There’s something magical about early summer in the countryside of Dorset, Vermont, and the hilly terrain of nearby Merck Forest and Farmland Center on the outskirts of Rupert.
Fields have been hayed, spring crops and fruits are being harvested, and trees have unfurled their leaves after a deep slumber through the long winter. Newborn lambs and other farm animals stumble and play in the farm yards while their older brethren relax and chew on fresh grass, a treat after a season of dried hay and feed. And the woods are ready for hikers to break in a new set of shoes while they climb to familiar favorites and unexplored new treasures.
For those used to the hustle and bustle of the city, country life travels at a different pace – especially when you’re getting to enjoy it on vacation rather than having to work chores on a farm. Dorset is like many other New England towns, with a lovely village green, numerous colonial and federal-style homes, and an atmosphere that harkens back several generations when the world at wide was a bit more remote.
The residents are friendly and the small shops are run by entrepreneurs who take pride in their goods and services. Located near Manchester Center with its numerous outlet stores and restaurants, the quietness that permeates throughout Dorset can be a welcome reprieve. Founded in 1761, several businesses have been running continuously for more than 200 years, including the Dorset Inn and the Dorset Union Store. Others, such as the Dorset Playhouse, a theater near the center of town, stretch back nearly a hundred years. This sense of permanency seems to be a traditional Vermont trait, with a high value placed on supporting your neighbor, buying local and having a tightknit community.
On Sundays a bustling Farmers Market takes place at HN Williams General Store 2732 Vt. Route 30, Dorset, Vermont in the Summer and at JK Adams Kitchen Store 1430 Vt. Rt 30, Dorset, VT in the winter. With 54 vendors, there’s something for everyone. “When we first started the market [15 years ago] there were only seven or eight of us,” said Julie Sperling of Naga Bakehouse. “I remember looking around and wondering if anyone would come, and being happy when they did. It’s great to see how far the market has come.”
When the weather turns hot, the Dorset Quarry is a popular spot for those who want to cool off and swim. The former marble mine has plenty of space, but can become crowded in the summer months. While the quarry is on private property, the owners graciously keep it open to the public. If you chose to go, please respect their wishes and keep the property clean and alcohol-free.
Farther afield from Dorset is Merck Forest and Farmland Center in nearby Rupert, Vermont, with 3,200 acres of conserved forest and working farmland dedicated to educating the public. The farm is host to a variety of animals, fruits and veggies, an American Chestnut plantation, a maple sugaring operation, and more. The woods surrounding the farm have approximately 30 miles of hiking trails with climbs large enough to make you sweat, or you can stick around the farm for an easier trek. Nine cabins and several lean-tos and campsites provide visitors with places to rest for the evening and enjoy an extended stay at the center. With their focus on education, programs run year round. During the summer, children can learn about traditional chores on a farm and meet the lambs in the spring. Monthly moonlit guided walks are taken at the facility as well in the summer months, and a bluegrass concert is set for August 4.
While you may not have all the creature comforts of home (cell service can be hit or miss), the memories formed in the countryside of Dorset can’t be beat. Chase lightning bugs at night. Listen to the peepers as they call from the nearest body of water. Enjoy a repast of fresh food from the farmers market or perhaps a performance at the theater. Get out on the farm at Merck Forest and meet the lambs, take a moonlit walk or learn more about conservation practices. Life’s a little different out in the country, but the experiences can last a lifetime.