Want to enjoy maple sugaring season in Vermont? Who doesn’t! With its warmer days and colder nights, March is the perfect time to start thinking about the liquid gold that is maple syrup. We put together this list of 7 ways to enjoy the sweet sap of the ubiquitous sugar maple tree for Swift House Inn guests and visitors to the site.
1. Visit an authentic maple sugar house.
Because 2020-2021 was such an unusual year, we couldn’t rely on the annual Maple Open House Weekend to get our fix of Vermont’s famous product, so we had to do some sleuthing ourselves. I was asking all over town about sugar houses when my dentist’s assistant, Julie Disorda stepped up and invited me to Rocky Ridge Sugarworks, which she owns and operates with her husband Jeff Disorda.
Rocky Ridge Sugarworks was a 20-minute drive away from Swift House Inn. It’s located at 2219 Frazier Hill Road in Benson, Vermont. There we sampled maple cream with pretzels, maple syrup with cinnamon sticks, and checked out Jeff’s dazzling equipment.
It was so fun inhaling the sweet steam of the boiling maple, and socializing with family and friends, as Jeff explained the scientific process of sugaring.
2. Learn about how the indigenous Abenaki people of Vermont first collected sap from maple trees.
Gluskabe was a smart and resourceful figure in Abenaki and Iroquois mythology who listened to the Creator’s advice to help his people. One day, he stumbled upon an abandoned Abenaki village that was in disrepair. The people who lived there had grown fat and lazy, drinking maple syrup from the surrounding trees all day, and not working and doing their chores. The Creator advised Gluskabe to water down the syup with the water from a stream making it 40 times less sweet and thick, and therefore, less addictive to the people. He obeyed them. When the Abenaki people realized that the sap was now all watered down, they snapped out of their syrup-induced stupor. The Creator made it much harder for them to get maple syrup, mainly by making the sap plentiful only one month out of the year (March), and by making it very labor intensive to boil the sap into syrup. You can learn more about this and other Native American stories from the Nulhegan band of the Abenaki people.
3. Design your own maple-themed vacation to Vermont!
According to the Vermont Tourism Board, there are only four seasons in Vermont: summer, fall, winter, and maple. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves about our state’s most important export. Check out the board’s website to gain valuable tips about how to plan your trip. But make sure it includes a lengthy stay at Swift House Inn, and a huge helping of our perfect buttermilk pancakes slathered with, you guessed it, maple syrup.
4. Take a hike on the Trail Around Middlebury, where maple trees are plentiful.
The Swift House Inn is only steps away from one of the entrances of the Trail Around Middlebury, although there are plenty of other trailheads all over this adorable town. The Trail is leisurely at some points and challenging at others. The full loop is 18-miles long with plenty of glimpses of the ubiquitous maple tree in its natural habitat. Most of us can easily recognize the leaf of a maple tree, but in the winter, it’s harder to spot. You can usually identify them by their silvery rough bark and the large oval shape of the trees.
If the thought of a moderate hike is too exhausting, you can just gaze at the big beautiful maple tree outside your guest room at Swift House Inn. That’s OK, too.
5. Order stationery that’s themed around a maple sap bucket named Sappy Bucket.
Our local printshop, Little Pressroom, has launched a cute new character for their online card store. We love how Sappy embodies all of the best Middlebury, Vermont values like friendship and humor. There are simple, subtly colored cards for all kinds of occasions. Stock up!
6. Try tapping your own maple tree with a kit.
Why leave this labor intensive process to the experts? Anyone with a maple tapping kit can access the sweet sap of the maple tree. Although the professionals at Rocky Ridge Sugarworks use an elaborate tubing system that funnels gallons of maple sap directly into their sugar house, you can gather a smaller amount with tools from your hardware store. Check out YouTube for more instructional videos like this one. Like the YouTuber says, once you tap and boil your own maple syrup, you’ll have a lot more respect for the steep price of the sweet stuff!
7. Shop maple products at Vermont’s Own Gifts & Goods in Middlebury, VT.
This boutique is a must see for all visitors coming to Middlebury, because of its wide selection of handcrafted products designed and produced in our home state. You’ll love supporting local businesses delightfully curated by the shopkeepers. You can buy a Maple Landmark Chess Set, Sidehill Farm Maple Pumpkin Butter, Benito’s Maple Infused Hot Sauce, Maple Sugar Candy, Smoked Maple Barbecue Sauce, and did we mention, maple syrup?