Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Button Bay State Park on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vergennes and Burlington VT and dinner in Plattsburgh NY 07 05-10 2015

We left Bethel mid-morning and drove across New Hampshire into Vermont.  As lunchtime neared I noticed we were near Cabot, VT, home of Cabot Creamery.  We have a history with Cabot.  In 2008, during our camping trip in MA, NH and VT we had gone to the Creamery for their factory tour.  Cabot is a Cooperative of farmers and several of our favorite cheeses are from there, so we stopped.  For the "exorbitant" price of $2 one is able to sample every one of their many cheeses, as well as some dips as well as drop several more dollars on local products AND then get a tour of the factory.

In 2008, we had just watched the introductory film when the tour guide came and told us that regrettably the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power plant had "gone down" and they had no electricity, so the tour was cancelled.  They offered to refund our money but not a single person there took them up on it, as we had all eaten our lunch of crackers, spreads and cheeses. So, since the timing was perfect for another cheap lunch and we could actually do the tour, we stopped.  Once again, we ate and ate and ate (although the price has gone up to $3) and I bought and bought and bought presents for grandkids and assorted delicious cheeses and maple products for us and then we did the tour.  It was excellent.  Starting with the film which gives a very good overview (and stands as a testament to the benefits of cooperatives) of the farms and philosophies behind Cabot and going through the thorough explanation of each step of the process the tour was enlightening and we were very happy we took the time to stop.
Junk yard in NH just after crossing the border from ME
It's hard to see, but that little orange sign on the right says Heavy Traffic.

Mt Jefferson
bridge from NH to VT
barn with horse near Cabot VT
Blacksmith shop near Cabot VT
Cabot Creamery

birch lined roads

starting to see the Adirondacks in a distance
huge barn near Vergennes VT
In case you were wondering...
Lake Champlain at Ferrisburgh with the Adirondacks and NY in the distance

Having finished lunch, we continued westward to Button Bay State Park on the shores of Lake Champlain in Ferrisburgh.  We had to get gas, and it was cheaper in Burlington so we drove there and then headed south with splendid views of the lake and the Adirondack Mountains beyond it, through small towns and rural landscapes to the campground.  Now, in the days preceding our visit, as we knew from having spent 2 days stuck inside our MoHo in Bethel as the rains POURED down, Button Bay had received a lot of rain.  When we checked in the gate keeper said "Be careful when you park because your campsite might be a little muddy." OK. So, we did our routine.  Don undid the tow bar and I started to drive.  He went into the site which was grassy-quite tall grass as a matter of fact- and located in the center round area that is encircled by other sites.  There was a tree at the edge so I would have to pull to the left but he said it was pretty wet...I started in and immediately saw it was too wet.  I backed up and this time, with some force, drove in staying as far to the left as possible.  I went about 2/3 of the length of the MoHo and STOPPED.  The mud was up to the hubcaps of the rear wheels and as I hopped out I was ankle deep in water.  UhOh.  What to do now?  Well, as is the case with campers, as we stood there a group of men appeared and said it looked like we needed a tow-to which we agreed-and then they appeared with a truck and chains.  And they pulled us out.  The consensus among the 6 of us was that there was no way even a car should park in the spot it was so wet.  So, I drove around the campground looking for empty spots and then to the office to see if any would be empty for as long as we needed it.  There was one.  We'd have to leave a day early but since we were going to friends' it wasn't a problem.  The site we got was infinitely better since it was on the outer circle, backed up to bushes, was flat and DRY.  We set up, let Cadbury explore the bushes on his leash and then walked down to the lake shore to enjoy the early evening light and the views.

The mess we made with the MoHo in our assigned site
Our next site.  Dry and backing up to the bushes which Cadbury loved and lots of good sun to power us

Dawn on the second day

We had gone to Burlington in 2009 and had both enjoyed it so the next day we drove up to spend the day in the city.  We arrived in time to have an excellent lunch where we chatted with a Canadian couple from Quebec who spends 6 months each year on their boat in the waters of the US.  After lunch we strolled along the beautiful water side park with Phoenix and then headed back to the campground.

the wall outside the parking garage
Mural on the way to Church St...it ran the length of the block and had many recognizable faces
Another part of the mural
Church St Mall
Our incredibly delicious pizza
painting on a wall
the windows on this building reflected the sites opposite on every level and looked like it had changing artwork on the walls
Yacht Club and marina
The Harbor
An innovative re-use for a retired school bus.  It's a food truck.
Chief Grey Lock,
the great Abenaki leader although he was Waronoke
Don and Phoenix rested while I wandered around taking pictures
We remembered this sculpture from our previous visit although then it must just have been cleaned as it was bright white
This sculpture seemed to be cleaner-they are both marble
Good advice!!

Hydrangeas were in full bloom

On our way to the campground and in the guide books, I'd seen Shelburne Museum and began lobbying to spend a day there.  We did not make it until 2pm the next day but the tickets are good for 2 days so we figured we could "always come back tomorrow."  Well, after 2 hours and seeing only a portion of this fascinating and excellent museum we made plans to head back early the next day.  Now, when I say museum don't think building.  This is a collection of Americana, housed in 38 buildings, houses, barns, a meeting house, a one-room schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, train station,covered bridge, and the steamboat Ticonderoga.  It is fascinating! And it was conceived by a woman who had a vision and money to effect it.

To make it even better we had glorious weather both days.  The second day we stopped and ate lunch in the cafe so we'd have enough energy to continue to closing, which we did. We'd talked about going other places that day but the diversity of this museum was irresistible.

One of the buildings was called the Circus Building.  Semi-circular in shape the entire wall on one side was a display of a miniature circus parade created by Roy Arnold.  There are literally hundreds of models.

On the other side of the hallway is a display of various carousel animals and historical circus memorabilia

There is a building with American folk Art

A turn of the century apothecary
The Ticonderoga a Lake Champlain paddled wheel cruise boat
Seating on the deck
Dining in style
Original lighting
For the smoker
The Dining Deck
And down below the carriages and carts were transported as well

The following pictures were taken in various buildings

We were exhausted after leaving, having walked for 6 hours in the blazing sun, but were making plans to go to Plattsburgh for dinner the next day to see 2 of Don's oldest friends. AND before that we were going to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.  A full day ahead... 

...on our last day in Vermont we were actually going to leave it for NY and dinner and then come back. Bruce and Don had played hockey and gone to school together, growing up in Englewood, NJ.  Don had been there when Bruce started dating Allie in the 9th grade and ironically I had been there (with Don) when Bruce and Allie got married in 1970.  We've managed to get together when we visit the various places they have lived and we were both looking forward to a nice night.  It was.  

But first, we had to visit the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.  It was right up the road from the campground and on our way to the ferry so we set off to get there when they opened at 10am and gave ourselves a few hours.  Housed in several buildings and displaying the history of the region and the various forms of transportation on the lake, one is able to get a grasp of what a rich history there is. There is a replica of a Revolutionary War gunboat, the Philadelphia II which we toured and learned that all of the still extant British ammunition from the war still belongs to Britain.  While virtually a formality, any time a piece is found marked with the Crown, the US government has to either return it or ask permission to use it in a museum.

The really impressive things at the museum though were the programs for young people.  While we were there a group of teens was finishing a project in which they had built their own wooden kayaks.  They were in the process of individualizing them by painting according to their own designs and, while the hootin' and hollerin' I expect when there is a group of teens together was there, so too was an obvious dedication to the excellence that was expected of them. 

The first exhibit is of Abenaki history and artifacts

Several buildings are dedicated to the various types of watercraft used on Lake Champlain, retrieval attempts of shipwrecks, ships related to the several wars fought on the Lake and a building filled with miniatures of boats

 The Museum entrance
 Model of the Champlain Bridge
 Display of original navigators
 Model of a "Sharpie"

 Display of outboard motors
On St Croix my father worked with a blind man, Arthur Joshua, who fixed outboards better than anyone I have ever known.  He would listen the motor running and diagnose the problem and then fix it.  This display and many of the models took me back to the happy days when I "worked" for my father, at ages 8-10, and spending time talking to Arthur with whom I shared a birthday.

 Birch bark canoe
 Samuel De Champlain
wooden water skis


Mast of the Philadelphia II
the Museum has permission from Her Majesty's Government of the UK to display that cannonball
and the other ammo
Teens finishing up their kayaks
life vests on the ceiling

We were impressed but had already been on the way to the Philadelphia II when we saw beautiful and brightly painted longboats.  Longboats, in this case 32 foot Cornish gigs  were "developed in the early 1800s, have their roots in the Scilly Isles, 40 miles off of the coast of Cornwall, England. The boats were used to transport the local pilot to incoming sailing vessels and needed to be both fast and seaworthy as the first boat to reach the ship offshore got the job of guiding the vessel through the treacherous shoals in that area. These boats were multi-purpose and were used as rescue boats, freight carriers among the islands and to smuggle contraband across the English Channel.” (see: Longboats...) 

When we asked about them we were told that the museum had started the Champlain Longboats Program as part of the Diversified Occupations Program which "works in partnership with the Maritime Museum to develop positive, healthy behavior in middle and high school students by sharing the pride derived from boat building and rowing. The students have worked for five months with museum staff and volunteers, beginning with timber cut from local forests. They learn to calculate the number of board feet in standing timber and to value the importance of forest resources to both traditional and contemporary occupations."  To me, the idea of giving kids who have pretty much been told they cannot hack the relatively narrow definition of "average" or "normal" that seems too common in our education system, the chance to prove to themselves and others that they are eminently capable of great things, is phenomenal.  I found myself wishing that more places around the nation could adopt this program to their own communities and traditions.

The newest longboat, as of May 2015, the Jimmy D, is named after Jimmy Doolan the founder of the Diversified Occupations Program 40 years ago in Middlebury, VT. It was built by middle and high school age kids who gained "hands-on vocational skills, with a curriculum that weaves science, history, English, and math around the boat building project. Students keep journals, research and make presentations on related topics and participate in a series of curriculum related tests throughout the boat building process. The power of teamwork, mutual respect, and positive work ethic are critical life skills that are at the core of Champlain Longboats.”

Alas, as much as we could have spent another day or two at the LCMM, it was time for us to head to Plattsburgh. We drove a bit north from the museum, stopping to take pictures at Falls Park in Vergennes and then took the Charlotte VT (pronounced Char LOTTE) to Essex NY ferry and then drove along Rtes 22 and 9  bordering the lake.  We stopped at Ausable Chasm for a walk across the bridge to see the falls and then continued into Plattsburgh where we rendezvoused with Bruce and Allie and had a spectacular dinner at a Japanese restaurant.  It was late as we drove back and over the Champlain Bridge rather than the ferry.   

The Falls in Vergennes

roadside flower truck
Crossing the lake from Charlotte VT to Essex NY
ferry dock in Essex NY
 The falls at Ausable Chasm

 As we got back to the car we noticed bushes laden with ripe blackberries and gorged ourselves
There was an Air Force base (Strategic Air Command) in Plattsburgh and at the entrance to the city there is a display of vintage aircraft

We had also altered our Canada plans. Realizing that if we came back from Nova Scotia in August we'd be driving back across either Maine and then upstate NY or NH and VT, or we could drive to Montreal and down but we planned to be in the upper midwest by early August so we could drive slowly down to New Orleans before the cold came in.  That meant not a lot of time in Nova Scotia and rushing through areas we really wanted to see so we decided to bag it for this year.  In fact what we really thought was to do Canada from west to east in 2017 so we could take a long time in each place and take the entire summer, arriving in Nova Scotia in September.  At least our passports will be good and we'll be able to do our registration renewals online.

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