The past couple of days have been a lesson in a slower pace of life. We drove over here from the Adirondacks, crossing almost the entire state of Vermont, which neither of us had ever been to before. Wow. Just wow. The countryside is so beautiful. It’s like someone crossbred a Robert Frost poem and a Norman Rockwell painting and planted the result and it grew in Vermont.
After quickly setting up camp, we headed to our first National Parks site, just on the other side of the New Hampshire state line. New Hampshire was another first for both of us and look forward to spending more time there in the coming days.
The other fun thing for me was crossing over to New Hampshire on the Cornish-Windsor Bridge. Only in New England would crossing between two states be done in a covered bridge! The bridge is the longest wooden bridge in the U.S. and the longest two-span covered bridge in the world. Needless to say, it was supremely quaint. See our Instagram, etc. for pictures.
Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site
We are certainly getting cultured in American artists this trip. First, Weir Farm and now Saint-Gaudens’ Aspet, located just across the Vermont border in Cornish, N.H.
Augustus Saint-Gaudens was an Irish immigrant who came as a child to the U.S. Settling in New York City, he began his career as an apprentice cutting cameos. After studying in France (at the same school as Weir) and in Rome, he returned to the States and received his first commission in 1876 to sculpt the Admiral David Farragut statue, located in Madison Square Park in New York City. He went on to sculpt masterpieces including the William T. Sherman Monument in Central Park, the Shaw Memorial in Boston and the Standing Lincoln in Chicago.
While I love painters, I am fascinated by sculptors and their process. When Bonnie and I visited the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze (The Academy of Fine Art in Florence, Italy), we were amazed by Michelangelo’s David, but it was seeing the unfinished works and how he worked that was most impressive to us. Saint-Guadens NHS site makes a point to do the same, showing how he worked from clay to plaster to bronze. While the home and grounds are very cool in terms of seeing comfortable summer home he kept in Cornish, N.H., it was seeing his studio that truly made the art come alive for me.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park
Today, we headed back to Woodstock. No, the other Woodstock… Not the one in Georgia, either. The one in Vermont. The guide book’s description of an idyllic New England town was an understatement. Our first stop was the other NPS site: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park.
The site is a homestead, along with 550 acres of managed woodlands and a working dairy farm run by the Woodstock Foundation. The term managed is important because the park practices active forest management, harvesting timber as needed, to restore the forest to what it was before all of the old growth forests were destroyed when George Perkins Marsh, author of Man and Nature, grew up here in the early 1800s.
The house was purchased in 1869 by Fredrick Billings, who had made his fortune in San Francisco as a real estate attorney during the ’49 gold rush. He later invested in the railroads and is the man Billings, Mt. is named after. He pushed to conserve the land around the estate, asking his heirs to keep it intact.
His granddaughter married Laurance Rockefeller, son of John Rockefeller, Jr., and his family, including him, either created or enhanced more than 20 national parks sites. Rockefeller donated the land with the expressed purpose of demonstrating conservation techniques in forestry and dairy farming so that New England farmers could work the land without destroying the land. The image at the top of the page is the view from front porch of the house. Interestingly, while NPS does not own the property on the hillside across from the house, it does own the development rights to the land so that the view will always be preserved.
The site includes 20 miles of trails and old carriage roads (the water bubbling out of the stone pedestals are for horses, not humans!) and we enjoyed a very nice hike up to The Pogue, the pond on the premises (See our Instagram). The site also includes the house, which is not very ostentatious considering it was a Rockefeller’s home, but contains a collection of landscapes by the artists of the Hudson School which was amazing to see in a home.
Lunch was simple and delicious. We ate at the Worthy Kitchen in Woodstock, a delightful gastropub. We split a Cuban sandwich and a side of fries, which were outstanding, and sampled some New England brews, myself a smoked lager out of Maine and Bonnie had a dry-hopped cider out of Vermont.
Then it was time to sample some authentic Vermont fare: cheese and maple syrup. We traipsed across another covered bridge and up a series of dirt roads to Sugarbush Farms, a family farm on the outskirts of Woodstock.
Sugarbush Farms, operated by the same family since 1945, does three things and does them exceptionally well: makes cheese, makes maple syrup and raises livestock.
The farm is very simple and they allow guests to tour the grounds, free of charge. They even have a brief video showing how the different seasons change what they do, day-to-day.
We dropped in the tasting room to sample the cheese and syrup and were blown away. The smoked cheddar, especially, was amazing. The farm makes four different types of syrup, from a very light to a dark syrup. The cheese is now in our fridge and some of the darker syrup is in the cabinet for the trip back to Georgia.
One the way back to the campsite, we stopped off at the Quechee Gorge for a brief hike down to the base of the gorge and to dip our feet in the very cool water.
What a great way to spend the day.