FALLING FOR SMUGGLERS NOTCH

by Paul Maraschiello



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One of the most beautiful seasons in Vermont is the fall foliage season. This is the season when the leaves are turning and the mountains are ablaze with color. I decided to schedule a trip to one of the loveliest destinations I could find, Smugglers Notch, just north of Stowe, Vt.



I drove up in my 1974 Jensen Healey. This beautiful classic British sports car ate up the miles between Washington, D.C. and Smugglers Notch. I had a great day for the trip, the sun was shining and I was able to get on the road by 10 A.M. With the top down and the wind on my cheeks, I headed north on a road that I have traveled often on my many ski trips to New England.



I headed up Rt. 95 and had a eerie feeling as I passed New York City and noted the void created by the absence of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Mile after mile, the 16-valve four cylinder Lotus engine of my Jensen Healey sang in my ears. After I got off the New Jersey Turnpike, I picked up Rt. 80 for a few miles and then continued north on Rt. 17 to the New York Thruway. I followed the Thruway all the way to Albany and picked up the Adirondack Northway (Rt. 87). I got off at the Ft. Ann exit (exit 20) and headed east on Rt. 149 towards Vermont on Rt. 4.



In Whitehall, I had a tasty ravioli dinner at the Roma restaurant. I continued east on Rt. 4 until I crossed the mountains near Killington and then headed north on Rt. 100. I decided to forgo the beauty of Rt. 100 because of the darkness and headed to Bethel on Rt. 107 to pick up the super highway (Rt. 91) and save some time. After an hour, I was at the Stowe exit and very near my destination.



I finally pulled into Smugglers Notch around 10:30 that evening. I had never driven over the Notch from Stowe to Smugglers before and driving around those tight hairpin turns in the dead of night was exhilarating. As you go up the Notch road (which is closed in the winter), the center line in the middle of the road disappears and the highway becomes a thin strip of black pavement. I kept downshifting my little two-seater sports car and wound up going over the final section of Notch in first gear.





This time of year Smugglers Notch offers the lowest rates of the year. I stayed in a lovely condo, overlooking the ski slope. It had a fully equipped kitchen, fireplace (naturally) and a large TV in the livingroom and one in the bedroom and a great view.



I slept like a baby in the cool mountain air and was up early the next day. I did a little exploring at Smugglers that morning to see what they have to offer the autumn visitor and I was not disappointed. There is a lot to do at this ski area, even when the sloped are closed.



They have a wide range of activities that includes guided hikes, golfing, mountain biking, tennis, fly fishing, swimming, canoeing and more. There was an Octoberfest listed in the things to do, so I called a friend and made arrangements to drink a little beer and check out the Octoberfest.



I headed up over the Notch back to Stowe and was awestruck by the majesty of the mountains and the raw beauty of the out-croppings of rock. In the daytime, the road was not quite so intimidating and I was surprised by the number of tourists who were parked along the road, enjoying the hiking trails and the views.

After enjoying the scenery of the Notch road, I was forced to stop at a little church in Stowe that was having a flea market sale. I can never pass up a bargain but there was nothing I really NEEDED , so I pressed on to Stowe and did a little exploring.

The little town of Stowe is one of the great charms of this part of Vermont. It is picture-postcard beautiful. I could not help stopping in at a ski shop and checking out the latest equipment. I found that this is a good time to get a great deal on a mountain bike and a good time to purchase a pair of last year's demo skis. Luckily, I have enough skis, so after chatting with the owner, I headed into the center of town.



There was a parade that day and I horse-drawn buggy drove past me. I walked around the center of town and had a nice lunch with my friend at one of the local inns. We proceeded to the Octoberfest, and sampled the specially brewed Octoberfest beer. We listened to the Germans band and watched the dancers and other entertainment. The music was provided by an authentic Ooompah band, the Krazy Firemen who come form Rochester, NY. When the took a brake, they were followed by Die Lustigen Almdudler, another German band from Rochester. There was plenty of micro-brewed beer, liederhozed (leather pants) and pretty girls dressed in authentic alpine costumes. I got a chance to dust off my college German and joined in the fun There was plenty of good food that included wienersnitchel, knockworst and other German specialties.



The beauty of the afternoon beckoned to us, so we hopped into the Jensen Healy, put the top down and drove over the Notch to enjoy the spectacular views and the vibrant colors of this idyllic autumn day. Around every turn, we found impressive scenes of mountain splendor. The trees were ablaze with yellow and red leaves and it made you feel great just to be alive.



After cruising around the mountains with the top down, we worked up an appetite. We stopped for dinner at a charming little Mexican restaurant on the access road. There are plenty of good restaurants to chose from in this part of Vermont and we were not disappointed in our choice.



That evening, we went to one of the local haunts and sat around chatting all night, listening to a very talented singer play and sing song after song. Soon it was midnight and we parted company. I headed back over the Notch to my condo and was glad that my little sports car had a good heater. The temperature had gotten cold and I knew that the snow was not far away.



The next morning, I met my friend for breakfast and then headed back home. The scenery on the trip back was spectacular. Rt. 91 runs along mountain ridges and provides you with beautiful vistas and blazing views of the mountains. The run down Rt. 107 and then Rt. 100 was one of the nicest rides you can take. Soon I was driving through my old stamping grounds. I lived in the town of Pittsfield, VT for many years and passing through that quant little New England town always brings back found memories.



My car ate up the miles and I soon found that I had crossed over into New York. The sky clouded up south of Albany and I was forced to put the top up. By the time I hit New Jersey, it had begun to rain. I made it home to Virginia by midnight. My little adventure complete and my need to peek at the leaves fulfilled.



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