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Monday, November 4, 2019

An Introvert's Afternoon in Island Pond, Vermont

You are going to be surprised to read this, but let me share a little secret with you.  I actually consider myself to be an introvert... an outgoing introvert if we are being precise.  It wasn't always obvious to me but the older I got the more I started to realize how true this was.

I'll cancel plans (especially in groups) and a lot of the times if I don't cancel, I sometimes secretly hope you will.  I can talk to anyone, but I despise small talk.  I love deep meaningful one on one conversation more of a one on one style.  Crowds... they make me incredibly anxious.  Social settings drain me and after a long week of work, I genuinely prefer to be home on a Friday night (often myself or with Adam).  I feel like I have an old soul and it's home alone doing things around the house at 7 in bed by 9 with a book when I recharge.  I am genuinely happy to do things on my own, and more importantly, need that time to do things on my own.  So yes, I can talk to anyone and you can pin me as outgoing without a doubt but at my core, I'm actually an introvert. 

I'll be social, and I enjoy it in the right settings, but I often find myself home alone in my house or skipping larger social functions to go find a quiet trail instead.  This weekend away in Vermont, just O and I, it was the perfect recharge for my "outgoing introverted" self.   This relaxing afternoon in Island Pond was what the thing I didn't know I needed until I was snuggled up on the couch in a cabin at 6pm with a movie, nowhere to be and nothing to do after 10 miles on the trails and an afternoon on the lake.   A lot of my trips are often with company and are planned to maximize fun, see and do as much as I can in one weekend. This trip was different.

I already filled you guys in about this Saturday morning biking at Kingdom Trails.  The plan for the rest of my Saturday was to drive north towards Lake Willoughby, hang out for the afternoon where I would be car camping (literally - camping in my car) at the trailhead of Mt. Pisgah.  A hotel was not in the budget so car camping (free) was just about my only budget-friendly option.  Temperatures were going to drop to the high 20's to low 30's and I even prepared some window insulation inserts for the chilly night ahead.  

The ever-so-wonderful Adam who had to stay behind and work ended up surprising me with an AirBnb in the Island Pond area.  Olive and I now had a quiet cozy cabin in the woods to snuggle up and watch a movie with hot cocoa.  A morning biking Kingdom Trails, an afternoon exploring Island Pond, and an evening on the couch, just Olive and I, no conversation needed. 

Island Pond, a cute little village within the Town of Brighton in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, was never in the plans when I put together this weekend away. To be frank, I had never even heard of the town just a half-hour north of Kingdom Trails.   If it wasn't for Adam's surprise Airbnb, I (and likely you Dear Reader) would have never known about this picturesque northern Vermont town perched on Island Pond Lake.  

Island Pond has Adam to thank for its new fan club of two.  

Island Pond is known as the Snowmobile Capital of Vermont and is often tagged as Vermont's Best Kept Secret.  The 600-acre lake (called Island Pond) earned its namesake from the lake’s 22-acre island.  The village is sixteen miles south of the Canadian border so when I say "northeast kingdom" I mean the northeast part.   In the spring, summer, and fall expect to see everyone fishing, hunting, swimming, hiking, biking, canoeing, horseback riding, and boating on the lake.  In the winter, its all cross country skiing and snowmobiling.  Mostly snowmobiling. 

The town-you-never-knew-existed, Island Pond, was actually the site of the first international railroad junction in the United States.  Once a railroad hub, the area now has a much quieter relaxed culture an atmosphere to it.  As I walked into the convenience store to grab a snack on a Saturday afternoon, a cowboy in full garb was tying up his horse next to Olive (outside the gas station) where he was grabbing a coffee for his ride home.  Literally, his ride home.  Island Pond was so quiet you could ride your horse ride down the Main Street and back to your barn.  

I spent a half-hour walking around this quaint little town taking in the historic railroad and cute churches, restaurant and stores.  I soaked up the view of the lake and the last of the fall foliage in Northern Vermont.  Olive and I eventually settled by the lake at Island Pond Lakeside Park with a blanket, a bag of chips, and a bottle of wine.  I just smiled taking in the fall sunshine, enjoying the afternoon on the lake on a sunny Vermont Saturday with salty snacks and delicious vino.  I pulled out my journal and updated my log for the weekend's adventure while sketching the lovely view in front of me.  I had the lakeside to myself, no agenda for the rest of the evening, just enjoying wine and the water while waiting for a reasonable hour to have dinner in town. 

On our walk around town, I scouted out a few potential spots for dinner and settled on the Essex House and Tavern.  It had a relaxed vibe in the dining room with a big bar full of people enjoying a Saturday night in a small town.  It was that small-town vibe that I loved, laughing as the person to my left shouted across the bar to a very local looking gentleman on the end of the bar about a dumpster dropoff at her house.  She then informed her friend on the phone that Susan got into the wine a little too early and fell asleep, missing their dinner plans. 

The menu was reasonably priced and with a lot of delicious options and daily specials.  I left Olive in the car while I went in for an early bird dinner - a huge cut of prime rib with hand-cut fries and veggies (a fantastic meal).  I enjoyed a nice dinner for one, chatting with the bartender (from Connecticut) and a couple from Massachusetts who bought a house here in the quiet Village of Island Pond.   We talked about the beauty and simplicity of the town, how much snow falls in the area (a lot), and the bartender informed me that this bar will be packed shoulder to shoulder every day of the week during snowmobile season.

I left dinner happy, full of good food and interesting conversation before heading back in my car, leaving the Village of Island Pond behind.  I didn't have to travel far, just a few miles down the road to the Airbnb Adam found for me.   The pictures had me a little worried that this last-minute option was going to be a rundown dirty backwoods Vermont kind of option.  

This was the one instance where I was pleasantly surprised by how much nicer the house was than the photos. 

It was tucked away in the woods down a dirt driveway and came with everything I needed and more.  There was a firepit and chairs outside, an enclosed porch for warm weather, a full kitchen stocked with fresh coffee grinds, a cozy couch and living room and kitchen table,  two bedrooms (master and a bunk room) and a bathroom.  It was very clean and well thought through with every accessory you could need for a night's stay, board games and wine glasses included.  I would absolutely stay here again, the perfect place to hunker down with friends in a Vermont winter storm.

I woke up in the morning to a frost-covered car and temperatures in the high 20s, thankful for Adam, this Airbnb, and the chance to recharge in a warm cabin in the woods of Vermont.  Happy and thankful after a night in a cabin in the woods - it is one of the best ways to wake up.  I made my coffee, packed the car and we headed southwest to the Town of Westmore to hike Mount Pisgah perched above Lake Willoughby.  

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