There is something magical about autumn in New England. The trees become a kaleidoscope of colors, and the crisp blue sky seems like a giant azure marble set high above. The occasional white fluffy cloud floats by with so little effort, a languid pillow of water vapor promising winter storms to come–but not yet. And then on those days, when the sky goes dark, like a dark bolt of grey flannel draped across the troposphere, the inky clouds sewn together, obscuring any view of the sky, we still marvel at how it is the perfect autumn day. On those days, when the brilliant reds and oranges, yellows and browns, pop against the covered sky, you can inhale a deep breath, and feel fall enter your lungs, the earthy smell of shredded leaves crunching under your boots, mixing with the dark humus of the forest floor. There are so many locations where you can visit New England and experience this moment. This region is replete with vistas and views of leaf peeping, so let me narrow it down for you. Up on my list of trips to take this autumn is number five.
5.) Burlington, Vermont and Mount Moosalamoo National Recreation Area
Resting against the New York State border and nestled against the gentle shores of Lake Champlain, sits Burlington, Vermont. Our western relative and recalcitrant sibling, who has many times voiced their wish to separate from the United States, is a beautiful state filled with picturesque natural sights that remind us that there is a simpler life far from the hot asphalt of cities. A rural vista of dairy farms, apple orchards, covered bridges, and beautiful mountains which embrace you with their sublime views, Vermont is the perfect state for those wishes to get outdoors, hike, and commune with nature. But Burlington is a city, you say. Yes, a city, a lifestyle, but travel ten minutes of town, and pumpkin fields and apple orchards fill the landscape and countryside.
Burlington is one of those cities which has a quirky, hip vibe. With a population of 42,284 it is the largest city in Vermont, Burlington has a lot to offer to the visiting tourist. With farmers markets year round, those visiting the area can find artisanal cheeses, pumpkins and gourds, liquor, chocolates, vegetables, apples, and so much more at these confluences of hard-working artisans. The feel is earthy, and you will find friendly people willing to share a conversation over a chunk of Vermont cheddar–don’t look for a slice of orange cheese, that’s Wisconsin. Get yourself a piece of apple pie, and a chunk of extra sharp cheddar, instead of ice cream or whipped cream, and try this sweet yet savory treat. After you’ve had your fill of the wonderful local goods, wend your way down to Lake Champlain and take a walk along the shore, and marvel at the explosive scenery of autumns natural fireworks, as vermillion leaves brighten the chilled air.
When you are hungry and ready to sample some good ales, find your way to the Vermont Pub and Brewery. Ales abound at this location, and their flavorful brews are sure to please the lover of frothy beers. The food is tasty pub fare, and at decent prices. If you are in the mood for something different, the American Flatbread is a wonderful restaurant, with great pizzas. The atmosphere of this restaurant is incredible with ovens right in view of the customer, and the brick walls give you an old world feel. Although different flatbread restaurants have made their way into cities all over the country, I think this one has all the character and feel of a unique experience, and is worth the wait inline for their scrumptious flatbread pizzas.
A few minutes outside the downtown center, in South Burlington, is Magic Hat Brewing Company. Their quirky brewery, especially around Halloween, is an experience in of itself. Their tasting room is decorated to the hilt with skeletons, spiderwebs, and other spooky creatures lurking in the dark corners of the room. Belly-up to the bar of the tasting room, and try their seminal brews. This brewery has been developing balanced IPAs well before hops became a kitschy ingredient for every brewer who is trying to out IBU the next brewer. Here their beers have always reached a healthy balance between hop and malt. Experience this brewery and you will not be disappointed. Also, just down the road in South Burlington is the Higher Ground Music Venue. This music hall has great performers, some mainstream and some you have never heard of, so find one that interests you, and check them out. Who knows, you may love them after you see them live in this cozy venue.
For some great hiking with beautiful views of Vermont foliage, check out Mount Moosalamoo National Recreation Area. A jaunt south of Burlington, you will find this beautiful location. The trails through this area are extensive, with rivers and streams that cross many of the hiking trails. This nature area is just outside Middlebury, and if you are a fan of Bob Newhart and his show Newhart, then find the Middlebury Inn, which is the location for the outside shots during the show. After enjoying the pleasant and quiet hikes here on Mount Moosalamoo, head back north to Burlington, and take it easy, relax, and enjoy the night.
Now, for those of you that are heading east on your journey home, whether to Maine or New Hampshire, I recommend taking the Kancamangus Highway through the White Mountains. This windy switchback road climbs the tall peaks along this range, and runs along quaint little streams and rivers babbling along the road. Now get on this road before any snow falls, because the gates close during the winter season. Check them out to make sure they are still open, before you trek to this area, or you will find yourself taking a detour, making your trip longer than was needed. So enjoy the ride and the views, because remember, the journey is always as much fun as the destination.