Friday, November 11, 2005

Before deciding on your next vacation destination, sit down at your computer and explore some of the Internet’s guides to a corner of Vermont called the Northeast Kingdom, where you can keep busy with everything from cross-country skiing to summer hiking.

You could spend your whole vacation outdoors, exploring the forested hills and valleys of the Northeast Kingdom — — but then you would miss its villages. Plan on taking along your credit cards for the area’s many antiques shops and such places as the Maple Grove Sugar House Museum and store, where you can stock up on maple syrup.

For the coming months, the peak entries in Outdoor Activities are cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, snowshoeing and sleigh rides. If you want to point your feet downhill, the Northeast Kingdom has the Jay Peak Resort with 64 trails, and Burke Mountain, home of the nation’s oldest alpine ski academy.

One unique outdoor resource in the region is Kingdom Trails — — a homegrown network of country roads and trails for hikers, snowshoers, skiers and bike riders. Biking is finished for the season, but you can click on Winter Trail System for the necessary information on skis and snowshoes. Click on Location for directions (the welcome center is in the Bailey’s and Burke General Store) and Policies and FAQs for parking areas and etiquette.

Kingdom Trails is based in East Burke Village, one of three villages that make up Burke — — where you can shop in country stores and art galleries, relax in a bed-and-breakfast inn, go fishing or ride a horse, or just enjoy the scenery year-round. Click on Discover Burke and Villages to get acquainted, and then read through Recreation. If you need a reservation, click on Directory to find accommodations in motels or spots such as the Fox Hall Inn or Angie’s Haven, in an 1894 farmhouse.

You can find more details by visiting the state’s official tourism Web site — — and clicking on Our Regions. Its Welcome to the Kingdom and Into the Woods pages offer broad overviews, but most of the helpful details are contained in the sections under Area Travel Planner on the left side of the page. Attractions has 73 entries from the Old Stone House Museum to Northeast Kingdom Outfitters, and you can check off the ones you like and get a customized map of their locations.

Another useful source is the Vermont Outdoor Guide Association — — where you can learn about farm vacations, scan a directory of guide services and tour operators, stock up on maps and gear, learn about waterways and state parks, and see what you need to know about hunting and fishing.

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