My original plan was to stop in New York city on my from Boston back to the Ottawa for the HKVCA convention, but my stay in Boston lasted longer than originally planned so I headed north and spent some time in Vermont instead. I originally wasn't sure exactly where I was going to stay in Vermont, so I just started heading towards the Burlington area. On the way I found out about the Rock of Ages granite quarry and manufacturing facility in Barre, so I stopped by there for a tour.
The manufacturing facility mainly produces tomb stones from granite extracted from the quarry, but they do produce a few other objects.
The granite quarry shown below is about 600 feet deep. As big as it looks, this hole is small compared to the granite deposit in the area, which is estimated to be about 10 miles by 10 miles by 10 miles deep! Note that this quarry only has the grey granite shown above. Other quarries produce other colours of granite. For example, there is one in Pennsylvania that produces the black granite used for counter tops.
Every piece of stone extracted from the quarry has to be lifted out by the cranes around the perimeter, so that kind of limits the size of the blocks of granite that can be used. If you look closely at the picture, the little blue specs you see are port-a-potties like that shown in the second picture below. The ladders along the side of the quarry are there in case the cranes break down - the men normally enter and leave the quarry by crane (they go in a 7:00am and don't leave until quitting time, 3:30pm).
The blocks of granite are cut from the ground by drilling many holes along the sides of the block. The orange equipment below are some of the drills used for that. Once all the vertical holes are done, horizontal holes are drilled along the bottom of the block then those holes are filled with primer cord. When the primer cord is ignited, it produces a blast just large enough to break the block free from its surroundings.
One interesting use of granite is to produce massive rolling pins for food manufacturing (eg to crush nuts). The rolling pin below is about 5 or 6 feet in diameter.
Around the quarry there is plenty of wasted granite that is stored in large piles like that shown below. These piles are quite ugly, but they have an interesting quality to entices people to live next to them. These large piles trap snow and ice in the winter, which takes all summer to melt, and that acts like a source of free air conditioning for the folks who live near by.
From Barre I headed to Burlington along lake Champlain. The city of Burlington was quite nice and definitely worthy of a visit, but I decided to just spend one night there and then I headed to the Stowe ski area in the mountains north east of Burlington. After so much time in the tree covered and relative flat land of the east it was nice to finally be near some mountains again. I drove right through Stowe and didn't stop until I got as close as I could to the top of Mount Mansfield, which was Smugglers' Notch to north (right) of the mountain as shown in this map.
The highway going through Smugglers' Notch was quite amazing, there is a 2 mile section in the pass with very tight corners around large boulders as shown below. As the signs on both end of the road indicate, no trailers or RVs are allowed here!
The Smugglers' Notch area is filled with massive boulders that have fallen from the top of the mountain, like those along the road above and those below.
The area gets its name from the fact that smuggling occurred here for about 200 years. The first acts of smuggling occurred in the early 1800's after President Jefferson passed an embargo act forbidding trade with Canada. As Montreal was the closed market, the embargo put Vermonters in a tough situation and many continued illegal trade through the Notch. Later slaves used the Notch to escape to Canada and during Prohibition in the 1920's, liquor was smuggled down from Canada through here. The pictures below attempt to show the cave that the Smugglers' used to stash there goods. The cave was created naturally by the massive rocks that fell from the mountain. The pictures below don't do the cave justice - it was very difficult to get pictures to really reflect the size and shape of the cave, it was massive.
This is a view of the parking lot from on top of the cave.
This picture shows how well hidden the cave is by the trees. The cave area is circled in red.
The entire valley from Stowe up to the ski hills (the solid red line on the map above) is filled with tons of hotels, motels, and lodges of one sort or another. I ended up stayed at a motel about 2 miles just to the west of the town Stowe. I chose this place because it had a quiet back deck.
The following few pictures are of the main street running through Stowe.
I spent a good part of my time in Stowe on my mountain bike. The first ride I did started in some trails behind my motel where I found this "Field of Dreams" ball diamond - yup that's a corn field around the out field.
After some time off-roading in the woods, I got on the recreation trail that goes for about 5 miles from the town center towards the ski hills and ends at this covered bridge.
The start of the trail is this bridge near the center of town just behind the church in the second picture below. The trail is a paved path that crisscrosses a stream going through the center of the valley - at least 10 times!
Another one of my rides looped around the north side of town. This ride provided good views of the ski hills.
There was also some interesting art on the side of the road.
And I even had a chance to see a glider being towed up to altitude.
I also did a loop on the south side of town to check out something called "Covered Bridge Road". The following was the only bridge on that road.
There was a fairly large ski museum in Stowe with all kinds of old ski and snow boarding equipment. It also had a large section dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division and the part they played in WWII. The most surprising thing I learnt about the 10th Mountain Division from a video that was playing in the museum was that many of the big ski hills in the US we created by men from the 10th Mountain Division. They learnt to ski in the army and weren't ready to give it up when they got home after the war!
The museum also had various kind of ski related art.
This old car showed up in the motel parking lot the morning I headed north towards Ottawa for the HKVCA convention.