Christmas rose

Mud season is upon us. It may not be muddy at your house, but as snow and ice melt, first in the valleys and later at higher elevations, it’s good to have some ideas for spring outings. Also a Plan B for days of April showers.

Shelburne Farms has plowed a walking trail throughout the winter, so even if ice remains in shady spots there is a safe place to walk at the farm. Reminder: no dogs from April 1.

The Burlington Recreation Trail has been widened and improved. From it one can walk or pedal across the Winooski River and then to the Colchester Causeway, which projects several miles into Lake Champlain. Beginning May 25 on weekends and June 15 on weekdays, the Bike Ferry crosses the cut between the Causeway and South Hero, giving access to the Champlain Islands.

The Lamoille Valley Rail Trail will one day extend 93 miles across Northern Vermont, from the Connecticut River to Lake Champlain. This four-season, multipurpose trail has been in the research and planning stages for two decades. Two segments of crushed gravel trail, a total of 33 miles, are now open from St. Johnsbury to West Danville and from Morristown to Cambridge. Former rail trails have minimal grade changes, rarely exceeding 3 percent, making them universally accessible.

The Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail stretches 26.4 miles from St. Albans to Richford. The crushed-gravel roadway trends uphill from St. Albans—meaning a free ride most of the way home!

Road Trip: Montreal Botanical Garden
With 10 greenhouses and some 36,000 plants, this garden and greenhouse complex is a cheerful destination on any day. In addition to seasonal displays (think tulips and other spring bulbs), greenhouses feature ferns, arid-region plants, orchids, tropical rain forest, and tropical food plants, among others. Thirty thematic gardens spread over 75-hectares (about 185 acres). Even if this is not the season for flowers or vegetables, many of the outdoor “rooms” display beautiful color, texture and design year round. Spend the day and enjoy lunch or tea before the drive home. The garden is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., except Monday. It stays open until 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Full price is CDN $20.50 with discounts for seniors, students, youth and families. Note: the Biodome is currently closed for renovation and scheduled to re-open this summer.

An excellent reason to visit the Montreal Botanical Garden now is a display, through June 30, of the sculptural stick work of Patrick Doherty. Some may recall a decade or so ago when Doherty crafted a whimsical collection of figures, rooms and spaces on the lawn in front of Middlebury College Museum of Art.

During his career Doherty has created nearly 300 sculptures across the world. It is a rare opportunity to see his work so close to home. Doherty enlists local artists and art students to help gather truckloads of saplings and then weave them into his gigantic designs. In Montreal Doherty utilized more than 15,000 volunteers and visitors to weave willow branches into his three installations. Doherty’s completed sculptures tower up to 30 feet in height and, in addition to being beautiful, are ethereal, fun and even funny. Their names often are puns. The three Montreal installations are Thrown for a Loop, Fancy’s Bower and Doodle Coming to Life.

Closer to home.
If you have not yet cleaned out your bluebird houses, do it pronto. It is suggested that you place boxes in pairs, one for the inevitable house swallows that will occupy one and a second for a nesting pair of bluebirds. If you are lucky enough to host a successful breeding pair, it is possible a year-old bird may return the following year to nest in the house from which it fledged. 

Enjoy the season!