Odds and Ends in Bennington, VT

Over my years in Upstate NY, I have driven through Bennington countless times to get into New England. It’s a charming little town full of surprises and quite the destination all on its own. Are you a Robert Frost enthusiast? His famous words, two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference…always spoke to me. He lived a town over from Bennington, but his grave is located in the city at the Old First Congregational Church [1 Monument Cir, Bennington, VT 05201] is in a gorgeous old cemetery.

robert_frost_grave_benningtonBelow his name is inscribed, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” Perfect.

In other news, have you ever counted the moose sculptures around town? There are so many, all unique snowflakes.

bennington_mooseMy favorite (not pictured, you’ll have to go out and find it!) is the Starry Night moose. If you think it couldn’t get any better than moose, there are also tons of COUGAR statues! Wow, Bennington is one lucky town.

I have also dubbed Bennington as ‘Covered Bridge Capital USA!’ Why, you might ask? Because there are three of the bridges in town (and two more in the county!!):

covered_bridge_bennington_4Burt Henry Covered Bridge, 34 River Rd, North Bennington, VT 05257

Paper Mill Village Bridge, Murphy Rd, Bennington, VT 05201

Silk Road Covered Bridge, Silk Rd, Bennington, VT 05201

covered_bridge_bennington_5There is even a Covered Bridge Museum [44 Gypsy Ln, Bennington, VT 05201] if you’re really fanatical, you can learn all about them!

Other fun Bennington spots:

+Blue Benn Diner

+Elm Street Market

+Bennington Battle Monument

Posted in Vermont | 2 Comments

Bennington Battle Monument, Vermont

After learning all about the Battle of Bennington, it was only natural to take a hop, skip, and a jump just under 10 miles over the border into Vermont to visit the commemorative Bennington Battle Monument [15 Monument Cir, Bennington, VT 05201].

bennington_battle_monumentThe 306 foot obelisk is the tallest structure in the state of Vermont.

bennington_battle_monument_2Through the end of October you can take a ride to the top to get a pretty spectacular view.

bennington_battle_monument_8From this height you can see into three states, guess which ones?! Walking around the four walls there are maps which will point out sites of interest.

bennington_battle_monument_3In my excitement to get to the top, I almost blew right past the exhibit at the bottom. Don’t make that mistake! You will find some interesting artifacts such as General Burgoynes soup kettle and information about the battle.

bennington_battle_monument_6Outside on the lawn there are additional monuments. With my newly found knowledge I was happy to see General John Stark.

bennington_battle_monument_7Also, check out the great moose. Bennington has a lot of these beauties.

If you’ve got battlefield fever and visit Saratoga Battlefield, you might be pleased to know they have a great monument there as well.

Answer: Vermont, New York, Massachusetts.

Posted in Vermont | 2 Comments

Revolutionary Upstate NY: Bennington, Saratoga, Ticonderoga

Bennington Battlefield [Intersection of Route 67 + Caretaker’s Road, Walloomsac, NY 12090]

The battle between forces of British General Burgoyne and militiamen under American General Stark clashed in Walloomsac NY in August of 1777. The British intended to gain American supplies and horses in Bennington to improve their dwindling rations, mistakenly underestimating the American defense. A turning point in the Revolution, the victory was the ‘first link in a chain of successes’ which would lead to Burgoyne’s surrender in Saratoga. You can learn more about the history through informational plaques at the top of the hill.

bennington_battlefieldAlso, enjoy just under 3 miles of trails. Begin on the Battle Loop leading you through the woods, passing by some noteworthy trees, across the street, and back towards the lot.

bennington_battlefield_8Take the connector trail,

bennington_battlefield_nyand head through more dense woods out into open fields of the pastoral area.

bennington_battlefield_ny_8In the summer, a field of golden rod blanketed the land, and it was hard to believe this was once the site of a dreadful occurrence.

bennington_battlefield_ny_5Check out the little information room for a more in depth report of the battle.

bennington_battlefield_ny_3Saratoga Battlefield

In the Fall of 1777 American’s were victorious in decisive battle, leading to the surrender of General Burgoyne and the British troops. Head to the Visitor’s Center to learn more information about the Battle of Saratoga and see authentic artifacts. Drive the Battlefield Tour Road and be sure to stop at the interpretive signs, bringing to life the sites where historical events took place.

saratoga_battlefieldEnjoy the bucolic scene and perhaps spy a true American bird- the turkey!

saratoga_national_historical_parkFort Ticonderoga

fort_ticonderogaEarly in the war Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold captured the fort from the British, but in 1777 Burgoyne retook the fort on his way to Albany. Only two months later, Burgoyne would be defeated at Saratoga and the British would destroy and abandon the fort as it no longer held strategic advantage. Today Ticonderoga stands as a living history museum.

fort_ticonderoga_6There are reenactments, musket and cannon firing, fife and drum corps.

fort_ticonderoga_5In the museum there are collections of 18th-century military artifacts. Outside there is fun no matter if you enjoy history or not. Rent a canoe, walk through the king’s garden, and if you visit in the fall there is a great corn maze!

Posted in Adirondacks, Rensselaer County, Saratoga County | Leave a comment

Chincoteage National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

No one knows for sure how the wild ponies came to Assateague Island. Perhaps they were shipwrecked and swam to shore, or wandered away from early colonists, but they are descendants of domestic horses. Over 200-300 years have gone by and now they are wild, dealing with the burning sun and biting bugs – the hardships of living on a barrier island by the sea. The herds are split into two, Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland and Chincoteage National Wildlife Refuge [8231 Beach Rd, Chincoteague Island, VA] in Virginia. As I was on a VA roadtrip and had minimal time I only got to see Chincoteage, but certainly got my fill of ponies.

First stop at the NWR was at the trailhead for the Assateague Lighthouse.

assateague_lighthouseAfter a few hours of driving we were keen to stretch our legs. The trail to the base is a quick quarter mile through quiet woods.

assateague_lighthouse_1When you get there you can climb up the lighthouse (for free with entrance fee!) and get a lay of the land.

assateague_lighthouse_9We got back to the car and continued down the road towards the rest of the activities ahead, there was a bit of a slow down and saw a line of cars stopped on a long stretch. We were about to see our first ponies!

chincoteage_national_wildlife_refuge_1The ponies are penned in on Chincoteague, different from in Maryland where they roam free, but they were close enough to observe with ease. I loved looking at the different patterns and the wild manes. My heart flittered as I saw one playful rolling in the grass, and another nuzzle its mother.

chincoteage_national_wildlife_refuge_3What character each individual had! I found that many of the horses had a buddy, saddled by cattle egret!

chincoteage_national_wildlife_refuge_2Feeling the excitement, we decided to take a hike on the 1.6 mile Woodland Trail. In the middle of the summer it was very green, exceedingly buggy (you must have spray), and blazing hot.

chincoteage_woodland_trailWe were dripping with sweat, but soldiered on in hopes of seeing more ponies. We made it to the boardwalk spur where we would catch a glimpse of some far off horses grazing in the field.

chincoteage_woodland_trail_5It is such a brutal environment these creatures are surviving in. There are other hiking trails such as the Marsh Trail, and the Wildlife Loop, but on a day like the one we visited – we had enough, it was time for the beach. Continuing down the road the drive was gorgeous, views of the lighthouse and such a serious diversity of birds.

assateague_national_seashore_5We made it to the parking lot and were thankful to see the inviting Atlantic Ocean.

assateague_national_seashoreIt was a bit crowded (understandably on a weekend in August), but my goodness was the water perfect! Not too cold, great tiny waves, we stayed in forever! Well, just short of forever. Wild horses didn’t drag me away, but hunger did. There are clean water showers in the parking lot which were very convenient, with clean feet we bid the island adieu.

We were off to nearby Captain Zack’s Seafood [4422 Deep Hole Rd, Chincoteague Island, VA 23336] for our last stop of the day, and the last of our Virginia adventures. This is more of a carry out, with some outdoor picnic tables. Order in the little shack and wait for your name to get shouted. It was way too hot, 100 degrees, to sit outside and eat. We took our booty to the air conditioned car and chowed down – worth the lack of ambiance for the enticing food.

captain_zacks_seafoodJeff went for the generous portion of shrimp tacos which were so fresh and flavorful, which came paired with a side of hush puppies. I’m not a big crab person, but being as we were in crab-country I decided to just go for it and get a blackened crabcake sandwich (my first crabcake ever!) and I’m sad to say I’m ruined for all future crabcakes. It was truly blissful. Made with lots of fresh crabmeat, light veggies, and a fluffy bun – oh yes, it was the perfect ending to say goodbye to Virginia.

Posted in Virginia | 4 Comments

Mind Trap

Still trying to guess that answer to yesterday’s Mind Trap?

Well here it is: By using a magnifying glass and the sun’s rays you could burn through the string and consequently cause the ring to drop to the bottom of the bottle. 

And as a bonus, here are three random pictures from my roadtrip through Virginia!virginia_is_for_lovers

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Historic Jamestowne, Virginia

Most young girls choose their favorite Disney princess, can you guess who mine was?

“I look once more just around the river bend, beyond the shore, somewhere past the sea

Don’t know what for, why do all my dreams extend, just around the river bend!”

Her adventurous spirit, her love for nature, her really long hair…I’ve always identified with the Disney princess Pocahontas. historic_jamestowne_virginia_2If you have ever driven with me, it is likely you know about my obsession. It was one of my favorite movies to watch as a child, but the love didn’t simply stop there. From childhood throughout my adolescence I had the cassette in my old car. My high school friends would humor me join in, we’d sing along nodding our heads to ‘Savages.’ True to this day – the CD is currently in my newer vehicle and I can pretty much sing every word, but my favorite song is always at the end “If I Never Knew You.” We listened to the CD repeatedly on the way to Historic Jamestowne [1368 Colonial Parkway, Jamestown, VA 23081], and I am happy to say it does have some historical content….’In 1607 we sail the open seas for glory, god, and gold, and the Virginia Company.” I almost shed a tear knowing I would actually be walking upon the land that my real-life Disney heroine once stood, envisioning the heavily romanticized relationship between Chief Powhatan’s favorite daughter and the brilliant, dastardly, John Smith. So, less about me – and more about visiting the first permanent English settlement in America!

Not to be confused with the nearby living history museum the Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne is the original site of Fort James. In 1607, 104 settlers manned a small fort on the James River which would eventually evolve into the United States of America. They had to choose the spot wisely, and for many reasons Jamestown was the right choice.

historic_jamestowne_virginia_1Jamestown is an island that became an isthmus at low tide – making it quite defensible. Not exactly the 100 miles recommended, but the island is 36 miles from the mouth of the river which was a day’s sail giving sentinels a chance to warn about enemy ships. The land was uninhabited by natives. Deep water made for easy navigation. The marshland itself is filled with natural beauty.

historic_jamestowneAlong with its excellent history, the birding is pretty great too.

historic_jamestowne_8Let’s not derail though. Back to the important stuff, like Pocahontas. She actually did marry Kocoum, but was captured and held hostage by the colonists. During her captivity she converted to Christianity and changed her name to Rebecca which means ‘mother of two peoples’. View the foundation of the church where Pocahontas married a tobacco grower named John Rolf in 1614, beginning a period of peace between English and Powhatan.

historic_jamestowne_virginiaThey had a son named Thomas and all traveled to England together. She would die there the next year. Many of their descendants are believed to live on today.

John Smith was certainly a courageous spirit.

historic_jamestowne_virginia_3He was a soldier in the Netherlands fighting against the Spanish and joined the Austrians to battle the Turks. He was captured and sold into slavery in Russia where he murdered his master and escaped. At 26 years of age he headed to Virginia, the new world. Some colonists viewed him as their savior, others as a rogue. His motto: “He that will not work shall not eat.” He learned the native language and became a principal trader. In another voyage he would charter Massachusetts and Maine, dubbing it New England. While Smith was a man of legendary status, he was known to exaggerate certain circumstances. For example, he mentioned on multiple accounts that noble women would save him from dire situations. While he was captured by Chief Powhatan’s men, it is unknown (and unlikely) whether Pocahontas truly saved his life.

The grounds are an activity archeology site,

historic_jamestowne_virginia_4and there is an Archaeology Museum housing many interesting finds. Here you can learn of more in depth information about the time period (as well as in the Visitor’s Center). I had heard of the ‘Starving Time’ in history class, but never knew how dreadful the situation truly was. In 1609-10 when John Smith returned to England to be treated for a wound, the colony became isolated. No more trade with the natives, and further, warriors attacked the colonists. Dysentery, typhoid, and even cannibalism were realities during this brutal time. There are actual recovered skeletons of settlers from the time period, and thoughts on how their lives may have ended.

historic_jamestowne_virginia_7We spent a solid three hours exploring the inside and outside exhibits before we got too tuckered out (heat wave + information overload). One quick tip: there is a discount if you have the America the Beautiful pass, as the National Park Service is in partnership with the settlement. All in all, the visit was more than I could have hoped for. It is a picturesque place that offered me honest insights to a 400 year old legend that has always captivated my mind.

If you are looking for a fantastic nearby meal, try out Food For Thought [1647 Richmond Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185].

food_for_thought_williamsburg_va_7It is a very popular place, you can call to put yourself on the list – but we didn’t have to wait very long as 2 without a reservation. I absolutely loved the interesting quotes from various historic figures on the walls.

food_for_thought_williamsburg_vaMy mind was constantly occupied looking about. Service was great, and between delicious bites of complimentary warm rolls (and cornbread!) and sips of good wine, we happily played with the cards on the table. Hmm, I’d never heard of ‘Mind Trap’ before. We read some cards and got into real debates trying to think of answers for court cases, learning about new bugs, and trying to solve riddles.

food_for_thought_williamsburg_virginiaAmazing! Then the food came out and I was truly satisfied. My meal was a baked cod and I chose spinach and sweet potato mashed – all were just to my liking! Jeff went for a surf and turf, steak, crab cake, plus fries and zucchini for his sides.

food_for_thought_williamsburg_va_5When it came to dessert, the bread pudding stole my heart. It was so oohy-gooey good, with dribbles of chocolate mixed in. What a perfect ending to my Jamestown visit!

PS – stay tuned tomorrow for the answer to Mind Trap!

Posted in Virginia | 2 Comments

A day in Richmond, Virginia

Sugar Shack Donuts, 1001 N Lombardy St, Richmond, VA 23220

The best way to start your day off is with a half dozen donuts for breakfast (I am not responsible for any medical mishaps due to sugar rush!!!). Though there was room in the parking lot, everyone else seemed to have the same idea because the little shop was packed! We patiently waited in line, craning our necks to see what was in the display case. There were so many different donuts available, but they weren’t labeled! Hello, panic. We got to the counter, pointed and asked pointed and asked. What are these beauties we chose, you’re wondering?

sugar_shack_richmond_vaSea salt caramel, tastes like a Samoa, watermelon basil, blueberry cake, chocolate peanut, and chocolate heath. Each was truly decadent and amazing. We could only stomach two each right away, but had a third as a midday snack (suffice to say, no lunch). All of the donuts are hand rolled and hand cut throughout the day – made with fresh fruit and toppings. You should really get a coffee too, their iced was strong and excellent – they roast it in small batches. There are other locally owned and operated locations throughout Virginia, D.C., and Florida.

Belle Island, 300 Tredegar St. Richmond VA 23219

A large island in the James River is one of Richmond’s most popular parks. Park in the lot dedicated to the island and cross over the water to get a place full of intriguing history and adventure.

belle_island_richmond_va_1Check out the trail map, though it would be pretty difficult to get lost in such a small place. The walk from the lot combined with a loop around the island is approximately 2 miles.

belle_island_richmond_vaBelle Island has always been a hotspot for human activity. There are so many interesting historical plaques, one telling of a Native American seasonal fishing village on the island. At the base of the rapids, native boys of 15 and 16 years old could prove their manhood by riding 8-foot long pregnant sturgeon fish, gaining approval from elders and local girls. Fast forward to the 1800s, and see the remains of a Civil War POW camp, where thousands of Union soldiers were held in terrible conditions (over 1,000 perished).

belle_island_richmond_va_4Further down the timeline, from 1904 to 1967 the Virginia Electric Power Company operated the power plant – powered the nearby trolley system and the steel company. Read about its history, how it worked, how it failed, and most interestingly – explore the ruins.

belle_island_hydroelectric_plantI love urban exploration, especially when it is legal and encouraged! Just be careful, there was broken glass and steep drop offs when I visited. Among the abandoned plant I spotted two five-lined skinks, it’s the perfect environment for these lizards. Actually, there is an amazing amount of wildlife in the park. I spotted my first velvet ant in the wild (beware of their sting, it is so painful these guys are also known as ‘cow killers’), numerous butterflies, great birding (osprey pictured below), and excellent flora.

belle_island_richmond_va_3Some of the trees are labeled, in an arboretum fashion. The river is situated next to the ‘Hollywood Rapids,’ named for the cemetery across the way. I visited during a heat wave so we were positively dripping sweat walking around the city – cooling off in the James River was a must to refresh our existence. We noticed everyone hang out in little kettles and we found our own quiet little space.

belle_island_rapidsThe current sure was strong (be very cautious), so I wedged myself right in a little jet – pure bliss. There were some other really great assets of the park including a rock climbing wall, and a quarry which granite was once extracted from, but now holds a great fishing pond. If you head towards the dry rocks area you can check out the tide pools, and spy the tall building where my brother used to live.

belle_island_dry_rocksDon’t forget to catch a magnificent view of the downtown skyline.

belle_island_richmond_va_2It is unbelievable how much this park has to offer! Back over the bridge, consider taking the canal walk to extend your visit in the area. It traces old Native American trade routes and visits the Tredegar Iron Works buildings, among other historical sights.

Edgar Allen Poe Museum, 1914 E Main St, Richmond, VA 23223

edgar_allan_poe_museum_richmondEnter through the oldest house in Richmond to find a world dedicated to the mysterious Edgar Allen Poe. The poet, novelist, and genius lived in Richmond throughout his life, but not in the exact structures of the museum. Learn about his early family life, love life, time period he lived in, contemporaries, view artifacts, and original works of the author.

edgar_allan_poe_museum_richmond_4Be sure to spend some time in the magical garden where you might discover two sweet black cats lurking about.

edgar_allan_poe_museum_richmond_1Lucky Strike Factory, 2723 E. Cary St., Richmond, VA

I love street art, and Richmond didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of colorful murals painted on buildings splashing color onto the scene.

lucky_strike_indian_richmondSomething different on the art scene was a sculpture of giant (25 feet tall!) Native American peering out from the top of the tobacco factory. His name is Connecticut which means beside the long tidal river, suiting resting spot for the piece which overlooks the James River.

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