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Biking and Hiking in Vermont

I have never been more excited to see a white clapboard church in my life because the sight of it means I’m done with a 44-mile bicycle ride through the vast mountainous terrain of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

“Oh, thank you,” I shout, as we cruise downhill to the Rabbit Hill Inn in Waterford.

“We did 3000/vertical of climbing,” my friend, Martha–coordinated as always in cycling gear–crows. She shows me her Strava machine.

I’m not one for numbers or Strava routes; I’m more a cyclist who stops at farm stands, local delis, and lakes, but I smile at Martha, because we are back at the inn, and it has a bar and wide front porch sporting rocking chairs. “Excellent.”

Rabbit Hill Inn is perched on a hill filled with gardens and bird feeders that attract piles of hummingbirds and butterflies. It’s Shangri La for sweaty cyclists, especially with pilsners in hand as we sit on cushioned rockers.

“I’m not moving,” I tell Martha.

“Until dinner,” she reminds me.

“Welcome back home,” Leslie smiles. She and her husband, Brian, are innkeepers extraordinaire, and she offers us homemade pastries and chocolates, as we sit on the porch.

We’ve had a “bluebird day” of clear skies, and cool breezes. With Martha, everything starts early, and that morning, after a breakfast of fried eggs, black bean hash, fresh fruit, and yogurt, we rode along Chandler Brook until we hit the empty dirt lanes of Valley View and Hale Roads, everything steep and postcard beautiful. Red barns, cows grazing in meadows, daisies growing wild, patches of pine and aspen groves–views that kept my mind busy while my lungs huffed up the hills. After a pass across Passumpsic River, we found rolling pavement and more dirt hills along Joe’s Brook Road, until we discovered the flat and gorgeous Lamoille Valley Rail Trail that took us to a lunch break at Marty’s First Stop for perfect Boar’s Head sandwiches. It was comfy cycling on crushed stone and gravel from Danville to St. Johnsbury. This converted railway meandered through tunnels and culverts, past local farms, and fields of wildflowers, and we had plenty of nooks and crannies to stop at for breathers. Wooden bridges crossing waterfalls and brooks, benches with long range views, horses to pat, and a swimming hole to dip in.

After pilsners, Martha and I head to our rooms to “un-sweatify” before dinner. My room is themed in elegant comfort, with a gas fireplace, a canopied bed filled with multiple feather pillows, while Martha’s has a deck with mountain views.

The inn’s restaurant is elegant and award winning for two cyclists. We share an artisanal cheese board with local Vermont cheeses and then add salads of greens, strawberries, goat cheese, and pecans. Martha chooses free-form lasagna with summer vegetables, blistered tomatoes, and ricotta, while I go for the seared halibut with mushroom, English peas, bacon, and brown butter. We, of course, both get desserts. I dig into a savarin of orange syrup-soaked yeast cake with honey chevre, rhubarb with strawberry sorbet while Martha decides on chocolate semifreddo tiramisu of coffee caramel, whipped mascarpone and cocoa. The night ends on Martha’s deck with Chambord liqueurs. Then, we flop into beds and fall asleep instantly.

The next morning is leisurely, with plans for a stroll and a swim. After loading up on Pineapple Upside-Down buttermilk pancakes, Vermont sausage, homemade granola over yogurt, and multiple cups of coffee, we head out to the day-hike trails of Groton State Forest and go moose-searching in the bogs of Peacham Natural Area. We spend the afternoon at the top of Owl’s Head Mountain with 360-degree views and then take dips at stunning Boulder Beach.

“Welcome back,” Leslie waves, when we return. “Fresh cookies just out of the oven.”

It’s another perfect day in Vermont.

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