The weather was amazing, sunny with a light breeze. The landscape was awash in moving colors, leaves swaying in the breeze. The traffic was light. Everything was perfect. Perfect, that is, until we crossed the New Hampshire/Vermont state line. White River Junction seemed well enough with its flea markets and antique shops. We quickly made our way further into Vermont and pulled into the visitor center for Queechee Gorge. A small attraction with a trail leading into a steep gorge below a dam, it has been a stop for us for many years. The place is also home to a winery, flea market, and food stand. The kids had not been there since they were small, my youngest couldn't walk yet. I was looking forward to showing the kids the beauty of this little place, deep in the gorge with the fall colors popping and the water rushing, hopping from rock to rock. However, it took less than half of the trail to realize that this place had been forever changed by Irene. The heartless bitch known as Mother Nature had struck down the trees, had wiped away the ground, and had covered the gorge in a monotone brownish-gray mud. The place no longer existed, not the way it was for so many years.
My mood did not improve as we made our way through the rest of Vermont. Old farms were ravaged. The pastures were buried under feet of mud. Buildings littered the riverside. The kids witnessed antique covered bridges dashed apart like so many toothpicks strewn about the rocks of the river. Some areas were wastelands, flattened by bulldozers trying to level out a new starting point from which to build anew. The only oasis within the desolation was the Long Trail Brewery. They were holding a fundraising event for the local people, selling a newly brewed beer, Good Night Irene. We pulled into the overflowing lot only to find that the place was past capacity, food was over an hour away and the beer could only be had on tap. Hungry and disappointed, although feeling somewhat better to see a local business doing its damnedest for the community, we headed back out. (As a side note, I will buy Long Trail not only because it is some of the best craft beer made and I have been visiting them for twenty years, making road trips seasonally just to get cases of their locally available beers, but also because they do alot of community-based events.)
We were able to salvage our journey home by visiting Sugarbush Farms, filled with homemade cheeses (great for football Sundays), syrup, and locally made goodies like jellies and jams. The kids loved sampling everything and being able to escape the truck. The crowds were a bit much and the counter-lady mentioned this being their busiest day of the year. Our next stop, as our moods improved but our bellies grumbled, was Bennington and the Madison Brewing Company, a place well received by the children and adults alike. The Irish pub had better than average pub fare along with some interesting beer varieties. Our final stop before everyone fell asleep, and left dad to the whine of the highway and the last 150 miles, was a small farm stand not unlike all the rest we had stopped at or passed by. The big difference in this stop was that they sold raw milk, a special treat for the kids. Cereal for school in the coming week would be bathed in milk straight from the udder and into a mason jar. The only people to handle this wonderful refreshment would be the person on one side of the farm stand and the person on the other side of the stand. Simple, how farming and life should be.
I can not say if I were more tired before or after I left home on this trip, but I can say I was more than refreshed upon my return. I laid my head on my pillow each night exhausted but not weary from the day and I slept this Sunday night contentedly. The journey was everything I had wanted and it wiped away the crust that had built up from tedious days of work and nonsense. It had refreshed my outlook once again. Every now and again it is good, maybe even necessary, to stop and look around before not only your life but the lives of those you love pass you by.