My first stop when I finally arrive in Stowe, Vermont, an 18th century village tucked away in the Green Mountains, is to travel on, following the aptly named Covered Bridge Road which winds and twists its way to Emily’s Bridge that spans Gold Brook in Stowe Hollow not far from Stowe. It’s an old bridge, built in 1844 and I wonder, as I park my car and grab my camera, who was Emily. As I go to shut my door, something stops me from leaving my keys in the ignition. That’s silly, I tell myself as I put the keys in my pocket, who would steal my car out in the middle of nowhere.
But later, as I talk to Carol Crawford, the concierge at Topnotch Resort and Spa where I am spending the night, I learn that maybe Emily wouldn't have gone for a joy ride but she might have locked my door with the keys inside. That, it seems, is one of the mischievous tricks that Emily likes to play, though others have reported more vindictive acts such as shaking cars with passengers in them and leaving scratch marks, first upon the carriages that once rode over these boards and now cars.
So who was Emily and why has she spent over 160 years doing these things? According to Carol, there are several tales but all have the same theme. Jilted – or maybe her lover died – Emily either hanged herself from the bridge or threw herself into the creek below. Whatever happened, it ended badly for Emily and now, at night, people can hear a woman’s voice on the bridge and see ghostly shapes and sometimes, Emily obviously being a spirit who has 21st technological knowledge, maybe their keys will get locked in the car.
My Vermont mornings always begin on the patio at Topnotch with a cup of locally roasted coffee named after the nearby Green Mountains as I prepare for what are busy days.
Located on land that was once a dairy farm, the sleek resort still has traces of its past in the silvery toned white washed barn and vintage butter tubs found in its cozy public rooms.
My entire breakfast at Flannel’s — a rather cozy name for Topnotch’s upscale restaurant — is made from locally sourced foods, including the pale yellow butter swirls for my house-made croissant and, later, at dinner, the to-die-for Crispy Oyster BLT, layers of baby greens, heirloom tomatoes and North Country bacon.
The local mantra is stamped on this part of Vermont like the differing shades of light and dark greens mark the mountains. Organic animal and vegetable farms and small cheeseries, chocolatiers and dairies dot the countryside.
“It’s about quality and supporting local food producers,” says Crawford.
But though I could tarry here for hours, talking about and sampling food, I have a few calories to burn before dinner.
Fortunately at Topnotch, getting active is easy. Though I haven’t played tennis for many years, I take a private lesson at the Topnotch Tennis Center, ranked by Tennis Magazine as No. 1 in the Northwest and among its Ten Best U.S. Tennis Resorts.
As we work on general ground strokes, the pro, one of about 10, all of whom are USPTA/PTR certified, helps me correct an awkward backhand. “It’s all about muscle memory,” he tells me noting that I need to reintroduce myself gradually back into the game, as my muscles relearn lessons from long ago.
Retraining muscles makes me sore, so my next activity — a gentle horseback ride aboard Suzi Q, a trail horse who has been at the Topnotch Equestrian Center for 20 some years — seems perfect.
We follow an hour-long path that meanders across a wooden covered bridge, crosses the West Branch of the Lamoille River, climbs Luce Hill past patches of shamrocks and weaves through wavy grasses dotted with pink yarrow and painted daisies.
Then it’s on to my own self-created food tour. At Laughing Moon Chocolates in downtown Stowe I watch as salted caramels are hand dipped into hot chocolate and ponder the difficult decision of what to buy. It's a delightful place, in a century old building, with wooden display cases and such yummy and intriguing chocolate fillings such as blue cheese using an artisan blue cheese made by a local creamery. Who could resist?
Taking a winding road, I stop to chat with Molly Pindell, owner of the 27-acre Sage Farm Goat Dairy. We walk amongst the Alpine goats that look up from the sweet grass and fall apples they are munching on to watch us. Goats, Molly tells me, are friendly and loyal. Think dogs with horns.
As Molly shows me her goats and then takes me into the creamery where she starts packaging pyramids of ash rind goat cheese, I think how great would this life be? Cute goats, great cheese and a chance to get back to the land.
Though, on second thought, milking goats everyday early in the morning when it’s cold and snowing may lose its appeal pretty quickly. Better just to buy goat’s cheese at great places like the one Pindell runs with her sister Katie.
To relax after my endeavors, I head to the spa for a Maple Sugar Body Scrub (this is Vermont after all, a maple syrup epicenter).
I end my day much as it began, sitting on the patio near the outdoor fire pit with its flicker of flames highlighting the garden art on the grassy hillside.
I am tired in the exhilarating way of time well spent, but have energy enough to eat the Confit Leg of Duck with butter beans, Tasso ham and cipollini onions in a cherry balsamic reduction as well as a side Sweet Pea Spaetzle Mac and Cheese while watching the Green Mountains fade into dark.
For information about Stowe, 800-GO-STOWE; gostowe.com; for Topnotch, 800-451-8686 or topnotchresort.com