Vermont - The Best Place for Leaf Peeping

Leaf peeping season is almost over in most parts of Canada and the northern United States. So if you happen to live in the area, make sur...

Leaf peeping season is almost over in most parts of Canada and the northern United States. So if you happen to live in the area, make sure you go out and enjoy what I think is one of the prime natural wonders in North America - fall foliage. And while your local park or forest would probably work just fine, if you want to have a truly memorable experience, try visiting Northern New England or Adirondacks. I hope that the highlights from my recent trip to Vermont will help you plan your own fall adventure.

1. Driving a Scenic Byway.  
There is no shortage of scenic byways in Vermont. But I really loved the one we drove: it's remote, rugged and damn beautiful. Coming from Canada, you can start right at boarder with Quebec, at a mountainous resort called Jay Peak and drive all the way to Stowe. Not only can you enjoy the mountains and valleys, but you can also visit quite a few covered bridges that Vermont has become so famous for. Just make sure you take a slower route using the byways 108 and 109.
For someone like me who is originally from Europe, rolling hills covered by a red tree carpet is like a magic. But it hasn’t always looked this way. Distinctly red leaves of sugar maple that dominate the forests in eastern parts of Canada and the United States only recently made its way not only on the Canadian flag, but also to the top of a tree canopy due to extensive logging that happened in the area in the 19th century.  
British settlers did a lot of exploration, but also a lot of exploitation of a newly possessed land. The logging was brutal. The prime wood from centuries-old pine and oak trees was cut like crazy and shipped to all over the world leaving behind only stumps and ashes as well as small and soft trees unsuitable for carpentry. With the fast advancement of technology and railroads in late 19th century, people became really worried that a slow re-forestation would not keep up with a pace of logging, so many places halted a production-scale tree cutting. 
Historically, Vermont has been heavily affected by logging due to its proximity to major waterways with easy access to the Atlantic Ocean. Most of native evergreen trees such as white pines grow slower than deciduous trees. So after all of them had been cut in the 19th century, maple trees no longer had any competition and quickly reclaimed available land. However, as soon as evergreen trees become tall enough, they tend to suppress all other trees growing nearby by creating a thick shadow that isn't easily penetrated by the sun. So eventually those maple trees will have to give up space to white pines, firs and other evergreen trees that are slowly but steadily coming back. 
Wild turkeys fled Canada to extend their time until the Thanksgiving arrives to the States (yep, unlike Americans, Canadians celebrate the Thanksgiving on the second week of October).

2. Stowe.  
With the population of slightly over 4,000, Stowe attracts thousands of visitors per year. Winter is the prime time for tourism as there are a few world-class ski resorts nearby, but summer and fall weekends can also be packed with people who came to enjoy the scenery. The most famous view in Stowe: a white church sitting against a backdrop of a particoloured hill.
You won't find any chain fast food restaurants in Stowe. Nor will you find cheap and dirty general stores. All the places are nice and neat including a few stores featuring craft work of local artisans.
Winter sports lovers should check out the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum.
Stowe is a cozy and well kept old little town.

3. Covered Bridges.  
Very few man-made structures in North America incorporate elegance and beauty as well as engineering thinking and economic benefits better than covered bridges.
With most of them built in the 19th century, Vermont holds the largest concentration of covered bridges in North America.
There are over 100 of them in Vermont.
The main objective to cover a bridge is to protect the wood from water like rain or snow. It can easily double or triple a lifespan of a bridge.
With an increased privacy offered by a roof and walls, covered bridges have been nicknamed as 'kissing bridges'.
You should consult with Vermont tourists maps to locate the bridges. Try using a paper map, you'll get much fun looking for bridges as most of them are well hidden from the main roads with very few signs indicating where they are actually located. So for me it almost felt like a treasure hunt.

4. Smugglers Notch.  
Smugglers Notch is a mountain pass just north of Stowe. The byway 108 suddenly becomes narrow and slow as it takes you through the pass. The road is closed for winter travel from mid-October to mid-May. There are two reasons for that. First: it's very steep; second: there is a huge waterfall right next to the road. As a result, the pass is often wet and misty even if it's dry and sunny outside. So you can tell that with the colder temperatures it means ice, lots of ice.
Mount Mansfiled (elev. 4,395 feet / 1,340 m), the highest peak in Vermont, sits on the outskirts of Stowe. Those with stamina should definitely hike it (weather permitting), but you have also an option to either take a gondola or use your car to drive all the way to the top.
Smugglers Notch has been historically used to (surprise-surprise!) smuggle goods to and from Canada. First, during the trade ban that the United States imposed on the British Empire in early 1800s, and second - during the Prohibition in 1920-1933.
This place is right from the fairy tales, a must-see while in Vermont.

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