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Running Destination: Woodstock, VT

My wife and I don’t often travel without our kids. In fact, the last time we went away together alone was over 5 years ago! However, now that my youngest son is old enough to not need constant parental attention, I proposed the idea of a two-night getaway to celebrate both Mother’s Day and my resignation from my job as a college professor (tomorrow will likely be my last day at the office).

Last summer I crewed for my friend Nate at the Vermont 100 Ultramarathon. I was struck by the utter beauty of Vermont’s horse country, and a leg of the race passed through the town of Woodstock. I knew I needed to make a return trip to Woodstock with my wife, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. It’s not too far from where I live in New Hampshire, and the tourist season in the area doesn’t kick-off until Memorial Day weekend (meaning we could actually afford to stay in-town due to the off-season lodging rates).

Woodstock is a classic New England town. Quaint, quiet, perched along a river, and with a picturesque downtown full of shops and cafes. Covered bridges are dotted about the area. It almost feels like you’ve been dropped into a movie set that’s trying to put everything that comes to mind when you think “New England” into one place.

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My wife and I pretty much have three things we look for when we travel. Good food, good beer, and opportunities to exercise strenuously (preferably options for hiking, running, and yoga). We’re not particularly picky about hotel rooms and amenities – let us work our butt’s off all day and end the evening with a good meal and we’re happy. However, when I first laid eye’s on the Woodstock Inn last summer I was drawn to it– I had to stay there.

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Woodstock Inn

The Woodstock Inn is nice. Really nice. And really expensive if you stay there during tourist season. One of the nice things about living close to places that others like to visit on vacation is that we can easily go during the offseason when hotels are mostly empty and prices are cheap. I was able to get a room for half of the in-season rate, and a full breakfast in the Inn’s Red Rooster restaurant was included (it was too expensive for us to eat in the Red Rooster for dinner – very fancy). The Inn also included free admission to the health center (and yoga classes for my wife) and free entry into Billing’s Farm & Museum (great for kids). The combined savings almost equaled the cost of a night’s stay, so it was a pretty good deal (and breakfasts were phenomenal!).

For dinner, we ate both nights at the tavern in the Inn. It was much cheaper and more our style.

IMG_2032[1] Breakfast “Appetizer” at the Red Rooster

For a runner, Woodstock is a great destination because there are numerous trails that are accessible within easy walking distance from downtown. In fact, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is located right next to town, and there are a number of entrance points that are just a few minutes away by foot from the Woodstock Inn. The park is home to 20 miles of carriage roads and trails. We hiked the trails yesterday, then I felt compelled to make a return trip by myself today while my wife was at her yoga class.

My route today started at a covered bridge (where else!) crossing over the Ottauquechee River:

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Ottauquechee River

I chose to run a switchback trail to the top of Mt. Tom to access the park and carriage trails. It’s a short, steep, rocky ascent that is for the most part runnable except for the last little bit:

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Trail to top of Mt. Tom

I caught a rock with my foot and took a nice spill about halfway up. Mashed my knee pretty good and it’s now stiffened up quite a bit – figures I’d do something like this a week and a half out from my marathon!

The top of Mt. Tom offers some nice views of Woodstock, and is the access point to the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller carriage roads.

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Woodstock from the top of Mt. Tom

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Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Park Carriage Trails

I ran about 5 miles on the carriage trails, which are gravel covered and well cared for (forgot to bring trail shoes, and the Mizuno Cursoris worked just fine) – I maybe saw two other people the entire time I was out there (seemed like most of the visitors to Woodstock this time of year were retirees). I could have done a lot more on the trails but was pressed for time since we had to check out of our room by noon. Finished up with a few miles on the roads back to the hotel. Total run was 10.2 miles and felt like I had strong legs for the first time in weeks. It was a wonderful day.

We’ve already vowed to come back to Woodstock with our kids, likely camping the next time (more our style – the VT 50K is in the area and is at the top of my list of options for a fall race). The town has a very well-to-do feel about it, which sort of contrasts with the abundant outdoors activities available in the area – it’s a very different place than Stowe, VT or North Conway, NH where there is a more overt outdoors sports vibe. But if your goal is peace, quiet, and an idyllic setting near lots of trails, it would be hard to do better than Woodstock.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Sarah @RunFarGirl says:

    I’ve always loved Woodstock, even from a young age. My family drives through it every summer on our way from NH to the Adirondacks. When I was in my 20′s I dreamed of getting married at the little chapel at the end of the common and having the reception at the Woodstock Inn (that didn’t happen to $$). We still drive through every year, now with my own kids on our way to the Adirondacks. We usually stop for a picnic lunch on the common. There’s also a fantastic Farmers Market in the summer that we happened to hit at just the right time on the way home last summer. One of my favorite places. I also have fond memories of the Billings Farm Museum as a kid, can’t wait to take my kids there.

  2. Thomas Davidson says:

    We stayed up there a few years ago, down in Quechee. There’s a nice dirt road run along that river that goes from Quechee up to Woodstock (to the Billings Farm actually) and passes by or over about half a dozen covered bridges. Great little town. Enjoy the rest of the marathon taper!

  3. AthleteInTheMaking says:

    This is a repost of the guest comment earlier. I am still learning all the ins and outs of blogging and commenting and I’m not sure how to delete the other post. Sorry!

    Woodstock looks like a beautiful place to visit; definitely my kind of place, during the off-season. Nicely written review. What were the temps while you and your wife were there? It looks as though VT has hit full spring already, if not summer

    I have been following your marathon training after finding your blog several weeks ago. I know you are in the taper portion of your training, but will you do anything different since you went down on your knee in VT? I am a beginning runner and have lofty goals to eventually run marathons and ultras. I am doing a lot of reading about others’ experiences to soak up as much as possible as I train.

    • Pete Larson says:

      It was in the 50′s the first day, got up into the 70′s today I think. Spring was in full swing, tons of flowering trees.
      Mashed my knee only about a mile and a half into the run and felt ok for the remaining 8.5. It has stiffened up over the course of the day but I probably won’t change much. May give it a short test tomorrow and see how it goes.
      Sent from my iPad

  4. 278toBoston says:

    I have been to Woodstock several times. It is a wonderful place. Unfortunatly I wasn’t a runner when we visited… I will go back one day and then I’ll run :)

  5. Karen Agule says:

    Woodstock is a beautiful place and we were just there on Mother’s Day weekend to run the “Road to the Pogue” 6 mile race which used the carriage roads, etc. – the race had you running up to the top of Mt Tom to the vista you show overlooking Woodstock and then back down. Very fun race I learned about when we did the Covered Bridges 1/2 marathon up there a few years ago. Great place and the 1/2 is another nice event to do (you just have to set your calendar to sign up in December and it sells out very quickly).

  6. Louise Bourque Cunningham says:

    Nice review Pete! ;)

  7. Kathleen O' Connell says:

    Looks amazing, I took some spills recently trail running. Its harder than it looks lol. Should I say congrats on leaving the job? I’m a postdoc right now so I know what a struggle science life can be…what a brave move!

  8. Woodstock looks like a beautiful place to visit; definitely my kind of place, during the off-season. Nicely written review. What were the temps while you and your wife were there? It looks as though VT has hit full spring already, if not summer. I have been following your marathon training after finding your blog several weeks ago. I know you are in the taper portion of your training, but will you do anything different since you went down on your knee in VT? I am a beginning runner and have lofty goals to eventually run marathons and ultras. I am doing a lot of reading about others’ experiences to soak up as much as possible as I train.

  9. Ashwyn Gray says:

    Man, that looks gorgeous! And, what a way to spend some quality time with your wife! As a father of three, I definitely understand how meaningful something like this can be. Thanks for sharing and allowing us to live (slightly) vicariously through you. ;)

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