When I was doing my trip planning, I did a Google search for Llamas Vermont, and I found the
Northern Vermont Llama Company. When I learned that they actually take people on walks with llamas, I was IN!
Cousin and I were both looking forward to this, and it might have ended up being our favorite event of the entire vacation! We watched the weather forecast every day with fingers crossed! We probably would have gone unless it was storming. We did get rained on a little at the end. As you can see in these photos, there were nasty storm clouds aloft, but we lucked out and the sun was out for most of our trek. Here are the 5 llamas and 1 alpaca that were to be our pack animals for the next 3 hours:
The event starts from the parking lot at the Smuggler's Notch Resort. Getting to the resort was interesting - we had to follow Rt. 108 north past the Gondola ride at the base of Mt. Mansfield, uphill and around a lot of twists of a narrow road - appropriately called "the notch". Parts are so narrow there are no lines down the middle, and it isn't wide enough for 2 vehicles, and it is hard to tell if there is another vehicle coming around the next bend. I would NOT want to do it in the winter when the pavement is slippery! My cousin was a brave driver and got us there safely!
When we arrived, Lindsay was starting the process of getting the saddles and packs on each animal. She was incredibly organized! It was obvious she'd done this before! Between loading things on the animals, she was also welcoming the other hikers and getting paperwork completed.
I selected Riley to be our llama guide. This is Riley:
Cousin and I took turns leading him - sort of like walking a dog on a leash. Before we started out, Lindsay gave us some instructions:
- Only pet their necks and don't touch their heads or butts.
- Try to be calm and quiet around them - no yelling or rowdy behavior.
- Don't let the animals snack on the way - just pull them away from whatever munchies they are heading towards (Riley loved to grab low hanging tree branches as we walked!)
Lindsay led us past the resort and up a hill into the woods. The path was rocky and muddy in places. There had been quite a bit of rain in the few days before this trek. In retrospect, if I had known how steep the trail was going to be in places I would have declined to go because I would not have thought I could do it, but once I was in the middle of it, I couldn't back out, so I persevered. It was rough and I was exhausted at times, but I survived. Now I remember it as being a unique and rewarding experience, and the strenuous climb isn't what stands out in my mind.
We took breaks on the way up. There was a break where the animals could snack, and another break where the animals could relieve themselves. (There was actually a small area where they all did their business, off of the trail.) We took another break for people to use the restroom. Eventually, we did a lunch break. We came to a small clearing along a stream. Lindsay unloaded all the animals, and moved them to a side area where they got tied to trees. Then Lindsay opened up all the packs and set up lunch. She had a portable table which she covered with a nice cloth and some lace. She even had a llama napkin holder! Then she brought out food: a variety of fruits, cookies and muffins, beverages, and she closed with little Ben & Jerry ice cream cups. What a treat! I would guess that our lunch break was about 20-30 min maybe.
Once she packed up and started back, she told us that 90% of the hike was before lunch and was mostly uphill. After lunch was only about 10% of the actual hiking and was mostly downhill.
We returned to the parking lot in just under 3 hours and said goodbye to our new animal friends and Lindsay. She gave us each little baggies of fiber from our llama companions. Over all, the experience was rewarding, and we both listed it high on our favorite activities list.
That must be it for Day 7, you say! Oh Goodness, NO! We drove back to the lodge where I hurried to change my clothes and get cleaned up so I could go on adventure #2!
I had signed up to take a pastry class at the Austrian Tea and Tap Room, just down the road from the lodge. This is one of the many Lodge Activities that guests can sign up for. I turned myself around in less than 30 min and took the lodge shuttle van to the Tea Room. WHEW!
This small restaurant used to be the house of Johannes, Lynne, Kristina and Sam von Trapp. The kitchen is responsible for many of the pastries offered at all the von Trapp restaurants. If I had to work in that kitchen, I think I would spend a lot of my time gazing out of the huge windows looking at the amazing view.
This restaurant itself is just a sort of sandwich shop and bakery for small meals. Cousin and I ate there one day for lunch.
There were 9 of us signed up for this class taught by 2 young women who are professional pastry chefs. When we arrived, we each picked a station where were found a black apron and a mixing bowl filled with some yummy ingredients. We were also given a packet containing 3 recipes.
For the next 2.5 hours, we were guided and instructed in the creations of 3 pastries. It was a little confusing because we would do 1 task for one item and then while that was chilling or baking, we would work on a task for another item. It was sort of hard to keep track of what went with what. Looking back on it, it makes sense, but at the time it was a little confusing.
There was also an item that we watched the chef prepare because it involved cooking and then mixing some dough, but there weren't 9 burners and 9 mixers for all of us, so we watched her, and when the dough was ready, she divided it among all of us. (I think that was the Cream Puff dough.)
- Galette Dough - a fancy name for a tart. We made 4 small pastries and filled two with fruit and made 2 savory (I filled mine with cheese, spinach, asparagus and roasted cauliflower).
- Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp Bars - a 5x7 foil pan with a base crumble of oats, flour, brown sugar and butter, a layer of fruit (you could use just about any fruit), and then a crumble layer on top
- Cream Puffs - small, one bite - we filled them with lemon filling or chocolate.
I went home with a bag of yummy treats that I was able to share with all my cousins! I truly enjoyed this experience. I learned how to use pastry bags and learned some tricks about rolling out dough. Did you know you should always roll from the center out, and then turn the dough and roll from center out? If you try rolling the entire piece of dough from one side to the other, "it confuses the dough". Seriously? Wow - who knew!
We had dinner that night at The Bistro at 10 Acres which was the closest restaurant to the lodge that wasn't part of the 2500 acre von Trapp farm. I enjoyed a lovely salad that included craisins, pumpkin seeds and pickled veggies, and a delicious chicken entree. I skipped the decadent dessert this night and went back and ate my own pastries!
WHEW! Over 11,000 steps for this day! I slept VERY well!
Thursday, June 29, Cousin and I checked out of our magical vacation oasis and headed back to New Hampshire. On the way home, we stopped once again in Quechee to go to a huge antique mall that is right off the highway. In addition to the antique mall, we got to shop in a llama/alpaca shop, and eat lunch in a cool diner filled with antique radios.
What an amazing trip this was. I will enjoy my memories of this forever, and I KNOW I will be going back to Vermont sometime. I really want to visit there during the peak tree-color season of October - something to look forward to when I retire.
Thanks for reading about my adventures and looking at my photos!