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Checking In

Vermont inn offers sweet fruits of its labors

Email|Print| Text size + By Tom Haines
Globe Staff / June 18, 2006

GOSHEN, Vt. -- When I saw two roads diverge here, near the former mountain home of Robert Frost, they were not in a yellow wood, but in one that was the green of fullest summer. I, too, chose the road less traveled by, angling south from Route 125 onto the dirt track of Forest Road #32 , and that has made all the difference.

Because down that road, after five miles of flats and weaves, there came an opening, with a tidy blue inn on one side and thick grass all around. My wife and I were due home near Boston at day's end, and had two young children in the backseat. I stopped only to look around.

Inside the Blueberry Hill Inn, a creaky, classic room with comfortable chairs held boxes of children's toys. A brochure with pictures of copper pots and empty Adirondack chairs mentioned that children under age 4 stay and eat for free.

Normally, such oases of idyllic escape are reserved for hushed couples and others come for a quiet supper and cozy read. But a woman at the inn confirmed that this reference to children was serious. Back in the car it was decided: We would all return sometime for a stay.

Last August, we returned not only with our children, by then 3 and 1, but with another couple and their kids, also a boy and a girl of those same tender, manic ages.

Tony Clark , who opened Blueberry Hill more than three decades ago, led us to rooms set along a hallway that doubled as a bit of greenhouse. The place is thick with edible things, herbs and flowers indoors and out, where blueberry bushes reign.

Clark suggested an early afternoon hike up a steep wooded trail to a beaver pond, one of miles of trails that traverse mountainous terrain of the Moosalamoo (MOOSE-a-la-moo) part of Green Mountain National Forest.

I asked Clark if the kids could eat their dinner in the main dining room, which was wood-paneled and intimate.

``Absolutely," he said.

The inn specializes in gourmet cuisine with locally grown ingredients. Clark told us the chef would prepare macaroni and cheese and fresh berries for the kids; we would enjoy rack of lamb with sage, served alongside fresh greens. Clark offered the use of high chairs, but we could also wheel in a stroller, if we preferred.

``Whatever is best for you," chimed a waitress.

So there we were, after the beaver pond and fistfuls of blueberries, herding kids around the table as other guests tucked into lamb and sipped bottles of wine they had brought along for the meal.

A 60-ish woman from New York, residing for the moment somewhere between disbelief and disapproval, shared this observation: ``I never went anywhere with my children when they were that young."

The next day, following an afternoon swim in the pond, a certain 3-year-old, no relation to me, burst naked from his room. Moments later he made a lap through the empty halls, detouring into the dining room. He at least had put on underwear.

``That's an improvement," noted the chef, who was busy prepping that evening's free-range chicken stuffed with tarragon and heirloom tomatoes and German butterball potatoes in crème fraîche.

But don't get the wrong idea; it was not all cacophony and chaos. Rather, for two glorious days it worked, a simple blending of generations, gathering over blueberry pancakes in the morning, heading out for a hike to a peak or a brook, then stopping back for cookies, fruit , and coffee set out for guests in the rustic kitchen all the day long.

It worked because Blueberry Hill Inn is old enough to know its own character. Clark and his staff act with a casual elegance, presenting well-groomed rooms and gourmet cuisine with a smile.

This is no secret to friends of nearby Middlebury College, who frequent the place, or cross-country skiers, who flock to its miles of groomed trails in winter.

But I loved it in summer, when the heart-pounding Goshen Gallop 10-kilometer race is run, as it will be again July 23, and later, when the blueberries are in season. It was then, joined by those with little hands and round mouths, that I lolled amid the bushes, munching.

Contact Tom Haines at thaines@globe.com. CHECK THEM ALL OUT See a state-by-state archive of Checking Ins at explorenewengland.com/checkingin.

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