There have been increased sightings of LARGE Black Bears in Vermont since 2004. Most of the sightings occured near human habitation and in at least one case, a concerned father shot one that weighed in at around 500 lbs. Black bears are not normally agressive, but if they have cubs around or feel threatened, they WILL charge.
To avoid this problem, keep all food wrapped in double bags and stored in a scent-proof hiking stash. Bear-Bagging with sturdy rope or burying the food bag under HEAVY rocks are the norm for campers and hikers. Many hikers carry whistles to disturb the bears and announce human presence. Should you encounter a bear, banging pans and shouting tend to work, but it's best to keep your distance while doing so. Bears are fairly shy creatures and if not with cubs, will retreat.
Burlington itself is a pretty mellow city, but tourists can find the downtown annoying at times. This is usually due to the influx of homeless teens and drug addicts into the city during the warmer months, particularly around Flynn Ave and Church St. They will usually ask for money and may cuss at you, but are relatively harmless. There are cops all over the main drag around Church St, so call one over if you get seriously harrassed. I have only witnessed one guy who was nuts enough to want to brawl (and take his clothes off in front of two teen girls) and he was quickly dealt with by the cops in a simple but firm way.
Some of the supposedly "Homeless" kids are really just UVM kids looking for a way to con beer money, so don't buy into the " I haven't eaten in a week, man" schpiel. There are many places for these kids to go so don't feel guilty about saying " Sorry" and walking away.
The roads between Grand Isle and the other chain islands are prone to high winds during the summer and early fall. I was almost blown off my bike one time and had to have some other guys draft me from the side, which is dangerous. If your riding through the North Hero section, particularly near the lake, then ride as a close pack and watch your speed. If there is a thunderstorm coming, take to a nearby shelter or eatery(lots on the island) and wait it out if the wind picks up.
You should be fine in the early morning or evening, as the winds off Lake Champlain are calmer then.
Many people, myself included, love hiking in the Green Mountain National Forest area. While most people have a great time, there are still casualties and lost hikers reported every year. This has been a common problem in the thick forests around Bennington and near the Groton State Park in Groton. Both areas have somewhat faded trail markers and can be slippery and steep after ice-out. The AT and Long Trail both have their share of problems from fallen trees to missing trail markers, so keep a close eye on the worn path and stick to it.
If you do go hiking, TAKE A TRAIL MAP. You can get these from the Green Mountain Club or any local outdoor shop and they come in handy. Don't trust the trail to be how you may have hiked it in the past and be aware that trail markers often freeze and fall off in winter. Always hike with a buddy if your a novice hiker (also recommended for old pros)and always let someone know where you are going. Be aware that unlike some silly tourists i've met on the trail, your cell phone WON'T work up here and you're better off not relying on it.
If you appreciate nature, like a relaxed atmosphere, and want colorful local cuture . . . you just may lose your heart to Vermont. From quaint small towns to vibrant small cities, lakes to mountains to cow pastures, fiercely independent long-time residents to newly transplanted Flatlanders . . . you'll never get tired of what this small state has to offer. Ski or snowmobile in the winter . . . hike in the spring . . . swim and fish in the summer . . . leaf peep in the fall.
Vermont is not just known for its nature and quaint old towns, it is also the home of Ben & Jerry's, some day the best ice cream made in the US. They have tons of flavors and it is a very rich ice cream so unless you are doing LOTS of hiking, try not to eat to much or you'll go home a few pounds heavier than when you left.
Occasionally you run into somebody that is too cool for everything but Burlington. These are the people that are so into nature and themselves that they forget some people are not from Vermont. This is hard to explain since 99% of people in Vermont are great. If you go for a couple of days, trust me, you will understand. Avoid these people at all costs!
All ya might wanna be leery about is stepping over someone's property line....vermonters as a general rule don't like trespassers, and own firearms
Also, if you aren't from Vermont or dont have snow tires, don't try driving anywhere from december to may. It's just not smart.
Driving too fast behind a vermonter is dangerous too. they'll slow right up. They will.
That's all i can think of.
On our Monday and Tuesday drive through Vermont, we passed through some very pictureque towns (Woodstock on Hwy 4 and Middlebury on Hwy 7) but did not have the time to linger. During the return journey on Friday, we made a decision to return to Woodstock for a closer look. However, there was a noticeable difference in the traffic and the downtown area was very congested with lines of tour busses and cars - must have been gearing up for the weekend even though the Fall foliage was not yet seriously underway. We did not stop and kept on moving east!
Be prepared for severe and quickly changing weather conditions in the winter. Tourist's unaccustomed to driving in snow or sleet often drive too fast or slow for the conditions,creating road hazards. Every year there are hikers or skiers who get lost when they veer off trails, risking their lives in the severe cold. Stay with a buddy and stay on a trail! Take forcasts seriously and beware!
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