My wife and I like getaways. Sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with family and friends and sometimes with the dog. This past Labor Day Weekend was a “Sometimes with the dog”, sometime. When the 85 pound Bernese Mountain Dog is involved the criteria for the trip is rather simple… Wherever we go we have to get there by automobile. We jump in the front, the girl jumps in the back and away we go, preferably for a destination within a 6 hour drive from our front door and her back yard. This time around that meant Stowe, Vermont.
I’d been to Vermont, the 14th state, once before but never to the mountain ski town of Stowe. We picked that part of the state because one of the country’s best “dog friendly” resorts, TopNotch, is located there. Our trip took us by Saratoga Springs and Albany then out of New York state and into Vermont. The drive was lovely. Two lane roads at times, four lane interstate other times. Big green trees nearby, mountains off in the distance and more than a thousand songs on the ipod to accept, dismiss and sing along to.
About three hours into the 5 and a half hour drive (not counting a stop for food for us and a bit of business for the pooch) we crossed into the Green Mountain State. This part of the adventure was a revelation. This is farm country folks. Acres and acres of green grass fields, corn and milk cows. It makes perfect sense, after all Vermont is famous for milk and cheese and to make both you need cows. Cows need to eat and the grass and corn fits that bill. Vermont is also famous for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (which also depends on cows) and Bernie Sanders. We saw one but not the other.
Some of the farms are massive, 24/7, milk producing behemoths while others are much smaller, clearly family owned operations doing their best to get by. It was really cool to see this part of America in action. As you drive around, near and through the tiny towns of Pownal, East Dorset, Danby, Mount Tabor and Wallingford. There are also slightly bigger burghs including Bennington and Burlington along Route 7 (The Ethan Allen Highway). At Vergennes you start seeing signs for Stowe. Eventually we connected with Interstate 89 that led us to Stowe. Vermont Highway 100 actually gets you there as you travel past the Ben and Jerry’s factory (tours daily!), the Trapp Family home and various cheese and maple syrup stores. TopNotch is on Mountain Road, a fitting moniker because if you follow it all the way up you get to Vermont’s highest point, the top of Mount Mansfield. We would make that trip but not on this day, TopNotch was our ultimate destination on day one.
The resort was not only dog friendly but family friendly. Two restaurants, three pools, tennis courts, a bocce court and a couple of fire pits. The pup was welcome everywhere except the pools and inside the restaurants but there was plenty of patio seating outside to accommodate several canines and most times several canines were what we saw. There was a short, yet interesting trail, at the resort but we did most of our exploring away from TopNotch and it was spectacular. Stowe features a five mile recreational trail which we shared with other dog walkers, cyclists and joggers. Adjacent to that was a grass stretch called the Quiet Path which meandered along the West Branch of the Little River (is this where the “band” was from?) and borders the historic Mayo farm. It runs for almost 2 miles and is a perfect place for dogs both on and off leash. We spent the morning of our first full day enjoying both the Recreational Trail and the Quiet Path which led us into Stowe proper.
After lunch we visited the famous Bingham Falls. A challenging hike down to one of Vermont’s most popular tourist destinations. Needless to say we weren’t alone. The dog was in heaven. She loved the trail, ups, downs, rocks, mud and all. It was all we could do to keep her on a tight leash without inflicting permanent damage to knees, ankles, shins and feet. Ours and hers. At the bottom of the trail is a running river and a natural pool surrounded by boulders and that was what she was after. Never mind that there were families, adventurers and other animals trying to share the same space. We all survived and made it back to the resort where our girl found the sanctity of the bathroom, with its cool tile floor, and refused to move for the rest of the day. She finally acquiesced to join us for dinner on the patio and a late night sniff or twelve around the grounds.
Day two took us to the top of the world (at least as far as Vermont is concerned). Something called The Toll Road takes you up Mount Mansfield, the highest mountain in the state at just more than 4,300 feet. You park near the summit and then hike up to the top. We made it most of the way along with hundreds of other tourists, two and four legged. From this perch we saw New York state and Lake Champlain to the west and the beautiful Stowe valley to the east. I imagine New Hampshire was out there too. If you go, and I suggest you do, take plenty of water and be prepared for starts and stops as you let folks go down as you’re going up or up as you’re going down. Depending on the time of year you might want to have some bug spray as well.
We had another worn out pup on our hands that evening and enjoyed a nice dinner at the resort’s Flannel Restaurant. After breakfast the next day and one last trek down the Recreational Path, with a stop in the cool river waters, we were back in the car and headed home. The trip to Vermont checked all the boxes. A getaway, time together, time with the pup, hiking, good food, interesting new adventures and all within driving distance from home. I hope our Berner remembers how much fun she had because we sure will.