Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Rathbun's and Rail Trails


      I'm not sure what I enjoyed more, the swamps or the syrup. When we went to Rathbun's Maple Sugar House to meet friends for breakfast recently we were a little early (maybe because we drove and they rode bikes!). This gave us time to stroll the woods road in back of the restaurant while waiting for the others to show up. Glad we did because the path lead to three scenic wetlands and the tiny streams that drain them while roller coasting over several low ridges. Stone walls lined the way hinting at a time when these woods were sheep pastures. Now the 'livestock' are chipmunks, squirrels and beavers.

     This area of Washington County including parts of Granville, Whitehall and Hampton drains mostly into the Mettawee River with a low divide sending a few streams east into the Poultney watershed. Elevations range from just over a 100' along the river to Thorn Hill's 1163' summit. It's a hilly part of the low Taconics with a general north-south orientation of ridges and valleys but the topography is rather chaotic with many small ponds and swamps scattered amongst the higher ground. For wildlife it's an ideal mix of woodland and field, of upland and wetland.

Woods and waters make great wildlife habitat
(web image)

     I'm unaware of any public lands here so the best way to explore is by wandering the back roads that branch off Co. 12 and 21. You can drive, bike or find a place to park and walk. There are also some fishing access spots if you want to check out the Mettawee. Other points of interest include the East Whitehall Brick Church with adjoining carriage sheds and cemetery, views from Welch Road, Hatch Hill Cemetery and a lime kiln in the woods between Hatch Hill Road and Co. 12 (on private property). Also note that the 175 acre Horn property on Baker Road has been conserved by the Lake Champlain Land Trust but is not open to the public.

Ledge, forest and understory typical of this part of Washington County
(web image)

     After a great Rathbuns breakfast Gwenne, Zia and I took a short drive to Poultney, Vermont where we walked off the pancakes. The Slate Valley Trail's Poultney River Loop is an easy 3+ mile circuit around the village. It uses a section of the D&H rail trail that runs from Castleton, Vermont twenty miles south to West Rupert. The Poultney Loop branches off  the rail trail to follow the river in back of the former Green Mountain College campus. It's a level open path well suited to walking, running and gravel/mountain biking. 

Pics from a quiet, drizzily walk in Poultney

     Poultney took a tough blow when Green Mountain College closed in 2019. Raj Bkakta bought the property in 2020 and now he and his wife Dahnee are transforming the campus that will still have an educational focus. She has started a K thru 6th independent school and he is developing a program for those who want to enter the spirits industry. Also in town, the Poultney Pub has reopened after winter renovations and it appears that Hermit Hill Books is now operating as Laureate Fine Books. Up the street Stone Valley Arts at Fox Hill has a busy schedule of offerings, just one more reason Poultney is a great place to take a hike and stay for food, drink and culture.


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