Father’s Day Weekend, 2008

This past weekend, Rebecca, Catherine and I traveled up to Quechee, Vermont to see the Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival. We camped out at Ascutney State Park, as the Quechee campground was full, but most of our time was spent in and around Quechee and Woodstock. It proved to be a very enjoyable weekend for all of us! Read on for more details and photos!

On Friday afternoon, we drove up to Ascutney to pitch our tent and get things set up at the campsite. Catherine was eager to help, collecting sticks and stones, and pitching one of our tent stakes into the firepit (we found it just before leaving camp for the weekend).

Papa pitches the tent

After a quick break, it was off to Quechee to see the Balloon Glow! Luckily, we got there just a few minutes before the glow began. Catherine was not a huge fan of the sound the hot air burners made, but she did like seeing the balloons! The balloon glow was spectacular: Hot air balloons, tethered to the ground, fired off their burners in sequence, lighting up the multicolored balloons and creating an incredible show.

balloon glow

After the balloon glow, we headed back to our campsite to try to get some rest. Unfortunately, none of us slept very well, due to a bouncy air mattress, cramped quarters, and anxiousness for the early wake-up: with the balloon ascension at 6 a.m., we’d need to leave our camp around 5 a.m. to get there on time! Yikes!

Luckily, we made it just as the first of the balloons were starting to ascend! It was amazing to see these enormous, colorful balloons floating around all over Quechee. The ascent and descent actually didn’t last too long, so we’re glad that we were able to see it – many other people didn’t make it in time!

balloon ascension

Part of our reason for attending the Balloon Festival was so that I could meet up with some fellow photographers from New England Photography Expeditions. I saw a few of them during the Balloon Ascension, and after checking out the grounds of the Festival for a while, I met up with a group of photographers. Most of us had photographed the ascension, and with no balloon related events going on for a while, we decided to take a side trip to Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. I bid Rebecca and Catherine farewell for a few hours while I carpooled with Maureen, John, Suzi, and Julia. The carpool was a blast in and of itself, what with many jokes revolving around the female voice navigation built into Suzi’s cell phone, “troll” bridges versus “toll” bridges and what-not. We got to the SAGA and spent a few hours wandering around, snapping photos of flowers, wagons, artifacts, houses, and each other. As it turned out, all five of us were shooting with Nikon DSLRs, and all but one of us had a D80, which carried forward my experience at the last NEPE meetup. So there were many valuable Nikon tips exchanged, as well as general photographic knowledge.

John Donovan

On the way back from SAGA, we stopped to photograph the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge, which is the longest covered wooden bridge in the United States, as well as the longest covered two-span bridge in the world.

cornish-windsor bridge

Back at the Balloon Festival, I parted ways with the group and joyfully rejoined Rebecca and Catherine. After a lunch of fair food, we decided to head out on our own to see the Billings Farm and Museum. This is a working dairy farm, run in partnership with the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. It had museum exhibits on dairy farming, as well as tours of the dairy facilities. We were able to see the cows being milked in the mechanical milker, as well as calves, chickens, and other farm animals. We went for a hayride, which was also a guided tour of the property. Catherine loved getting to see the animals up close, especially the cows, one of her favorites


After the Billings Farm, we stopped to have dinner at Fire Stones Restaurant in Quechee. We had delicious flatbreads – mine was gorgonzola and ground beef with carmelized onions. Rebecca had thai chicken flatbread. Catherine had some sweet potato fries, and samples of our food. 🙂 Very delicious, and highly recommended.

With more rain in the forecast, and us as a bunch of tired campers, we decided to head back to camp. On the way, we stopped at the Quechee Gorge for a quick look. It was nowhere near as impressive as Royal Gorge in Colorado, but was still very cool and atmospheric. We thought about taking a hike down, but due to the threat of rain and thunderstorms, we decided to pass.

Quechee Gorge

After the Gorge, we stopped to grab some snacks at a convenience store/Dunkin Donuts that was experiencing power outages and flooding due to the torrential rain. I got a bit of a soak myself, running from the car to the store and back!


The evening turned out well, however. Our camp site provided plenty of tree cover, so the downpour didn’t affect us too badly. We huddled up inside the tent and did some reading, journaling, relaxing, and finally sleeping. We tweaked the setup inside our tent a little bit, and that resulted in a much nicer night’s sleep. Despite the rain, we all managed to sleep quietly and comfortably through the night!


Sunday was Father’s Day, my third, and after everyone was awake, I was presented with my gift: a card from Catherine, and a book called “Papa, Papa.” Papa is, of course, the name that I picked out for myself, and the one that Catherine is fond of calling me. As it happens, “Papa, Papa” was the only book the ladies could find that used “Papa” and not “Daddy” or “Dad” or “Father”. I appreciated it, and enjoyed reading it to Catherine. It’s a very sweet book.

In the morning, we packed up camp and headed back up to the Woodstock area. We took the scenic route to Woodstock to see the other part of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller complex, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. The MABI is the first national park to focus on conservation: the Marsh, Billings and Rockefeller families were all highly involved with conservation work, and were responsible for conserving and reforesting the land around the park itself. We took an excellent guided tour of the grounds, as well as a tour of the mansion. The house had remained in the family up through 1992, when the Rockefellers donated it to the National Park Service. In an interesting twist on the usual practice of historic houses, they decided to maintain it as it was. Thus, you have modern-ish things like touch-tone telephones and boom boxes mixed in with the antique furnishings from the original home. There were old photos of the families from the 1800s mixed in with recent family photos from the 1990’s. Very cool.

marsh-billings-rockefeller tour

After finishing our tour, we ate a quick lunch of delicious organic bread and local cheese that we had picked up earlier from the Woodstock Farmer’s Market. Catherine especially enjoyed the enormous loaf of bread!


After lunch, we got back in the car, and headed back home. Everyone was tired from the trip, but we all enjoyed it a great deal. I’d highly recommend a trip to Vermont to anyone looking for a nice weekend getaway. There is definitely plenty to see and do! I couldn’t have asked for a better Father’s Day weekend than to spend it with Catherine and Rebecca, taking lots of photos, sightseeing, eating great food, and meeting up with other photo geeks.

For all of the photos from the weekend, visit the Father’s Day Weekend gallery. Enjoy!

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