Andy Kirkaldy: Taconic Ramble is a walk in the park – literally

At this point in my career I consider a stroll through Buttolph Acres with our two dogs on a leash as a vigorous hike. If we’re ambitious we go for the loop all the way past the courthouse and tennis courts.
The Robert Frost Trail also offers a fine hike. Not only is it essentially flat and not much longer than a mile, but also the poems scattered along the way allow for pauses for “contemplation.”
So speaking as someone who probably could still make it up to the top of Snake Mountain — but not without Sherpas, a masseuse and an oxygen tank — I was intrigued when a press release about Vermont’s newest state park, the Taconic Mountains Ramble State Park, reached the Independent earlier this spring. Here’s the website: vtstateparks.com/taconic.html.
Honestly, the pictures sold me. Several showed nice, level trails, and another showed three Adirondack chairs overlooking a gently sloping open field with a panoramic view of the Taconic range, which run parallel and west of the Green Mountains southwards all the way to near New York City. The hills and mountains to the west of Brandon and Rutland are part of the Taconics.
Several more showed pictures of a large Japanese-style garden, with small ponds, graceful little artificial waterfalls, curving wooden bridges, and miniature stone pagodas. My Spidey-sense tingled. Here, I thought, was a place that offered great views, not-too-challenging hiking, plus places to suck wind, er, contemplate.
And it wasn’t far away, in Hubbardton, around the corner from the Hubbardton Battlefield State Historic Site.
Some background: The 204-acre park at the foot of Mount Zion was willed to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation by Carson “Kit” Davidson, a documentary filmmaker and author who died in last year and during his many trips to Vermont from New York City built the Japanese garden. The bequest also included enough money to maintain the park and its trails.
In late June I persuaded my fairer half to load up the puppies, a couple of snacks and water bottles and head down Route 30. The park is a couple of turns and a few miles down some dirt roads off the highway. Those interested might want a good map, modern GPS technology, and/or the smarts to listen to the navigator when she tells you that you just drove by the access road.
In this driver’s defense, it’s not particularly well marked. A hand-written sign informed visitors that admittance was free, and I’m guessing that it still is. The park remains a work in progress. At least back in June cars had to park along the main road and walk a mile or so into the park itself (an easy hike, trust me) because the minimal parking area was a sea of mud. Given the weather since, I imagine that situation has not changed.
One nice clean portable toilet accompanied the parking lot. It got a thumbs-up from the brains in the family.
Outside a one-story modular home was a bulletin board with maps, and the area around the home offered the view of the park’s central working hay field and the Taconics flowing southward into the distance.
The garden is a couple hundred yards downslope to the southwest, with narrow rocky paths climbing upward into the hillside overlooking its pools, bridges and gently splashing water. Two people dragging a pair of dogs passed on that option back in June, but we’ll check it out next time.
The map also showed paths that rose through woods into waterfalls on the northeast corner of the park, but recommended waterproof footwear for those interested. Given we were wearing sneakers, had panting puppies on leashes, and had dinner reservations waiting in Middlebury we decided those trails could also wait for another day. Nothing to do with being tired, really, honest.
We left vowing to be back. What’s not to like? No, it’s not like carrying a 60-pound pack up Snake Mountain, like one of my co-workers did for fun recently, and the view might not rival that from the top of Mount Abe. But there’s a lot of scenic reward for what can be a brisk afternoon of exercise. And did I mention they’re probably not charging admission?
Oh, and there’s a bonus. On the way back to Addison County, just as you enter Sudbury, alert drivers will notice a sign in the shape of an ice cream cone announcing the presence of creemees ahead.
I can’t remember the name of the place, and even the Sudbury town clerk couldn’t help — he said the business has a new name even he couldn’t recall. But you can’t miss it: The shop is right across from a lake, with a pleasant view and a front porch offering chairs for more contemplative behavior.
And the creemees are actually, well, creamy, as well as delicious. Try the black raspberry. If you’re worried about the calories, the Taconic Mountain Ramble State Park does offer those steep trails. Go for both.  

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