Our plan today was to start by visiting the Rock of Ages granite quarry and then go to our Harvest Host overnight location, the Morse Maple Sugar Farm. The quarry is about 20 minutes southeast of Montpelier, and the sugar farm is about 5 minutes north of Montpelier. The quarry was a perfect place for us to visit because we love to see what people in a locale do for a living, and we love to see the things that are unique and that characterize an area that we visit. The Rock of Ages quarry was all of that and more.
Because we are staying in our overnight locations for single nights only, we have the trailer in-tow almost everywhere we go. That means that we brought it with us to the quarry. When we got to the quarry there was not enough space in the parking lot for a trailer, so I did not pull in to it. (I’ve gotten myself into situations that were very difficult to get out of before, and I am always trying to avoid those.) I parked alongside a driveway and went in to ask if this would be acceptable. The question led to a discussion of the way that the quarry tour would operate today. On weekends, the tours are “caravan style,” which means that Rock of Ages provides a lead car and everyone else follows along in their own vehicles to the top of the hill where the guide talks about the features of the quarry. While I was listening to this I was thinking, “I came in here to ask if it was OK to park my trailer on the driveway instead of pulling it in to the parking lot, and now I’m finding that I’m going to have to drive it up this steep winding road to be able to participate in the tour. Hmmm. Not exactly what I wanted.” But the guy was a step ahead of me. He told me that, since it was just the two of us, we could ride along in the lead car and leave our trailer where it was. Talk about an immediate change of attitude!
The lead car driver, Pam, was also the tour guide. On the way up to the quarry I was peppering her with questions about herself and her role at the company. She normally does not do tours, but because they had passengers along (us), the 16-year-old that is the normal tour guide was not permitted to drive. So, wow; we really upset the apple cart! But this company was so gracious to accommodate us and make things easy for us. It was smooth sailing all the way.
Up at the top, we looked down into the actively-mined part of the quarry. Since it was Saturday there were no quarriers extracting granite. The pit was full of this beautiful aqua water. Pam explained that the color is caused by a particular type of algae that grows there.
It was fascinating to learn the history of the company and to see their pride of workmanship in their products. While no one really likes to think about such things, they are a premiere producer of gravestones and memorials. The granite they mine here in Barre, VT has a soft gray color, and beautiful darker gray flecks. From a distance it just looks gray, but up close you can see the darker speckling caused by the flecks.
After leaving the quarry we headed for the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks, our Harvest Host overnight location. I will say that I had no idea of the extent of touristy-ness that we were in for. I imagined a quaint, rural farm that focused on maple sugar-making. What I found was an extensive presentation of everything a VT tourist could desire, from maple candy to T-shirts to wall décor to cookbooks to, well, you name it and they have it at the Morse Farm. Burr Morse, evidently the head honcho, has created several strange wood carvings that adorn various locations throughout the compound. A separate building, part of which is made to look like a woodshed, houses the actual maple syrup boiler and a video presentation of the operations. The amazing thing is that there were literally dozens of people filing through all of this, all day long. They bring them in by the tour busload. Now don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed all of this. I just wasn’t prepared for the hubbub. It was a ton of fun, and we were certainly a part of the Vermont tourist scene.
I got an opportunity to meet and speak with Cheryl Peterson, a member of the Morse family. She was friendly and outgoing, but didn’t have too much to say about the operations. One of the things she said did surprise me, however. She said that she had been over toward Stowe the day before and had never seen such vibrant leaf colors. Now, coming from what I believe is a life-long Vermonter, those are some pretty amazing words, wouldn’t you agree?
They directed us to park our RV “anywhere you like,” and I chose a location that I felt was out of the way, over in a corner of the main parking lot. It turns out that I parked right next to one of the farm’s major attractions: the goats (James and Rex). James and Rex were good, quiet, well-behaved neighbors, but they sure drew a lot of foot traffic from interested agri-tourists. Tourists who were obliged to walk right across in front of our front door because of the way I parked.