Ironton Rail-Trail

What a great ride!  A trail that loops!   Historical sights to see along the way! Beautiful scenery!  This trail has it all!  Once again Traillink  (and the bikers who contribute reviews) guided us to an amazing trail – The Ironton Rail Trail.

We began our journey at Hokendauqua Park – easy to find and provides easy access to the trail.   You wind through the playground and then connect with the trail.  The trail is paved at this point and is for the most part flat with just a slight incline.

The highlight to the first part of this loop (in addition to the great scenery and the Lehigh river!) are the large cement kilns at Saylor Park.  This is a great place to stop and take a break and explore the history of these kilns.   These are the only vertical Portland cement Kilns in existence! They were only used for this purpose for a short period of time – 1893-1904 – but during that time Lehigh Valley produced 3/4 of the cement in the United States! (Apparently at one time there was a museum interconnecting the kilns but that is no longer accessible. There is a large fence around the nine kilns).    Really neat!  And the trail continues with historical markers, remains of the old railroad, and even a caboose that once road on this railroad!Kilns

We decided to take the spur – adding on another 6 miles roundtrip – another beautiful ride past cement historical buildings.  Highlight for me was one of the old structures that was turned into a beautiful bird blind (picture up top).

We joined back up with the loop and continued on the loop to our starting point.  This is a beautiful ride to take right now as the leaves are changing.    The entire trail is well maintained and combined with the amazing scenery and historical sights,  one does not even realize they have already completed a 12 mile journey.

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Huntington Beach State Park

This is an amazing park with so much to see and do!  Earlier in the week we went to do the kayaing but now we have returned to explore!  As you enter on the causeway, On one side you have freshwater and on the other saltwater.  There are so many birds! I read over 300 species have been recored here!   It was neat to explore the winter retreat of Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband after seeing her work at Brookgreen – what a unique home and neat to learn about how it was built (without any plans!).  The park is owned by Brookgreen Gardens and leased to the state of SC.  What is really neat is to walk down the historic road (no longer used to enter the park) with fresh water lagoons on either side –  this is where I got to see my first baby alligator.   The Kerrigan Nature Trail takes you right to the freshwater lagoon where we saw several alligators on land and in the water. How amazing is that 2,500 acres of ocean front property have been preserved for all to enjoy?  

GOODBYE RVA… But not just yet…

Although our plan was to get up early and begin our drive to our vacation destination, we decided we could not miss two final stops in RVA to tour by car. Our helpful guide at the Visitor Center mapped out the best way see them and get to them.  First stop was to follow the blue loop road around Hollywood Cemetery passing Historic Grave Sites – including two presidents.  (Next visit we will definitely take one of the walking tours) Just wish we had known about this great map –   to identify what we were seeing.  HollyWoodNext we did a drive through of Memorial Drive – quick for by that time we were starving!  We decided to once again venture into one of the neighborhoods for food.  Clearly this is where the life is in RVA. – We headed into Carytown and quickly found an incredible lunch experience.. Can Can Brasserie – very well themed (I just love that), with delicious food and great service.   Excellent! Good selection of Beer on tap and in bottles too… I passed for it was too early for me.  However I left with a huge loaf of French Bread!  Yum!   We hit the road, sad to leave for there was so much more to do. I will be back to this city… but would pick another place to stay.  Parking is abundant and so no worries if staying outside of the city and driving in to the see the sites (many of them will pay for your parking!)

It turned out working well for there was not much see to along the way.  We had planned to stop in Wilmington NC  to see where they film the Dome but the traffic was bad and Matilda (our GPS) diverted us another way down a lonely rode through the countryside.  With little to see but crop after crop of tobacco (at the time we had no idea what it was) —   Our one stop was for our first batch of Boiled Peanuts along with some local produce.

BobCate Cafe: The Perfect Ending to our Brew Adventure

We drove up to Bristol Vt for one last place to check out for we had read on Beer Advocate that it had great beer. We had no idea just how good the food was and that to get a table was reservation only! What a great little mountain town! I felt like I was back out West. This would be a great base camp for a future trip to explore North Vermont Breweries. I even had the chance to meet a nice couple who were originally from my hometown state who owned a campground in the area.

I started with Saison De Cassis – mixed into this great beer is Vermont Blackcurrants! It was delicious! And then finished my evening with a Unrepentant Stout. The chocolate and dark coffee definitely come out in this beer and it was perfect ending to a great day!

Next Stop on Route 7: Otter Creek!

Otter Creek BrewingI’ve been a long time fan of Wolaver’s Wildflower Wheat – for me the perfect summer session beer in the middle of a humid afternoon – and so seeing where it is produced was a must stop on our Brewery tour. The Otter Creek Brewing Company is a great brew pub serving all three of their beers with big windows where you can look out at all the shiny tanks producing beer. Although we are familiar with both Otter Creek and Wolaver’s we had not had The Shed, a small Vermont Brewery acquired by Otter Creek. The Shed Mountain Ale was good. Also tried the Wolaver’s Brown Ale and jumped ahead to the fall season and had a Wolaver’s Pumpkin.
Sometime they even offer special test batch one day of the week (not the day we were there). Regardless – this is a great stop to enjoy a few beers low in ABV, have a nice chat with bartenders who know beer, and enjoy some good local food — but get there early. They shut down in the early evening so that the local bars get the spotlight and can make the money selling their beers.

Continue North on Route 7 to Drop-In Brewery

Deliciousness!!  Award for our most favorite beer on today’s brewery tour. And most unobtainable… they do not bottle and so the only option to take with you is to get a growler to go.  The Head Brewer’s main focus is teaching the craft of making beer. This would be a wonderful place to go if interested in learning to make your own beer – both beginner and advanced classes.  You would certainly be learning from someone who really knows how to make good beer!

What we tasted: Sunshine and Hoppiness / Red Dwarf/ Heart of Lothian / Hazard Belgian  / Honey Carry My Bag  (love the names)

What we brought to enjoy by the campfire later that evening: Hazard Belgian

Great Vase!

Bennington VT

What a great little town filled with so many neat things to do – there is something for everyone.  My favorite start  is at the visitor center and  this one did not dissapoint.  What a beautfiul place inside!  Free donuts and coffee were wonderful! The guide working knew so much about the local area and shared with us local occuring events that otherwise we would have missed -like seeing  the fun painted catamounts at the farm.   Bennington Pottery is a great place visit especially for those interested in making pottery.  There is a little self guided tour in the back where they make the pottery followed by the shop… just be careful for you can get caught up in the moment of  buying something made right there and pieces (even the seconds) add up quickly!  We then decided to go on the hunt for relics of Vermont at the Camelot Antique Center —  huge shop to roam and find unique items.  It is easy to loose time (and those you are shopping with) at this store. And though the Apple Barn may be seen to some as a tourist trap, prices were in line if not cheaper then at other places selling VT items and oh the bakery goods were delicious!    Head on over to Bennignton Monument afterwards but arrive before 5:00 so you can go up in it…. we missed that.  But there is only so much you can fit into one day… before the journey begins again with many miles still to go…