We felt we’d be remiss if our first trip to Vermont didn’t include a stop at one of their 55 state parks. Our vetting process led us to one that put the “gorge” in “gorgeous”.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Since 1999 Anne and I have taken one road trip each year to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home. We’re geeks more accustomed to vicarious life through the windows of pop culture than through in-person adventures. After years of contenting ourselves with everyday life in Indianapolis and any surrounding areas that also had comics and toy shops, we chucked some of our self-imposed limitations and resolved as a team to leave the comforts of home for annual chances to see creative, exciting, breathtaking, outlandish, and/or bewildering new sights in states beyond our own, from the horizons of nature to the limits of imagination, from history’s greatest hits to humanity’s deepest regrets and the sometimes quotidian, sometimes quirky stopovers in between. We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
For 2022 we wanted the opposite of Yellowstone. Last year’s vacation was an unforgettable experience, but those nine days and 3500 miles were daunting and grueling. Vermont was closer, smaller, greener, cozier, and slightly cooler. Thus we set aside eight days to venture through the four states that separate us from the Green Mountain State, dawdle there for a bit, and backtrack home…
DAY FIVE: TUESDAY, JUNE 28th.
Nearly all the restaurants in Waterbury were closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so we didn’t bother looking up breakfast options and settled for the hotel’s freebies, same as we’d done on Day Two back in Pittsburgh. The morning had one nice benefit: since we were staying there two nights, this was the only morning of the entire vacation that didn’t require us to pack and take all our luggage with us on the day’s exploration.
Less than an hour south of Waterbury on I-89 South, cruising past the capital of Montpelier on the way, was our destination, Quechee Gorge State Park. (“Quechee” rhymes with “sketchy”.) Over 600 acres that used to belong to an old wool mill was repurposed by the Army Corp of Engineers in the ’60s, with the Ottauquechee River flowing down from the Green Mountains as its centerpiece and a hydroelectric dam as its northern endpoint. Quechee Gorge is the stretch of river that runs through the park, steep walls on both sides covered in typical Vermont lushness.
The kindly lady minding the Visitor Center, who was from St. Louis (small world!), welcomed us and gave us a slightly better map than the one I’d printed off their website, by which I mean it was printed on heavier manila paper, and on the back was a longform essay about the Gorge’s formation process covering the era from the Laurentide Ice Sheet to the present. More importantly, they had a smashed penny machine, of which Anne availed herself while I hung out for a few minutes.
We exited down a staircase to the trail leading north toward the dam and saw what we could see.
As you can tell in our lead photo, we reached the dam without any problem except the clouds turned mildly menacing on us. We did the couple’s thing of taking turns taking each other’s photos in front of the dam’s waterfall cascading into the gorge. The entire bottom half of the falls was impossible to see at any point from the path, but the top half was pretty.
We turned around and headed back the way we came. The clouds decided this was the perfect time to moisten us with a scattered shower that spattered upon us half-heartedly for the next several minutes without causing much discomfort. Three cheers for Vermont’s ubiquitous natural canopy.
This time we took the diversion onto Quechee Gorge Bridge, a far better vantage point for seeing any part of the Gorge than the path. The tallest bridge in Vermont was built in 1911 and its 285-foot length looms 165 feet over the Gorge. Those who’ll be traveling to the area in the near future should know a bridge renovation project is in the planning stages and may impair the area’s photogenic ambiance once it commences. Thankfully the precipitation stopped as we headed up.
Passing motorists courteously let tourists use the crosswalks to mosey up to the bridge. The sidewalks on either side were doubly fenced: on one side, to protect pedestrians from oncoming traffic; on the other, to keep folks from tipping over into the gorge, whether accidentally or otherwise. We shared our minutes on the bridge with a small biker clan, each of us finding our own viewing holes in the fence to gaze down upon the park’s main attraction.
We returned to the trail and resumed heading back to the Visitor Center, but exited a different gap in the foliage. I worried whether we’d easily find our way back to the car if we didn’t perfectly retrace our exact steps. We’ve had disasters in the past when we decided to improvise our wandering with nerve-wracking results.
As it happens, the gap led to a gift shop on the other side of the street from the Visitor Center. Fear of the unknown was averted.
We wandered into another building next door with signs boasting “VERMONT PRODUCTS”. After thirty seconds inside, we realized it was a combination saddlery and Western-clothing shop. We backed out slowly without disturbing anyone.
Out in the parking lot, we exchanged friendly waves with the biker clan as they mounted up and rolled out, and we crossed the street to our car. It might’ve been nice to wander down toward the gorge’s south end, but the free shower sample from the heavens concerned us. We didn’t want to get all the way out to the farthest end of the path only to get deluged. We considered ourselves fully content with our Vermont state park experience and moved on to our next destination.
Once we’d driven away from the park, it never rained on us again for the rest of the day. Naturally.
To be continued!
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