© 2012; 2002 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Philip childs. Information
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Vermont – Lovely in Green – A Solo Travel Report

By Philip Childs

Mention Vermont and a vision of skiers on snow-covered slopes instantly springs to mind: Killington, Sugarbush, Stowe, Smuggler's Notch, these are all well-known winter resorts, but I like Vermont in spring, summer, or fall when it's a wonderful camping destination, even for solos.

I go for the drive through peaceful green valleys surrounded by rugged mountains, and to visit friendly people who take life at a slow pace. With almost no crime rate and quiet nights, I feel safe wherever I camp.

Some campers prefer making reservations, but during more than a decade of pitching my tent in Vermont, I have never bothered, and I always find a place to unroll my sleeping bag. While most campgrounds are open May to October, several are open year-round, including one in Stowe.

I Like Stowe

Yes, Stowe is known primarily as a busy ski resort, but peace and quiet returns as the snow and the skiers disappear. This is rural Vermont: winding roads, small farms, romantic inns, and quaint villages nestled on the skirts of Mt Mansfield.

I like Stowe because it is centrally located, only a few hours' drive from any location or activity in the state. It's about 2 hours' drive from Montreal, 2.5 hours from Boston, 7 hours from New York City, or 8 hours from Toronto. You can fly to Burlington or take the train to Montpelier, but once there public transport is limited, so, short of joining a bike tour (bike supplied), a car – either your own or a rental – is needed to fully enjoy the state.

I did a Saturday to Tuesday getaway last May. Vermont in May can still be quite chilly at night, on occasion dropping below the freezing mark, but daytime temperatures rise to shirt-sleeve comfort.

As always, I stayed at the Gold Brook campground for the amenities such as showers and a heated bathroom. A private campground on highway 100, 12 km (7.5 miles) north from Exit 10, I-89, Gold Brook has tent spaces as well as hookups for RVs.

In Vermont I rise early with the sun. Watching the sun break through cloud shrouded mountain peaks gives me a serene start to my day. Besides rest for the mind and soul, Vermont also offers me a variety of diversions for enjoying time on my own.

Walks – Strenuous, or Easy

I always plan a half-day hike along part of the Long Trail, which covers 435 km (270 miles) along the crest of the Green Mountains, from the Canadian border to the Massachusetts state line. From Stowe, the easiest access is in Smuggler's Notch, just 16 km northwest on highway 108. Interestingly, Smuggler's Notch is a mountain pass so named in the 1800s when it was an illegal trade and slave escape route to Canada.

If in Stowe on the weekend, I begin the day's activities with a short drive south on highway 2 to Camp Meade.

Camp Meade, a museum and park, recreates the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camps of the 1930s, which were set up as part of the effort to give people work. Open from May through October, the camp offers a fascinating glimpse at the past.

Camp Meade is well worth a stop for its own sake, but I go there to start my day with an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet at the camp restaurant. Eggs any style, bacon, sausage, ham, French toast, waffles, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, and a bottomless cup of coffee, I can think of no better way to fill up for any activity.

Scenic and Historic

After breakfast, I might spend some time visiting one of the many nearby museums or historical sites. Continuing east on highway 2, the state capital, Montpelier, is a laid-back town whose government building resembles the national capitol in Washington. Here I might enjoy browsing the bookstores. Or I could proceed 8 km east to Barre where the world's largest granite quarry is open for self-guided or narrated tours.

Art and History

If I'm in the mood for artistic pastimes I take a scenic 3-hour drive south on highway 100 to Route 9 then west into Bennington. The Bennington Museum houses the largest public collection of the works of Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses. The Bennington Cemetery is the burial place of poet Robert Frost.

A short drive to the Bennington Battle Monument followed by a quick dash up highway 7 to Rutland to see the Norman Rockwell Museum fills up the day. At this point it's about 2 hours back to Stowe.

Instead, I might visit the Ethan Allen Homestead about 40 minutes' drive west of Stowe in Burlington. Thirty minutes south of Burlington along route 7 is the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum tucked away in Basin Harbor on route 22A. Wilson Castle is another 60 km south near Rutland. It's a 19th century castle filled with European and far eastern antiques. Hildene, home of Robert Todd Lincoln, is a further 40 km south, in Manchester, on route 7A.

Whatever I do to pass the time, I usually look forward to cooking my supper back at the campground. Sometimes I can't resist a desert-first stop at Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Factory. It's right on route 100, minutes from Stowe.

If I don't feel like cooking, I stop in Stowe and enjoy a meal at Trattoria La Festa Italian Restaurant, or pick up a pizza at Angelos Pizza & Sub Shop.

When it's time to go home I always pick up a jug of Vermont maple syrup to remind me of my visit. And it won't be long before I'll be looking forward to another.

If You Go Camping Alone in Vermont

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