Have you ever imagined spending a night all alone in very old house from the Revolutionary War era? I had no idea that I would be the only guest at this historic B&B until I arrived and was given a key to my room as well as a key to the house. The friendly hostess stays in a separate building on the property, so I wasn’t completely alone, but it was still a big surprise!
The ElmRock Inn in Stone Ridge, New York is a farmhouse bed and breakfast that was originally built in the late 1700’s. I stayed there for one night recently, in a 2nd story room with a four-poster bed and a private bath. The gardens and grounds were lush and green, with irises and roses blooming. The owners host weddings on the property. Former restauranteurs, they are in demand as caterers for events in the area. We enjoyed their prime rib and roast lamb with accompaniments at the wonderful family event I attended at Wightman Fruit Farm in Kerhonkson, NY, not far from Stone Ridge.
I had driven from my mom’s home in Vermont crossing the state line into New York, and south to the Hudson Valley. The purpose of my trip was a gathering of family and friends of Dr. James Wightman, whose family adopted me while I was in college in Potsdam, New York.
Over the years I had heard stories about an apple farm that belonged to their grandparents in a place called Kerhonkson, south of Albany. John and Lori Wightman operate the pick-your-own apple farm now. When I was invited to attend a special memorial for my beloved professor and friend at the farm, I knew I had to find a way to go. I was long overdue for a visit to my mom and daughter in Barre, Vermont so I booked a flight with my favorite Jetblue Airlines via JFK to Burlington, Vermont. The view of New York Harbor and Manhattan from the air is always so exciting!
Usually when I travel all the way from California to my home state Vermont I stay for several weeks, but this time I needed to fit my visit with family and a trip to the Catskills into one short week.
I love waking up on the first morning of each visit to Vermont. The sunrises are spectacular and the sight of the lush green meadows and the mountains of home are like taking a much needed drink of water after months in dry California. I can’t wait to tiptoe downstairs and out the back door to breathe in the freshly cut grass and wildflowers.
June in Vermont means the dandelions have finished blooming, but they are almost as pretty when they have all gone to seed. The lilacs were still fragrant, and the lilies of the valley underneath the lilac bushes were peeking out from the shiny dark leaves. The friendly little chipmunk that lives under a block of Barre granite is already busy gathering sunflower seeds that are dropped from the bird feeders by the front window. June is a glorious time in Vermont; the ending of spring and the beginning of summer.
Winds and rains blow the dandelion seeds away, and soon the clover, daisies, black-eyed-susans, and vetch will appear in the fields. The flowers, bushes, berries, and shrubs that grow wild in the fields and woodlands near my mother’s home are so familiar to me that a calendar is hardly needed to know which month it might be. I don’t miss the constant sunshine of California at all. The summer rains and crashing thunderstorms are like old friends stopping by during the week.
On Saturday mornings the Farmer’s Market in Montpelier is the place to be. Not far from the capital building, this is a small market that is big on spirit! Artists, farmers, bakers, and performers are there each week. We enjoyed watching Morris Dancers with live music on June 6th. There are lots of little shops and eateries to explore and enjoy, but many of the buildings and landmarks that I remember from my childhood are still there too. I was born in Montpelier and we lived in an apartment for several years before moving to a house out in East Monpelier. On Saturday mornings in those days my father would take us with him to the bank in Montpelier where we would be given lollipops, or to the barbershop where we’d beg for a penny to put into the gum ball machine.
Avocados from our family farm in California arrived in the old mailbox while I was there. Even though there are no avocado farmers in Vermont (avocados don’t grow in a cold climate) my mother and daughter look forward to receiving beautiful California avocados via priority mail to enjoy with their meals.
When I’m in Vermont I love finding Cabot Creamery products that we don’t have in California like sour cream, yogurt, and butter. (Thank goodness we have Cabot cheese in California now!) For a special treat I bought some Maine lobster and made lobster salad for lunch!
We took Mom out for lunch one day to a new place that is a combination deli/wine bar/ gift shop. Located near the old Barre Opera House, Ellie and Shirl’s Simply Delicious recently moved to a beautifully restored old brick building in downtown Barre right across the street from the City Park. There are rocking chairs in the front window where guests can enjoy a snack and look at the band stand in the park, the war memorial, and the Aldrich Library where most of us who grew up in Barre spent many hours in the days before internet research.
We had such a good time at lunchtime that we stopped by again that evening for a glass of wine in the bar, enjoying conversation with the owner of one of the most successful Jazzercise centers in New England. Diane Duquet Hood has built a wonderful community of Jazzercise fans in a portion of a building that used to be a factory when I was growing up in Barre. Our daughter Marianne encouraged me to go to a Jazzercise class with her and now I can’t wait to go back! I love following Diane’s “Yes You Can- Motivation with Diane” page on Facebook. If you’re ever in Barre, stop by and take a class!
I rarely leave my mom’s home when I visit Vermont, but this time I had planned the trip to Kerhonkson, NY. Getting an early start at 6:30 am, I drove south on I-89, stopping at the Randolph exit for a breakfast sandwich and coffee at McDonald’s Drive Thru (yes, even in Vermont) and again in Rutland for some Dunkin’ Donut munchkins. (I was a naughty girl.) I caught a glimpse of the Bennington Battle Monument as I headed toward New York State, and finally made it to I-87, “The Northway”. Such a gorgeous drive and hardly any traffic until I reached the Albany area, but there was nothing to slow me down. I arrived in Stone Ridge with plenty of time to eat lunch, and then drove out to the apple farm for a reunion with the Wightmans.
The afternoon was such fun, sharing memories with the Wightman family and catching up with the four (now grown with children of their own) children who were my piano students over 40 years ago. One of those children became my roommate in California and was actually with me on the night I first met The Farmer! We attended each other’s weddings and had our families about the same time, but she traveled the world with the Army and I stayed on the avocado farm. It was such fun to see her and visit with her children and grandchildren.
Jim and Jan Wightman traveled to our ranch and knew our children, and once they met The Farmer and me in Florida for a cruise to the Panama Canal with my choir group. I could never have predicted when I registered for my classes as a freshman at SUNY Potsdam and first met Dr. Wightman of the economics department that our families would be linked for a lifetime and we would build such special memories together. Another student who Dr. Wightman mentored journeyed all the way from Turkey with his wife to attend this special day, and it was a pleasure to meet him again after such a long time.
At the end of the evening I drove back to the ElmRock Inn, used my key to go inside, and imagined how much fun it would be to have other guests in the two-story dining room, or the charming little upstairs bar.
I climbed up the old steps, and thought about the families who may have lived in the house long before it became an inn. I stayed in the “Toile Room”, a queen bed with private bath. And yes, I did lock the door!
I didn’t hear any ghosts during the night, and there was no scary thunderstorm, just a peaceful night’s sleep. I decided not to wait for the promised breakfast because I wanted to get an early start on the drive back to Vermont.
Just north of Schenectady I stopped for coffee and breakfast at the Malta Diner and met up with friends from SUNY Potsdam Crane School of Music who I had not seen since 1975. We picked right back up where we left off, telling about our years of music teaching, our appreciation for the education we received at Crane, and the teachers who influenced our careers. Thank goodness for Facebook so we can stay connected! It was fun to see the area where I had done my student teaching again. Then I drove north and back to Vermont, crossing Lake Champlain at the beautiful Chimney Point Bridge.
On my way through the mountains I stopped a the Lord’s Prayer Rock in Bristol, Vermont where my grandparents once took me for a picnic when I was just a very little girl. My grandmother always made deviled eggs and soft ginger cookies for the long drive from the farm in Shoreham to Montpelier where we lived.
All too soon the my short visit in Vermont was over. I expect to return later this summer for a longer visit with my mom and daughter.
Those of us who have grown up in Vermont but live elsewhere consider ourselves “displaced Vermonters”. One of the most beautiful bittersweet views is the one we see as we fly out of the Burlington, Vermont airport looking southeast at Camel’s Hump. The house where I grew up is on the other side of Camel’s Hump, and I choke back tears every time I see it from the air. This is when we all begin to plan our next trip home.