In the midst of so many beautiful memories and places in Vermont, we went on several other adventures to take in the sunlit colonnades of various colors and types of trees. Each adventure had its own qualities to discover and delight in.
The locals encouraged us to drive up to Smuggler’s Notch a short distance north of Stowe. The geographic value of this is that it is a mountain pass that separates Mt. Mansfield, the highest peak in the Green Mountains, from Spruce Peak and the Sterling Range. The elevation tops out at 2,170 feet (a height that seems small compared to the peaks and passes of the Rocky Mountains). Even so, the trip there slowly takes you along curves as it climbs and before long you find yourself in the midst of twists and turns that become switchbacks with room for only one car on the curve itself.
Heightened awareness is required as the road nearly becomes a trail and you discover cars pulled off along the side of the road. There are really no true parking spots except in one small lot that is packed with vehicles and a large school bus! Any potential place to allow the passengers to get out and hike around through the trees and rocks near the top are sought out and used along the road with precious little room for cars continuing on the road to squeeze through.
The history of the Notch is intriguing. It got its name (Smuggler’s Notch) as a result of the decision on the part of President Thomas Jefferson to prevent involvement in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1807, the Embargo Act was passed and forbid American trade with Great Britain and Canada. This caused hardship for the Vermonters who found these two countries to be convenient trading partners.
As a result, many chose to continue carrying goods and herding livestock through the Notch. Later in U.S. history, fugitive slaves used the Notch as an escape route to Canada prior to and during the U.S. Civil War. Then in 1922, the road through the Notch served another purpose when liquor was smuggled into the United States from Canada during prohibition. (Today the drive to Canada is less than two hours from the Notch so it is easy to understand why Vermonters used it to connect with their northern neighbors.) Then finally, Smuggler’s Notch State Park was created near the Notch by the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps.
For those who love good stories, the trip up to Smuggler’s Notch not only affords beauty, but also stirs the imagination about the way the notch was used over the course of history.
If you can find a safe place to park your vehicle to explore the area, it is well worth the time. You will also want to try the hike to Bingham Falls along the way. The trek to the falls is not for toddlers or perhaps those who have difficulty walking, but it is a fairly easy hike for others. In the fall season, the water is not as abundant and the falls are not as full of rushing water as can be seen during spring and earlier in the summer, but long before you catch a glimpse of them you can hear them rushing over the rocks.
You can easily find a variety of trails to hike with varying degrees of difficulty throughout the area. If you are unsure of trying any of them, be sure to check out the Stowe Recreational Path that runs for 12 miles and provides easy walking and great views in and around the Stowe area. You can hop on at any number of places and enjoy the beauty of the foliage, the stream that runs through and adjacent to it, footbridges, and corn mazes. There will be park benches to sit a spell and enjoy the view and in a few places picnic benches as well.
Romans 1:20 ESV
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, ‘have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,’ in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”