Some people don't think about Vermont in summer--yet. Autumn is the spectacular season and winter draws an army of ski buffs. Those are the seasons when crowds arrive.
But in summer there is a warm beauty to the rolling green mountains, a refreshing coolness to the fast-moving crystal streams. Everywhere you look there are lakes, a wealth of covered bridges and always, the gentle, beautiful terrain that is somehow different from anywhere else in the world.
It seems as if every inn in Vermont is being run by couples who are refugees from the city--who decided to get away from it all--innkeepers who try to make your every stay with them seem like a home away from home.
You'll hear more life stories and meet people from every part of the nation as well as from Canada, particularly from Montreal, because that city is only 1 1/2 hours away.
Northern Vermont is a favorite with Canadians. For their benefit, the signs are often given in two languages and many of the dairy farms have French names painted in large letters on barns and mailboxes.
And oh, the places you'll find to stay. In Montgomery Village, in what Vermonters call the Northeastern Kingdom of the state, is the Black Lantern Inn, a former stagecoach stop built in 1803 and restored by a young couple from New York. It has 11 guest rooms plus a three-bedroom suite with living room, all of which have private baths.
Furnished With Antiques
The rooms are furnished with antiques, and one bedroom has a wood-burning iron stove. Summer and fall rates, European plan, are $45 and $50 for the rooms, $65 for the suite.
The number of fine restaurants in Vermont's Northeastern Kingdom was a revelation. Zack's-on-the-Rocks, hidden deep in sylvan woods, is a 23-year-old diner run by Zack, a fey character who favors purple. His wife, Gussie, is in charge of the piano bar.
Period pieces that look as if every yard sale in the state was raided, furnish the restaurant. A sunken wood-burning stove, surrounded with cushions, is a perfect nook for conversation. Complete dinners range from $14 to $20.
The Hotel Jay at Jay Peak is well-known to skiers, but in summer its aerial tramway (Vermont's only one) provides a spectacular view of the Green Mountains, four states and Canada. The 48-room hotel, new and modern, has saunas, spa, swimming pool and tennis courts.
Bed-and-breakfast summer rates are $39 per person single, $29 per person double, $25 per person triple, $22 per person quadruple and under 12 years of age free (without breakfast). Activities include hiking trails, nearby golf courses and freshwater fishing said to be among the best in the East, especially for trout, perch and landlocked salmon.
At the base of the mountain is the Jay Village Inn, another haven run by a transplanted New York couple who set a gourmet table and practice a country-inn philosophy of making their living room a hospitable gathering place for guests. Jay Village Inn has a player piano, and everyone can join in singing and playing games. Rooms run about $42 for one, $48 for two, $58 for three. Two-bedroom suites are about $72 for three and $80 for four.
Favorite for Canoeists
The area is a favorite for canoeists and bikers. Vermont Country Cyclers offers weekend or five-day tours for ages 7 to 70. Bikers stop for dips in secluded swimming holes, visit historic sights and join celebrations. Group leaders accompany all trips and a support van follows to rescue the tired. Overnights are spent at country inns and include gourmet meals.
The two-day weekend bicycle trips start at about $149 during the early season (through June 17) and $179 during high season. High season rates for a three-day weekend are $269 and for five days, $459. Bicycles can be rented for $20 to $36 or bikers may provide their own.
At Craftsbury Center on Lake Hosmer, summer sports include running camps, training for distances from one mile to marathon at $270 complete for a seven-day week; walking tours led by naturalists, $300, six-day week; sculling and canoeing programs for everyone from rank beginner to those training for competition for $410 a week with individual coaching or $220 a weekend.
There are kayaks, sailboats and sportfishing, with instruction offered in a boarding school atmosphere that guarantees good food along with the fun.
If there's time, stop for lunch at The Landing in Newport, which is on a pier at Lake Memphremagog. Although the name sounds like a mumble it's a beautiful body of water that becomes full of action in July when the 30-mile International Swimathon race to Quebec takes place.
At Caspian Lake is another inn, Highland Lodge, which has a reputation for fine dining. It also offers lodging, with rates starting at $47.50 single and $85 double, including dinner and breakfast and all recreation except tennis and sailing. The proprietor is a retired lawyer.