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The Great Northern Route

Plainfield

Hitchhikers are common on US-2 between Montpelier and Plainfield, thanks to the presence of Goddard College, one of the nation’s most renowned countercultural institutes of higher learning. The tiny town of Plainfield also boasts the Maple Valley Café (802/454-8626, tie-dyes welcome), a combo deli-café that is the local hangout. The soups are fantastic, as are the veggie burgers. The store’s parking area is built on a foundation of recycled granite, leftovers from the nearby quarries and stonecutters.

If you want to linger, consider a night on the farm: At Hollister Hill Farm (2193 Hollister Hill Rd., 802/454-7725, $100 and up), east of town, they make their own maple syrup (and serve it over pancakes at breakfast) and raise all sorts of organic produce (from vegetables to “beefalo” hybrids).

West Danville

West Danville, a summer community 20 lovely miles east of Plainfield on the edge of Joe’s Pond, is ringed by rustic vacation cabins. The pond, which at sunset in summer is one of the more idyllic spots imaginable, was originally called Indian Joe’s Pond. At the junction of US-2 and Route 15 in the center of town, you’ll see a micro-size covered bridge and the Hastings Store (802/684-3398), the local “if we ain’t got it, we’ll get it for you” emporium, selling cheddar cheese, maple syrup, fishing supplies, and other Vermont essentials.

Danville

Heading east, the next place you’ll pass is Danville, yet another picture-postcard Vermont town, set on a hill surrounded by farmland. The center of Danville is a classic New England village green, with a general store and the customary churches. Just off the green you’ll find the headquarters of the American Society of Dowsers (184 Brainerd St., 802/684-3417, Mon.-Fri.), whose members have refined their talents for finding water or mineral deposits using a dowsing rod.

Peacham

South of US-2 from the center of Danville, enjoy the lovely pastoral drive toward Peacham, a perennial contender for the “prettiest village in Vermont” title. During the fall color sweeps, the mountaintop village is likely to be crowded with sightseeing tourists, but most of the time it’s a somnolent little place. In fact, Peacham is so timeless that the producers of the movie version of Edith Wharton’s Victorian fable Ethan Frome filmed here, without having to remove any streetlights or other signs of modern life.

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