Family Travel Journal: Stowe, Vermont

Stowe, Vermont, in October, is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

I’ve lived in New England for all of my life and, yes, the fall foliage is great throughout most of the region.

But traveling to Stowe during peak autumn color is like stepping into another (more bright and vivid and breathtaking) world.

 

I write these travel posts mostly as an expression of love for my family and the places we’ve seen. I like creating via photography and writing. But I also record these posts because I imagine someday I’ll want to look back at these times when our family was young.

I often wonder how I’ll look back at the years 2020 and 2021 in particular. How much long-term and far-reaching impact will the pandemic leave us with? How will it forever change us? Even years from now, how will it affect our actions, our choices, our fears? Anyway, I just wanted to record these ‘Signs of the Times’ observations from our trip.

Travel in the Time of Covid:

  • WetOnes antibacterial wipes and disposable masks are now staples in my purse, Chris’s backpack and our suitcases.
  • Stowe was experiencing the labor shortages that are happening everywhere across the nation. On the afternoon we arrived, for example, we stopped at a little sandwich shop and waited about 45 minutes for turkey sandwiches. We also waited in line about 25 minutes to get ice cream at the Ben & Jerry’s factory, and the factory tours were closed. (It’s no easy feat keeping a highly energetic 5-year-old occupied during these wait times, by the way!)
  • As is often the case, Tru started up a conversation with a stranger on our trip. This one happened to be one of the hotel managers, who told us about how short-staffed the hotel was and the lengths they’ve gone to try to hire employees (he’d started recruiting for front desk help at the Dollar Tree).
  • I packed Clorox wipes in our suitcase and scrubbed all of the remotes/light switches/handles/surfaces in our hotel room. We also planned only outdoor activities for our trip. We also requested no housekeeping in our hotel room. Despite all of that, all three of us had sniffles and a cold within a week of returning.
  • Travel feels very unusual now. We plan very few trips and basically just weekend road trips. We’ve avoided plane travel almost entirely.

Anyway, Mother Nature was as majestic and awe-inspiring and calming as ever. We did some picnic lunches in the afternoon and sat around the fireplace in our hotel room when it got dark after dinner. We did some easy hikes and checked out some waterfalls.

We a fun and scenic walk along the beautiful Barnes Camp Loop boardwalk and Tru noticed a little girl carrying leaves in a variety of colors. He asked her about them, and I mentioned it might be fun to try to collect leaves in every color of the rainbow. Tru liked that idea and got straight to work! We found a leaf in every color – even a purplish-blue one. He was so excited to show his rainbow leaf collection to a couple of ladies on the trail. After chatting with one for a while, as we walked away, we overheard her say, “what a nice, sweet boy!” It was clear he’d made a connection with her and brightened her day. My personality is one where I tend to be pretty introverted and shy in most situations. I always have to really push myself to be seen or speak up. So it’s always amazing for me to observe the way that Tru really lights people up just by confidently being himself.

Chris and I found this peaceful spot by a babbling brook on a trip to Stowe way back before Tru was born. We returned so Tru could see it. He had fun searching for rocks and throwing them in the river to try to make the biggest splash. He could have spent all day there.

At first, Chris and I tried gathering up piles of leaves to pour over Tru and make him laugh.

But then the wind started blowing leaves off the trees to create this enchanting rain of leaves all around us. I said, “look Tru, a leaf shower!” He loved it. Every so often, I’ll catch a magic moment like that on the camera.

Everywhere in Stowe is picturesque, but this panoramic view of the mountains – in full-blown autumn color – was particularly stunning in person. Tru hardly noticed though. He was busy trying to build the tallest possible tower of rocks. So I sat down and joined him. Building the tower with sweet Tru was just as special as the view.

One evening, we headed over to the Trapp Family Lodge. Before getting our pretzels and beer cheese, chicken schnitzel, and maple-mustard salmon at the von Trapp Brewing Bierhall, we walked the property to see the incredible views of the mountains. I’ve been to the Lodge when it was really crowded, but on this evening it was very peaceful. It felt like we had the whole property to ourselves. Tru found a sort of see-saw made with wooden boards, and he started playing silly games with Chris that made him laugh hysterically. I’ve never known joy or contentment like those moments when I’m laughing out loud with Tru. He has such a sense of humor and a fun-loving silly side. I hope he keeps that side, always!

We found a giant corn maze, got lost in it for a while, and eventually wandered out the way we came in (we never found the official exit). Don’t let all of these big smiles fool you. Trevor had a huge meltdown immediately prior to these photos. What happened was that Tru spotted the Stowe mini golf course as soon as we arrived in town. He begged to go there first. He needed to go there first. So Chris and I agreed. Unfortunately, it was very challenging mini golf. Have I mentioned how competitive Tru is and how devoted to golf he is? 

I can remember when Tru was two and three (and even four), he’d get upset about something and then completely forget it. He was the master of living in the present moment. If he got upset over something, it was pretty easy to bring up a new topic or activity and make the sadness or anger or tears vanish in an instant. Not now! Now, Trevor holds onto his negativity for hours sometimes. Hours! If something has really upset him, there’s nothing I can say or do to make him forget his troubles. A defiant side is really emerging in him, and it’s hard on the whole family. He blames Chris and I for his troubles (which I understand because we are the ones who will love him through everything and never leave). But he’s his own person now, and he can get mean when he’s mad! As I look back over these pictures, I think Chris might have bribed Tru with more rounds of mini golf in order to get those big smiles!

Tru was so excited to do the Gondola Skyride to the top of Mount Mansfield. He’s loved gondola rides since the days when he called them “Big Wheel” (he came up with that name after riding the Skyview Atlanta giant Ferris wheel at age two). Have I mentioned Tru’s competitive side yet? He was determined to get to the very peak of the mountain. From the top, he had one goal: to find rocks to throw off the edges of the mountain.

We also did the Auto Toll Road to the summit of Mount Mansfield for some scenic views. Again, Tru was begging to hike to the highest peak of the highest mountain. Have I mentioned Tru is very athletic and high energy yet? I think his competitive nature would allow him to tackle a challenging trail without getting winded! Luckily for me, the Toll Road had a short and easy trail (that’s my kind of hike!) to get to this spot with 360-degree panoramic views. It was breathtaking, and a fun adventure to end our trip to Stowe.

 

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