An alternate, but nearly all-gravel route from Middlebury to Burlington is by way of the charming Bristol village, past the Lord's Prayer cut on a rock...Charles Edward Crane

I took a sharp right at Route 17 and headed up Stark Mountain, a winding, ear-popping climb past the Appalachian Trail to the summit's microwave tower at Buels Gore (getting out of the car there for a chilly look at the valley far below) and then a fast roll down the back side of Sugarbush into the town of Bristol.

Bristol feels to me like a humble, hidden Green Mountain Shangri-La tucked away at the end of a circuitous climbing path. The downtown rewards the adventurer willing to bypass the speed of the valley roads with an excellent breakfast (herb and spinach egg scramble) at Snap's Restaurant, and some interesting poking around in Main Street shops (though oddball Folkhearts with it's red facade is alas no longer there.)

Shopping in a small town is a pleasure rather than a chore: park your car, grab your market bag, and stroll from store to library to farmer's market, exchanging greetings with neighbors along the way. The news and opinions in a five minute conversation on a town street are like lines moving through a painting, connecting part to part and creating a strong whole.

And there's a place on Main Street in Bristol to sit in the sun and gossip, complain, analyze and laugh with friends on a warm autumn afternoon.

Bristol facts and figures