Inn-to-Inn Walking Tour in Vermont
Imagine an artful sprinkling of Victoriana, with extras like a full-blown English tea on weekends; a breakfast that runs the gamut from elaborate crepes to a baked frittata; and friendly innkeepers Penny and Dan Cote, whose warm welcome tempts you to forgo walking and just wait for afternoon cookies.
Step out the front door of their 1851 Victorian mansion, and you’re in the heart of Chester village, home to the eclectic Moon Dog Café, where you can stock up on additional road snacks or Indian incense, and Misty Valley Books, where the door’s always open for French conversation (they hold weekly classes) and a good read.
Beyond the village border, you’ll pass historic Chester Depot before straying into deep countryside. Pavement morphs into dirt (the Green Mountain State is home to more dirt roads than paved), and suddenly it feels as though you’re stepping off the map into uncharted Vermont. Red barns sprout up, ubiquitous as milkweed in late summer, along with enough winding stone walls to defend a medieval village. By the time you amble off the dirt and onto Route 10, with the Old Town Farm Inn in sight, you’re ready for a full-blown Japanese meal.
Part 2: Old Town Farm Inn to Combes Family Inn (10.7 miles)
Japanese haute cuisine in the Vermont boonies? Michiko Yoshida-Hunter’s family owns a restaurant north of Tokyo, and halfway around the world, the tradition continues at the small inn’s ToKai-Tei restaurant. Husband Aleks Hunter steps up as sous-chef, and tiny Michiko, slender as bamboo, takes your order, prepares the food, and delivers it to your table: delicate gyozas, veggie tempura light as sea foam, and spicy tuna roll so fresh it practically flops. (It’s BYOB, but if you pack it in your luggage, it’ll arrive in your room before you do.)
When it comes to the walking tour, Aleks does his best to help you de-stress. “We try to make it relaxing,” he says. “Help people turn off the part of the brain that worries too much.” For emphasis, “Cell phones don’t work here. No signal,” adds this former Brooklynite. In the morning, on the drive to where the next walk begins, he might take you via Mount Ascutney or along scenic Route 131. At the very least, he’ll spill the beans on former residents, including Pearl Buck and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. “I give my own twisted version of history around here,” Aleks grins.
He drops you on a road that winds past Lake Ninevah (moose alert) and then parallels Patch Brook, a classic babbling beauty. More water ensues–the Black River and Lake Amherst–until you reach the Revolutionary War cemetery overlooking sparkling Echo Lake. For three bucks you can stroll across the street into Camp Plymouth State Park, throw off your backpack, and slide into the water. You’re less than two miles from Combes Family Inn in Ludlow, where hearty home cooking, spiced with pearls of Yankee wisdom, awaits your arrival.
Part 3: Combes Family Inn to Rowell’s Inn (9.6 miles)
“I’m not a chef. I’m more of a cook,” announces Ruth Combes. If you’ve got a pad of paper, you may want to take notes. For starters, freezing potato chips keeps them fresh.
Ruth runs the inn with her husband, Bill, and the dining room feels like your grandmother’s, except that it seats 39. A pretty field spreads out beyond the bay window, framing a weathered barn surrounded by phlox. They’ve been running the place for 34 years–so long that “our kids are moving back.” Ruth says things like “hoity-toity,” and when I ask what’s in the casserole, she picks up my fork and pokes at the fresh fiddleheads and mushrooms: “Here’s what’s in it!” The delicious broccoli soup is thickened with potatoes and garlic.