(August 7, 2014)
It rained almost all night and we woke up to what promised to be a very dull day. Fog and low clouds hung over the mountains to the north. Over breakfast we discussed our options.
Our plan for the day was to explore Smuggler’s Notch but I also wanted to take a trip to Jericho to visit the Snowflake Chocolate Shop and The Old Red Mill. We decided to drive through the Notch and around to Jericho and do our sightseeing, in hopes that the weather in the mountains would clear up some later in the day.
Due to the mountains, there are no direct routs to anywhere in Vermont. As the crow flies, Jericho was nearly straight west from Stowe, but getting there required us driving north on Rt. 108 through Smuggler’s Notch to Jeffersonville, then west to Cambridge and then south again to a triangular area that encompasses Jericho, Jericho Corners and Jericho Center. Of course, one doesn’t really mind the drive when the scenery all around is beautiful mountains and peaceful farm fields.
We found Snowflake Chocolates with no trouble and I proceeded to buy a half-pound box of mixed creams and truffles. The prices were much better than Laughing Moon Chocolates in downtown Stowe, and later I wished I would have bought more for gifts. Leaving the chocolatier we headed just a short way farther to The Old Red Mill.
The mill is billed as “one of Vermont’s most photographed buildings”.
I’m not sure of the exact age of the mill, but according to the historical society’s web page, there has been a mill of some sort on this site since before 1855. There used to be 8 different mills in Jericho along the Brown’s River.
In 1885 the mill was enlarged to its current size and the riverbed was blasted with dynamite to make it deeper to create the power needed to run the mill.
Somehow in all my research of places to visit, I was misled into believing that the mill housed a museum where you could see historical artifacts from when it was in use. This turned out not to be true. The mill houses a gift shop and within the gift shop are some of the old pieces of equipment but that was it. The mill does house an exhibit of the work of “Snowflake” Bentley. Wilson Bentley was a native of Jericho, born in 1865, and one of the first people to attempt to photograph snowflakes. The historical society has an extensive collection of Bentley’s original microphotographs of snowflakes and also the simple equipment he used to photograph them.
Behind the mill is a park with walking trails, but we didn’t do any walking there because we were planning to go back to Smuggler’s Notch and hike, so we were conserving our energy. I did take a few photos of the smaller falls on Brown’s River above the mill.
Leaving the mill, we drove the short way to Jericho Center to the Jericho Center Country Store which has been in operation since 1807. There I found Vermont Maple Reserve wine from the Boyden Valley Winery. We took a slightly different route back toward Rt. 15 and what should we come across but the Boyden Valley Winery! They were offering wine tastings, so of course we stopped. I was able to sample the Vermont Maple Reserve and was pleased to find it to be a sweet, tasty wine.
Mark also sampled something that he found to his liking and we purchased a bottle of their Cowtipper as a gift for a friend. We also were able to buy Boyden Valley Farm maple syrup.
Weather in Smuggler’s Notch had cleared somewhat by time we returned and we parked in the lot near the information booth, ready to do a bit of hiking. “Information booth” turned out to be a bit of a misnomer as there was very little information to be seen. We did find that most of the trails in the Notch are considered “difficult”, there were only two labeled as “moderate”.
Smuggler’s Notch is a narrow, winding portion of Rt. 108 and got its name because it was used as a route to smuggle cattle down from Canada during the War of 1812 and was also used to smuggle liquor during Prohibition. The tour book had said there were various things to bee seen in the Notch such as rock formations named “Smugglers Head”, “Elephant Head”, “The Hunter and His Dog”, etc. Where any of these are is anybody’s guess as there was no signage for anything and no information at said information booth. The only thing we found was Smuggler’s Cave and that was quite by accident. (At least we believe it was Smuggler’s Cave, with no sign it’s impossible to be sure.)
The tour book also said that the Long Trail was clearly marked — um, no it wasn’t — and that it was an easy 1 mile hike to Sterling Pond. The sign listed the hike as difficult and much farther.
We played around near the parking area and climbed a bit here and there but you needed to be part mountain goat to get anywhere and I was getting worn out.
Also, the weather started to turn and rain quickly moved in. We did walk back along 108 to a waterfall we had seen near the road, and then downhill even farther to a big waterfall that came off the cliff face. It was really too far for a good photo and the rain began in earnest, so my picture didn’t turn out all that well.
If you look, you can see a biker stopping to put his rain jacket on before continuing his trek up the mountain.
Just as we came down off the mountain the rain began falling in sheets, accompanied by quite a thunderstorm. We made it into Stowe and stopped at Crop Bistro and Brewery for a late lunch. Mark had a sampler of their craft brewed beers and we shared a meat and cheese plate, happy to be in out of the storm.
Unfortunately, my colitis kicked into high gear late in the afternoon and we had to cancel our dinner reservations at Hen of the Wood in Waterbury. I was very upset about this as I had made the reservations months ago. I think I was also overly tired because I got a bit more hysterical about my plight than the situation warranted at the time. We waited for my innards to calm down and then ate at a place closer to our hotel. Afterwards we took a short stroll through the park across the road from our hotel, dodging puddles along the way.
I took these photos for my friend Mr. Tootlepedal who I know enjoys a scenic bridge – although this is really nothing compared to the lovely ones he sees in Scotland.
This is just a simple footbridge over the river.
From the park I was able to get a full photo of Mt. Mansfield. If you look closely you can see his forehead and nose on the left, then scanning toward the right you can see his lips, chin and Adam’s apple. The summit (his chin) is a bit obscured in clouds.
All these days in Vermont and we saw no wildlife whatsoever except for this ground hog, which I don’t think was really “wild” since he lived under the back porch of the hotel.
Impossible to believe our adventure will soon be at an end. Tomorrow we pack up and head toward home, with one last stop along the way. Fort Ticonderoga or bust!