As discussed in our previous blog, Our Bifurcated Return to Post-Irene Vermont, this year’s Woodstock Vermont trip had us spending a week in a timeshare on Killington Mountain. We tried to maximize the use of our time, not to speak of minimizing our driving, by dividing the trip up. We spent about half our days in the Killington area (roughly between the town of Bridgewater and Rutland) and the other half in our primary destination (around Woodstock and Queeche). While we covered the Woodstock/Queeche part of the trip in a previous post, this blog focuses on the Killington portion of the trip.
A Week on the Mountain
Killington is not our favorite spot to stay. but it does have one big advantage over the town of Woodstock—it has a number of timeshare residences for which we can trade. The North Star Lodge served as our Killington “base camp.” We were happy with our one-bedroom suite, enjoyed the heated swimming pool and the grounds and made use of the grills, scenically located next to the property’s artificial lake. Most importantly, the staff was great—friendly, informative and always willing and ready to help. The atmosphere at North Star and other Killington locations, meanwhile, was lightened by the fruits of the fourth annual Hay Festival, where businesses sponsor creation of animal “sculptures” created out of rolls of hay.
That said, there is little to do on the mountain other than ski (its primary function) and hike (albeit generally on trails along or that frequently interest the ski trails and must be shared with mountain bikers). Although there are a number of restaurants and bars on the mountain, we have found, from past experience, many to be uninspired replicas of standard ski resort restaurants, with the expected mix of American comfort food and popular ethnic favorites. (The one culinary destination near Killington, Hemmingway’s, closed due to hurricane damage and is now for sale. But, although we used to really enjoy the restaurant, we were less than please on our last two visits.)
This said, we were given recommendations for two restaurants that were supposed to be among the best—Charities for American comfort food and Peppinos (Italian). We did try Peppinos, which was fine, although not especially memorable. We confined our other mountain dining experiences to eating food that we bought at a Rutland supermarket (Hannaford) and prepared at home and a sandwich that we ordered from the Killington Market and Deli (very good) and eaten on the deck of the Killington Base Lodge, with a view of the mountain.
Although we went off-mountain for the rest of our meals, we did take advantage of one other Killington “amenity” the Grist Mill. No, not to eat, but drinks–especially when we can enjoy them from a rocking chair on one of their decks, overlooking the lagoon. Very pretty and very relaxing, especially after a hike, on the type of warm sunny day on which we enjoyed the Mill’s hospitality.
Killington Area Hikes
When in Killington for the summer, the best thing to do is to hike. This trip included four hikes in the Killington area (plus one each in Woodstock and Queeche) and two other “near-misses.” The three Killington area hikes we took were:
- Pico Peak Trail (roughly 6 miles and 2,000 foot elevation gain) from Shelburne Pass to the Peak and back. The first mile was particularly lovely, a slightly uphill walk through a hardwood forest in which the birch and other trees and the understory were filled with brilliant yellow leaves. The next two miles, which were covered with evergreens, were less beautiful and somewhat steeper (especially the last half mile up the spur to the peak). Views were limited, except in the clearings of the ski trails and maintenance road and at the summit, where you have the company of the gondola terminal and a big Verizon cell tower (all the better for checking email).Overall, a nice trail, but (other than the first mile) not one of favorites.
- Deer Leap Rock Trail (3.1 miles and 600 foot elevation gain), is as much of an up and down scramble, as it is a hike. The lower part of the hike, like that of the Pico Peak Trail (not surprisingly, since it is located just across Route 4), was through a dazzlingly yellow forest of birch and other hardwoods. This transformed into a boreal forest of assorted pines before reaching the scenic overlook.
- Thundering Falls Trail used to be accessible by a recently constructed boardwalk. That, however, was before Irene. Now you have to get to it the old way, down a short (probably 1 mile round trip) steadily downhill trail that ends at the platform at the bases of the falls. For a perspective on the damage of the hurricane, take a short walk down the boardwalk, until you get to the break where the walkway was torn from its foundation and set down, at a perilous angle, a few feet away.
We were, however, washed out of two attempts to hike Killington Mountain. The first, climbing Killington Peak via the Bucklin Trail (7.2 miles, 2,500 feet) was quashed by a road that was closed by the hurricane. The other, a 2.1 mile, 1,640 foot walk up Wildland Trail, by heavy winds and rain. Hopefully we can do at least one (ideally via Bucklin Trail) our next time.
East to Bridgeport and Environs
Bridgeport, which is about halfway between Killington and Woodstock, doesn’t have much, but what it has is worth experiencing.
The primary “site” is the Bridgewater Mill, an old woolen mill that has been converted into a center for specialized artisan crafts. The complex is anchored by high-end handmade furniture maker Shackleton-Thomas, where you can not only see the beautiful tables, chairs, turned bowls, and so forth, but also watch and speak with the craftsman as they make the furniture and learn about the company’s apprentice program. The mill also has a number of other specialty craftspeople, including:
- A goldsmith who makes jewelry;
- A guilder who refurbishes old mirrors, picture frames and so forth by repairing gashes and by replacing old gilding by painstakingly applying thin gold foil; and
- Weavers, who work or a non-profit that recycles old tee shirts and shreds them into strips that are woven into colorful bags, place-mats and table runners.
And, for those looking for comfort food, there are two nearby options. Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizza is right in the mill. Although we haven’t tried Ramunto’s, we do enjoy the atmosphere, the beer and the food and the perpetually busy (at least when we are in the area), Long Trail Brewing Company. This trip, we washed down our chili, cheeseburger and onion rings—not to speak of free-flowing popcorn—with the brewer’s recently introduced Goodnight Irene Ale, in commemoration of the recovery from the hurricane. We completed our Bridgewater foray with a self-guided tour of the brewery.
West to Rutland
Although we haven’t found much to do in Rutland, it does provide a reasonably convenient venue for shopping for items that you can’t find at the Killington Market and Deli. Hannaford has one of the best selections of food in the area.
Our favorite Rutland area To Do’s are:
- Vermont Marble Museum which traces the history and science of marble explains the mining, carving and finishing processes, a gallery of historical marble pieces and works by in-residence artists and a gift shop. This stop will be particularly interesting (although a little duplicative) if you also do Barre, VT (about 1.5 hour drive from Rutland) tour of the Rock of Ages marble quarry and factory (which, when you come right down to it, is more interesting).
- Norman Rockwell Museum, which is really a gift shop that provides a collection of the artist’s work including a few oils and a number of prints and magazine covers. (Note, that while the Rutland museum provides a nice overview of Rockwell’s work, it is a far cry from the official Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge Massachusetts. That museum is a true gem and is also in close proximity to Chesterwood (the home, studio, gardens and museum of Daniel Chester French, who was the creator of the awesome Abraham Lincoln statue in Washington’s D.C.s Lincoln Memorial.)
As for Rutland restaurant recommendations, you will have to look elsewhere for suggestions. When we asked North Star for recommendations for a nice lunch in Rutland, they paused (a bad sign) before coming up with two recommendations: Lagasse’s Hearthside Grill and South Station. Since Lagasse’s is closed on Monday, we ended up at South Station. After one look at its “special buffet”, we thought we would be safe with the salad bar and a cheeseburger. Although the food was fine, it took almost 45 minutes to get our cheeseburger. Once it eventually came, our server told us that the cook never turned his computer on and thus, never got the order. This was despite the fact that she had twice assured us that it was coming right out. Perhaps, she was just too busy with the two other parties in the restaurant to have time for us. But whatever the reason, the restaurant earned one of our most coveted awards—perhaps the worst service we have ever had at a restaurant.