October Country Inn
First Vermont Spring wildflowers along the trail. 26 May 2016, 5:43 pm
A couple of days short of Memorial Day here at the October Country Inn and, after a few days of light rain, a spot of warm weather has settled in. Our world has exploded in green. Seems like in a week’s time, the maples have leafed out, lilac and apple trees have bloomed, and roadside weeds are knee-high. Before this crescendo of botanical abundance, a mere couple of weeks ago, only the hardiest of Vermont’s Spring wildflowers decorated the trailside.
Trout-lilys (Erythronium americanum) were the first to appear. The name comes from their leaves that resemble the color and pattern found on native brook trout. Trout-lilys are native to north-eastern woods and grow in colonies that can be 300 years old. The Trout-lily is a myrmecochore, meaning ants help to disperse the seeds and reduce predation of the seeds. To make the seeds more appealing to ants they have an elaiosome which is a structure which attracts the ants. Another early bloomer is the purple trillium (Trillium erectum). It is also a native to north-eastern woodlands. It is a spring ephemeral, a herbaceous perennial whose life-cycle is synchronised with that of the deciduous forests where it lives. Its name is derived from its three lobed leaf arrangement and a flower with three petals.
Lastly, the small but mighty common blue violet (Viola sororia) grows low to the ground and can be easily overlooked. Also called wood violet, or the lesbian flower, it is also native to north-eastern woods, and is the state flower of Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. This plant has historically been used for food and for medicine. The flowers and leaves are edible, and some sources suggest the roots can also be eaten. The Cherokee used it to treat colds and headaches. The common blue violet is also called the lesbian flower because in the early 1900s, lesbians and bisexual women would give violets to the women they were wooing. This symbolized their “Sapphic” desire, so-called because Sappho, a Greek lyric poetess, in one of her poems described herself and her lover as wearing garlands of violets. This practice became popular in the 1910 – 1930 time period, and has become a substantial symbol for lesbian and bisexual women in the modern era as well.
A local mystery: Who built this stone chamber, and why? 10 May 2016, 12:29 pm
About a thirty minute drive from the October Country Inn, and after navigating a particular route through the tangled web of Vermont back roads, stands a leaf covered mound in the forest covering most of what may be a 2,000 year old stone structure. Similar structures are found throughout the east coast and beyond. Fifty-two stone chambers have been found in Vermont alone. The majority of these stone chambers, as with this one, are found on upland valley slopes, ridges or hilltops facing the south or southeast.
The origin of these stone chambers is far from settled. A study done in 1950 by Vermont state archeologist Giovanna Neudorfer concluded that these structures were root cellars made by early Vermont settlers. However, more recent archeological opinions do not share such a definitive conclusion. For one thing, the roofs and other structural members of these chambers are composed of massive slabs of stone weighing many tons. Although it may not have been impossible for an early settler to split and move such stones into place, why would they? There are much simpler methods to construct a root cellar.
Most interestingly, however, is that the winter solstice sun rises in the center of this chamber’s entranceway when viewed from inside. These chambers are also often found in association with other stone features, platforms, walls, and cairns whose alignments correspond to specific celestial events. Their use may have been a kind of prehistoric calendar. Backdating with modern computer astronomical simulations to determine when a particular chamber would have existed in order to be in alignment with a important celestial event, dates these chambers to about 2,000 ago. It has been suggested that these chambers are of ancient Phoenician or Celtic origin. Who knows? Maybe. Why don’t you visit this chamber, look around, and decide for yourself. First visit the October Country Inn. We’ll tell you how to find it.
Spring sheep shearing time at Billings Farm & Museum 21 Apr 2016, 4:59 pm
When in Vermont, there are endless reasons to choose October Country Inn for your lodging needs. One of them is that we are really close to Woodstock’s Billings Farm and Museum. A visit to Billings Farm is a visit to Vermont’s rural heritage. Find out first-hand how they did things on the farm during the 1800′s. Get to know their Jerseys, sheep, horses, and oxen through interactive programs and activities. Explore the barns and calf nursery and watch the afternoon milking of the herd.
Visitors experience a first-hand sampling of actual farm work, animals, and agricultural processes. The authentically restored 1890 farm house, the center of the farm and forestry operation a century ago – features the farm manager’s office, family living quarters – and creamery, where butter was produced for market. Interactive programs interpret 19th century agricultural improvement, butter production, and domestic life. Exhibits housed in 19th century barns depict the annual cycle of rural life and work, as well as the cultural values of Vermont farm families a century ago.
Vermont was a sheep state before it was a dairy state. Through much of the 19th century, sheep dominated the livestock outnumbering both cows and people. Now, since it’s Spring, it’s time to sheer Billings Farm’s Southdown sheep and turn their wool into yarn. Accordingly, on Saturday and Sunday May 7 and 8, Billings Farm & Museum will feature sheep shearing & herding with Border Collies. Watch the Border Collies round up the sheep herd for the spring shearing. Accompanying wool craft activities such as spinning and carding demonstrations will highlight the skills needed to turn fleece into yarn.
Southdown sheep are known for their high quality meat and excellent fleece, averaging between four and five pounds of fleece apiece. This particular breed is known to be very blocky, resembling a rectangular box with feet. Southdowns tend to be docile and friendly, with strong mothering instincts. The farm keeps between six and ten breeding ewes and each spring the ewes give birth to a lively group of lambs.
“Take a Hike,” and sip a cold, local craft-brew while lounging by the river. 18 Mar 2016, 12:21 pm
It’s an early spring this year at the October Country Inn. Winter didn’t offer much opportunity for snow travelers to enjoy what Vermont winter typically offers. But, despite disappointing conditions for snow related activities, travelers to the area could always depend on sitting down to a frosty pint of a local Long Trail craft-brew, and a hearty lunch at the nearby Long Trail Brew Pub. October Country Inn is strategically located in this regard. We are across the street from the Long Trail Brewery. No need to drive.
Originally called Mountain Brewers, what is now the Long Trail Brewing Company started-up in the basement of the Bridgewater Woolen Mill in 1989. It changed its name to Long Trail Brewing Company in 1995 and relocated to its present location on the banks of the Ottaquechee River in the heart of the Green Mountains. Long Trail Ale, a German Altbier, is the company’s flagship beer. It is the largest selling craft-brew in Vermont. The Brown Bag concept was developed as a way for Long Trail’s brewers to develop new recipes quickly. These small batch brews have produced Long Trail favorites like Double Bag, a Strong Ale; and Hit the Trail Ale, a limited release English Brown Ale; an American IPA; Belgian Smoked Porter; Milk Stout; and Maple Maibock that is fermented with maple syrup.
Now you know! No area visit would be complete without a visit to the Long Trail Brew Pub to sample Long Trial’s most recent craft-brew. Today, that would be a frosty pint of Green Blaze IPA. This newest addition to Long Trail’s craft-brews features big pine, tropical fruit and resin hop notes with a light, biscuit malt backbone. Green Blaze IPA pairs well with: blue cheeses, sharp cheddar, colby, grilled meats, barbecue, hamburgers, spicy dishes, tacos, blackened chicken, pickled vegetables, shellfish and outdoor adventure. Speaking of outdoor adventure, spring is here. It’s time to “Take a Hike.”
A Fall afternoon on the Slack Hill Trail. 23 Oct 2015, 10:48 am
Summer is over, here at the October Country Inn. Clear skies and cooler weather usher in the changing of the forest’s colors from brilliant greens to muted reds, oranges and yellows. This will soon turn to white as the temperature continues to drop and Winter’s snowfall sets in. We’ve been putting off an afternoon’s exploration of the Slack Hill Trails all Summer, and realized that window was soon to close if we didn’t seize the moment. The Slack Hill Trails in Coolidge State Park are a short drive from here. The entrance to the Park is a narrow, steep paved road leading off of Route 100A about 6 miles south of Bridgewater Corners junction at Rt. 100A and U.S. Route 4.
The trail can be accessed from the Park entrance station, or a mile up the park road across from the picnic area. The trail is well-marked with blue blazes, and is easy to follow, even when the entire forest floor is covered with a blanket of fallen leaves. When starting at the park entrance station trailhead, the trail climbs moderately through the mixed hardwood forest for about 1/2 mile when you will come to a marked junction. A signpost shows the way to a .3 mile spur trail that returns to the park entrance station. The main trail continues in the opposite direction climbing moderately in places before descending a short distance to a vista overlook near the 2,174 foot summit of Slack Hill. A log bench invites you to take a break. The summit of Mt. Ascutney is seen in the distance.
The trail continues, alternately climbing and descending, for another mile to the picnic area parking lot. It’s another .8 of a mile downhill along the paved park road back to the starting point for a total loop distance of 3.2 miles. A 2 mile out-and-back to the Slack Hill vista point option is to start from, and return to the picnic area trailhead. Or, the loop option can be extended from the point where the trail meets the picnic area road by picking up the CCC trail and following it back to the park entrance station for a total loop distance of 3.6 miles. The park is open year round, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing is a Winter activity option. During the Summer, a day use fee may be charged.
Artisans’ Park–a lot of facination within walking distance. 4 Oct 2015, 12:31 pm
A common breakfast table query from our guests here at the October Country Inn is: “What is there to do around here.” This question always gives us pause, because there’s so much to do around here we don’t know where to start. Our typical follow-up discussion would then try to match a local activity or attraction with our guests interests, and if successful, to then provide the necessary logistics including directions. As is often the case, there may be multiple options from which our guests may choose, each option with its own specific logistics.
Artisans’ Park makes our efforts of being good Vermont ambassadors more efficient by the accidental location of several fascinating attractions within walking distance of one another. Located between Route 12 and the Connecticut River just north of Windsor, Vermont, the artisans in Artisans’ Park refers to either: Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company, Sustainable Farmer, Harpoon Brewery, Silo Spirits, or Simon Pearce. The park part of Artisans’ Park refers to either: Path of Life Garden, or Great River Outfitters. That’s a lot of options from a single parking spot.
At the Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company you can learn all about cheese making while sampling from a wide variety of their artisanal and speciality cheeses. Sustainable Farmer serves wood-fired pizza, as well as offering maple syrup, honey, and other local Vermont products. Kick back at the Harpoon Brewery and sip one of their cold craft brews. Step up the kick and sample vodka distilled from local corn at Silo Distillery. Amble over to Simon Pearce and watch local glassblowers ply their trade. On you way over to Great River Outfitters check out the longest covered bridge in the U.S. spanning the Connecticut River. Season permitting, you can kayak the Connecticut River, or wander around the Path of Life gardens. In other words, a full and fascinating day awaits those who venture to Artisans’ Park.
Killington launches a new loop trail. 20 Sep 2015, 6:08 pm
It’s been warmer than usual at the October Country Inn for this time of year . It seems like the leaves on our maple trees started to get their fall color overnight. It was cooler today. A quiet Sunday. A good day to walk in the woods. We’ve been hearing about a new trail, the River Road Loop Trail, the town of Killington had been working on and we took this opportunity to explore their handiwork. The 4.1 mile trail circles a section of the Ottauquechee River marshlands. A good place to see moose.
To get to the Killington River Road Loop trailhead from the October Counry Inn, head west on U.S. Route 4 from Bridgewater Corners for about 10 miles. After about 6 miles you pass Killington’s Skyship Gondola Base Station on your left. Route 4 then runs straight and flat up a narrow valley. You will see the highway begin to climb up ahead, and then you will pass Goodro Lumber Yard on your right. River Road is the first right past the lumber yard. River Road is a narrow two-lane road that is paved for about the first mile and a half before turning into a typical Vermont hard-packed dirt road. Just before turning to dirt, on your left, the Killington Town office and recreational area offers spacious parking. Park there.
Start the hike by retracing your route for about .8 mile back down River Road. This is easy walking on River Road’s flat, paved shoulder. The Ottaquechee River marshlands border the road and offer a variety of wildlife viewing opportunities. Moose have been known to frequent the marshy area. There are beaver, and a variety of wetland birds including the great blue heron lurking in the reeds. The marshy area will end at a stand of hardwoods, and a “Killington Loop Trail” sign will then point the way to your right down a dirt driveway. Bear right on the double-track road the driveway will lead you to. You begin your walk through the woods on the double-track road until another “Killington Loop Trail” sign posted just before a large gated chain-link fence points you to the right once more, and onto a single track trail through the woods.
About two-thirds of the loop trail is this, mostly flattish, single-track trail meandering through a mixed hardwood forest that forms the southern border to the Ottaquechee River marshland. You won’t see much of the marsh from this side except for one spot at the edge of the woods where a recycled Killington chairlift has been converted into a bench swing. Take a break and enjoy the view. About a half mile further, the trail comes out on Thundering Brook Road. To complete the loop, turn right for a short distance on this dirt road before turning right again on the dirt part of River Road which will lead you back to the parking lot. Or, at the point where you emerge on Thundering Book Road, If you want to extend the walk a bit more, turn left and walk another .2 or .3 miles up Thundering Brook Road to the Thundering Brook Falls trail. Follow it to the right to Thundering Brook Falls (see Thundering Brook Falls directions for details) and then on to River Road over a boardwalk that spans the marshland, and back to your car. Or, if you still haven’t walked enough, cross River Road after the boardwalk and continue to follow the Appalachian Trail north. You can go as far as Mount Katahdin in Maine’s Baxter State Park if you’re in the mood.
Folk & blues festival at Plymouth Notch wakes up “Silent-Cal.” 30 Aug 2015, 8:16 am
Although you wouldn’t know it by the warm temperatures, the last days of Summer at the October Country Inn are close at hand. Here and there a few trees are starting to display Fall colors. It won’t be long now. Labor Day weekend traditionally signals the close of Summer. This may be your last chance for a quick getaway. Let us make a suggestion, check out the 11th annual 2015 Plymouth Notch Folk and Blues Festival. Music will fill the air on Labor Day weekend, September 5 and 6, in this idyllic rural community which was the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge, also known as “Silent-Cal,” the 30th president of the United States.
An article in a local newspaper puts it this way: “It’s hard to get more Vermont-ish than Plymouth Notch. Forget about the modern-day Vermont attention-getters like Ben & Jerry’s or Phish; we’re talking Calvin Coolidge and prize-winning cheese here. And this Labor Day weekend, Plymouth continues what’s become a new tradition in town – the annual folk and blues festival.” The reference to “prize-winning cheese” is about the Vermont Cheese factory located across the street from the Coolidge homestead. But apart from sampling their delicious smoked cheddar, taking a wagon ride, or painting your face, bring a blanket to spread on the lawn and be entertained by down-home folk and blues performers. And it won’t cost a dime. It’s all free.
The event’s organizer, Jay Ottaway, a traveling blues musician himself, notes: “The festival is special for performers and audience alike because, even though it draws a big crowd, it retains the intimate, personal feel of an acoustic folk coffeehouse.” Ottaway said that he chose this venue for the festival because: With all the traveling I do as a musician Plymouth Notch has been my one steady home since childhood. Also, if you’re more of a hands-on folk and blues enthusiast, there’s a Saturday night jam session at Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizza Pub. All in all, not a bad choice for a Labor Day outing in peaceful Plymouth Notch. If it rains, no worries, the whole thing just moves indoors to the historic 1840 Union Christian Church right in Plymouth Notch. Of course, if you need lodging, you can’t go wrong with the October Country Inn.
And the light pushed back the darkness. 15 Aug 2015, 1:17 pm
The October Country Inn was recently certified “Greenleader Gold,” by Trip Advisor for our energy conservation practices. A substantial element of our conservation practices is to use energy-efficient lighting throughout the inn. We first replaced all the many incandescent light bulbs with the more efficient flourescent variety, leaving a box full of incandescent bulbs in the basement. Most recently we revisited this bulb switching strategy by replacing all the flourescent bulbs with the even more energy-efficient LED variety. Now we also have a box full of flourescent bulbs in the basement alongside the box of incandescent bulbs.
Speaking of light, regardless of how energy-efficient our lighting may be, a nighttime thunder-storm will roll through every once in a while and blow down a few trees taking out a power line somewhere, and we are thrown into darkness like it was the middle ages. Out come the candles. Candles have been around since about 3000 BC, however, where they were once the go-to form of artificial light, they only serve an interim purpose when electricity is unavailable to provide quick access to light in order to collect and fire up the slightly more practical wick burning lamps.
In the eighteenth century, Edie’s Vermont ancestors would have used wick lamps burning whale oil (which may well have also come from Edie’s whale hunting ancestors). Compared to candles, whale oil produced a superior whiter, brighter light. But then they began to run out of whales. The price of whale oil went way up, and cheaper carboniferous fuels from coal and petroleum emerged. By the 1850s kerosene replaced whale oil as the lamp fuel of choice in the Woodstock area. The next big thing in indoor lighting was fueled by gas that was piped into homes and businesses from coal-fired gas generating stations like Woodstock’s Gas Light Company set up in 1855. Gas light was cheap and led to a high incidence of night illumination in the cities and towns of the area. It was also a bit dangerous and led to many structure fires as well as gas plant explosions.
Of course, just like today, when gas supplies (or electrical supplies) are interrupted, out come the candles and lamps. In some ways, when you need to push back the darkness, not much has changed.
Woodstock’s part in the Civil War and its connection to the Underground Railway. 27 Jul 2015, 5:00 pm
Although the October Country Inn is located in the tiny town of Bridgewater Corners, Vermont our guests enjoy the quiet of a small country town yet are still a mere fifteen minute drive to either Woodstock or Killington and all that these more well-known destinations have to offer. One such attraction is the rich history of this area of Vermont, especially Woodstock. Although it might take a little digging to uncover it. Did you ever wonder what life was like in Woodstock during the Civil War, or the role Woodstock played in the war effort. Did you know that the Civil War began on April 12, 1861, and on May 2, 1861 Woodstock sent a brigade of light
infantry to join the cause of the Union Army? Did you know that Billings Farm was converted into Camp Dike to train new recruits? Did you know that Woodstock’s First Congregational Chuch, established in 1801, four years after Vermont’s constitution outlawed slavery, played a prominent role in helping escaped slaves find sanctuary? This is just a sampling of Woodstock’s historic role during these troubled times. If you want to learn more, you’re in luck. You have three paths you can follow.
One path is to sign up for The Home Front Tour; a two-hour walking tour conducted by a Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park ranger that visits sites within Woodstock village to impart a deeper understanding of the far-reaching effects of the Civil War on the role of African-Americans and women, the meaning of citizenship, and the beginnings of land conservation. This tour will run from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on August 1, 15, and 29, or September 19; Meet at the Billings Farm and Museum Visitor Center.
A couple of self-guided tour options are also available. Download a printable copy of New Birth of Freedom. Illustrated with photographs from the Woodstock History Center archive and hand drawn maps, this booklet is extremely informative and will guide you through the Civil War walking tour at your own pace. Or, a smartphone app is available from iTunes (search the Apple App Store for Woodstock Vermont Civil War Tour) with photos, videos, and sound clips. This free iPhone app can guide you along the walking tour, whether on foot or virtually, from the comfort of your couch. If you have an interest in history, take this tour. You may have thought you were familiar with Woodstock, but his is a chance to see this village from a whole different perspective.