What do you think would be fun to do in 20 degrees Fahrenheit weather? Us folk up here in Vermont, well, we embrace the chilly weather and because of this, we find lots to do in it! First of all, don’t be afraid to step out-of-doors. Put your book down, let the fire die out and come along with me…come on, you won’t be sorry. Last Saturday, it hit a high of 22 degrees and the sun was off pouting behind a wall of fat gray clouds, but we didn’t let it keep us up inside. Instead, we hopped in the truck and drove toward a gorgeous little town called Grafton, Vermont – about an hour away. Our singular goal was to go sledding at Grafton Ponds. But, before we arrived there, we happened upon the Vermont Country Store which was an adventuresome treat sitting on the side of Route 103 in Rockingham, VT.
A bell actually rings as you walk in the front door. Once inside, it is difficult to take in all the goods that are stocked on walls, on beams, on shelves rising up from the floor boards. We found all sorts of treats – old and new-fashioned!
There was about 15 square feet of penny candy, rows of jars, little baggies and weigh stations tempting consumers of all ages. Beyond that: homemade fudge, toys, cleaning supplies, local cheeses and foods…another wing held clothing that most outdoor lovers enjoy, brands such as Kuhl, Prana, Woolrich and such. There were shoes and soaps:
We returned to the road and soon found ourselves at our destination, a picture perfect New England town with a world class Cross-Country Ski area called Grafton Ponds where we would be able to sled on inner tubes. It was as if we had stumbled onto a movie set. We could not get over the “adorableness” of Grafton. Apparently, the town was originally called Thomlinson until naming rights were auctioned off in 1791 to someone offering $5.00 and a bottle of rum (sounds a bit like the song of a pirate). The winner, who may or may not have been a pirate in real life,renamed it Grafton after the town of the same name in Massachusetts from whence he hailed. There are tons of repeat names all over New England. I call it the “Springfield Effect” (there is one in every state) only here there was either a true lack of diversity of thought among our founders, or an attitude that finds beauty and comfort in what is known.
We had barely driven through the town when we arrived at Grafton Ponds. Although we didn’t come to cross-country ski or snow shoe or ride on sleds pulled by a team of blue eyed dogs – we were heading for the 600 foot lanes built into the side of the mountain. For just $35.00, a family of four can tube (tubes supplied by Grafton Ponds) for two hours. I have to say, not one toe became too cold during the entire time. We even shed layers of clothing as we traversed the mountain. So there, 20 degrees, bring it!
After sledding we went back to town to find some hot cocoa. We went to the pub at the Grafton Inn which was established in 1801 when Grafton was best known as a stagecoach center for those crossing the Green Mountains into Albany, New York.
The pub was in an old barn with two roaring wood fireplaces heating the post-and-beam room. We happened to be there the first day that they opened at 2pm. (We arrived at 2:10.) It was a good business decision by the owners because the entire place was packed! Drew had the bratwurst lentil soup and said it was one of the top three soups he has ever eaten. I had a burger made of local beef and cheddar cheese from the Grafton Village artisinal cheese company. It was equally good and I believe the pickles were homemade as well. Yum!
The town began making cheese back in 1892. We ducked into the shop next to the hotel where cheese were available to sample and buy. The Clothbound Cheddar was particularly good. With a bag full of cheese for an evening appetizer we jumped into our truck and headed down the winding dirt road back to Norwich.