So obviously things have been weird because of the ‘Rona, but we managed to get a few states in over the summer. Iowa and North Dakota were nothing to write home about (literally—hence, no blog post) but we got to scratch them off our map all the same. That left just one to get to before the year ended, and we saved the best for last: Vermont at the height of leaf-peeping season.
My sister and her husband joined Rick and me for the trip and the four of us drove in from Boston with plans to ooh, ahh, and point at leaves until we arrived to our cabin. Mission accomplished! The drive up was adorable—lots of white clapboard churches, covered bridges, and highway patrol eager to make their quota off the out-of-towners. The cabin we’d chosen in Stratton was deliberately remote, but it’s hard to find bustling cities in southern Vermont.
It was only when we got 45 minutes from our cabin when we realized how hard it was going to be to find food in our deliberately remote area. We found a market that technically closed 4 minutes before we got there (thank you again, kind woman!), bought all of their steaks and not enough of their desserts, and landed at our cabin just in time for golden hour. We sat outside as the sun went down, drinking a glass of wine and marveling at how lucky we were.
I’ll be honest: our cabin was . . . not great. The doorknob to the only bathroom was broken and there was mouse poop in the bookshelf. The sheets were stained, the couch was old, the list of first-world problems went on and on. But we persevered, and not just because we had no where else to go. A hot tub on a cool fall night paints over a lot of flaws.
Besides, we weren’t here for a cat hair–free cabin, we were here for the LEAVES.
The next morning we headed out to Ball Mountain for a chance to get up close and personal with some trees. I’m sure those of you who grew up with four seasons are rolling your eyes at me, but I grew up in San Diego. Palm trees don’t change color. It was a genuine thrill to rent some autumn.
Our hike began at the West River Dam and climbed up to Hamilton Falls. It was an absolutely perfect day and the region was at its peak. We truly couldn’t have picked a better day to go and I spent the day like a Labrador, running from tree to tree, doubling back to my group, sniffing the crisp air. I was dangerously close to scraping my butt along the leaves but managed to restrain myself.
It was a moderate 5 mile hike and for as great as the conditions were, we didn’t come across too many people on the trail. The exception was at the top, at Hamilton Falls. The 125-foot waterfall is responsible for several deaths, as many warning signs will tell you, but that didn’t stop families from LETTING THEIR CHILDREN CLIMB UP TO THE TOP. Why worry about the coronavirus if gravity’s gonna getcha?
We sat on rocks a safe distance away from potential falling bodies, boomed, and then skedaddled back down the hill and up the switchbacks, the promise of burgers propelling us back to the car. We stopped at nearby Honeypie and while I’m pretty sure I had the Vermont as Funk burger, I ate it so fast I can’t confirm. We also went across the street to Meulemans’ Craft Draughts for some Vermont truffle cheddar and a bottle of wine. Both went down as soon as we got back to the cabin.
Amazingly, the day wasn’t over. The four of us jumped into the hot tub while Rick grabbed some aerial views of the region with his teeny tiny new drone. I’m so glad he did because without it, we wouldn’t have ever seen the magnitude of these multicolored forests.
It was like looking at Joseph’s amazing technicolor dreamcoat: It was red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach and ruby and olive and violet and fawn . . .
Clearly my call to action here is for you to do as I did. Book yourself a leaf-peeping tour for next fall. Hike, eat cheddar, buy all things maple. Then come back here and show my your pics. Trust me, you’ll never want to leaf.
Stay safe. Before arriving in Vermont, we were required to take a COVID test and register our trip with the state. We also, like everyone else, wore masks and kept away from strangers. We cooked in the cabin or got food to go, and we killed everything else potentially evil by boiling it away in the hot tub. #safetyfirst
Drone on and on. While it’s nice to be under the leaves, the true scope of Vermont autumn can only be seen from above. Let your eye in the sky show you the acres and acres of color-changing loveliness.
Park your car. Leaf-peeping can be a spectator sport, but it doesn’t have to be. Get out of your car and kick through some leaves. Use one of Vermont’s many spectacular hiking trails, bike, and go watch chlorophyll in action.