This is my eleventh post about our family's visit to New England. I suggest reading the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth posts from the trip before this one. Because I blog about educational travel, I was given admission tickets, media rates, discounts, and other benefits for some of the places we visited during our trip. Some places are free for everyone; we paid full price for the rest. This has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm share is something that I recommend without hesitation. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love that particular attraction, restaurant, or hotel enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.
Vermont to New Hampshire
Have you ever given any thought to how they harvest granite? The process is absolutely nothing like I would have guessed. They slice it off the hillside, literally, like pats of butter. Enormous pats of butter. We got to see this process in action during the Rock of Ages Quarry Tour.
Here's a closer look. The heavy equipment should give you a sense of scale.
Trevor is holding a piece of the cutting wire they use. It's surprisingly thin. They use water when cutting; minerals in the quarry pit precipitate in the water, giving it its unusual color.
The whole process was absolutely fascinating. But the tour wasn't over. From there, we were able to see the granite being turned into monuments, columns, and a bunch of other things. (But not countertops. They don't do countertops at Rock of Ages.)
The Visitor Center has even more information about the mining, production, and use of granite. It also has a giant container of scrap granite that you're free to take. The scrap is called grout. I don't know why it's called grout, but that's the term for granite that can't be used for a project. Grout can be enormous (like the size of a car) if there's a small flaw that prevents it from being used.
Rock of Ages also has a granite bowling alley. Well, a single lane anyway. In the 1950's, Rock of Ages experimented with making bowling lanes out of granite. A few were made, but they had a nasty habit of cracking bowling balls. This prototype at Rock of Ages has dense rubber balls.
While the lane is made of granite, the gutters are reinforced concrete. Check out the difference in how the two have weathered over the last 70 years.
We had a fantastic time at Rock of Ages! Our next stop, an hour away in Norwich, was King Arthur Baking Company. It's a great place to grab a fantastic lunch. Everything is fresh-baked and absolutely delicious.
They don't offer a tour per se, but you can watch all sorts of breads and bakery items being made.
You can also sample their products. Here, Trevor is enjoying the best strawberry shortcake I've ever tried. The base was a lemon scone.
A short distance from King Arthur, the Appalachian Trail passes through town. We took the opportunity to hike a tiny portion of it...
Dartmouth College is right there on the New Hampshire side of the border. We spent an hour strolling through campus.
Brick, brick, and brick, everywhere you look.
Except in the cemetery. Lots of granite there. (Does anyone else think it's odd when college campuses have their own cemeteries? No? Just me?)
Our next destination was the VINS Nature Center, back on the Vermont side of the border. VINS stands for the Vermont Institute of Natural Science. We LOVED it! Drop everything and go!
VINS Nature Center sits on 47 acres and features 17 raptor enclosures, two songbird aviaries, buildings for visitor education and animal care and rehabilitation, trails, classroom spaces, a playground, and so much more. We started our visit with a raptor presentation.
We've learned a lot about raptors since Trevor started his Eagle project, but that doesn't make presentations like these any less interesting. We learned all sorts of new information and thoroughly enjoyed the entire presentation.
The best part was the flight demonstration. We were warned not to stand up as the hawk swooped inches over our heads.
It was difficult to photograph. And hard not to flinch when a hawk makes your hair move.
Wrong focus. Darn.
The hawk's ability to catch food mid-air was impressive, to say the least.
After the presentation, we met the rest of the permanent residents. This owl was alert...
... while this one was trying his best to have an uninterrupted nap.
We met another Chittenden! This one is neither a senator nor a governor, but instead a peregrine falcon.
My very-favorite feature at the VINS Nature Center was the Forest Canopy Walk. You start out at ground level, but in no time you're halfway up the height of the trees.
Up, up, up. To fully appreciate this, imagine the perfect weather, a gentle breeze, hundreds of birds chirping, not another person around besides the three of us. All along the path are interpretive signs telling you about the flora and fauna. It was incredible.
Trevor and I LOVED it.
Steve, no so much. He was not at all happy when we were eight bald eagles above the forest floor and opted not to continue up to four giraffes.
I don't think I properly appreciated how tall giraffes are before this.
Here's the view most of the way up. Beautiful.
There is so much to do and see at VINS Nature Center. What a treasure this place is! I'm so glad we were able to visit.
We made a quick stop at Quechee Gorge, "Vermont's Little Grand Canyon." It's beautiful.
We said a reluctant goodbye to Vermont and continued to Concord, New Hampshire. We had dinner at Margaritas Mexican Restaurant.
It's housed in the old police station. We didn't get to sit in a cell, but other people did. The food was delicious and the portions generous.
We checked into our hotel, Tru Concord. It was clean, comfortable, and convenient.
After a good night's sleep, we were eager to explore more of the Granite State. I'll tell you about that on Monday.