Fall Foliage. Covered Bridges. Leaf Peepers. Newfane, Vermont. A series of two-word sentences that go together like warm maple syrup and hot-off-the-griddle pancakes.
I know it’s a little early to be highlighting the autumn season, but if I do so now, you’ll get a jump on making reservations for your family trip because during the month of October, things can get a little busy and if you don’t make reservations (sometimes 1 year in advance), you can forget it.
I had a friend staying with me at the beginning of the autumn season in 2002, when I lived in New Hampshire, and we were on our way to Manchester, Vermont to shop. Manchester is know for great outlet shopping. In fact, I can almost hear the Ralph Lauren outlet yelling my name. Anyway, it wasn’t my sole purpose to visit Newfane, Vermont, but it should have been.
Crossing over the state line from New Hampshire into Vermont, and continuing up Highway 30 North from Brattleboro, the hills began to roll. They don’t call it the Green Mountain State for nothing, except during this time of the year, the hillsides were exploding in hues of orange, maroon, and yellow. It looked as if they were on fire and it practically took our breath away.
It’s not hard to take a picture like the one below. All you have to do is point your camera in any direction.
Newfane, whose population is 1,726 (2010 census), is a hop, skip, and a jump north of Brattleboro (approx. 15 miles), and as soon as we saw the covered bridge before getting into town, we were speechless once again.
I don’t know if anyone has seen the movie Funny Farm, starring Chevy Chase, but there is a line from that movie that makes me giggle whenever I see a covered bridge. One of the movers who was moving Chevy’s character from NYC to Vermont was about to cross one of these wooden structures and he said, “That’s not a bridge! That’s termites holding hands!” Not to worry though, because these wooden bridges are some of the best construction I’ve ever seen. The only thing you have to watch out for is oncoming traffic because they are only one lane, coming and going.
See what I mean? It’s not unusual to see an oncoming car, but it’s completely safe.
To be honest, I never knew why the bridges were covered until I spent some time doing research. I figured it was to protect the floor surface from ice and snow and while the covering them does protect the bridge from weather,back in the day, someone known as a tender would actually spread snow on the bridge floor so that horse-drawn sleighs could easily skate across. Some also claim that the bridges were covered to keep horses from getting spooked by the water, but truth be told, it’s only because of the trusses (cross-beams). If the trusses are exposed to the variations in the weather, they begin to rot, thus rendering the structure susceptible to destruction. No bridge? No access in and out of town.
When people hear the word, “Vermont,” they immediately imagine white churches with tall steeples poking out from the autumn colored trees. While that is true about most towns in New England, Newfane seems to fit that image perfectly. Even if you’ve never step foot in the town, chances are you’ve seen it on a postcard.
Not far from the church is the Windham County Courthouse:
Near there is the Newfane Country Store and if they don’t have what you’re looking for, you don’t need it! From quilts to fudge, it’s like you’re stepping back in time.
One you step inside, you not only feel the warmth from the owners and its’ employees, but but aroma will stop you in your tracks. That’s when you find yourself stepping up to the candy counter and ordering from the vast amounts of homemade fudge that tickle the senses after you’ve tasted a few samples.
Looking back over the broad common, lined with stately elm trees and maples, it’s hard not to fall in love with the Greek Revival public buildings that small towns in Vermont are known for. It makes you want to find the nearest place to purchase a flannel shirt, cozy up by a warm fire while sipping hot apple cider, and chat about the comings and going of leaf peepers looking for the same family atmosphere I had long searched for myself.
It made me wonder what this community would look like during the Christmas holiday season. If I close my eyes, I can almost see the children dragging their sled up the nearest hill and I can see them as they reach the bottom, spraying snow in all directions and tumbling into a pile laughter before heading back up the hill to do it all over again.
Yes, it’s hard not to fall in love and if you ever make it up to Vermont (and you definitely should), make sure you stop in Newfane and absorb this lovely picturesque postcard town and its warm, welcoming citizens. You won’t regret it one bit and it’ll be the town that you remember over and over again.