Stillwater State Park – Groton, VT- August 31 – September 7, 2023

Greetings from the land of Bernie Sanders and Maple Syrup!

We left Ticonderoga around 1:15 pm. Had to have the pizza delivery guy move his car so I could get Voyager and Nomad out of the parking lot.

Vermont had some severe flooding damage back in July of this year. As a result, a drive that should have been about two hours from Ticonderoga took about four as we drove through construction zones and had to take detours. It was 5:30 pm before we got to the campground.

This is one of the coolest state parks we have been to. It sits on the edge of Lake Groton (pronounced Grotten, like rotten with a “G”). A lot of parks have different dumpsters for garbage, recyclables, etc. But this one also does composting! If you save your food scraps you can bring them to the ranger station at the entrance and they will add it to their composting bucket. So cool!

Even cooler was this: We were at the Ranger Station and Cindy mentioned the weather to Richard, the ranger on duty. He asked where we were from and we told him Orlando. He said, “Oh, I’m from Hialeah, Florida.” My jaw dropped and I said, “I’M from Hialeah, Florida! I went to Bright Elementary and Filer Junior High…” and he jumped in with, “Me too, except it became Filer Middle School by the time I went to it.” We spent a few minutes talking about things there and I was just amazed (he may have been too) to run into someone who lived in the same town I lived in as a kid and went to the same schools, albeit 30-something years apart, lol!

We are dry camping. No electrical, no water, no sewer. We filled our fresh water tank when we arrived. It should last us for the length of our stay. Generator hours are 8-10 am and 4-6 pm daily. We have all our batteries charged but will need to run our generator most days to at least charge things and give our coach batteries a boost (solar panel is in good position to get sun so that will help the coach batteries as well).

Only downside is NO cell or internet connectivity. No AT&T, no Verizon, no T-Mobile. There is a store about a quarter mile away where someone put in a Verizon repeater and we found we COULD get a good signal there. So several trips were made there during our stay to sit in the parking area and catch up on messages, calls, and social media.

Friday, September 1, 2023 we drove to Waterbury, VT to tour the Ben & Jerry’s factory. We had lunch first at Zachary’s Pizza and to use their Wi-Fi since we were able to get a signal there. Pizza wasn’t bad.

Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour

On our Ben & Jerry’s Factory Tour we found out that this is the first factory they built. There is second one in St. Albans, Vermont and a third in Europe. The tour was fun and enlightening. We could not take photos of the actual ice cream making part (proprietary information) but we got to see it and take photos of the other parts of the factory.

Ben & Jerry’s started in 1978 in an old gas station located in Burlington, Vermont. Over the next two decades they became one of the most socially-conscious businesses in the country. The company was sold in August of 2000 to Unilever, but with a clause in the contract that the board of directors will always be independent of the corporation and will maintain the standards and beliefs that Ben and Jerry started and expanded with. Today they are still dedicated to issues such as Social Justice, Human Rights, Climate Awareness, and LGBTQ+ rights to name a few! Just a really cool place! No pun intended, lol!

At this factory they make one flavor for 72 hours straight- which yields 450,000 pints of that flavor. Then they completely clean and sanitize all the machines and make another flavor for 72 hours straight, and so on and so on. The St. Albans plant is larger and during their 72 hours they put out more than a million pints of that particular flavor.

Their ingredients are all natural, all sustainable and they work with dairy cooperatives in Vermont for all the milk they use.

Top 10 flavors for 2022 were:

10 – Brownie Batter Core
9 – Chunky Monkey
8 – Americone Dream
7 – Phish Food
6 – Strawberry Cheesecake
5 – Tonight Dough
4 – Chocolate Fudge Brownie
3 – Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
2 – Cherry Garcia
1 – Half Baked

All the tour guide’s jokes are cow jokes; a new mother cow is de-calf-inated, cows can’t wear sandals because they have no toes, and here’s a short mooooovie.

It was a very interesting and enjoyable tour. There were free samples at the end of a flavor neither Cindy or I liked, so we passed on that offering. But we did go buy cones of our preferred flavors to enjoy at their umbrella-covered outdoor tables.

Saturday and Sunday we mostly relaxed. Took Bella for walks around the campground both days and I grilled up BBQ chicken on the Blackstone Saturday. Sunday we drove to “nearby” (25 miles) Barre (pronounced “Barry”) to do laundry and use Wi-Fi.

Monday we literally did nothing but take Bella for walks, read and relax. Ahhhhh.

Goodrich’s Maple Farm

Tuesday, September 5, 2023 we drove down the road a little bit to Goodrich’s Maple Farm for a tour of their facility and to stock up on some real Vermont Maple Syrup. The owner gave us a tour as well as the history of maple syrup in Vermont. Did you know there are four “blends” or “flavors” of maple syrup? We got to taste each one. When syrup was first made from the tree sap it took hours and hours of boiling and stirring in an iron kettle to render just a small amount of syrup. And the trees were tapped with a spigot on which hung a bucket to capture the sap. Workers had to walk around and collect the buckets, replacing them with empty ones and taking the full ones to be rendered. Today, the spigots in the trees are connected to pipes that force the sap to flow down to a central point for collection. And in place of the iron kettles there are gleaming stainless steel machines that render the sap into syrup. Fifty-eight gallons of sap renders into one gallon of maple syrup!

On the way to Goodrich’s we passed a Blueberry Farm and we planned to stop by there on the way back to see if we could pick some of that delicious blue fruit. It turned out the Blueberry Farm was also run by the Maple Farm folks and the owner kindly gave us bags and told us to go pick all we wanted! How incredibly kind and generous. There were also some apple trees as well so we stocked up on Eve’s favorite fruit too!

Sage Mountain

Wednesday, September 6, 2023 was a nice surprise for Cindy. A friend of hers, Emily, that she knew several years ago in Orlando saw on Cindy’s Facebook page that we were in Vermont and messaged Cindy that SHE was now living in Vermont. It turned out her home and non-profit organization, Sage Mountain, were only a few miles away from us, so we drove over there in the early afternoon to meet up with her. She used to be the President of the Herbal Society (not THAT kind of herb!) in Orlando and Cindy was the Vice-President, but they had not seen each other in years. Now she runs a wonderful non-profit located in a beautiful setting full of herbs, flowers, trees, etc. She was so welcoming and gracious to us, giving us a tour of the grounds. Cindy really enjoyed the time she had to see and visit with her again.

Vermont was a state we truly enjoyed visiting.

Thanks for following The Wandering Wetheringtons.

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