The cow outweighed me by more than 1200 pounds and had long horns protruding menacingly to her right and left, but I edged closer anyway. Bob, the Activities Director at The Trapp Family Lodge, insisted that it was safe to walk out amongst the Highland Cows. He gave us instructions on what to do if they approached us looking for apples (fold your hands into your body and turn slowly away to show you don’t have food). And he told us when one of the cows was annoyed with us. Otherwise, we were turned out to explore the field. Turning around, I realized I was one of the few who took him up on the offer. But risk has its rewards, and being close to the cattle was thrilling.
I’ve been to Stowe, Vermont many times over the years. Mostly I’d drive up for Heady Topper beer, look around a bit and dream of lingering awhile. I’d even stopped to visit the Trapp Family Lodge, walking into the lobby to see what all the fuss was about. Like most Americans I’ve seen The Sound of Music a few dozen times. This wasn’t the Austrian Alps, but you can definitely see why they sank their roots here. The hills are alive in Stowe too.
The Trapp Family Lodge is a lovely place, with fires roaring and pilsner flowing freely from taps and a quiet elegance without pretense. Pictures of the family decorate the walls throughout the lodge along with art derived from the story of the family’s escape from Nazi Austria. The mountains surround the property in all directions, and the von Trapp family owns much of the land and has donated many more acres to a land trust, ensuring this view would remain largely as it’s always been.
We’d explored some of that land on our first day at the Lodge, walking the trails to find the Chapel at the top of the hill, and circling back to check out the Kaffeehouse for a snack. There are hiking and snowshoe trails criss-crossing the woods at the resort, and we had plenty of options for getting to know the lay of the land. Mountain bikers had their own single track trails that offered challenging terrain to explore. And wide cross-country skiing trails waited patiently for the snow to arrive. This was an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. The outdoor hot tub and spa is a great reward for having done the work.
After meeting the Highland Cows we walked back up the hill to the Lodge, with massive ravens flying about us speaking a sophisticated language of their own. I wondered at the banter, and wished we had more time to get to know them better. But we had other places to explore, and a long hill to walk back up. It seemed the cows were on the furthest pasture from the Lodge, and we had to earn our visit. It worked out to be about a mile each way, and a good way to work off breakfast with a different vantage point.
We made a quick trip to downtown Stowe to explore the shops and made a stop at The Alchemist to pick up our Heady Topper beer order curbside before returning to the Bierhouse for lunch and a pint. We made a point of saving room in the cooler for some von Trapp beer as well. The Alchemist helped make Stowe the heart of New England IPA country, but the von Trapp’s make a great case for pilsners with their brews. This wasn’t some mass-produced American lager, this was beer with substance.
As luck would have it, the woman who seated us was Kristina von Trapp, the granddaughter of Maria and a Director of the resort. She was a gracious host, with a striking presence about her borne of her family celebrity but honed on an active life outdoors and running a successful business. She wasn’t quietly sitting in the corner office looking at spreadsheets, she was hands-on and engaged with the public. And that made the von Trapp experience all the more impressive.
We resolved to come back here again in the other seasons. Stowe is beautiful year-round, even on a cold November morning when the trees are bare and the snow is just hinting that it might return again. Staying here in all four seasons seems a worthy goal. And it will help keep the refrigerator well-stocked too.