Northeast Kingdom, Vermont
Vermont is an incredibly pleasant state - I think that maybe bordering Canada has rubbed off on it over time. It is filled with cute little townships, forested hills and peaceful lakes. This most recent tripactually a month or two ago was to a hitherto-unvisted-by-me region called the Northeast Kingdom, an unusually self-important name by Vermont standards.
The cell coverage was surprisingly poor from the top of the towerThe Northeast Kingdom is more rustic than much of Vermont - not as quaint but still very rural. We stayed alongside Lake Willoughby, a popular destination judging from the number of hotels and B&Bs that dot the shoreline. It is a very beautiful spot, if not exactly deserted.
Vermont is fairly mountainous and has lots of ski fields. Unlike New Zealand, ski runs in Vermont are cut out of forested hills and look terrifying even in summer. I haven't tried skiing here yet, perhaps I'll go this winter if I can overcome my fear of sonnybonoing myself. Ski fields do spoil the look of a mountain but do mean that good walking tracks to the summits are available.
Mount Burke was just down the road and seemed like a obvious choice. A couple of hours walking up wooded slopes brought us to the summit where we could enjoy the view. We could have driven up the access road but that would have been cheating.
Swallowtail ButterflyThe summit contains an observation tower of a type that would be off limits in any country with a good health and safety regime. I guess they assume that anyone fit enough to climb up the mountain is able to handle heights ,but it feels very unsafe. Several flights of very steep and exposed stairs lead up to a tiny deck that affords an excellent view of the adjacent cell-phone mast.
Later that day we decided to visit the Gnome Stairs, which the guidebook said was "an easy ramble around Wheeler Pond leads to a series of magical little waterfalls tumbling through the woods". It did not mention that the way to waterfalls was guarded by millions of mosquitos and two bears.
The Gnome Stairs - underwhelmingYes, we saw a couple of bears on the trail - a mother and her cub. At first I thought it was a large dog crashing around in the underbrush but then we glimpsed them both through the trees just up the slope from us. Luckily they were in no mood to meet us and almost instantly disappeared over the ridge. We did not follow. I can cross bears off my list of animals to see in the wild but I was hoping for a little more warning and a little less proximity.
We reached our destination but after the bear I wasn't really in the mood to be enchanted by tiny waterfalls. We didn't linger, they are not that exciting.
On the way back to Boston we stopped at an another out-of-the-way pond, one of the thousands carved into New England's granite shell. I don't have much to say about it but I did take this nice photo.