Late-Fall Fun in Vermont, From Rock Climbing to Destination Dining

Words and photos courtesy of Seven Days

Late-Fall Fun in Vermont, From Rock Climbing to Destination Dining
By Carolyn Fox, Amy Lilly and Sally Pollak

Petra Cliffs Climbing Center & Mountaineering School
105 Briggs St., Burlington, 657-3872

Since COVID-19 flipped the world upside down, many people have felt stuck between a rock and a hard place, navigating unexpected and disruptive changes to daily life. At Burlington's Petra Cliffs, however, getting stuck between a rock and a hard place is a different matter altogether — and one with unexpected appeal.

The indoor climbing center and mountaineering school focuses on mountain-related recreation and education. The challenge of scaling a rock face can be a welcome "mental release or break from the stress of day-to-day life," says programs coordinator and general manager Tim Farr. "It gets you smiling and provides a feeling of community again that many folks may have been missing."

Indoors, Petra Cliffs offers climbing and bouldering for all ages and abilities, as well as a high ropes course. These are, of course, hands-on activities — a particular challenge in a pandemic. In order to provide a safer space, Petra Cliffs has "drastically increased cleaning procedures," says Farr, including installing a new industrial air purifier and hand sanitizer stations.

The center requires that masks be worn at all times and hands be cleaned upon arrival. Its staff also enforces Vermont's cross-state travel requirements, asks COVID-19 screening questions, requires advanced reservations and has limited capacity to 35 people at a time.

Outdoors, experienced guides lead rock and ice climbing instruction. "We have seen a recent uptick in outdoor programming, especially with the fall colors," says Farr, who notes that some winter programs are already full.

"We also anticipate more folks wishing to come indoors to climb as the weather gets cooler and the days shorter," he continues. To meet that demand, Petra Cliffs will continue to adapt, following state guidelines as winter sets in.

Rock on.

Also try...
● MetroRock, 320 Sunderland Way, Essex Junction, 878-4500
● Green Mountain Rock Climbing Center (currently open to members only), 223 Woodstock Ave., Rutland, 773-3343

Fleming Museum of Art
61 Colchester Ave., University of Vermont, Burlington, 656-0750

"Reckonings," at the University of Vermont's Fleming Museum of Art, is perhaps the most eclectic exhibition you'll ever see. A medical kit from the early 1900s, a photograph by Carrie Mae Weems, a Cuban painter's abstract work in watercolor and ink from 1952: What the small roomful of works pulled from the collection have in common is that each reflects a staff member's grappling with the present.

The Black Lives Matter movement and the coronavirus are, understandably, foremost in the staff's thoughts. Guest services coordinator Cynthia Cagle chose Louis Lozowick's 1925 lithograph of machine-age Minneapolis, she writes in an accompanying label, because it recalls George Floyd's murder by police in that city earlier this year. A 1917 recruiting poster by Milton Herbert Bancroft, titled "Wanted: 25,000 Student Nurses," reminds curator Andrea Rosen of UVM's rush to graduate its spring 2020 nursing class early to help care for patients with COVID-19.

"Reckonings" is at least as interesting for its participants' reflections as for the works themselves. (Indeed, when else do you get to read the thoughts of, say, collections and exhibitions manager Margaret Tamulonis?) Jeff Falsgraf, exhibition designer and preparator, muses on the turbulent year of 1948, when Herbert Meyer painted his seemingly oblivious bucolic oil, "Farm in Summer."

Alice Boone, curator of education and public programs, is the most poetic of the bunch. Choosing a silver print of Judith Brown's "Lamentations Group" — an outdoor installation of walking, grieving female figures with heads bowed — she writes, "We will become these figures this fall, as we choreograph ourselves to proceed ... Our lamentations will multiply."

Fortunately, with Vermont's relatively successful suppression of the virus, opportunities to see art may also multiply. "Reckonings" is on view through November 21.

Also try...
● "About What Remains," watercolors by Sharon Kenney Biddle, at Northeast Kingdom Artisans Guild Backroom Gallery in St. Johnsbury, through November 21, 748-0158.
● "Missing Touch," works by Beth Pearson, Betsey Garand, Annelein Beukenkamp and Leslie Fry, at Furchgott Sourdiffe Gallery in Shelburne, through November 28, 985-3848.

The Daily Catch
61 Central St., Woodstock, 332-4005

Central Street in Woodstock is home to a bookstore, a pharmacy, a craft gallery, a pewter shop and a vintage clothing store. Set amid this collection of village businesses is a fish out of water: the Daily Catch, a lovely little seafood restaurant with Sicilian flair.

Housed in a white clapboard Victorian building, the Daily Catch opened in the fall of 2018 — and the season presents a prime time to dine. A bowl of clam chowder and a serving of crab-lobster cakes offer warm comfort and flavorful sustenance.

Paul Freddura founded the original Daily Catch in the early 1970s in Boston's North End. He and his wife, Maria, have since launched outposts in Brookline, Woodstock and on the Boston waterfront.

The Fredduras have a house on Silver Lake in Barnard, and Maria opened the Woodstock branch for selfish purposes: "I was bringing my own fish up here to eat," she says. Now, "We buy [fish] off the boat, cut it and ship it up."

The 35-seat space, limited to 18 patrons due to the pandemic, snares diners with its baked scallops, calamari "meatballs," and linguine with white sauce and littleneck clams. This last dish is served in a skillet, with clams in their shells arrayed around the pan's perimeter. Takeout is also available.

Along with seafood, pasta populates the menu to create a set of offerings that's an homage to a traditional Christmas Eve meal. "The Daily Catch is actually the Feast of the Seven Dishes, 363 days a year," Maria says.

Her husband, whom she describes as a "city boy who's not ready to give up concrete for Class IV roads," has nonetheless influenced the small-town restaurant.

"My husband's favorite is Frank Sinatra," she says. "So our menu is available 'Night and Day.'"

In the area...
● Billings Farm & Museum, 69 Old River Rd., Woodstock, 457-2355
● Harpoon Brewery, 336 Ruth Carney Dr., Windsor, 674-5491
● Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, 54 Elm St., Woodstock, 457-3368
● Suicide 6 Ski Area, 247 Stage Rd., South Pomfret, 457-6661

About the series

This series, a partnership between Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing and Seven Days, will run seasonally, presenting curated excursions in every corner of Vermont. The idea is to highlight the state's restaurants, retailers, attractions and outdoor adventures so Vermonters and visitors alike can plan safe, local trips and discover new corners of the state. Happy traveling, and stay safe.