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Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Blue Backpack Chronicles: Bees, Birdhouses and the Beach

Posted By on Thu, Oct 3, 2013 at 9:24 AM

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Monday was 70 degrees and sunny, the kind of gorgeous fall day you feel the need to savor because you know there aren’t many of them left.

So it only made sense to head to the Champlain Islands with my 3-year-old son, Theo. I packed a tote bag full of snacks and we drove north to South Hero.

Our first stop was Allenholm Farm, where the apple trees were bountiful. In no time, we picked 10 pounds of Macs and Empires while soaking up the sun.

The farm also has a petting paddock with chickens, goats, donkeys, a pony and a Scottish highland cow. But Theo was more concerned with some other critters: the bees buzzing around the play area. He was stung once at an orchard when he was a baby and his fear still runs deep.

We dodged bees and preschoolers on a class trip long enough to get some playtime in. After a short snack break at a picnic bench, we were off to White’s Beach, just a five-minute drive away.

I had heard there was an impressive collection of birdhouses nearby, and Theo and I found them a short drive past the beach parking lot. Hundreds of brightly painted wooden birdhouses hung from trees in the swampy private land across the street from the lake, seeming to stretch back endlessly. I’d never seen anything like it.

The rocky, deserted beach proved equally spectacular.

“Look at my beach treasure,” I said to Theo, holding up a small, jagged piece of wood I’d picked up from the sand.

“That’s just some wood,” Theo said. But soon he wised up to the game, pretending a triangular rock was the tooth of a great white shark and tossing his own treasures into my tote bag.

In no time, the lake was calling his name.

“I wanna wet my tootsies in there!” Theo yelled, abandoning his Crocs on the sand and running down to the water. On the shore, he scooped up wet sand and packed it into a sandcastle, topping it with some decorative seaweed. Meanwhile, I wrote our families’ names in the sand with a stick I called my beach pencil.

On our way home, we couldn’t resist a stop at Hackett’s Orchard, right down the road from Allenholm, for a doughnut and some cold, sweet cider.

There was a play area at Hackett’s, as well, which we enjoyed until Theo’s sticky hands and sugar-dusted chin once again attracted those pesky bees.

So Theo insisted I shadow him around the playground, serving as his bee bodyguard. I acquiesced. It was a small price to pay for a near-perfect day.

If you go:

Allenholm Farm is located at 150 South St. in South Hero. It’s open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information, visit allenholm.com or call 372-5566.

Hackett’s Orchard is located right down the road at 86 South St. It’s open daily from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, visit hackettsorchard.com or call 372-4848.

White’s Beach is located on West Shore Rd. Take a right out of Hackett’s Orchard or Allenholm Farm onto South Street, then turn right on to West Shore Rd. Follow the road until you see the lake. There is a parking area on your right. The birdhouse forest is just past the parking lot on your right. Visit southhero.net/rec/whites-beach for more information.

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This post was written by Kids VT contributor Alison Novak, who lives in Shelburne with her husband and two kids. Every week this fall, she and her 3-year-old son, Theo, will embark on an inexpensive excursion to someplace they’ve never been. The Blue Backpack Chronicles — named for Theo’s trusty travel backpack — is a blog series about their adventures.

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