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Lake Champlain, Vermont…

Posted by on September 4, 2015


HERE WE ARE. It’s kind of a mouthful, but let me describe to you where we are. Here goes: We’re at the Apple Island RVapple Resort in South Hero, Vermont. It’s located on South Hero Island, not to be confused with North Hero Island, in the middle of Lake Champlain. The Vermont mainland is to the east and across the lake to the west is the state of New York. The Canadian border is about twenty miles up the road. So, there you are…I mean here we are. Any questions? Good.


We’re in South Hero. It’s the red part of the island at 6 o’clock on the map.

ABOUT VERMONT. Vermont is very much an enclave of unspoiled wilderness, with thick forests blanketing the rolling hills and the valley lowlands. Only about 600,000 people live in in the state, making it one of the most rural states in the Union. The countryside is replete with manicured farms where the state’s trademark black and white Holstein cattle graze against a backdrop of natural beauty. The pastoral landscape, dotted with pristine villages and covered bridges, evokes the idealized images found in paintings by longtime resident Norman Rockwell. An anti-billboard law ensures that the countryside is not blighted by obtrusive advertisements. The Stars and Stripes are a familiar sight in Vermont, decorating many a front porch.

FAMOUS FALL COLORS. Vermont is at its scenic best in the fall, when thousands of “leaf peepers” come to see the natural phenomenon of leaves changing color…from the palest yellow to flaming scarlet. So, in about a week, in order to have the ultimate “leaf peeping” experience possible, we’re going to park our bus and spend a week driving our Jeep down Vermont’s Scenic Highway 100. It’s one of New England’s most famous scenic byway for seeing all the colors. Stay tuned.

BUT FIRST. But first, there’s a lot to see and do right around here at Lake Champlain. For starters, there’s Burlington, a lively university town rich in grand old mansions, historic landmarks, interesting shops, and an inviting waterfront on Lake Champlain. We’ll probably spend a couple days traipsing around there, because there’s so much to see. But for today, let’s just look around the Hero Islands where we’re staying, and get a feel for the state of Vermont. Then, we’ll play it by ear and see how the rest of the week unfolds.


LAKE CHAMPLAIN IS BIG. Lake Champlain is big…it’s the country’s largest bucket of natural mountain water. That would be almost 7 trillion gallons, by the way.  In the winter it becomes New England’s largest ice cube. It’s located mostly within the borders of the United States (Vermont and New York), but it’s partially situated across the Canadian border in the Province of Quebec. The Lake played a pivotal role in America’s struggle for independence.


Lake Champlain is big and beautiful. I took this photo just up the road from our campsite.


This was taken at North Hero State Park. It’s amazing…we haven’t run into any crowds in New England at all. Very unusual, we’re told. This park was literally deserted when we visited.


We followed this road to some beautiful lakeside homes.


This home’s yard is perfectly manicured right to the water’s edge.

INDIAN HISTORY. In the centuries prior to its “discovery” by Samuel de Champlain in 1609, the lake had become a bitter boundary line between two great Indian nations. On the West bank were the Iroquois and on the East, the Algonquins. Each nation claimed the lake in the name of their ancestors, and anyone caught on those waters by an opposing war canoe, was in for some serious stress.There was one matter however, that these warring tribes readily agreed upon…neither had any affection for early white settlers.


Iroquois Indians had little affection for early white settlers in the Lake Champlain area. Most settlers felt lucky to reach adulthood with their scalps in place!

Recently, there has been a tendency for politically correct American historians to re-write the unpleasant portions of its Indian history. We’ve been given a new picture…of noble, peace-loving forest dwellers, sitting round the campfires, sewing beads on their moccasins and singing peace songs. Hardly! Noble they were. Magnificent they were. Peace loving, they were not. Not among themselves, their Indian enemies or their white enemies. In the first century of settlement, the Indians dominated the area, and most settlers felt lucky to reach adulthood with their scalps in place!

THE HERO ISLANDS. Just as the Revolutionary War began, Ethan Allen, leader of his beloved Green Mountain Boys, was caught by the British and sent to England in chains. It’s a shame that he missed out on almost the entire fight, But to hear him tell the tale, he was a prominent hero in the battle!


Benedict Arnold.  A patriot as well as a traitor. Didn’t know that, did you?

From his prison cell across the Atlantic, Allen came up with the idea of petitioning the still Independent Republic of Vermont to grant “the boys”, the two largest islands in Lake Champlain. With modesty, he asked that they be named The Two Heroes, in honor of his brother Ira, and himself. The petition was granted in October, 1779.

BENEDICT ARNOLD. Arnold spent over a year fighting the British near Lake Champlain. Some historians believe that his audacity and valor here did much to secure America’s Revolutionary War victory. George Washington considered him to be his best field commander…that is, until he “turned coat” and went over to the side of the English. There is no doubt about his daring, and heroism on the lake in 1776. In school, we learned only of Arnold as America’s most famous traitor. But now, you know the rest of the story.

HERO’S WELCOME…A QUINTESSENTIAL COUNTRY STORE. The store was built in 1899 and has been operating almost continuously ever since, supplying both tourists and locals with a vast array of goods. You can get to it by car, bike, horse, ferry, seaplane, kayak, canoe, water skis and even ice skates! We wandered around inside the store for well over and hour, accumulated a brimming full basket of “necessities” to purchase and also enjoyed deli sandwiches made by on the spot just for us.


Hero’s Welcome Country Store, a fixture on the Island since 1899. Note the benches in front of the store: The red one is labeled: “Republicans” and the blue one is labeled: “Democrats.”



The Country Store carries just about everything…from necessities for the locals to trinkets for the tourists. Take a look at this list!


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We ordered deli sandwiches in the Country Store and took them across the street to the deck right on the lake.



Trying a lawsuit here would be a far cry different than my experience in San Diego for so many years. (And by the way, Mr. Sign Painter, “courthouse” is just one word. Sorry, I can’t help myself. I straighten crooked pictures hanging on a wall, too.)


I’m not sure you could find a nicer place to spend an afternoon reading a book.


Typical Vermont farm on Hero Island. All the farmers grow sweet corn…we’ve seen hundreds of fields of corn all across New England.


If I were a farmer in Vermont, I’d want to have my farm right here!

HACKETT’S ORCHARD. Hackett’s is a family owned diversified farm and farm market, with 47 varieties of apples, fresh cider donuts, apple cider, vegetables, pumpkins, Vermont maple syrup and more. We met the owners and learned about growing apple trees in Vermont. We also learned that we were a couple of weeks early for picking the McIntosh apples on the trees right now.



Hackett’s Orchard, where we’d planned to pick apples today. Unfortunately, the McIntosh apples are still a bit tart…better to wait a couple of weeks, according to the farmer.


Folks aren’t rushed here like they are in the city. The owner stopped to chat with us and seemed genuinely interested in our travels.


I bought a half-gallon of fresh, unfiltered apple cider. It’s much, much better than anything I’ve ever purchased in a supermarket.















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