Since our last two hiking trips in Missouri, Bill has wanted to go to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. But we had to wait for a few issues to be taken care of and for the weather to warm up. Finally, everything came together in April. As a bonus, we were able to fit a week in Vermont first, then to the Berkshires the following week.
Here is a quick recap of our week in Wilmington, Vermont, with the details in two blog posts:
The week of April 16-23, 2022
April 16 Arrived but first took a tour of the Visitor Center Bennington VT April 17 Easter Service, snow, Hoot toot whistle trail (hiked 4.6 miles) April 18 Haystack Mt. (Hiked 4.1 miles) April 19 Day off hiking so drove to NH for groceries April 20 West Lake Trail (Hiked 6.2 miles) April 21Catamount Cross Country Ski Trail (Hiked 3.3 miles) April 22 Toured Hildene Mansion April 23 Drove to Pittsfield, MA
On April 16, 2022, we arrived in Wilmington, Vermont with no expectations. Bill only had a few days to book the week but thought it might work out. It was also Easter weekend so thankfully, there were openings. After all, this is the cold north so, unlike other “warmer” locations we tried, there was availability. I trusted my Travel Guide, my husband, on this one. Thankfully, he exceeded ANY expectations I could have had!
We stayed in the historic Crafts Inn, 10 West Main St., Wilmington, Vermont. From the informative website:
A little history about The Crafts Inn
The Crafts Inn, along with Memorial Hall (which is next door), were designed by architects, Mead, McKim & White, with the New York firm of Stanford White. White was considered one of the preeminent architects of his time. The architectural designing of the Inn and Hall was started in 1898, Memorial Hall was opened mid-December 1902 in time to have Christmas celebrations for the town, and Craft’s Inn was opened on February 10, 1903 by Major F. W. Childs and was called ‘Childs Tavern’ at that time. The hotel was built more as a resort for visitors who would be staying for an extended period, as opposed to other accommodations in the area, designed largely for travelers passing through. A lot of people would come up from the city. The men would send their families up for a long-term stay, maybe for a month during the summer. It was a very popular place back then….”
A few pictures inside and outside:
The best feature of not only the Inn, but the town, was the relaxing environment. From my first phone call to the Inn about two hours before our check-in, until we checked out and drove away, we were impressed. The staff was second to none. All were very friendly and wanted to make sure our stay was the best.
About the only thing we could complain about this week was the unpredictable weather! Friends and family thought we were a bit crazy to head so far north in mid-April. BUT I did check the weather forecast and there was absolutely NO snow predicted. I should have taken a picture of a sign that indicated the snow season was over on April 15. Remember, we arrived on April 16. We had a nice snow shower Sunday afternoon but it didn’t stick. But as everyone in Vermont knows, you can never take the weather for granted! Monday, warnings were issued, between 5 – 8″ of snow was coming Tuesday evening! But I am ahead of our week in Vermont.
This was NEVER in the forecast when we made our reservations. We are glad, otherwise, we would have missed one of our best hikes ever!
April 17, 2022, Sunday was Easter so of course, we had to find a church. No problem, there was a precious young fellowship around the corner, in a historic church building. We found such a wonderful body of believers and heard an outstanding message for this most Holy of our holidays. While it was hard to not be with any of our family members, I told them, I felt like we were with long-lost relatives – after all, we really are family!
“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” Matthew 28:6
After church and eating, it was time to get acclimated to the terrain. We were surprised it began to snow as we headed out. Seriously! Bill said we’ll just stay out as long as we don’t get cold. It was only a five-minute walk from the Craft Inn.
Here is a slide show of the rest of our first exciting Vermont hike:
This was an excellent trail! It was well marked and had plenty of beauty along the way. It had rained a lot the day before and then the wintery mix as we started. So there were some soggy and slippery areas. We decided to walk back via a hard-packed gravel road in the interest of time. Why not go enjoy the hot tub and sauna?
April 18, 2022, we decided to drive to Brattleboro to pick up some provisions. While it was only 23 miles from destination to destination, it was predicted to take nearly 40 minutes! Oh well, it was a very windy and cold day, at least it was warm in the car. The weather forecast said 5-8 inches of snow overnight. On the way, we saw a Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters. Bill’s favorite hiking shoes are no longer made (so we thought) so he’s looking for a replacement. We tried to park nearby to shop there but no convenient parking places close by. So we skipped it and ended up in New Hampshire. Bill knew that was where we were going. I didn’t see a welcome sign but could sense a bit of difference in attitude as we grocery shopped. That’s when Bill told me we were now in New Hampshire. Interesting!
April 19, 2022, the weather was perfect for a great hike! And guess what, we only got about an inch of snow, not the 5 – 8″ predicted. It melted as the sun began to shine. We had so many places to choose from that, using All Trails, we decided to stay close to Wilmington. The gas prices are just ridiculous so why not stay close to our Inn? We picked a four-mile hike with great views. We had no idea what we were in for as we are “out of practice.” We didn’t look closely at the elevation! Thankfully, our only complaint was the last 3/10th mile to the summit. Due to the snow, only three visible markers didn’t seem to be doing the job. Fortunately, a local hiker came by and agreed to blaze the way for us! She ended up taking a picture of us at the summit.
4/20/2022 We were not sure if I could hike when we planned this trip. My orthopedic surgeon said it’s just arthritis, which comes and goes. So far so good, so next we went on the West Lake Trail, 5.9 mile out and back and the elevation wasn’t apparent. When will we learn? But we have to remember, we are in the mountains. Also, prefer loops when that is an option. Still, this looked inviting because it was considered moderate. To us, surprisingly, this ended up being one of the best hikes we’ve ever been on! And probably not for reasons others would agree. It just threw everything at us as hikers! Here is a slide show:
It was interesting to talk to a new owner around “West Lake” which is really called the Lake Raponda. She and her husband actually just purchased the land, which borders part of the trail. They are from Boston, Massachusetts, and will build a summer home on the lot. She was just in town to check it out! She explained the closest place for us to sit and enjoy a refreshment was on the other side of the lake, a bit too far at this point. So we made our own picnic area on a fallen tree. I didn’t take a picture but we could see the lake enough to enjoy our reward!
4/21/2022 Our last hike in Vermont was the Catamount Cross Country Ski Trail. It sounded moderate. But the melting snow made the trail a mess. We had an alternative trail where we parked, near the trailhead. We took the packed gravel road alongside the creek. At the end of this trail, we hiked and walked at least 25 miles. So our next day will be a scenic drive to a historic location.
I am out of downloading and uploading energy. So I will save that drive and what is now one of our favorite tours for the next post! All I can say is, can anything top this week? Stay tuned!
Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountainssing together for joy” Psalm 98:8
As I started writing this, we finished our second week of hiking and sightseeing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. These have been two AMAZING weeks. We had no idea if I could hike – I could – nor how the weather would be. We only had one unexpected snowstorm. Thankfully, we brought all of our cold-weather clothing, gloves, hats, etc.
We enjoy history as much as we enjoy hiking. We found a perfect balance in both locations. It’s a good thing I’ve had to rest my knees a bit. If not, we would have missed out on some great sights and history lessons.
For me, the Lincoln Family Summer Home, called Hildene near Manchester, Vermont is now one of my all time favorite historical homes! When Bill first mentioned it for a “day off of hiking” something didn’t make sense. I didn’t recall any mention of a Lincoln summer home in Vermont. Lincoln’s Presidential Library is still one of my favorite museums. Sadly, we visited it when I wasn’t blogging about our travels so no pictures or written memories. Other than how it was so well done but …. Hang on
A few years later, we toured Mary Todd Lincoln’s childhood home in the heart of Lexington, Kentucky. We have a blog post about that visit.Click here toto learn more about her early life. She had a sad childhood, then lost all her children but her eldest son, Robert. I can’t imagine her distress and pain over those losses. It is even harder to imagine how horrific it was for her beloved husband to be shot while watching a play, only to die the next morning. Apparently, all this heartache caught up with her as she eventually was placed in a sanitarium.
Robert was Abraham and Mary’s only child to survive to maturity. An ugly side portrayed at Mary’s home/museum was Robert’s relationship with his widowed mother. No wonder. He had her committed to Bellevue Place Sanitarium in 1875. Needless to say, it did not make me want to see HIS summer home, Hildene. But I read a little bit about it, so since it was not a day to hike, why not? It was a beautiful day to drive. While writing this blog post, I found a wonderful article about the reconciliation of Robert and his mother. It gave more background which was fairly presented. Click here to read more.
As an aside, someone on a hiking trail recommended this “Relive” app so decided to try it on our drive through the Green Mountains. Let me know if you can see our drive from Wilmington to Manchester. I’ve recorded a few more of some of our hikes. Practice makes perfect and I need more practice!
Hildene is formed from two old English words: “Hil” meaning “hill” and “dene” meaning “valley with stream.” Robert and his wife Mary gave their Vermont home this name because it is perched on a hill overlooking the Taconic Mountains to the west, the Green Mountains to the east, and the Battenkill river flowing through the great Battenkill Valley below….
Hildene is rooted in Abraham Lincoln’s values, making them our own and relevant to the 21st century.”
Hildene is considered the most significant Lincoln site outside of Illinois. Situated in Manchester, Vermont, it is the site where the Lincoln family lived from 1905 to 1975. Built by Robert Lincoln, the oldest child of President Abraham Lincoln, the 412-acre estate consists of the mansion, formal gardens, “Sunbeam” (a 1903 Pullman Palace Car), a goat dairy, Dene farm, and miles of trails for hiking and snowshoeing. The site’s unique aspect is that the Hildene Foundation, which preserves the property, has transformed Lincoln’s values of integrity, perseverance, and civic responsibility into actions: sustainability, preservation, conservation, and education, all of which you can experience when you visit.
We arrived too late for the only guided tour of the day, at 11:00. But, a very knowledgeable docent was available. He gave us lots of valuable insight. This beautiful 8,000 square foot 24-room is a Georgian Revival mansion. Three generations of Lincoln’s lived in the house, from 1905 until 1975. The mansion was built with electricity, telephone connections, and a hot air heating system. About 90% of the furnishings were original.
While it was supposed to be “just a summer” home, Robert Lincoln was said to spend about 80% of the year here. Robert died in the home in 1926. His wife maintained the home until her death in 1938. Upon her death, her daughter, Mary (Peggy) Lincoln Beckwith inherited the home. She lived there until her death in 1975. She and her brother, Robert Lincoln Beckwith spent considerable time there as children. Neither one had children so upon their deaths, the family lineage of Abraham Lincoln ceased. Allegedly. Hang on again. I seem to learn more when researching the places we visit afterward to verify my memory and add more facts – to write-ups such as this one.
I uncovered information I had not heard before. First, the researchhelped me correctly remember the story of the condition of the mansion in 1978 when the Hildene Foundation took ownership.These days, my memory is only good for about 20 seconds. What I uncovered was even more fascinating than I hoped. I’ll have to save some of this for a future visit to another Lincoln memorial. But here is what I found to substantiate what the Docent said about what a mess the house was in when it was finally taken over by the Hildene Foundation:
Peggy Beckwith moved to Hildene after her mother’s death and stayed there for the rest of her life. She spent her days golfing, dabbling in oil painting, sculpting, photography, and chain-smoking cigars. Because she tended to dress in knickers and men’s shirts, rumors spread about Peggy’s sexual orientation. No one knows for certain whether the rumors were true, but it is certain that growing the Lincoln family tree was not in her plans. She never married and never had children.
Housekeeping wasn’t in her plans, either. When she died in 1975, the mansion was in disrepair and was overrun with animals, including raccoons. ‘She’s an odd one,’ said Lincoln scholar Ralph G. Newman at the time. ‘I would call her an eccentric recluse. She doesn’t give a @#*! about Abraham Lincoln, and she’s rebuffed any attempts by historians to interview her or look for family papers on the farm.'”
I found a few favorable facts about Peggy. She was a pilot and owned several planes. She had a runway added to the property but I couldn’t find anything to substantiate that claim. I do want to get this posted as I still have to write up our week in Massachusetts, but I could keep digging up and reading about this family! But the other important detail in the article quoted above is there is an heir-apparent still living today. I believe more Lincoln historians are ignoring it but the fact of the matter is a 17-year-old (Timothy Lincoln Beckwith born in 1968) was able to claim part of the inheritance left by Robert Todd Lincoln. Hopefully, one day I will be able to write more.
This 24-room Georgian revival mansion has been perfectly restored. But yet, it is the sad legacy of one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, who was not appreciated by his children and subsequent heirs. But yet, his legacy is living on in the museum, mansions, and humble sites pertaining to his life. A few pictures I took downstairs inside of this amazing Mansion:
My favorite part of the house was an exhibition room dedicated to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln. Around the room were numbered excerpts from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, delivered on March 4th, 1865 during the fourth year of the Civil War.
I typed up the quotes with their corresponding “numbers” as they went around the room. Several were my favorites so you will see additional information and pictures. First, the entrance way.
On March 4, 1865, only 41 days before his assassination, President Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office for the second time. Lincoln’s second inaugural address previewed his plans for healing a once-divided nation.”
The below numbered quotes, 1 – 13 were from displays around the room, dedicated to Lincoln’s second inaugural address. I took pictures of each display, so they typed them up and inserted them. So any errors, are mine! I only included a few pictures of the displays with the quotes plus a few other displays worthy of inclusion. Actually, the ENTIRE room is worth viewing! We encourage others to go and visit this historic mansion.
“At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper.” Abraham Lincoln
“Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented.” Abraham Lincoln
“The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.”
“On the occasion corresponding to this for years, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending war. All dreaded it… All sought to avert it.” Abraham Lincoln “I worked night and day for twelve to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came.” Jefferson Davis
“While the inaugural address is being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war… Seeking to dissolve the union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nations survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.” Abraham Lincoln
“One eight of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest.” Abraham Lincoln
“All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than restrict the territorial enlargement of it.” Abraham Lincoln
“Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it had already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier Tryon, and a result less fundamental and astounding.” Abraham Lincoln
“Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged.” Abraham Lincoln
“The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!’” Abraham Lincoln
“If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove and that He gives to both the North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him?” Abraham Lincoln
“Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toils shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’” Abraham Lincoln
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln
I found the rest of the statement from Number 9, so worthy to get the complete quote:
Each (party) looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces…(but) the prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”
Hildene House Lincoln Room
The Docent was outstanding. Apparently for the price of admission, if you miss the guided our Docents are available and await your questions. I wish I had recorded all he said, but I thought I would remember the important tidbits. But hopefully, this blog has captured the essence of this beautiful mansion and the legacy behind its creation.
After we spent an hour or more inside, we went outside to see the garden and the views in the back.
After admiring the view, we went back through the welcome center. We made a few purchases to take back to our neighbors. They are watering our flowers! Everything for sale was “local” merchandise. We could have spent a fortune there.
Next, we went and put on more warm weather gear and walked to the Pullman. We had actually wanted to walk around on the hiking trail. But we were running out of daylight. No way Bill would drive in the mountains in the dark! We were greeted by another Docent. He was so knowledgeable. He impressed me but Bill questioned some of his “historical” facts. There may have been a slant but I did fact check what I could remember and the facts were true.
Preamble to the US Constitution, also on display:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”