Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trip to Manchester, VT

Yesterday, Jeannine and I met some friends (old friends for her, new friends for me) at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT. The Northshire is perhaps our favorite bookstore -- I highly recommend it to anyone who loves books (and good food -- they have a very nice cafe). And Manchester is kind of a neat little town -- a slightly odd but charming combination of historic places (perhaps the most prominent being "Hildene", the estate of one of Abraham Lincoln's sons), and modern outlet stores. There is also the beautiful Mount Equinox, the top of which can be reached by an automobile access road (just be sure to take the advice of the signs posted on the access road, and stop halfway down for a few minutes to let your brakes cool down -- the last time we took that trip, I didn't do it, and my car's brake discs -- or probably more likely the brake pads -- were smoking when we got to the bottom).

On this visit to the Northshire Bookstore, I knew Jeannine would be occupied with writing in the bookstore's cafe for several hours, so I decided I would try to see if there were any interesting places to bicycle in the surrounding area. And at, I found the Delaware and Hudson Rail Trail, a 22.3 mile trail near  the New York border. A rough estimate from looking at the map indicated that it was probably between 10 and 20 miles from Manchester, so that certainly seemed within the realm of practicality and scheduling.

So I hauled a couple of bikes along with us in my truck (just in case one of the friends wanted to join me) and while Jeannine was sipping coffee and turning words into art, I drove over the mountains toward West Rupert, VT, where one of the parking areas for the rail trail was supposed to be found. It was interesting to see that there was still quite a bit of snow up in those hills. Fortunately, none of it remained down at rail trail altitude.

I found the parking spot with no problem, got out my bike, and headed south. I was a little disappointed at first that the trail was not paved (I have gotten a little spoiled, I guess, by the plethora of paved rail trails in our area), but the cinder path surface was actually not bad to ride on… a little bumpy and ragged in spots, but nothing I wouldn't ride on again. 

To the right of the trail, a small river meandered in and out of the fields and trees.

I only rode for out forty-five minutes, given that there was rain predicted, but in that short time I decided that I need to come back to this trail when the weather is nicer and the greenery which gave the "Green Mountain State" that name is out in profusion -- it should be quite beautiful.

Near where I decided to turn around, I saw this view in the small river which followed the trail most of the way:

There's something about that blue green color of turbulent water in the rivers around here… I find it mesmerizing.

I saw no other bicyclists on the path, and only one other person, a man walking his dogs. On the drive back to Manchester, I stopped in a small town called Dorset, because I saw something that caught my eye -- right next to the road, huge blocks of marble and what appeared at first to be a pond surrounded by marble blocks.

But, in fact, it was something else, something illuminated by this sign:


Oldest Quarry in U.S. 1785

Here, near Mt. Aeolus, Isaac Underhill opened the first marble quarry in 1785. Dorset quarries were most active in early 1800's when small slabs were used for hearths, doorsills and headstones. With better transportation and saw, larger blocks were quarried."

It was odd -- but cool -- that this marble quarry would be literally just a few feet off of a main road in this part of Vermont. I parked the truck and got out to take some photos. 

Here's a small panoramic view of the quarry -- you can see the road, Route 30, I believe, on the right hand side.

I really liked the look of this stack of marble blocks.

I walked to the quarry's edge and stared down into the water… and wondered exactly how deep it was. I felt an irrational pull (easily resisted, I hasten to add) to dive in. As I stood there, I couldn't help thinking of the "… lovely, dark, and deep…" phrase from Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" poem.

This shot I like for the rippling reflections, and the "marble lagoon" look of the place…

 I would have taken even more, and spent more time wandering around there and checking out all the interesting stacks and heaps of gargantuan marble blocks and slabs, but for the fact that there didn't seem to be any LEGAL parking spots near the quarry, which was more than a little odd, given that it was a public attraction. 

I continued on back to Manchester, joined Jeannine to say farewell to our friends (one of whom, a four year-old girl, drew a nifty turtle -- not a ninja turtle -- 

...for me before she left with her parents), and then headed home. On the way out of Manchester and heading toward Bennington, we debated what to do for dinner -- should we continue south on Route 7, the way we'd driven up to Manchester, and stop in Williamstown to eat at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Deperados… or take Route 9 east out of Bennington, and head towards Brattleboro, where we could pick up some yummy deli items at the Vermont Deli, another of our favorite food spots? We opted for the latter.

I wish we had taken our own advice -- just after turning onto Route 9, we were musing that it would probably be a good idea to call the Vermont Deli to make sure that they would be open when we got there. They WOULD have been open -- we got there around 5:30 and their posted hours said they closed at 7 -- but THAT day, of all days, they were closed for "Spring Cleaning"! 

Oh well… "the best laid meal plans" and all that. Even so, it was a fun day. -- PL


Jeff M said...

I liked the pictures of the quarry. They had a sort-of ruin look to them-- like the remains of some civilization past. The water also looked really beautiful. I also liked the turtle picture. It was cute in it's crudeness.

Mark H said...

I like the panoramic shot of the quarry. That looks very neat. Looks like some fun riding trails too. Sounds like a fun day trip. You took some great pictures. Thanks for sharing them with us.

"PL Said... the last time we took that trip, I didn't do it, and my car's brake discs -- or probably more likely the brake pads -- were smoking when we got to the bottom"

Wow! That's pretty crazy!