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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
Woodstock from the top of Mt. Tom
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.