Leaves are leaves are leaves — until September comes and dried up leaves becomes big, beautiful business.
You know that amazing picture of fall foliage over a babbling stream under the light of a bright clear day? Well, it was probably taken in Vermont.
Vermont is home to some of the most breathtaking fall colors in the country. The northern latitude means early colors on the trees, and great swaths of protected forests mean those picturesque valleys and vistas are easy to find — and not overly crowded.
But foliage isn’t all Vermont has to offer, the stretch from Burlington to Lebanon might be one of the sweetest stretches in the Northeast, maybe the entire country.
The leg of Interstate 89 is a quick two-hour drive, but travelers looking to languorously follow the fall colors could pack several days with various activities.
Leaving the cosmopolitan college town of Burlington, the first thing on route is syrup. Sweet, stick, brownish gold — nectar of the maple tree. All along Interstate 89, travelers will see the signs emblazoned with “Pure Maple Syrup.” And for once, they can trust the sign without studying the label. Because of Vermont’s monumental stake in the industry, if someone says it’s maple syrup, they better be able to prove it! That means there is no added sugar, no unpronounceable chemicals and none of that neon food coloring. Nothing gets in the way of plain old sap boiled down into pure syrup.
Anyone in the area should stock up on a few bottles of the delicacy, one for morning pancakes on the road, another for back home and another for a friend — if it makes it home.
Driving on, just past Richmond, lies a cluster of state forests and state parks. Camping in and around Mt. Mansfield State Forest, Camels Hump State Park or CC Putnam State Forest is just the spot to catch unbelievable fall colors alongside brilliant green pines.
A little further down the road lies Stowe. It is one of the best spots for RVers to set up their perfect leaf-peeping base camp. With several RV-friendly campgrounds and winding scenic roads weaving through protected forests, it’s a pretty sweet spot. Not far from Stowe, nestled in thee Green Mountains is a little something that makes it all the sweeter: the Ben & Jerry’s factory.
It’s true, we all scream for ice cream, and we all should make the trip — but the destination is more than confection perfection. Daily tours of the grounds give visitors a look into the day-to-day process of making the iconic Vermont treat. The tours cover it all, from the milk to the loading dock. The tours also give a glimpse into the history of the company and, of course, there are plenty of samples to try.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Ben & Jerry’s without those Vermont cows. Visitors can grab a cone and watch the livestock from the site’s Flavor Graveyard, where those tastes that just didn’t make it rest.
From the factory in Waterbury, Vt., it’s more scenic roads, maple syrup stands and outrageous overlooks all the way to Lebanon.
Foliage fans should get to the area between mid September and mid October for the most-brilliant colors.