Escapee Club HOP to Maple Syrup, Basin Harbor, and Lake Champlain (July 29, 2016)

After a full week at Escapade 2016 we weren’t ready for the fun to end so we went on a Escapee tour around Lake Champlain. They call these tours HOPs or Head Out Programs and it was fun to leave the planning and driving to someone else.

Early Friday morning a little over a hundred people from the rally boarded 2 luxury buses with tour guides from the area. As we rode down the back roads, the tour guides gave us all a glimpse at the rich history and beautiful countryside of Vermont.

Dakin Farm
Our first stop was at the Dakin Farm, located in the rolling hills of the Champlain Valley and was recently featured on The Food Channel. Dakin Farms includes a USDA plant where meats and cheeses are smoked using the farm’s original 1800’s Vermont recipes, an award-winning Maple sugar house, and a gift shop with an expansive sample tasting area for their products and for Vermont Cabot cheese. You see, Dakin Farms is also the exlusive online distributor of Cabot cheese.

The Dakin Farm sugarhouse has been boiling sap from local hardwood sugar maple trees for Vermont maple syrup for over 58 years. We were given a very special tour of the sugarhouse by the owner of this multi-generational family business. His love for everything maple was evident as he walked us through the process of making maple syrup as it used to be and how it is today. He buys sweet sugar maple sap that is collected by hand and by pipeline.

With great pride in his voice, he said one of the farms he buys his sap from has a large percentage of it’s sap collected by hand “the old way” by hanging buckets on trees and using horses to go out to collect the buckets. He said they do it this way because the younger generation enjoys collecting sap the traditional way, just like their grandparents and parents collected it in the past. The picture he painted when he told us about this family was inspiring.

Did you know that many companies that sell Maple Syrup in the stores really don’t have any maple syrup in them?  The bottle may read “natural ingredients” but they have used bark, twigs, and/or other natural ingredients and add maple flavoring.  Look for 100% Maple Syrup and if you buy the Vermont syrup it is highly regulated so it alone has the highest level of true Maple Syrup included.  This was an eye opener for Don and I.

Needless to say, we bought real Vermont maple syrup and cheese because we loved the stories about the traditional way to do things and the quality of their products. If you are in the area, stop and enjoy.

Lunch at the Basin Harbor Club
Our next stop was the Basin Harbor Club for a wonderful buffet lunch. It was like a stop in a simpler time in a beautiful setting.

Basin Harbor Club is located at the beautiful Basin Harbor Resort on the shores of Lake Champlain. This private resort has been run by the Beach family for five generations and is built on over 700 acres with more than a mile on the shores of Lake Champlain. Basin Harbor has an 18-hole golf course, five tennis courts, a swimming pool, wellness center, prize-winning gardens, a private airfield, and three restaurants. It was beautiful and a place we want to go back to some day.

Scenic Cruise on Lake Champlain
After lunch, we went on a scenic cruise of Lake Champlain aboard a U.S. Coast Guard certified vessel. The Captain was a local and kept a running commentary of the area. He told us that there is an island on Lake Champlain called Diamond Island. It has a weather monitoring station run by NOAA and the National Weather Service. He said this island regularly records minus twenty degrees during the winter. And the lake sometimes totally freezes over and the ferry boats are icebreakers. (Don’t think I’ll go back in the winter.)

Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Next, we went to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum and got to go aboard a 1776 gunboat replica called the Philadelphia II which is docked at the waterfront. This museum also offers an inside look at the lake’s more than 300 historic shipwrecks in the Nautical Archaeology Center, an explanation of the role played during the American Revolution by Benedict Arnold’s fleet, Native Americans, early French explorers, the 26 steamboats of Lake Champlain, and the historic Champlain Bridge. You could spend a whole day just exploring the museum.

Ice Cream Stop
imageOur final stop was for ice cream. We drove to a rural area (Addison, VT) to a small but popular roadside stand that makes the richest creemees (soft serve) ice cream and of course we got milk shakes to celebrate the end of a great day. Ice cream always makes any day better, second only to wine 🙂

Ahhh, Another Great Day … Happy Trails

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