The trail from Maryland through New Jersey and New York was not a pleasant experience. My frustration distracted me to the point that I forgot about taking pictures. Rather than describe that agonizing portion of the adventure, we will skip ahead to better times.
As we left the city, I started to relax. I think that was the effect of a beautiful, tree-lined parkway between the city and Connecticut. Rather than have Jane try guiding us through that maze of big city streets with a map, we entered our destination into the GPS. Not having the route marked on a map makes it difficult to recall the names of the routes we took. But, looking back I can see that we were on Hutchinson River Parkway, Cross County Parkway, and Merritt Parkway. I was surprised at how calming the drive was. The worst was behind us.
The drive through Connecticut was fascinating. It occurred to me that Connecticut is a retreat for New York’s wealthy. We were only passing through, though we did spend a night in a Days Inn in Berlin. The motel rate was very reasonable and it was After making a decision to see Vermont, we were anxious to start the tour.
Jane hadn’t organized this part of the adventure, so it was a bit disorganized. We passed quickly through Massachusetts and stopped at the Vermont Tourist Information Center as we crossed the border. Covered bridges was my first thought; covered bridges and “The Green Mountain Boys” of the Revolutionary War. I like history and the old stuff. Vermont is filled with both.
Did you know that Vermont was not one of the original 13 states? I was shocked. It seems there was a struggle between New Hampshire and New York for the property known as Vermont. Great Britain’s award of the Vermont territory to New York led to Ethan Allen’s organization of a militia known as the Green Mountain Boys. All the details are readily available on the internet. I just found this bit of trivia too interesting to let pass. Vermont became the 14th state in 1791.
We gathered brochures and information, leaving the interstate at Brattleboro in search of our first covered bridge. We headed west on State Highway 9, the Molly Stark Trail. This Scenic Byway is a main east-west route in southern Vermont; a historic trail followed by General John Stark on his way from New Hampshire to the Battle of Bennington during the Revolutionary War.
Our first covered bridge was on the outer edge of Brattleboro. I was disappointed. I guess I had expected to find covered bridges isolated in rural areas. This one was right on the Molly Stark Trail and surrounded by bright orange construction tape. Unplanned surprises aren’t always happy happenings.
But there was a beautiful colonial home right across the road. It got more of my attention than the bridge. As a matter of fact, Vermont abounds with beautiful old homes and Americana. The flowers and gardens had Jane raving. Around every curve, we were seeing more and more to like about Vermont. It is so clean and pristine. And, there are no billboards. Even the directional signs are minimal. We found several more covered bridges that day but kept getting lost. That’s not always a bad thing. We saw and did things that otherwise we may have missed. It wasn’t until I was preparing for this article that I realized how much we had missed. Fail to plan; plan to fail.
That brings me to a photography point that I would like to share. Good pictures seldom “just happen.” Like most anything else in life, there is that distressing element called organization. I should have done a little more research on Vermont in general and covered bridges in particular. My pictures sucked; and got rejected by my agencies. You don’t just walk up and snap a picture. That’s a “snapshot.” It was obvious even to me. I was not surprised by the rejection.
Covered bridges are so photogenic (and nostalgic) but they are so “over-photographed.” Anything unique would require some imagination. No thought was given to lighting or being there when it was best. Concept is important. What are you trying to convey? Why are you taking this picture? I had not really given it any thought. I believe the thinking and planning is what separates travel photography and travel pictures.
The only images I salvaged from that first bridge was a detail image of the lattice-work architecture and a snapshot of Jane on the bridge.
Vermont had not been a part of the original plan. We were only there because we had some time to kill before arriving for our schooner cruise in Maine, which Jane had planned. She had left organizing the Vermont and New Hampshire tours to me. The moral of this story is “be organized or have an organized person on your team.”
Continuing on the Molly Stark Trail, we wandered through the Green Mountains and the Green Mountain National Forest. We discovered Vermont Scenic Highway 100 and loosely followed it, heading northward toward Rutland. We stopped for information about local points of interest and a brief tour of a Maple Syrup Museum. We enjoyed the small, scenic villages as well as the beautiful green countryside.
Traveling in New England is deceptive. We are accustomed to travel in Texas and the Southwest. Distance on New England travel maps is a much different scale, making it possible to see a lot more in a day. We were tired upon our arrival at a motel in Rutland but surprised at how much we had seen.
The next day was more bridges. Again, no specific plan. Jane was directing me to the nearby bridges while I was thinking of Fort Ticonderoga, Lake Champlain, and the ski resorts in Stowe. Somehow, we stumbled across the Morgan horse farm in Middlebury. We arrived just a short while before the next guided tour. We bought tickets for the tour and wandered aimlessly, admiring the horses. The history of the Morgan horse, the University of Vermont’s involvement, and seeing these beautiful animals make the detour well worth the time. I love horses. I would like to return and spend more time watching the students in the apprentice program train the horses.
We left the Morgan Horse Farm and worked our way back to the Scenic Route 100, headed north. I can’t remember why but we turned away from Lake Champlain and the historic area around Fort Ticonderoga. For whatever reason, we worked our way to Montpelier. From there, we took the shortcut across the mountains to Interstate 91. We managed to get lost and plugged a motel address in Lyndonville into the GPS as our destination. The GPS seemed to know where we were. We didn’t. It was rather exciting; and a little scary. It was a very narrow, hilly, rough road. The scenery was fantastic but I would not recommend this rural route for the average, four-passenger vehicle.
The following day started our moose adventures. I say started because the next several weeks we were either hunting moose, asking locals about moose or talking about places to try next. The start was in the Northeastern part of Vermont know as the Northeast Kingdom, or, maybe it is North East Kingdom? It is often referred to as NEK.
We stopped in Island Pond, where we had been told moose were so plentiful that locals would not drive at night. (With their long legs and massive size, car collisions with moose are much more dangerous than hitting a deer … or a bear.) Island Pond is a resort located in the quaint town of Berlin. It is surrounded by camp grounds and offers many seasonal outdoor activities. Read more about it here.
We stopped in the Island Pond Library and visited with the librarian who was very informative and helped us layout a tentative route to view moose. From there, our circuitous route took us along State Route 105, through Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Nulhegan Basin, up Route 102 (River Road) to the tiny town of Canaan, along the Canadian border to The Kingdom State Forest.
We had seen a lot of moose habitat and signs of their presence but not a single moose. A ranger at the wildlife refuge had given us several pointers on when and where to spot a moose. We stayed excited along the entire drive and expected a sighting at nearly every bend. We saw lots of bogs and moose wallows but no moose. Highway construction deterred us as we made our way across the northern most parts of Vermont. We gave up and turned south and west, deciding to head for Maine a few days early.
We crossed the Connecticut River into New Hampshire at Colebrook. We stopped to picnic in a city park dedicated to Civil War heroes. Checking our map, we found that we were on “Mohawk Road” and had just crossed the Daniel Webster Highway (US Route 3). Civil War, the Revolutionary War, Daniel Webster, Mohawk and Iroquois culture; the place absolutely reeks of history.
At this northern point, it is a short drive across New Hampshire. We split from Route 26 and headed north on Route 16 around Umbagog Lake, crossing into Maine. I don’t remember that we went through a town or village; we were just there, driving through areas that looked to be very sparsely populated. After the fact, I figured that is a major logging area. Moose Crossing warnings were every few miles. I was a little surprised at how such an old area of the US was still so isolated. We would drive miles seldom seeing another car and not much in the way of civilization.
We made our way into Rangeley, a popular tourist destination on Rangeley Lake. Worth noting is that it is the hometown of actor Kurt Russell. And, a sign there lets you know that it is the halfway point between the Equator and the North Pole.
It was mid-afternoon and we had done a lot of sightseeing. We had planned to travel deeper into the Maine Moose Country. We had a dilemma. It was too early to stop but we were afraid to continue further into the boonies. We had no plans for the evening. Not know what lay ahead, we diverted south on Route 4 and settled for a motel in Farmington.
After checking in, Jane pointed to an interesting photograph on the wall. It was a moose. I didn’t understand at first. Then she pointed out that the picture was taken in the Motel Parking Lot!!!
Tomorrow, we are heading for the coast. We will hunt for lighthouses.