A Holiday Weekend in Windsor, Vermont
December 10, 2012
This past weekend we took a road trip into New England for a holiday-themed visit to Windsor, Vermont. Originally this was intended to be an early November birthday weekend getaway, but due to Superstorm Sandy we had to reschedule for December. The rescheduling worked in our favor as the holiday festivities were in full swing, yet the weather was wintry but not overly cold.

We stayed in the town of Windsor, Vermont which is about a five hours' drive north of New York. We rented a car in New Jersey and dropped the dog off at the Chiangs and were in Windsor by 1PM on Friday. Windsor is the "birthplace" of Vermont, where the progressive-for-it's-time state constitution was written and adopted 14 years before the state joined the Union in 1791. Windsor is home the American Precision Museum (sadly closed for the winter), the Harpoon Brewery, the Simon Pearce Glass Works, and is adjacent to nearby skiing and the idyllic town of Woodstock (the one in Vermont, not the one in New York famous for the 1969 music festival).

We spent two nights at the beautiful Snapdragon Inn, a bed and breakfast in Windsor. Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1209-DSC_3869
The Snapdragon Inn in Windsor, Vermont
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3648
The Snapdragon Inn in Windsor, Vermont
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3649
The Snapdragon Inn in Windsor, Vermont
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3650
The Snapdragon Inn in Windsor, Vermont

After checking in at the Inn, our first activity was go dogsledding with Braeburn Siberians in Windsor (definitely check out their website, theirs is an interesting operation). This was a first for the both of us, though during previous trips to Alaska I had seen Iditarod teams training in Seward Peninsula. Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3690
Dog sledding with Braeburn Siberians in Windsor Vermont
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3693_20225
The leader of the pack
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3720
Starting out on the trail toward the barn

Like much of New England, Vermont has experienced pretty mild winters of late, but the lack of snow didn't keep us from taking out the dogs. As long as the temperatures are below 50 degrees, the dog teams run but pull a "wagon", which is essentially an ATV in neutral. From what I could tell from the actual dog sled pictures, this option seemed to be much more comfortable and still fun. At full clip, the teams can hit speeds of 15-20 miles per hour. Be sure to watch the video below. Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3726
When there's no snow, you ride in a cushy ATV which is actually quite comfortable
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3734
The dogs pulling the "sled" behind ours

We set out around 2PM which was the first run of the day. Consequently, the dogs stopped for many bathroom breaks and one extended water break. Otherwise, they were highly enthusiastic for their first outing. By the time we finished around 3PM, it was getting dark and starting to rain so we timed our visit perfectly. Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3776
Stopping for a water break
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3778
Stopping for a water break
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3787
Stopping for a water break
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3792
Back on the trail

Occasionally one of the lead dogs would see something of interest in the woods nearby and dart into the trees in hot pursuit. Because the dog teams were linked together and the pack follows the leader, the entire pack would join the hunt. After some ribbing from the musher, then would return to the trail and we'd be on our way.
On occasion, something grabs their attention and all hell breaks loose
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3815
Taking a break to pet the dogs
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1207-DSC_3821
Petting the dogs on the trail

The dog sledding was great fun and the animals are amazing. Although we'd like to go back in January or February and try a real sled, we weren't disappointed with the wagon as it was probably a nice way to ease into the experience. I can recommend the dog sled without hesitation over the awful experience of riding a camel.

After our ride, we stopped at the nearby Harpoon Brewery Tavern for a snack and a tasting of their terrific holiday beers. That night we had dinner in Quechee at the Simon Pearce Restaurant. Simon Pearce is a glassworks featuring hand-blown glassware, but also has a nice restaurant adjacent to his store.

The next day we headed over to the picturesque town of Woodstock to visit the Billings Farm. The Rockefeller Family was quite taken by the idyllic New England town of Woodstock and purchased a great deal of land in the area. Subsequently, they poured millions of dollars into the area to preserve and extend the storybook look and feel of Woodstock. The day we arrived was the second day of their annual Wassail Weekend, a yearly Christmas holiday fair. The weather was pretty miserable with 35 degree rains and foggy skies, so we opted to forgo the parade and visit nearby Billings Farm. Billings is an educational tourist attraction and a working farm, and gives CityFolk a first-hand look at draft horses, cattle and a even a visit to the calf nursery. Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1208-DSC_3825
A very foggy day at Billings Farm in Woodstock, Vermont
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1208-DSC_3839
A month-old calf at the Billings Farm

Because of the weather, we didn't linger in the town of Woodstock before heading back to Windsor for lunch and a tour of the Harpoon Brewery. I used to work in the beer business, and I've been on numerous brewery tours since, but I always learn a thing or two on these tours. Harpoon excels in that they have terrific beer on tap and unlimited tastings at the end of the tour. Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1208-DSC_3855
Ready-to-ship beer at the Harpoon Brewery: cases and kegs of Un-Filtered Offerings (UFOs)
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1208-DSC_3866
The impressive variety of beers on tap at the Harpoon Brewery Taproom

After our brewery tour and beer purchase, we headed back to the Inn for an afternoon spa appointment and a much-needed nap before dinner. That night we went back into Woodstock for a terrific dinner at the Red Rooster restaurant in the Woodstock Inn, a country resort also built by the Rockefellers in 1908.

Sunday morning was the only time the sun was out, so we took a short walk around nearby Runnemede Lake and stopped by the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, the longest of it's kind in the world. Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1209-DSC_3872
A cold morning on lake Runnemede
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1209-DSC_3889
Me and Jessica along Lake Runnemede

Last year's remnants of Hurricane Irene did immeasurable damage to many of the covered bridges around New England. Although some have been repaired and replaced, many others were not. We had dinner at the Simon Pearce Restaurant in Quechee at a spot that once overlooked a beautiful wooden covered bridge. That bridge was lost during last year's storm, and a year later is still being replaced by a new structure. This is one of the more nuanced ways that climate change is impacting the landscape (that, and dog sledding without snow). Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1209-DSC_3921
Standing on the New Hampshire side of the Cornish-Windsor Bridge
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1209-DSC_3905
The Cornish-Windsor Bridge spanning the Connecticut River between Vermont and New Hampshire
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1209-DSC_3910
The Cornish-Windsor Bridge spanning the Connecticut River between Vermont and New Hampshire
Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1209-DSC_3914
The Cornish-Windsor Bridge spanning the Connecticut River between Vermont and New Hampshire

We had a terrific weekend in Vermont and are ready to return once the snow (hopefully) flies. Careful readers might wonder how it was that I had a birthday weekend in Vermont and one in Hawaii weeks earlier. To clarify, the birthday weekend was in Vermont, and the trip to Hawaii was for Thanksgiving which of course is totally different. I can't help it if my birthday falls during a holiday. Many thanks to Jessica whisking me away for a terrific weekend. It was a resounding success! Weekend in Windsor Vermont - 2012-1209-DSC_3877
Jessica beaming near Lake Runnemede


Snapdragon Inn: Lovely bed & breakfast in Vermont: The Snapdragon Inn


Harpoon Brewery: Try as many beers as you can, they're all great, especially the IPA: The Harpoon Brewery
Simon Pearce Restaurant: Riverside dining nestled among interesting furnishings and glass-blowing: The Simon Pearce Restaurant
The Red Rooster: Part of the Woodstock Inn in nearby Woodstock, VT, fine dining in an elegant surrounding: The Red Rooster at the Woodstock Inn