Vermont and New Hampshire Adventure, Day 7 | September 12, 2016 | Visiting Quechee Gorge and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Site; Driving home through the Southern Green Mountains of VT
On our last day of vacation, we left White River Junction in the morning and set off for home — with a few stops along the way, naturally! Our first stop was a quick one along the side of the road. Quechee Gorge, what they call “The Grand Canyon of Vermont”. Now, if you’ve seen the actual Grand Canyon, prepare to be disappointed. 😉 But, we still stopped, walked across the bridge, and did a short walk to get a letterbox. There’s a lot of touristy things around there, but we just came for the natural attraction. As we were leaving, we saw a big tour bus pull up and a bunch of elderly people get out and head towards the viewpoints — now we knew there was a Fall Foliage Tour following us, and we needed to hurry our pace to stay ahead of them!
For our final attraction for this trip, we stopped in Woodstock, VT to visit the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Site. Much like the historic site from the day before, we had no idea what this one was for before arriving. I hadn’t done much research, but I associated it to the name Rockefeller and imagined it to be big mansions like along the cliff walk in Rhode Island. We knew that if that were the case, it’d be a pretty short stop since we can’t do indoor tours with Charlotte, but since it was on the way we decided we might as well figure out what it was. (We were also on a mission for friends back west to collect National Park Centennial Stamps.)
Curtis went into the visitor’s center and learned that this area is actually to honor what (via preserving the home and property of) the Marsh, Billings, and Rockefeller families did for the conservation movement in America. To be brief, George Perkins Marsh (the son of the original owner of the property) wrote a treatise in 1864 suggesting that deforestation leads to desertification, a problem that was becoming increasingly evident in his home of Vermont where mass deforestation was resulting in landslides and property destruction across the state. These ideas were picked up by other environmentalists and conservationists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and (indirectly) lead to the creation of the National Park Service!
The inheritor of the Marsh estate, Frederick H. Billings (and later his grand-daughter Mary French Rockefeller) later would make the estate into a model forest and farm, putting into practice those methods of conservationism.
On the property, there was a big Victorian mansion with tours, but the main attraction of the area were the trails and carriage roads that went all over the property. Curtis eventually came out of the visitor center with the generic National Park Service brochure with a small map included, and we started wandering toward a trail trying to figure out what to do here.
As we were walking, a park ranger came up to us and asked if we needed help or knew what we were doing. We said we were fine, just trying to figure out what to do. She then asked us very specifically to tell her what we thought of the map included in the brochure. Curtis gave his honest opinion about what details there were and what he thought it was lacking. We talked with the friendly ranger for a while, and it was actually pretty fun. She was saying that she totally agreed with our points and that they were currently in the process of trying to improve maps and information for the public. We think she specifically wanted our opinion since we’re a young couple, younger than the typical crowd that visits National Park Sites, and MUCH younger than the typical crowd that visits a site as small as M-B-R.
She had us wait for a moment while she ran to grab some other informational guides: one of the more detailed maps for sale in the visitor’s center (actually a Woodstock, VT walking guide, not a National Parks publication), and a few samples of the maps they were creating to see what we thought of that. Then as a gift to thank us for our help, she gave us each our very first Junior Ranger Badges!! (If you aren’t aware, the National Park Service has Junior Ranger Programs at most of their sites for kids to answer questions or do some sort of activity and be awarded a Junior Ranger. We have several friends who participate in these activities even though they aren’t quite “juniors” 🙂 )
And so we decided to stay longer than we intended so that we could test out the maps and give them our thoughts after hiking around. We decided to hike the Precipice Trail to an overlook, and then wander around a bit more to find some letterboxes in the area. The trails are very nice and we really enjoyed our walk here. There are some points where the trail we were taking was narrow and precarious, but there were wires installed to help out. I’ll admit neither of us really came prepared for a hike, we had minimal food and I was wearing flip flops because we really had no idea there would be such nice trails around! If we lived in this area, I’m sure we’d enjoy walking in these woods more often. As it turned out, we really enjoyed our visit here!
After our visit, we finished the drive by enjoying the more Southern Green Mountains in Vermont and driving through small towns, and arrived back in New York around 5. It turned out to be a great trip, one of our favorites we’ve ever taken, in fact. We know we will be back to either of these states because there are so many more mountains and areas where we’d love to hike!