, so what’s not to love? They have a stage and open mic nights and bands that perform, but nothing was going on this evening. Still, we really enjoyed our dinner and the atmosphere. We also found out that those crazy outdoor people we’d been seeing are called “crunchies”, which Mark found hilarious. He looked it up in the urban dictionary when we got back to our hotel. It’s in there!! And the definition was quite appropriate. 🙂
Since Vermont is known for covered bridges, I will close with one last photo, of the decrepit covered bridge behind our motel. Believe it or not, it looks like someone is trying to restore this thing.
I was ready for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we head to Stowe and there’s one more mountain for us to conquer!
Glad you are having such a good time. Love the mountain views.
Coming from a relatively flat state, I can sure appreciate all the grand scenery in the mountains!
What fun you are having. So glad you are giving these daily tales. I really love them 🙂
Glad you are enjoying them, Bob. It sure was fantastic being there, there’s no way to convey the beauty that surrounded us.
After this busy vacation you’ll need another vacation just to rest! 🙂
We got home Saturday afternoon (I’m trying to catch up the posts now) and I can tell you I slept like a rock back in my own bed!!
What a varied day. You are making the most of your vacation.
I tried to plan a bit of everything and see as many different areas we could in the amount of time we had. (And hopefully not come home completely exhausted.) 🙂
You will, as they say, need a holiday when you get back.
Just seeing the building that housed the museum would be worth the price of admission! The views were spectacular! Just when I think that I could spend the rest of my life exploring the state of Michigan and die happy, I see posts like yours, and the urge to travel strikes again.
The Crunchies are a different breed, many of them do the things that they do to test themselves more than enjoy to enjoy the great outdoors. Not me, I want to stop to smell the wild roses. 😉
The scenery there was truly amazing. I’m surprised I didn’t get whiplash from turning my head so quickly saying “oh, look at that” and then another second later “oh, that’s so pretty!” LOL I will say though, that the downturn in the economy obviously has hit rural Vermont hard and once you got away from the tourist towns, things looked pretty sad. Maybe this sounds weird or funny, but I had almost wondered if I would visit there and have a deep desire to move there – because of the beauty – but I never felt that compulsion at all. Southeast Michigan might not be the most scenic place in America, but it will always be home to me, I guess.
Your observation about the crunchies was interesting, because I have to say most of them did not look very happy. 🙂