Luxury Hiking Vermont
Our next stop was the Churchill House Inn outside of Brandon. This inn is the headquarters of an organization called Country Inns along the Trail, a group of country inns close to the Long Trail and its sidetrails from Dorset in the south to Stowe in the north (120 miles). Guests in the program stay at the inns and can opt to have their luggage and cars transported to the next inn by the participating innkeepers. Breakfasts, a bag lunch for the trail, and dinner are all included. It's a totally flexible way to take an independent hiking vacation without having to backpack or worry about a lot of details.
As we arrived at Churchill House, we heard a bull braying loudly from the field nearby.
"Is that the five o'clock whistle?" quipped Tony. Lois Jackson, the innkeeper, merely smiled.
The bull's braying with return mooing from the cows kept up at regular intervals all night long. We could only laugh about the "peaceful" country life.
This is not to take away from the delicious sole florentine dinner we ate at a table with two other couples who were avid hikers. Now retired, they had hiked in Switzerland and New Zealand and were planning a winter trip to Costa Rica.
Lois' advice for our next day's hike was right on target. We said we liked the heights with the best views, so she suggested a nearby hike to Rattlesnake Point in the Green Mountain National Forest.
The U.S. Forest Service-maintained trail proved to be a steady, but not too steep climb with a panoramic view at the top of Lake Dunmore, Silver Lake, the town of Brandon, and the surrounding forest. On the way down, we attempted to find the Falls of Lana. We could hear the tantalizing roar of the waters, but never could find a vantage point for a good view.
Oh, well. It was time to head a bit farther south on Route 100 to the Killington-Pico region, where the lodging, dining, and hiking choices are plentiful. We checked into our plush condo at the Villages at Killington and enjoyed a sauna and jacuzzi before heading out for dinner.
Our dining choice was Hemingway's, a restaurant rated as one of the top 25 nationwide in last year's Food and Wine magazine. Hemingway's resides in a historic stone house on nearby Route 4. The interior bristles with modern paintings and sculpture; diners share their tables with some of the artwork. The menu boasts classic French cuisine with fresh Vermont ingredients.
Another fine hiking day dawned the next morning. Having learned from our experience at Stowe about hiking down ski trails, we resisted taking the ski lift to the summit of Killington Peak (Vermont's second highest) for a downhill hike. (Those seeking thrills can mountain bike from the top.) Instead, we opted for the Deer's Leap Loop, which starts at the Inn at Long Trail on Route 4 near Pico.
This 2.5-mile loop contains part of the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail. The route climbs steeply through spruce forest and over rock slabs to the Deer's Leap lookout atop a giant slab of granite. From here, there are rewarding views to Pico and Killington Peaks. The descent is steep and rocky, and I was appreciative of the trees and tree roots that seemed placed in just the right spots for reassuring hand holds.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication