Editor's note: This begins a two-part series about a recent trip to southern Vermont where summertime beauty and adventures rival what can be found on its snow-filled ski slopes in winter. Next week we'll take readers on a tour of a unique country inn in West Dover, Vt., that is emblematic of a high end property whose unassuming hosts take great pains to make everyone feel at ease and at home.
From Irving Berlin's holiday film classic White Christmas to Mount Snow, the ski area that defines much of this gorgeous region in Southern Vermont, winter sports like skiing and snowboarding reign supreme.
But those willing to spend about two and a half hours to travel the 125 miles to the Snow Goose Inn in West Dover, Vt., will find a wealth of summertime beauty, adventure and history amid the pristine splendor sure to beckon your return to the Green Mountain State again and again.
The Snow Goose Inn, at the foot of Mount Snow, is a one-of-a-kind inn that offers breathtaking amenities and hospitality at a surprisingly affordable price.
More about the Snow Goose in next Sunday's story. Today's article will focus on five nearby fun, funky adventures all within 50 minutes of the inn.
Two of the five will take you on a lovely trek along scenic Vt. Route 100, known for its breathtaking beauty and considered one of the best motorcycle touring roads in the state.
Hoosac Tunnel, Florida, Mass. (About 50 minutes)
|A father and son peek inside the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel last weekend. Freight trains still run through the tunnel daily. (Rochester Voice photo)|
From the Snow Goose Inn, drive south on Route 100 through the tiny villages of Jacksonville and Whitingham to Readsboro, where we dined on delicious pizza at the Readsboro Inn (see review on Wine and Dine).
A few yards south of the Readsboro Inn take a left on Tunnel Road, which will soon have you driving along the Deerfield River, known as the hardest working river in New England due to the amount of electricity it produces for the region.
The East Portal of the Hoosac Tunnel is located about 10 miles south on Tunnel Road and just over the state line into Florida, Mass.
You'll be able to see it off to the right 100 yards or so off the side of the road adjacent to a small parking area.
The 4.75-mile tunnel took some 25 years to build and cost the lives of more than 180 miners including one disaster in 1867 that killed 13.
The tunnel is owned by Guilford Transportation, which still runs active freight service through the tunnel daily.
The public is urged not to travel the tunnel, but some ghost enthusiasts continue to do so.
Soon after it opened to rail traffic many heard stories of unexplained lights and strange mournful sounds inside the tunnel, which prompted a Civil War cavalry officer to investigate. According to https://hoosactunnel.net, he emerged from the tunnel saying he hadn't been that frightened since Shiloh.
Miners who worked during its construction called it "The Bloody Pit."
Being a former Amtrak worker and a rail aficionado, I often would walk some distance into the tunnel, and never encountered a train, but one time walking in about 100 yards I heard a sound, looked up and saw a man in overalls with a flashlight walking out.
Seeing I was surprised, he explained that he worked for the freight company that owned the rail line and part of his job was to walk the tunnel every day to make sure there was no debris on the track. Now that would be scary!
There is a museum in North Adams that details the trials and tribulations of building the tunnel, which cost $14M to build. That translates to about $369 million in today's dollars.
For more info go to https://hoosactunnel.net/east-portal/
Whitewater Rafting on the Deerfield River, Zoar Outdoor Adventure Resort, 7 Main. St., Charlemont, Mass. (About 50 minutes from Snow Goose, about 15 minutes from Hoosac Tunnel)
Some of the best whitewater rafting in New England can be had at longtime Zoar Outdoor Adventure Resort in Charlemont.
|Rafters run the Monroe Bridge Dryway on a recent Zoar Outdoor Adventure rafting trip. (Courtesy photo)|
The Deerfield River provides rafting enthusiasts Class I-IV rapids, with Class I being the easiest and Class IV the most challenging.
According to the Zoar Outdoor website, the most exciting section is known as the Monroe Bridge Dryway.
"The beauty of the northern Berkshires and the camaraderie of a paddling adventure will make a Dryway rafting trip a highlight of your summer," their website boasts.
Zoar Outdoor whitewater rafting trips start at $54 and can go as high as about $110, depending on the trip and time on the river. Some trips end with a free barbecue.
For more info go to https://www.zoaroutdoor.com/
Mount Snow, West Dover, five minutes from Snow Goose
For those who want their adventure on dry land, how about mountain biking at Mount Snow, where scores of downhill trails let you enjoy the same thrills as skiers and snowboarders enjoy in the winter.
|Mountain biking at Mount Snow in West Dover, Vt. (Courtesy photo)|
At Mount Snow they've been grooming their trails for summertime mountain biking fun for more than 33 years. There are plenty of jumps, hairpin turns and downhill adrenaline rushes for even the most rugged mountain bikers.
A full day downhill biking ticket and use of lifts is $30 ages 5-12 and $40 for those 13 and older.
For those who want a more tranquil Mount Snow visit they can play a round of golf ($60-$109 for 18 holes depending on weekend tee time) or take a scenic chairlift ride to the summit and back for $11.
For more info go to https://www.mountsnow.com/
Green River Timber Crib Dam, Guilford, Vt, 40 minutes from Snow Goose
Looking for a quaint family friendly swimming hole on a hot summer day?
Look no further than the Timber Crib Dam on the Green River in Guilford.
|Folks try to keep cool last Sunday with a dip in the friendly confines of Timber Crib Dam Park in Guilford, a park maintained by volunteers. (Rochester Voice photo)|
The most scenic way to get there is to take Vt Route 100 South to Jacksonville, then take a left at the stop sign onto Gates Pond Road and head up to the top of a steep hill. At the top of the hill you'll see a beaver pond on your right and you'll also see Reed Hill Road. Take a right onto Reed Hill and follow that about three and a half miles to downtown West Halifax where you'll take another right and head straight up a paved and steep Jacksonville Stage Road. After about four miles you'll come to a T. Take a left (you're still on Jacksonville Stage Road) and it's another four miles to the dam.
Jacksonville Stage Road will have you falling in love with Vermont's country roads: dirt, but well maintained by hardworking road departments we saw along the way.
The scenery on the Jacksonville Stage Road is spectacular with wide panoramic views of lush fields and mountains and quaint Vermont farms and cottages, all well tended and beautifully set.
When you get to the dam you'll see a little parking area to the right and a quaint covered bridge.
The dam has a small beach with benches to sit on in a park area that is shaded.
The dam also has a fish ladder, which was in the process of being repaired the day we were there.
It's a great place for kids because a large swath of the swimming hole is no more than knee deep, however there is also an area where it is deeper for adults. Keep in mind many of the lakes and rivers are lower than normal due to the ongoing drought.
For more info go to http://greenrivervillage.org/
From family friendly to au naturale at The Ledges. About 18 minutes from the Snow Goose
Vermont is oft-considered the most progressive of New England states so it should come as no surprise it is home to one of the northeast's most celebrated nude beaches.
|Signage entering The Ledges warns visitors that they may encounter clothing challenged bathers beyond this point. (Courtesy photo)|
The Ledges is part of the Harriman Reservoir recreation area just a mile and a half or so south of Wilmington off Route 100.
Turn right onto Boyd Hill Road and follow it to the end where there is a fairly large parking lot overlooking the gorgeous lake below. In the distance looking north you'll see towering wind turbines above majestic mountains.
There are plenty of places for picnicking, sunbathing and swimming as well as lots of shaded area, too.
The Ledges nude sunbathing area is located at the north end of the park where there is a clearly blazed trail that takes you about a half mile into the woods where you'll come upon a sign that warns you ... well, warns you there might be naked people ahead.
According to a Friends of The Ledges website, visitors are urged to, "Hike along the wooded shoreline to enjoy nude sunbathing, swimming and boating. This spectacular setting, brings friendly like-minded folks back every year to recreate and celebrate being nude."
For more information go to http://friendsoftheledges.com/
Be sure to check next Sunday for our feature on the Snow Goose Inn of West Dover, Vt.