Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom

vermont NEK  109When I heard that there was an area of Vermont called the Northeast Kingdom, I knew that I had to go there.  It just sounded like a fairy tale.  It’s located, of course, in the northeast corner of the state and is the most undeveloped area in Vermont.

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vermont NEK  001vermont NEK  003We had a lovely campsite by the Moose River in St. Johnsbury (Moose River Campground … imagine that).  We’ve come to really appreciate the smaller, privately owned campgrounds.  Many of these campground owners are very proud of their campgrounds and keep them immaculate and nicely decorated.  Much appreciated.

Moose River Campground had several really nice antique tractors that were still in use around the campground.vermont NEK  004

vermont NEK  060St. Johnsbury is the largest town in the Northeast Kingdom, by population (over 7,000).   We arrived just as the leaves were starting to turn, which was our intention, since we planned to be in the state for a month.vermont NEK  005

On our first day we took a nice drive around the area and stopped in at Dog Mountain, 150 acres of privately owned land on a mountain stop nearby.   The artist Stephen Huneck, who made beautiful paintings and carvings of dogs, usually black or golden labs, bought the property and turned the barn into a studio space.  During a near death experience, Mr. Huneck was inspired to build the Dog Chapel on the property.  It opened in 2000.

vermont NEK  010vermont NEK  006I was not prepared for the impact that the Dog Chapel would have on us.  As we walked in, the first thing we noticed was that the walls were completely covered (more than once over) with notes and photos memorializing dogs.  Combined with the beautiful place, stained glass windows and wood carvings designed by the artist, it took our breath away and made us choke up.  What a wonderful inspiration.vermont NEK  009vermont NEK  007

Sadly, Mr. Huneck commited suicide a few years ago, after financial problems forced him to close down some of his galleries and lay off a number of employees.  His wife, Gwendolyn, committed suicide earlier this year.  The chapel now memorializes them as well, making it even an more impactful place.vermont NEK  008vermont NEK  016vermont NEK  017

vermont NEK  019After visiting the chapel and the gallery with Angel, we drove over to Montpelier, the capital of Vermont.  Montpelier is also the smallest capital city in the United States – charming.

vermont NEK  025Next we took a tour Ben & Jerry’s Factory, located just outside Montpelier.   I must confess that I never tried Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  I’m not sure why, but I was always more of a Hagen Dazs kind of girl. vermont NEK  021

Anyhow, the tour was great fun, and the story of these two guys, who built this ice cream empire after splitting a $5 correspondence course on ice cream making from Penn State University, is very cool.vermont NEK  026vermont NEK  027

vermont NEK  022vermont NEK  023Ben & Jerry sold the business a few years ago and it’s now a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever with “a (very!) independent Board of Directors that’s empowered to protect and defend Ben & Jerry’s brand equity, integrity and product quality”.vermont NEK  029

After tasting some of their ice creams, I’ve become a Ben & Jerry’s fan, and have been chasing down their ice cream shops since then.vermont NEK  028

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vermont NEK  040Staying on the food topic, on Saturday we went to the farmers market in St. Johnsbury, continuing our “tour” of farmers markets.  When we arrived in the town center, we saw a very cute town parade, which kicked off their fall fair.  And the farmers market was a smallish but quality market.

The fall fair also included various outdoor concerts and activities at the Catamount Arts Center.  We spent some time watching women drumming at the Arts Center.  I find drumming very hypnotic and fun.

vermont NEK  048That same jam packed day, we took a quick peek at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium and found out that the Planetarium was offering free shows as part of the festival, so we stayed.  The museum is northern New England’s museum of natural history and the planetarium is Vermont’s only public planetarium.

vermont NEK  049This museum is possibly one of the most unique museums I’ve ever visited. The building itself is magnificent, made of red sandstone, with towers, rounded arches, eyebrow windows and carvings.  The interior has an oak barrel vault ceiling running the length of the building.

The museum was a gift to the town by Franklin Fairbanks, nephew of inventor Thaddeus Fairbanks, who invented the platform scale, and his wife, Frances.

vermont NEK  053vermont NEK  050The main floor of the museum is dedicated to natural science.  There is an extensive collection of preserved animals including snakes, a Kodiak and Polar bears, a koala, birds of all kinds including a fascinating collection of hummingbirds and many, many more.  Mr. Fairbanks’ original collection was housed on the third floor of his mansion, referred to as his “Cabinet of Curiosities”.  It contained 450 birds, rocks and minerals and various artifacts from several countries including Japan, China and Egypt.

The museum’s late taxidermist, William Balch, of Lunenburg, Vermont, was one of the first to create lifelike dioramas.  The museum contains dioramas of flamingoes, opossums, muskrats, Birds of Paradise, bison and moose.  All of Mr. Balch’s work was accomplished without the help of plastic, Styrofoam or aluminum.

vermont NEK  047The second floor’s collections include artifacts donated by friends and employees of the Scale Company who brought these back from their travels.  These include fossils, arrowhead, Egyptian mummies, early toys, a doll collection and objects from the Civil War.  In total the museum contains over 175,000 objects.

The Northern New England Weather Center is located in the basement of the building. where two of Vermont’s meteorologists broadcast weather forecasts on commercial radio and Vermont Public Radio.  They are called the “Eye on the Sky” and get it right most of the time by the way.  The meteorologists from Maine and Eastern Canada could use some coaching from these guys :-).

vermont NEK  051vermont NEK  052The planetarium show was pretty interesting, though not exactly “out of this world”.  What was out of this world was their Omniglobe, a 60-inch diameter sphere that allows viewers to display patterns and trends of our planet by pressing different buttons.  The globe can show tectonic plate movement, weather graphics, languages of the world, antique map views, and global systems and how we experience them locally, for example, there’s a display of the Japanese Tsunami and its global reach.  The globe can also become the moon and other planets.  I could have played with it for hours!  But the museum closed :-(.

vermont NEK  068vermont NEK  069The next day we took advantage of the fact that St. Johnsbury is located six miles from the New Hampshire border and crossed over to New Hampshire.  We drove around a loop called the White Mountains Trail, New Hampshire’s most scenic drive.vermont NEK  078vermont NEK  054

vermont NEK  079vermont NEK  057vermont NEK  081vermont NEK  080vermont NEK  105vermont NEK  110vermont NEK  085vermont NEK  075vermont NEK  108vermont NEK  071vermont NEK  106vermont NEK  055Of the multitude of options for hiking and touring found along the drive, we opted to take the short loop trail in Flume Gorge, a natural gorge located at the base of Mount Liberty and extending 800 feet. vermont NEK  102

A boardwalk was built on the side of the gorge to allow visitors to walk easily through the gorge and to a 45 foot waterfall, Avalanche Falls, at the top.  A pretty spectacular place.vermont NEK  091vermont NEK  092vermont NEK  095

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vermont NEK  098vermont NEK  099We took another short walk to see Sabbaday Falls, a very pretty waterfall, and one of the most popular in New Hampshire due to its accessibility.vermont NEK  100vermont NEK  077

vermont NEK  073vermont NEK  070vermont NEK  058vermont NEK  056vermont NEK  094vermont NEK  107vermont NEK  076vermont NEK  065vermont NEK  063vermont NEK  067vermont NEK  062Continuing our drive, we also saw a number of pretty covered bridges which are found throughout the area.  And of course the beautiful colors of fall all around us.  So far, fall did not disappoint.

~ Brendavermont NEK  066vermont NEK  096

9 thoughts on “Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom

  1. We love Vermont and New Hampshire. Not the best driving roads but great scenery. I am surprised you were able to get a reservation. This time of year the parks are usually full with the leaf lookers. It is a gorgeous place to see the leaves especially with the red color the soft maples become.

    Your photos of the various falls in motion are terrific. There certainly are many of them in the area. We spent quite a bit of time hiking around the Franconia Notch in the White Mountains of NH which was wonderful. Looked like your flume gorge.

    Another cute place to visit is Cabots Cheese Factory. It is very close to Ben and Jerry. All of Cabots cheese is made there. The tour isn’t great but their sample table and area is out of this world!!! If you are a cheese lover, you can’t miss this. We’ve been three times just for the sample table! Can you tell I LOVE cheese! Haha!

    Don’t forget to visit a maple sugar farmer while you are there. They are all over, usually at the farm and house of a family that makes maple sugar. Yum!!

    Looks like you are having a wonderful visit. Hope it stays warm for you:)

    • We actually booked the RV parks in late June, knowing that it’s a peak season. Our short two New Hampshire visits were great. We did visit Cabots Cheese Factory and missed the tour. But we didn’t miss the cheese, we have a bunch of it in our fridge right now :). And just went to a sugar house too. I must say, ice cream, cheese and maple syrup – not the best for the old waistline. But we are loving it.

  2. Beautiful! So glad you are enjoying my home state. This is the time of year I miss it the most. If you get a chance be sure to take a drive to Lake memphremagog. It’s very pretty lake in the Northeast Kingdom.

    • We really are enjoying it! We drove as far as Lake Willoughby, but it was a gray sky so the lake was not as brilliant as I’m sure it is on sunny days. We still enjoyed seeing it, the Northeast Kingdom is just beautiful.

  3. Your post makes me so homesick for the Adirondacks and Vermont. Thanks for bringing back fond memories of the Northeast in all its glory! It will always be a part of my heart, as are you! ; )

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