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Trip Report: A Weekend in Manchester, Vermont

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With the exception of this past weekend, it’s been way too hot in the Carolina’s. We’d been itching to go somewhere and get out of the South, but everytime we’d think of a cool place to go visit, the cost of airfare would deflate our dreams. (Seriously…$1200 for two people to go to Boston? That’s rediculous.)

Finally, Matt pulled the trigger and booked us a getaway to Dorset, Vermont; located just outside of Manchester in the Southwestern part of the state. I submitted my request for my last vacation day of the year (The fact that Americans don’t get enough vacation days is another rant of mine – we’re already running out of 2017’s as we begin allocating it out), and we made zero plans for the weekend other than to enjoy the chill of the Northeast and check another state off of Matt’s list.

The Manchester region is known for skiing, being located in the Green Mountain National Forest (the Appalachain Trail crosses through it!), and for taking it easy.

We got in around 8:30am and headed to Up For Breakfast, one of the best rated places online. It was the perfect time to arrive, because around 9:00 a line started forming for one of the tables in the small joint. I ate my first of many pancakes that weekend, taking full advantage of the locally sourced Maple syrup.  We grabbed a local area map to see what was around, and started crusing through the town.

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Did you know that Orvis was founded in Manchester, Vermont? We didn’t, but we stumbled across their flagship store in town. They also still make most of the fly fishing rods by hand in their factory across the parking lot, and they offer tours daily at 10am. We made it just in time for Norm, the plant manager, to take us on a private excursion through the factory. Matt’s brother is a huge fly fisherman, so the whole time Matt kept sending him pictures – it was amazing to see the hard work that goes into crafting each rod. No less than 15 people touch each rod, with so much of it calibrated by hand and each inspected for perfection before it’s ready to be sold. Orvis makes ~450 rods a month in this location.

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On our way to our B&B, we came across the Dorset Marble Quarry, the county’s oldest commercial marble quarry. Marble from this was used for buildings like the New York Public Library and the library at Brown University. It was first mined in 1785, but now serves as a swimming hole in the summer where locals can jump in to the 60 ft. deep water and splash around.

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To warm up from the chilly weather outside, we headed into Peru to grab hot cocoa and beer at The J.J. Hapgood General Store. It’s in a small area, but centrally located to a ski resort so they had a pretty cool bar, mixed with an old school general store vibe. There were people who were at the bench seat with a coffee or beer and a book, just warming up and enjoying the beautiful day.

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The next day, we got up early and headed towards Equinox Mountain to go hiking. Unfortunately, the road up to Equinox Mountain was closed, so we headed into Manchester to stop at The Mountain Goat – an outdoor retailer – for advice on where to go explore. Following recommendations, we hiked to Prospect Rock, a lovely 3.5 mile roundtrip hike that overlaps the Appalachian Trail a tiny bit, and has beautiful views of the area. The hike was steep – 1,000 ft elevation change in 1.5 miles, but the snow on the ground and the 20 degree temps made it worth it. I love the feeling of crisp air in my lungs, and it definate;y had me missing our Sunday hikes in Alaska. We spotted some beautiful waterfalls and lots of animal prints in the snow along the way.

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After heading back to change clothes, we headed North to Bridgewater Corners, VT to check out Long Trail Brewing Company. Matt had their Green Blaze IPA at JJ Hapgood’s the day before, so we thought it would be a relaxing drive. Aside from almost running out of fuel and struggling to find a petrol station in the backwoods of Vermont, it was well worth it! Located right near a ski resort that was celebrating opening day and along a river that I’m sure is well fished in the summer, the brewery was crowded with young people and had the happy noises that happy people with beer tend to bring. We were able to grab a seat at the bar and enjoy a late lunch (homemade saurkraut!). The vibe was perfect, and I loved people watching and seeing skiiers and snowboarders coming in for a drink between the day and night slope pass transitions.

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Throughout our weekend, we set up ‘home’ at The Dorset Inn, an incredibly beautiful Inn built in 1796. It had a historical look and feel, and the coziest feeling. At the end of each day, Matt and I would curl up in front of the fire and play a round of Chinese Checkers. Each morning began with breakfast (always pancakes for me) in their sunroom, and we spoiled ourselves with dinner there on Saturday night. While we were probably the youngest guests there – tends to happen when you’re secretly 70 years old – it was the perfect setting for a relaxing weekend.

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Overall thoughts on our trip:

  • The Manchester area was beautiful and we enjoyed the slow-paced of it all, but it’s definately targeting a much older crowd then us (We’re 28 years old). Shops closed around 6pm, restaurants stopped serving around 9pm, and the main activity in the area seemed to be Outlet shopping and antiquing.
  • There are so many ski resorts around, and many of them were experiencing opening weekend while we were there. Early December may not be the best time to visit since there wasn’t a lot of snow on the ground, but I feel like a late-January/early-February would be ideal if you’re interested in hitting the slopes.
  • Head farther North into the state if you’re looking for younger activities. The area where Long Trail Brewing was seemed to have a lot of people closer to our age, and way more activities.
  • Prepare for Vermont to be expensive. There’s no sales tax on clothing and shoes, but the tax on food was 10%, and on alcohol was 11%. Cost of food was also high, in my opinion, with us spending no less than $40 per meal (after tax and tip).
  • One of the best parts of the trip for me was the lack of comments on my body. I didn’t realize the huge cultural divide between the South and the Northeast, but it was incredibly refreshing to have no one comment on how big my baby bump is, or ask me questions regarding due dates or gender. I was treated as an actual human, instead of a For-Public-Consumption-Pregnant-Woman. The public assumption that I want to tell strangers my birth plan and baby gender – and that they have a right to know because I am visably showing – has been one of the worst parts of pregnancy for me. Vermont: you know how to make a pregnant woman feel like a person again, and I thank you for that.

Got any recommendations for other places to check out in the Northeast? We’re planning a trip to Maine for 2017, so we’d love your tips! You can also check out more of our photos from the trip on my Instagram @emaccipiterstew!

Emily A. Stewart

Emily was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, but found her home in Alaska. Now she's back in Charlotte discovering all that the city and the East Coast has to offer.

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