Edie, Eastern Slopes
August 22, 2010

If you've thought of Trapp Family Lodge purely in terms of winter sports, you might want to think again. It's natural to think of the lodge, located as it is in the famous ski resort town of Stowe, Vermont, as a venue primarily for winter sports. Readers may recall that in late winter we had a most enjoyable little snowshoeing adventure on some of TFL's cross country ski trails, when we were just starting to get active again. While we were there, though, we learned that that was only a part of the story, for the TrappFamily Lodge is the home of many four-season activities.

If you're interested, as we are, in such nature-oriented warm weather activities as a bird watching tour, a forest ecology trip, or learning to fly fish in their private trout ponds, TFL is a great place to go. There are also other sorts of activities available, such as tennis clinics and yoga classes. Most of these are available for a remarkably reasonable fee per participant. We definitely wanted to try some of these out, and made a note to come back in the summer!

Inside our Trapp Family Lodge room; all the creature comforts we could desire! (Warner Shedd photo)

The bird watching tour interested us the most. We found out that it began at 7:00 AM, so we decided to stay at the lodge the night before. We checked in during the late afternoon and soon were in a very lovely and luxurious room. French doors opened out onto a ground-level patio and lawn, and evening found us sitting out there in comfortable chairs, sipping champagne and watching the clouds and shadows on the surrounding mountains. It was a gorgeous evening, and we enjoyed every minute of it!

We arose early the next morning in order to meet our birding guide, Jan Axtell, at 7:00. Jan (pronounced Yon) proved to be the ideal guide – just the kind you'd want to have, with a couple of scientific degrees backed up by years of field experience and a wonderfully friendly and outgoing disposition. He could identify birds at a distance both by sight and by their songs. The latter is something that we're a bit deficient in – we recognize the calls of a lot of common birds, but things such as warbler songs baffle us!

A kildeer displaying gorgeous plumage as it forages (Warner Shedd photo)

We started our tour by going through the extensive flower and vegetable gardens. Jan explained that the TFL grounds and surrounding land provide superb habitat for a wide variety of birds. In addition to the gardens, there are many different habitats, such as open land, manicured woodland glades, and mixed forest growth, to say nothing of such great micro-habitats as hedgerows and clumps of shrubs. As we walked through all these different areas, carrying binoculars, Jan was quick to identify birds by their songs, as well as by spotting them moving around in trees and bushes. Often he would see bird movements that we couldn't until he pointed out the spot in the thick foliage. Meanwhile, he gave fascinating explanations about the habitat preferences of different bird species and other aspects of their natural history.

This lovely ruby-throated hummingbird was one of many species we saw during our birdwalk (Warner Shedd photo)

We saw or heard 20 different bird species in just an hour and a half. Of particular interest were a male ruby-throated hummingbird, perched on a garden pole and flashing its incredibly beautiful throat patch in the morning sunlight; killdeer poking their beaks into a compost pile in search of food; and a pair of redstarts flitting about. The latter were a species that neither of us had seen for many years, so that was a particular treat.

The walk wasn't difficult, but it was long enough to work up a good appetite, so we adjourned to the dining room in the main lodge. There we enjoyed a truly sumptuous breakfast: fruit, pastries such as croissants, and hot dishes. Edie topped her breakfast off with an outstanding, eggy Belgian waffle, while Warner feasted on delicious eggs Florentine. Then it was back to our room for an hour or so, prior to meeting Jan again.

This time, he was to be our guide for an expedition to one of TFL's private trout ponds. Jan, it turned out, is an avid fisherman and an excellent guide who knows every stream and pond in the Stowe area. Warner, who has tied flies since high school days, especially appreciated the beautiful flies that Jan ties. He can only say, “Jan ties a mean fly!”

Warner, assisted by Jan, catching...well, nothing! (Edie Shedd photo)

The pond itself, although manmade, proved to be a little gem in a wooded setting. This had been stocked with native brook trout. Edie elected to watch, rather than fish, so Warner and Jan took turns fishing, while swapping rods and fishing stories, and proceeded to catch not a single fish! This was actually very reassuring: it proved that these trout, although originally stocked, had become wild and were challenging to catch. Anyone who envisions that fishing in TFL ponds is like the fish-for-pay ponds where the trout are fed with pellets of fish food and will eagerly gobble up anything thrown in their direction, is going to be sorely disappointed. However, for those who want the pleasure of real fishing, this can be a rewarding experience.

As an added bonus, this pond was inhabited by a mature male bullfrog, which was not shy about proclaiming that it was his territory! His booming “aroom, aroom” frequently punctuated our conversation and provided a wonderful counterpoint to other sights and sounds of the place.

Jan explained that TFL is a great place to stay for a fishing vacation if you want a wide variety of waters within easy reach. In addition to the private ponds, there are myriad streams and lakes, open to the public, within an hour's drive or less. He described a number of these, some of which Warner had also fished. In addition to the trout fishing, Jan also said that there is outstanding smallmouth bass fishing in nearby Little River Reservoir. Please note that a fishing license is required for these public waters; however, it's a nice bonus to be able to fish in TFL's private ponds without the expense of buying one.

Finally, we took our leave of Jan and the Trapp Family Lodge and headed for home. It had been a most informative and enjoyable day, following our great overnight stay. It certainly demonstrated that Trapp Family Lodge is a fine base for all sorts of warm-weather outdoor activities for Active Seniors to engage in, enjoy, and learn from . Try it.

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