If you’re curious to know what a little drug money can do for you, make a trek to the Merck Forest and Farmland Center in Rupert. The center, comprising more than 3000 acres of field and forestland in the southwestern corner of the state, is a nature lover’s paradise with its hiking trails and campsites. In keeping with its mission to promote sustainable farmland and forest management, the center runs workshops on trail tending, identifying wild plants and managing small herds of livestock.
At 4,800 feet, Mount Moosilauke is the tallest of the western White Mountains. The 3.8-mile Gorge Brook trail leads to its windswept granite summit. On a clear day, the view is one of the finest in New England, a sort of old-fashioned Google Earth, where you can look down on Killington, Mt. Ellen and Mansfield, and up to Mt. Washington. The Dartmouth Outing Club keeps a big log cabin open to the public at the most popular trailhead, located at the end of Ravine Road.
Woodstock is a classic 18th-century New England town — minus the avaricious loggers. George Perkins Marsh, a noted naturalist and statesman, was one of the first to see the error of those ways. He set aside 500 acres of conserved forestland that is now the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. More than 20 miles of carriage roads weave through the park, making it a spectacular place for a leisurely amble.
Rain or shine, VINS is a fascinating place to connect with the natural world. Check in on rehabilitating raptors, see how falcons hunt their prey or explore any of the nature trails around the perimeter of the facility. Just off Route 4 in Quechee, it’s an easy, and educational, walk on wild side.
There’s no rest for the wannabe Olympian here. Once the snow melts, the cross-country skis are replaced with skulls. Boaters come from all over to ply the waters of Big and Little Hosmer lakes at the first-ever rowing camp in North America. They work with world-class coaches, eat good food and take classes in related disciplines such as yoga. Runners, too, flock to Craftsbury to improve their technique and hang with other hoofers. The vast network of trails, groomed for marathon cross-country skiing, are just as inspiring in the summer.
Smugglers' Notch resort rocks on, with a new summer emphasis on climbing. The ski area is offering weekly rock-climbing socials and family climbing-adventure days. Hard-core types will be more interested in via ferrata — Italian for “iron way” — a new adventure sport that combines climbing, hiking and high-ropes adventure. “Safely traverse local gorges,” the description promises. “Scale huge boulders.” Too ambitious? Smuggs also offers Segway excursions on those self-balancing scooter contraptions. Amazing, there’s an all-terrain “extreme” tour that goes for the glades.
Hiking, swimming and picnicking are popular at this South Burlington municipal park. Please, folks, no bikes on the trails.
Stowe’s hills are definitely alive, and no more so than at the Trapp Family Lodge. The Sound of Music association has worked well for the 2400-acre Austrian-style resort, which is a cross-country ski center in the winter. In summer, it offers hiking, horse-drawn wagon rides, bird-watching tours and Sunday evening “Music in the Meadow” concerts. The “Real Maria” documentary film shows twice a day.
On 500 acres in Williston, the nonprofit Catamount Outdoor Family Center maintains more than 20 miles of trails for running, biking and hiking. You can take part in organized races or do your own thing.
Button Bay is one of the best beaches on Lake Champlain: The water’s clean, and you can rent canoes and kayaks right there. If neither swimming nor boating appeals, there’s always the area’s unique geology: flat round “button-like” rocks along the shoreline are great for skipping. Seventy-three campsites and 13 lean-tos beckon if you feel like staying over. Samuel de Champlain, Ethan Allen, Benedict Arnold and Ben Franklin all did. PHOTO: CAROL DINGLEY
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