By Elizabeth Bassett, contributor
Widening the focus beyond Charlotte’s immediate neighbors, here’s a sampling of walks within about a half hour of Charlotte.
Middlebury offers two unusual walking venues: TAM, the Trail Around Middlebury, and the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail.
TAM is a 16-mile footpath that encircles the town of Middlebury. It links town forest, conserved properties, schools and farms, and crosses Otter Creek on two bridges. Maps and information: Middlebury Area Land Trust, maltvt.org.
The Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, on Route 125 in Ripton, is a one-mile walk through the landscape that inspired poet Frost during his 23 summers in Ripton. Frost’s poems are posted along the trails. The first 0.3-mile is accessible and suitable for wheelchairs.
Ferrisburgh and Vergennes
Rokeby Museum, Ferrisburgh: A stop on the Underground Railroad and home to a Quaker family of abolitionists, Rokeby is more than a museum. It’s a window into the life of a prosperous 19th century sheep farming family. These 90 acres tell the story of man’s interactions with nature. Only a few miles south of Charlotte on Route 7, Rokeby offers guided tours of the house and farm in season. An interpreted walk threads through forest, field, garden and orchard.
Kingsland Bay State Park, Ferrisburgh: Although short, the 0.6-mile walking trail offers a restful stroll away from the lakeside busyness of the park. Beneath towering hemlocks and cedars, the trail stays close to the water as it follows the shoreline around MacDonough Point.
Button Bay State Park, Ferrisburgh: A nature trail, 1.6 miles, on the peninsula loops beneath very old oaks over limestone cliffs. The route is punctuated with listing northern white cedars and passes a giant fossilized maclurites magnus in the ancient bedrock. These snails lived in tropical waters about 500 million years ago.
Vergennes Falls Park: Not a very long walk but what a setting! Below the crashing falls on Otter Creek, six and a half acres of waterside park offer walking paths, picnic areas, fishing and a boat launch. Mechanic Street.
Buck Mountain: Located just south of Vergennes, this 900-foot sheepback mountain has unmarked trails that lead to its summit. This writer has only reached the summit by trial and error (lots of it). Make your first trip with someone who knows the way! Great views of Addison County farm fields.
Burlington and nearby towns
Properties managed by the Winooski Valley Park District are varied, from the scenic Essex Overlook to a hilly 3.5-mile walk around Colchester Pond. The WVPD, a cooperative of seven communities protecting natural resources in the Winooski River Valley, includes Burlington, Colchester, Essex, Jericho, South Burlington, Williston and Winooski. It manages and protects 18 parks and natural area on 1,750 acres of conserved land, with over 22 miles of trails and more than 13 miles of shoreline on lakes, ponds and rivers. For a listing, descriptions, and maps.
Rock Point is a new preserve in Burlington. A coalition of municipal, state and non-profit partners collaborated with the Episcopal Church in Vermont to protect the spectacular lakeside peninsula not far north of downtown Burlington.
Among its many natural features is the world-renowned Champlain Thrust Fault. A similar phenomenon created Mt. Philo—an inversion in which older rock layers were thrust over younger rocks—an ancient mountain-building event known as the Taconic Orogeny. At Rock Point this fault is exposed at eye level.
The Episcopal Church in Vermont owns the land at Rock Point. Lake Champlain Land Trust holds a conservation easement and maintains the land and the trails. Visitors must adhere to certain rules and obtain a free trail pass via a quick, one-minute online form. Visit the Land Trust’s website for directions, visitor guidelines, trail map, and trail pass.
Charlotte Library day passes
If you’ve not noticed that the Charlotte Library is an amazing resource, you’ve not been paying attention. Our library has day passes for a 24-hour loan to some amazing places! Vermont state parks, Vermont state historic sites, and the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier, for starters. Always wanted to visit the Birds of Vermont Museum in Huntington? Borrow the pass for a day. Vermont’s 53 state parks range from a beach with sand dunes at Alburgh Bay to Smugglers’ Notch, nestled between 1,000-foot cliffs in the Green Mountains, to 653-acre Green River Reservoir. Vermont state historic sites include Chimney Point, Bennington Monument, Mount Independence, and the home of President Calvin Coolidge. The library also has passes for Shelburne Museum, Shelburne Farms, ECHO in Burlington, Vermont Granite Museum in Barre, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, and the American Precision Museum in Windsor.
A final thought: the recently completed trail to the summit of Mt. Philo is a wonder of thoughtful construction by Timber and Stone, the gravel footpath and stone steps respecting the contours of the terrain. Bring your best lungs—it’s quite a climb!