West Hill House B&B

Category Archives: Summer activities

Fall In Love with Vermont

May 21, 2012 by Peter MacLaren

Total relaxation at West Hill House

  • Does adventure mean exploring quiet back roads, hiking beautiful forested trails, jumping into cool river swimming holes, kayaking down splashing rivers or  sailing on pristine lakes?
  • Would you get a thrill out of soaring over the hilltops in a glider? Does the thrill of the hunt mean looking for treasures at antique shops and purchasing produce at  farmers’ markets?
  • Do you enjoy the excitement of country fairs? Are you fascinated watching artisans at work?
  • Do you search for enticing shops in quaint villages?
  • Does relaxation at the end of the day mean enjoying the hospitality of a bed and breakfast?
  • Are you a fan of opera, art exhibits, five-star dining or quick lunches in little cafés?
  • Want to add to your birding list?
  • Does relaxation mean contemplating life while sitting in a beautiful garden or gently swaying in a hammock?

Answer “Yes” to any of these questions and you may not know it, but you’ve already fallen in love with Vermont. All this and more is part of our way if life in the magnificent state of Vermont.

Whether your summer takes you to Bennington in the south, Warren and Sugarbush in the Mad River Valley in the center of the state or to the spectacular scenery of the Northeast Kingdom, we invite you to come to Vermont for romance, relaxation and recreation. Vermont has it all – see you soon.

Summer fun on the Winooski River

Summer fun on the Winooski River

Picnic by the pond

May 21, 2012 by Peter MacLaren

West Hill House Bed and Breakfast

Grace & Charlie enjoy a picnic.

A basket filled with Vermont cider, cheeses, crackers, home made cookies and other goodies brings smiles to Grace and Charlie who welcomed the warm spring weather with a picnic by our pond. Spring has indeed sprung in the Mad River Valley. Signs of the season are all around us; chipmunks are sunning themselves on the rocks, peepers are singing our guests to sleep each evening and our beautiful gardens are coming back to life with brilliant daffodils now in bloom. We won’t even mind a few April showers. Sugarbush has opened the golf course, folks are out walking and cycling as well as hiking on the many local Green Mountain trails.

Though we can’t guarantee that there will be warm picnic weather when you come, we can guarantee that a warm welcome awaits you.

See you soon!

National Parks Week April 21-29

May 21, 2012 by Peter MacLaren

In Vermont we are proud of our woodlands, our mountains and our waterways. In fact, the mission of our Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is to practice and encourage a high quality of stewardship of Vermont’s environment by managing forests for sustainable use and by providing and promoting opportunities for compatible outdoor recreation. This mission echos the concern for the environment expressed by John Muir in the late 1800′s as he explored the vast magnificence of the natural wonders of the US west.

John Muir, a Scottish born American naturalist was an early advocate of the preservation of the American wilderness. His many writings tell of his adventures in nature and especially his love of the Sierra Nevada. An outspoken supporter and active defender of  nature preservation,  his enthusiasm for nature was boundless.

An early advocate of the idea of national parks, Muir petitioned the US Congress to pass the Nation Park bill which, when passed in 1890, brought about the creation of both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Today the name John Muir graces numerous trails, glaciers, camp-grounds and monuments in national park lands. Founded by Muir, The Sierra Club continues to be one of the most active and important conservation groups today.

If you watched the Ken Burns documentary on the National Parks you will remember the first part focuses on the life of John Muir.

Today in the United States, this Scottish born naturalist is referred to as the “Father of the National Parks”. Thank a Scot and go out and enjoy a national park this week.  April 21-29 is National Parks Week.

Father of the National Parks John Muir

“Father of the National Parks” John Muir April 21, 1838- December 24, 1914


Church Street Burlington

March 23, 2012 by Peter MacLaren

The Church Street Marketplace, Downtown Burlington Vermont’s award-winning open air mall, is a hub of activity where you’ll find historical architecture, year-round festivals, street entertainers, music, over 100 places to shop and dine, and even quiet places to ponder.

Church Street is a great place to visit when you come to West Hill House, in particular during the summer months.

Susan and Peter had the opportunity of spending a couple of hours there on March 22nd, during a day of record setting temperatures in the 80s F, above 25 C. The gorgeous weather allowed us to take the photographs below.

Church Street, Burlington

Looking north on Church Street

"Big" Joe Burrell

Caption for "Big" Joe Burrell

One of the many café's and restaurants

Bear sculpture in front of City Hall

Spring crocuses

Ben & Jerry's - of course

Archer Mayor’s Red Herring – a review

August 22, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Red Herring - a mystery by Archer Mayor

Red Herring by Archer Mayor

The problem with Archer Mayor’s detective mystery books, featuring fictitious Vermont detective Joe Gunther, is that once you start them you can’t put them down!

Three deaths – one an apparent rape and murder, one an apparent suicide and one an apparent drunk driving accident. Totally unrelated, or are they?  And are any of them really what they seem to be?

Another case for Joe Gunther. He focuses on the apparent “red herring”–a single drop of blood left on, or near, each body. And, as it turns out, not from the bodies themselves.

One of Joe’s many assets is that he has been in his profession a long time.  He has many useful contacts, both orthodox and less so, that can help with analyzing the elements of the crime scene, including some rather high tech approaches for identifying the probable source of the blood in the blood spots.

However establishing the fact that there is a link among the three deaths, what it is, and who is responsible, takes Joe’s intuition as well as analysis, playing some hunches, and getting help (or maybe not) from two woman, one part of his past, and one that may become part of his future.

Red Herring is a page-turner right to the last page, and the interesting twist at the very end will make you eagerly anticipate reading about the next challenge for Joe Gunther.

The book is available at Tempest Book Store in Waitsfield and also in iBooks.

Tickets are still available to see Archer Mayor in person at West Hill House on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th August.  Call 802-496-7162 for details.

Garden Tour

August 16, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Admiring the Gardens

Our pond on canvas

Our gardens were recently featured on the Garden Tour, part of the Vermont Festival of the Arts. For days leading up to the  tour dates our landscape artist Patty Weston and her crew worked diligently to have the gardens looking their best. On each of the past two Sundays we welcomed a bus full of garden lovers to come explore the peaceful garden setting and ooh and ahh over the colourful displays of various types of  hydrangea, delphinium, lobelia, snow cap daisies, day lilies of various kinds, hosta, and heather  just to name a few. Dotty, a local artist came along to paint a picture of our pond and garden shed.

Our gardens are a favorite spot for guests to sit and enjoy the surroundings as well as for wedding celebrations. Come and enjoy the gardens yourself!

Rock of Ages Quarry & Hope Cemetery in nearby Barre, Vermont

August 8, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Rock of Ages Quarry Barre Vermont, near West Hill House B&B

Rock of Ages Quarry

Both of these attractions are well worth a visit when you stay at West Hill House.

The 600 ft deep Rock of Ages granite quarry in nearby Barre is a favorite destination for our guests. It is reputed to be the largest such quarry in the world. With the scale of the geological formation it is estimated that at current production rates there is enough granite for 4,000 years!  There is a Vistors’ Center where you can learn all about the quarry, the factory where you can see how monuments are carved, and of course the tour of the quarry itself which leaves every 45 minutes or so. Check out some photos in our photo album on Facebook.

Hope Cemetery Barre, Vermont, close to West Hill House B&B

Hope Cemetery

The granite is on display in its finished form as beautiful monuments in nearby Hope Cemetery. This cemetery in Barre is an unusual tourist attraction but please do not pass this up – it doesn’t sound like a great side trip, but it is.

Many grave monuments were carved for their own family members by stonemasons, who worked at the Rock of Ages Quarry.  Find the soccer ball, the biplane, the eighteen-wheeler, the stock car, and the cube on one of its points. There are family portraits including a husband and wife sitting up in bed and lots of intricately carved floral arrangements. Have a look at our photo album on Facebook.

The Quarry and Hope Cemetery are about 40 minutes from the B&B. The cemetery is open year round and the quarry is open from late May till mid October. A visit to the State Capital of Montpelier, the smallest State Capital in the US, is easily included in the day’s outing and is also well worth a visit.

Vermont Symphony and Fireworks at Sugarbush on Canada Day

July 3, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Fireworks at Sugarbush, Vermont with Vermont Symphony Orchestra

Fireworks at Sugarbush - click to play

On July 1st Anthony Princiotti conducted the Vermont Symphony Orchestra in the open air at Sugarbush offering “Symphony Royale” with music fit for a king…or a summer evening in Vermont! Handel’s fireworks began the program and Northstar’s fireworks concluded it, in this musical homage to royalty. The noble procession included Scheherazade’s Kalendar Prince, the King and Queen of Troy, and the King of Siam. The concert was in honor of Independence Day celebrating America’s freedom from monarchical rule with their own version of royalty, Duke Ellington! The performance was crowned by the majestic 1812 Overture and selections from Sousa, the March King, which were both accompanied by an amazing fireworks display with the finale captured in this short videoby Susan.

Intriguingly the concert, being on July 1st, was on Canada Day when Canadians celebrated their royalty with the visit of its newest couple, William and Catherine, who were at Parliament Hill in Ottawa to join Canadians country wide to celebrate the 144th anniversary of Confederation.

Farmers’ Market-Top Rated

June 29, 2011 by Peter MacLaren

Local produce

Yankee, in the July/August 2011 magazine, ranked the Waitsfield Farmers’ Market as one of the 5 best Farmers’ Markets in New England. Here’s what they say…

Waitsfield Farmers’ Market
It seems that the entire population of the Mad River Valley turns out to partake in a boisterous round of festivities: face painting, arts and crafts, live music, picnicking, and more. More than 60 vendors; space is equally shared among agricultural, craft, and prepared-food booths. Mad River Green, off Main St. (Route 100), Waitsfield. Saturdays 9am-1pm, May-October. waitsfieldfarmersmarket.com

We agree!  This weekend, whether you are here to attend the Vermont Symphony outdoor concert,  the Warren July 4th parade, the air show or the fireworks at Sugarbush be sure you take in the fun and excitement of the Farmers’ Market.  On this July 4th long weekend it will be the place to be if you are in the Mad River Valley on Saturday morning.

The gang's all here.

Hiking the Long Trail, and other walks, from West Hill House

June 29, 2011 by Peter MacLaren


View from Mt Abraham, VT

View from Mt Abraham

Some guests who enjoy walking asked us the other day to help them with their planning for the upcoming stay by telling them more about the hiking around West Hill House than we currently provide on our Things to do page.  So given that we know many of our guests have similar interests, here is a blog on the topic.

The most popular walk to a summit on the Long Trail is to Mt Abraham. It is an exciting hike to one of the most impressive summits in New England. You start by driving to the Lincoln Gap just over 5 minutes from the B&B. As the gap is at about 2500ft, you are already more than half way to the top! The trail is a combination of high mountain forest and rocky terrain and may have numerous wet portions during the spring and after heavy rains. Elevation gain is moderate during the first portion increasing significantly as you approach the summit. At the 1.7 mile mark the trail passes the Battell Shelter a frequent overnight stop for Long Trail hikers. The shelter also marks the intersection of the Long Trail and the Battell Trail, a Long Trail access trail from the west. It is wise to note the intersection as to not get confused on your return trip. Once at the summit at just over 4000 feet you have 360 degree views of the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain to the west, the White Mountains to the east and the Green Mountains from Killington Peak to Belividere Mountain to the south and north. (Please stay on the trail as the summit is home to a number of extremely rare arctic vegetation currently considered endangered.) You can go back the way you came, or continue to Lincoln Peak and come down on the ski trail to the Sugarbush base and back to West Hill House. (We’ll take you back to get your car!) Plan for 4 to 5 hours.

Sunset Rock

Sunset Rock

For a shorter walk, you can access the Long Trail at the same place – the Lincoln Gap, and walk south. The first landmark is Sunset Rock which is about half an hour in, so about a one hour round trip plus viewing time!  Several guests have come back and told us they are not sure if they made it to Sunset Rock or not.  We can tell them authoritatively that then they definitely did not! The view is so dramatic you’ll know when you have arrived.

The next nearest trail head is the App Gap on Route 17 about 20 minutes from the B&B, where you can climb south to General Stark at Mad River Glen. This is a much more ambitious outing involving steep grades and probably close to a 5 hours round trip. At the start of the hike there are ropes and ladders on the steep parts – this is not a casual stroll! An option is to come down the trail at Mad River Glen which would cut about an hour or more out, but then you are stuck from a transport point of view unless you take two cars. (It’s a little far from the B&B  for us to come and shuttle you!)

You can go north from the same trail head to Molly Stark’s Balcony. It’s a 2.6 mile round-trip hike that gains over 500′ of elevation to a unique lookout. You hike north on the Long Trail, which climbs steeply, passes a spur to the Mad River Glen Lookout, then reaches a high point at the flat ridge of Molly Stark Mountain summit. The trail goes over the summit and on to Molly Stark’s Balcony where there is a great view of Camel’s Hump, the intervening peaks, with the Worcester Mountains visible to the east. Return by the same route.

Another good, quite ambitious, walk is to Burnt Mountain.  The challenge here is to find the trail head! It’s a steep, 5.2 mile round-trip hike that takes you up to some of the best viewing on the Long Trail. The trail begins at the parking lot at the end of Big Basin Road before the steel pipe gate. You follow the Hedgehog Brook Trail along a stream. The trail ascends gently at first, becoming steeper as you get higher. After 2.5 miles, it joins the Long Trail. Shortly after joining the Long Trail, a short spur trail to the left leads to a small glacial pothole, one of the largest in New England. Burnt Rock Mountain is named for the fact that the bare summit, at only 3168′, is well below the scrub line. The fantastic views take in peaks and ranges visible in most directions, including Camel’s Hump and the Allens. Descend by the same route.  Be sure to check with us for detailed directions to the starting point.

Stetson Hollow Walk

Stetson Hollow Walk

Another really nice walk that you pick up from Route 100 just south of Warren is Stetson Hollow Trail.  It does not go all the way up to the Long Trail but is a beautiful walk in the woods.  It’s a 4-mile round-trip fairly flat hike that ascends modestly that is a local well-kept secret. You begin at Stetson Hollow (marked by a small sign) on the west side of Rt. 100 south of Warren Village. This is a scenic hike along the brook and is marked by small waterfalls and cascades. The path is wide enough for two! You’ll know you’ve reached the end when the path peters out. Turn around and return the same way.

About an hour north from the B&B, but close to Ben & Jerry’s (!), is the Hunger Mountain hike. From where Rt 100 crosses I89 at exit 10 follow VT 100 north just past the Cabot Cheese outlet then turn right on Howard Avenue toward the Waterbury Center Post Office. At 0.3 miles, turn left on Maple Street. Just past the Fire Station, turn right on Loomis Hill Road. At the top of the hill the road bears left and you reach a small parking area at 3.8 miles on the right which is where the walk starts.  The hike from there is about a 4 hour round trip and there are good views from the top all around.

There are also other more ambitious all day hikes for those interested.  You can check with us for full details, either before you arrive or when you get here.  As alway when walking in the hills, be sure to prepare by having the right equipment:  sturdy boots, layers of clothes, water bottles, and some energy food. Note that counter-intuitively cellphone coverage on the Long Trail – even though it is high up – is very spotty.  So never walk alone.