Tag Archives: Vermont

Places: Branbury State Park, VT

In 2016, we launched our first Father’s Day camping trip, visiting an old favourite in Lake Placid, Meadowbrook campground. This year, we decided to venture further afield and visit a park that I had read was great but that we hadn’t had the occasion to visit. This trip even featured Heidi’s dad joining us and staying in his old scout tent that is older than I am.

Branbury State Park is located just outside of Middlebury, VT; one of countless interesting and beautiful Vermont towns that just seem to be everywhere.

The park is about a four and a half hour drive from Ottawa but we got to cover some interesting new territory so that was fine. We arrived without incident and looked forward to a beautiful weekend at the park. The park itself is split by the secondary road that passes through but we were high up on the hill in the site the furthest away from the road. We also had a beautiful waterfall in our backyard so road noise was not an issue at all.

Site #34 – A beauty

In Middlebury, we enjoyed the Farmer’s Market and some of the sites in town; since school was out at the local college, things were pretty quiet and we had the run of the place. Like many towns in Vermont though, this place produces good food, good coffee and good beer! IMG_2649

The star of the weekend was truly the weather – we had gorgeous sunshine that allowed us to relax at the beach and do a couple of local hikes that were really fun.

Kids taking in the sun

This was another great Vermont park; I continue to find these so much more laid back than the Ontario Parks experience which can definitely seem a bit pre-packaged and higher strung. Since it is a bit out of the way, I don’t think that Branbury will make it onto our regular camping circuit but I would certainly like to return one day.


Places: Central Vermont

For the second year in a row (see last year here) we spent our Labour Day weekend at Little River State Park just outside of Waterbury, VT. Once again, we had perfect weather for the weekend and it was such an awesome way to end off a summer of adventure before heading back to work and school.

After a summer of camping in the tent, we stepped up our level of luxury and rented one of the small, basic cabins that are available at the park. The kids enjoyed having their bikes at the park, hauling chopped wood back to the site from the woodlot and of course, relaxing in the hammock. Although we were in a different cabin this time, it was still adjacent to a huge cliff and for the third year in a row we managed not to lose any kids (or adults) off the edge.

The Moose Cabin
Hard at work.

We explored a bit further afield this time, taking in the farmer’s market in Montpelier, and travelling down the Mad River Valley for the first time. While trying out some new places, we revisited some of our favourites such as the Prohibition Pig and Green Mountain Coffee in Waterbury.

Dinner at the ProPig and a selection of craft beers; true Vermont.

We also spent a morning at the Waterbury Flea Market which was plenty of fun and netted the kids a whole bunch of hockey and basketball cards from a friendly gentleman who just couldn’t help himself from giving them each more and more for the $1 they had to spend.

The house that Howard Dean built; Montpelier, VT

Our last full day of summer was definitely one of the most fun days I had all year. We awoke to a perfectly sunny day at our campground and after making breakfast at our site, we took off to explore the Mad River Valley, the area that runs south of Waterbury to the Sugarbush Ski Resort.

Vermont is famous for their ‘swimming holes’ that can be found all over the state – some of which are more legally accessible than others – and as we headed out, we scoped out a couple that might be fun. After that, we headed further south to the Warren Country Store, a general store that has been in business since 1839. I love these cool institutions that are scattered throughout the United States and the sheer amount of them that are located in the East is always amazing to me since in the west there are just not that many things that are more than 100 years old.img_2742

From Warren, we went north to the Lareau swimming hole, one of the most popular, and accessible swimming holes in the Valley. We spent hours here, jumping off the rocks once we had adjusted to the mountain water which while refreshing was still pretty crisp even at the beginning of September.

After an afternoon of sun and swimming we went across the highway to the American Flatbread Lareau Farm for a quintessential Vermont meal – all the ingredients from a small radius around the farm and a totally relaxed environment with a delicious meal included. Wandering around outside the restaurant with a craft beer, there were games to play, campfires going, a farm to explore and the beautiful backdrop of the mountains. Noah spent the entire meal in front of the wood-fired pizza oven watching the chef do his thing with the pizza peel. A giant ‘vermont creemee’ on the way back to the campsite was a perfect way to end the weekend.

The weekend was a wonderful end to a fantastic summer with the family – with lots of good food, time in the great outdoors and new adventures.

Places: Little River State Park, VT

While an extra week of summer vacation for the kids last year caused angst for some parents, we decided to make the best of it and enjoy every last day, culminating with a Labour Day trip to one of our favourite spots from the summer before; Waterbury, Vermont.

Since we had been spending a lot of time in the tent in August, we decided to go for one of the small cabins that are offered at Little River State Park. These are pretty basic, offering a set of bunkbeds, a full-size bed and a table inside. They remind me a lot of Kamping Kabins that we used as a family when I was a kid at KOA campgrounds.dscf4816

For this trip, our friend Chris flew up from Toronto to come on the drive with us. For a while, it looked like it just might be him, myself and the kids making the trip as H was having some serious dental issues. However, nobody can ever accuse her of bailing out on a trip easily as she toughed it out, threw back some Tylenol and hopped in the car!

It’s a smooth drive down to Waterbury and we chose to go interstate all the way since we had gotten a bit of a slow start.

Our weather for the entire weekend was perfect – warm for early September and no chance of rain. While our family bunked down in the cabin, Chris set up our small tent outside. One thing that can’t seem to be avoided at this campground is that many of the good sites, including this one, are located right beside a huge cliff that leads down to the lake. Although there was plenty of calls to ‘be careful!’ – there were no incidents.

Although the campground was full for Labour Day, it is not overly large so it never felt busy and the kids were able to run over to the playground and the washrooms by themselves.dscf4835

Our first night there we bought an enormous amount of firewood and were ready to go for the weekend. That went well with our pretty fantastic selection of craft beers that we had picked up as well. We had great fires every night with the kiln-dried wood that I appreciate so much at Vermont State Parks.dscf4800

On our first full day, we spent a lot of it swimming in the reservoir, doing some of the nature hikes in the area and then went into Waterbury for a delicious meal at the Prohibition Pig. The popularity of this place is amazing – we had to wait almost 2 hours for a table but were able to relax on the patio of their new brewery which also offers a few snacks and watch the people go by.

We went back into Burlington on the morning of our second full day, spending some time on Church Street and picking up dinner for the campsite at the City Market. We managed to make it back for another swim since it was a gorgeous day and had a relaxing evening around the fire again.dscf4836

On our way back to Ottawa, we took the route through Stowe and over the mountain pass. This is such a crazy narrow and twisting road – it is pretty hilarious to drive, as long as you don’t have someone running into you!

This was a great end to the summer vacation as the kids headed back to school the next day. We will certainly plan something similar for next year!

Places: A Familiar Destination

One of the great things (and sometimes a complicating factor) about travelling is the ability to experience new and different things; new food, new sights, different cultural norms than those that you are used to. However, sometimes, there is something very comforting about visiting a place you have been to a dozen times before. When you visit, you stay at your regular hotel, you eat at your favorite restaurants and you notice when a shop you used to go to has been replaced by something else. You feel more like a regular than a tourist.

For us, one of these places is Burlington, Vermont. We usually end up there two or three times a year since it is a comfortable distance for a weekend and it is also a good halfway point on the way to the Maine coast. We stay in our same hotel, visit many of the same places and we eat at our favorite restaurants from the last time we were there.

And now.

Last weekend, we made the four-hour drive from our freezing cold climate to a similarly cold environment in Vermont. Upon arriving, we visited Pizza Verita on Friday night and although not quite the same, it provided a nice reminder of our many pizzas eaten in Italy last fall.

One of the new wrinkles this weekend was a trip out to Shelburne Farms, a 1400-acre working farm just south of Burlington that sits on the edge of Lake Champlain. It is a National Historic Landmark and one of the things they seem to offer is educational programs for kids and adults. On our way out, we stopped at our favourite place for bagels, Myers Bagels, a nondescript shop in an industrial sector of South Burlington.

At the farm there happened to be a ‘Bread and Butter making’ interactive class for the kids on the Saturday we were going to be there so we signed the kids up and they had a great time making their own flour, then baking bread, and learning how to make their own butter to spread all over it. I am looking forward to making a trip back out to the farm in the summer since it is set on gorgeous land with many walking trails and a seasonal restaurant that looks out over the lake.

The teaching barn at Shelburne Farm
The payoff.

On Saturday afternoon, we did a little shopping on Church Street Marketplace and the kids continued to make great use of the pool. We also tried out a new place for dinner, El Cortijo Tacqueria which delivered on some really good tacos.

On Sunday morning (after another swim of course) we hit an old favourite for breakfast, Magnolia Bistro. All in all, even though it wasn’t any warmer, the weekend proved to be a nice respite from the winter.

I expect that some other people have these type of ‘comfort destinations’ as well. When we were kids, I always considered Victoria to be ours because we would visit my grandparents there so often. Even when I visit now, it feels like a familiar place. Does anyone else have places like this that they enjoying visiting time after time? Where’s yours?

Places: Waterbury, Vermont

At the end of July, we ended up with a weird overlap between the end of H’s leave and the beginning of mine of 5 days – not enough time to do too much, but definitely too much time for us just to sit around home. The result was a quick trip to the coast to check in on the ocean but on the way we wanted to get in a couple of nights of camping. Waterbury was a perfect halfway stop – about 4.5 hours from Ottawa with a great state park for camping and a townsite that we had stopped in before and were eager to explore further.

We stayed at Little River State Park, in site 38. This was a beautiful state park, located up in the mountains on the edges of the Waterbury Resevoir. The dam was built in 1938 (by hand!) as a means of flood control and is now also used as a source to generate electricity.

Our site was excellent – huge, in fact. One thing that did surprise us though was that on the map, it appears to back onto the lake. I guess it is sort of true, although the map fails to convey that there is a 200-foot drop between the back of the site and the start of the lake! After a series of ropes were constructed to keep the kids away from the edge – we were good to go. The park had very nice facilities and an abundant source of cheap, kiln-dried firewood. I am now starting to think that Ontario Parks’ expensive, punk wood is the exception rather than the rule….

On our first night, we had brought groceries from City Market in Burlington and ate at our site. The second morning we headed in to the home of Green Mountain Coffee for our morning jolt and breakfast. I also managed to track down a four-pack of the elusive ‘Heady Topper‘ and then we headed back to the lake to swim. Although fed by mountain streams, the reservoir was surprisingly swimmable and everyone got in the water.

We headed back into town for dinner, and on the way heard a grinding, squealing noise coming from our engine. It wasn’t until the next day that we figured out that was the sound of our A/C compressor exploding.

Despite that, we had a delicious dinner at the Prohibition Pig, it definitely lived up to expectations – excellent food, brew and service. After dinner, we stopped in at the Craft Beer Cellar across the street. This place seems like the dream of every beer aficionado and I am sure it has been the plan of many a failed business plan but the selection was fantastic and it was fun to check out the beers of all the small Vermont brewers.  We capped off the evening by heading to the Ben & Jerry’s factory for the obligatory ice cream.

Two nights of beautiful weather in an excellent park – we will certainly be back to Little River, hopefully for a longer stay next time.  The fact that it is right beside such an interesting town like Waterbury makes it even better.

Site 38
Waterbury Reservoir
Pig Pale
Small? Seriously?