Winter Road Trip: Covered Bridges and Maple Syrup
When traveling, I try to avoid snow. It makes for tricky driving conditions, cancelled flights, and a desperate desire on my part to get out of the cold, hole up in my room, and not come out till it hits 60°. However, there's something to be said for getting out of your comfort zone and enjoying a place under less than seasonable conditions.
Upstate New York and New England spend a good deal of time blanketed in the white stuff, so why not enjoy them in their natural state? On our way up to Québec City, we crossed into New York at Binghamton, continuing on up to Lake George.
I'd actually visited frigid Lake George once before, on a weekend trip to see my friend Kathleen. At that time, the lake had been frozen solid and we'd enjoyed walking across the lake, observing tiny frozen fish and the ski-dos that locals drove right onto the ice. This time round, Lake George was beginning to thaw. Which was fine - we were headed farther north anyway.
Ausable Chasm, just south of Plattsville, NY, is usually a summer destination. By the time we arrived, it was a little too late to walk one of the trails. We enjoyed the views of the frozen waterfalls and a peek into the snowy chasm instead.
We spent the night in Plattsburgh, at a hotel full of high-school hockey players, in town for some sort of championship. In the middle of the night, the fire alarm rang. Everyone shuffled outside, half-awake, cold, and grumpy. In the end, it turned out some kids from another school had pulled the alarm to disrupt their rival's sleep. High school hockey in New York = serious business.
The following morning, it was time to cross the Canadian border. We exchanged our dollars for loonies, and headed for Québec City. We pulled up to our hotel in the late afternoon, having braved mammoth snowdrifts blowing across the Canadian tundra, as well as roadsigns in French. (Quelle Horreur!)
Coming home, we'd decided to take a different route, entering the United States through Vermont. Vermont does winter especially well. After a short side-trip to track down some family history, we spent the night near Quechee Gorge. We ate at the Farmer's Diner, a sustainable-living, farm-to-table type place that was just ridiculously Vermont-y.
While the Quechee Gorge was a little underwhelming after seeing Ausable Chasm a few days before, the town of Quechee was worth a visit. The old mill has been turned into a restaurant/glass studio and has great views of the partially frozen dam.We encountered several white-steepled churches as we drove as well - so very New England.
Our next stop was Sugarbush Farm. Sugarbush seems to be the maple syrup experience in Vermont - so many people I've talked to who've visited the state mention it. We were there in the right season to see how the whole thing works - the lines between trees and deep shunts drawing out the sugar maple sap. If you've never had real Maple Syrup, it's different from the commercial bottled stuff. Once you get used to the more intense flavor, it's hard to go back. There are four different grades, and at Sugarbush, you can sample each. They also make amazing cheese. We left with several bags of goodies.
As we continued south, we stopped at several covered bridges, including Taftsville and Cornish-Windsor. The latter actually links two states, Vermont and New Hampshire. We crossed the border, said a quick hello to New Hampshire, and then left again. We crossed the bottom of Vermont on Route 9, enjoying views of the frozen Green Mountain National Forest before heading for Albany, and on home.