May 16, 2014

The People’s Republic of Vermont

By Stephon Boatwright In Vermont

Traveling to a town that’s not only nestled in the mountains, but is also so vehemently Left-wing it’s often dubbed “The People’s Republic”, seems like a fictitious city that I would make up.  In reality though, the People’s Republic of Burlington is a real place, on the shores of Lake Champlain in the People’s Republic of Vermont.  It’s only about four hours from home, but the hippie haven of 50,000 people has somehow eluded me through the years.  After a half decade of longing to visit, Eva and I finally made the trek, and no, we were not disappointed.

 The main strip in town is a pedestrian thoroughfare filled with seemingly endless bars and restaurants named Church Street, which is ironic given Vermont’s status as the least religious state in the country.  At the first eatery we stopped at, a very authentic feeling Irish pub named Ri Ra we picked the outdoor seating so we could watch the parade of freethinkers bustling about.  The crowd was mixed in every possible sense of the word, age, ethnicity, style, and subcultures all varied greatly.  I could not help but to notice the level of new and old-school styled hippies though.  Birkenstocks, tie dye, dreadlocks, and peace signs were ubiquitous, probably purchased for the Peace and Justice Shop; I felt right at home immediately.

After downing my Guinness burger (highly recommended), we hit the town.  The city is filled with eclectic shops, murals, tea houses, and the most badass outdoors shop I’ve every seen.  After day dreaming of the adventures I could have with the hundreds of packs and drooling over the bikes I can only pray to afford, it was time to check out the Lake.  Lake Champlain is a gorgeous body of water, most famously known for its namesake, Samuel de Champlain, and America’s own Lock Ness Monster, Champ.  On the other shore the Adirondack High Peaks loomed.  it was weird being so close, but not climbing one of the summits.

There was only one thing left to do, visit every bar and pub in town.  We failed, but came real close.  Zero Gravity is quirky micro-brewery with a giant wood fired stove in the middle of the dining area, and bar taps consisting of tools you’d normally find in a shed.  Lord knows how they knew what they were pouring.

The Whiskey Room lived up to its namesake, it had every whiskey under the sun.  Ken’s Pizza and Pub (what a brilliant combination) was so dark inside that I felt I had been sentenced to a dungeon, but the Montreal Meat Pizza (no idea what it was) was too good to care.  After bouncing from bar to smoke shop (Marijuana is decriminalized in the state that elected the only socialist in the US Senate), we came across the best bar I’ve ever seen.  Think of the best dive bar you know. Got it?  Good! Now think of the show Portlandia.  Put them together and you have Radio Bean!  You can sit in the turn of the century looking booths, while sipping on a $5 shake (Oatmeal Stout, Espresso, and Vermont syrup), while listening to music that sounds like a monastery/acid trip.  Or you can buy a bottle of wine from the mattress skeleton frame that holds them.  What’s not to love?!?!  After making a friend who recommended Nectars for reggae night, it was time to get my Bob Marley on.

One day to see Burlington is not enough, but it’s all we had.  We took the long and scenic route home, passing through the greatest place on Earth, the Ben and Jerry’s factory.  After a quick tour, some free ice cream and some even better vibes the state capital was next. 
Montpelier is the smallest state capital in the country, with just 19,000 residents.  I would have guessed it would have had a small town feel, but it was oddly bustling for a Monday afternoon.  The state house is often called the most beautiful building in the country and for good reason, it’s stunning.
The People’s Republic treated me well and soon I’ll be back once all the ADK High Peaks are conquered (VT has 5 of its own).  If you’re ever wanting to get in touch with your inner hippie, but are too far from Boulder or Portland OR, Vermont is waiting for you. 
  1. hikerphd May 18, 2014

    Great post man! You inspired me to start my own trail blog the other day. I've been frothing at the mouth over various PCT bloggers this season, really tired of being stuck in the city writing my diss. So cool that you get out so much.

  2. Stephon Boatwright June 9, 2014

    I love it! Cograts and it looks great! I can't wait to follow your tales.


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