Westford and Niquette Bay
"Gluskabe used his powers to soften the attitude of the moose, and in the process bent his nose, and ever since the moose has been a gentle giant, and worn a crooked snout." - "The Tale of Gluskabe" from the Archives of Vermont's Native American Folklore
Moments after crossing the Vermont border you are swept away by its sheer magnificence. The lush greenery, the sprawling foothills, the creeping rivers that wind through the countryside all beckon you to stop and revel in quietude. Vermont is breathtaking. It is sanctuary. If you allow yourself to taken up, to follow the circuitous woodland paths of one of the many wondrous state parks that southern Vermont contains, you will find yourself walking into a dream. Albeit a dream striking painfully close to reality.
Disenchanted by the endless noise of Boston I decided to take a short weekend excursion northwest to a state I had heard so much about, but never experienced for myself. What was it about this New England region that made it so dissimilar to its neighbors, but yet so alluring? Was there really more to it than delicious maple syrup, flannel shirts, and rampant veganism? Were the kind Vermontians I had met previously all amiable for the same reason, or was this all merely a collective ruse in efforts to bait outsiders to certain death at the hands of Ben and Jerry?
Well, all possibilities of death aside, I boarded the bus and five hours later arrived on the campus of the University of Vermont -- or rather, UVM meaning "Universitas Viridis Montis" (which translates: "University of the Green Mountains"). Founded in 1791 it's the fifth oldest university in New England, and nestled adjacent to downtown Burlington the campus is picturesque against the fading glow of sunset.
My ride arrived to fetch myself and my co-traveler (a Vermont native) and together we headed off in search of dinner and refreshing beverages. Without any real hesitation, my guides took me into the region of Winooski. There we put in our names at a bistro named Our House before heading next door to the Monkey House for some local brews. The Monkey House is a dive bar with a familiar atmosphere. But it is more than just a watering hole, it's also venue for rising local musicians to showcase their work.
After a couple of drinks, we returned to Our House for the spectacular "twist your own Mac n'Cheese" that my two guides had been raving about for the previous hour. The bistro itself was set up like a well-lit tavern, with tiny wooden tables situated extremely close together. Yet, there was a bit of tacky nostalgia shop feel to it as well. Along the walls were rows of vintage cartoon lunch boxes from the 50's and 60's, and on every table sat a rubik's cube for the entertainment of the guests.
In regards to the macaroni and cheese, however, the possibilities were verging on extravagant. Anything from Thai Style Peanut Butter and Jelly Mac N'Cheese, to the Nutty New England Mac (complete with caramelized pecans, cheddar, and maple syrup), or the Mary Had a Little Lamb Mac (ground lamb chevre, mozzarella & cheddar cheeses, sundried tomatoes & spinach topped with fried onion strings.) So, extravagant yes, but also delicious.
The following day, after a short motorcycle ride through the green mountains to get bagels, we took a drive over to Niquette Bay State Park for a hike through the woods. The air was clean as a result of the nighttime rain, and a cool breeze continued to press through the leaves of trees overhead. This park is also fantastic for dogs (My guide brought along her beautiful German Shepherd, Chiquita) as there are multiple trails for on-leash and off-leash canine activities. Just make sure that you don't take Fido off the leash in an on-leash area, it's one of the few times when these natives become particularly unhappy.
After the hike we left the rural scenery of Colchester and headed to downtown Burlington to catch the end of the Jazz festival. Although we didn't have the opportunity to see any of the ticketed shows, we still got a chance to hear a lot of music. All along Church Street performances were being held as droves of people flooded the area, swarming in effort to get closer. The cacophony of overlapping sounds was really spectacular (or terrifying depending on your tastes in music); and, slightly disappointed, we ducked into a coffee shop to avoid being trampled by the crowds.
Fortunately. the coffee shop my traveling companion chose more than made up for any letdown previously held. This is because this particular cafe, with it's charming wooden decor most likely modeled after the cabin of a Green Mountain lumberjack, had (and I do not exaggerate) the BEST milkshake I have tasted over the course of my life.
The name of this place you ask? Muddy Waters.
So what made this milkshake so remarkable? So delectable? So melt in your mouth yummy that any vegan who even smelled it would be forced to change their mind?
It's called "The Muddy Shake." It is five dollars. It is the perfect marriage of espresso and ice cream and the flavor shot of your choice (options: chocolate, hazelnut, caramel, almond, irish cream, or coconut). Yes, all this plus the essence of pure Vermont maple syrup that is ethereal, ineffable...
Quite possibly it will make you as a crazy as a moose.
But ladies and gentlemen, don't live your life without it. I'm glad I didn't.
Thank you as always for reading. I leave you with the greatest moose in history: