The Mad River Valley and The Pitcher Inn
-Article by: Norm Goldman
-Paintings by: Lily Azerad-Goldman
A few energizing September days vacationing in Vermont's Mad River Valley were sufficient
to convince us why the rural character of this beautiful corner of the earth is a source of pride as well as a
romantic inspiration for its many visitors. No wonder the area attracts a loyal legion of outdoor buffs who not
only enjoy super skiing, hiking, fishing and golfing, but also the best that nature has to offer.
Meandering around the towns and back-roads of Warren, Fayston, Granville, and Waitsfield, we experienced a number
of the most dazzling scenic contrasts between farm and village, woods and fields, hilltops and river bottom. One
minute we were navigating on a paved country road, the next on a narrow winding gravel road through the heart of
the mountains, where we uncovered the area's fascinating and alluring historic and scenic resources. There was
always a revelation around the next bend in the road as the countryside was frequently shifting from lush forests,
wide-open valleys, trout-filled streams and grassy meadows, to the photogenic views of the heady heights of the
|Suggested Must-See Valley Views:
Fuller Hill Road
East Warren Road
Waitsfield Common Road
As there was no pressure to hurry, we were able to have a closer glance at the landscape that provided us with
a window into the area's history dating back to the 19th century. The maple trees lining the roads reminded us
of the ever- popular maple sugaring that is still very much alive today. Covered bridges, which are still in use
today as the Warren's Lincoln Gap Covered Bridge, are reminders of the area's 19th century transportation systems;
the many barns reflect the agricultural character of the valley and some of these structures date back before the
It is these historic and picturesque resources that enhance the Valley's character and quality of life that craft
that special ambiance creating a perfect romantic getaway.
Wondering why anyone would call an area the "Mad River Valley?" Apparently, the name is derived from
the fact that the soils are so shallow in the Valley as well as its mountains, and the hills are so steep that
the water rages downwards into a river called the Mad River. The valley lies on both sides of the river between
the villages of Moretown and Waitsfield, and the river snakes through the entire length of the valley running parallel
to routes 100 and 100B.
The Pitcher Inn- The Perfect Romantic Getaway Reflecting
Vermont's Rich Heritage
Within this bucolic setting sits a most unusual inn that vibrantly captures the spirit of Vermont, The
Pitcher Inn located in the hamlet of Warren. Talk about romantic! This inn is all that the incurable romantic
hopes for and more with its chic yet relaxed atmosphere that possesses an unusual whimsical magic.
The inn's creation was the result of the collaboration of the extraordinary talents of architect David Sellers
with a team of skilled architects, artisans, designers, craftspeople and others.
On May 8th 1993 a most unfortunate event occurred in Warren when the old Pitcher Inn succumbed to a fire that completely
destroyed this landmark building as well as an entire village block wiping out some of the town's principal historical
Fortunately for the town, the inn was reincarnated, when Winthrop (Win) Smith of Greenwich Connecticut, decided
to give something back to the community as a thank you for the success he has enjoyed over the years from his part-
ownership interest in Summit Venture, which owns the nearby Sugarbush Resort.
The result was a Relais & Chateaux inn
that magnificently personifies selected aspects of Vermont's heritage, its history, character, environment, sport
and/or social structure.
When we first approached the inn, its white clapboard exterior appeared to us as nothing more than a tranquil,
unassuming boutique property. We had no idea what awaited us once inside, and boy were we in for a surprise! After
touring the inn, we realized that this magnificent nine- room two- suite property sitting at the edge of a babbling
stream adds up to much more than the sum of its parts. It is incredible how each room is an escapist fantasy artistically
designed utilizing local native custom-crafted materials and furnishings, some of which were recycled, depicting
different aspects of Vermont's historical and cultural richness.
The 19th century school- room celebrating the one-room schoolhouse, which at one time was the foundation of Vermont's
educational system, comes complete with an original slate blackboard, chalk and erasers.
We had been informed that the blackboard has often been put to good use, wherein the words "will you marry
me" have greeted future surprised brides upon their entrance to the room.
There is The Lodge room reflecting Vermont's social structure, where the Mason's, Elks, Odd Fellow, Rebecca's,
Easter Star, Grange and others taught values and ethics to Vermonters for centuries. Another room, The Mallard
Room, reflects the traditions of water fowling both on Lake Chaplain and Vermont's inland waters.
The laziest room in the inn, and the one we stayed in, is the Trout Room with its private balcony overlooking a
beautiful landscape garden where throughout the day and night you can hear the ever-changing sounds of the Freeman
Brook babbling along the side of the inn. The room also comes with a sitting- area and a wood -burning fireplace.
We had to confess there was something surreal about this octagonal shaped deluxe room where architectural surprises
were prevalent in every nook and cranny.
In the sitting area we discovered a sculptured fly-tying desk complete with all that was necessary to make your
own flies. The ceiling overlooking this desk was of cedar planking made similarly to the old guide boats, cruisers
and canoes of New England fresh water. We even noticed an antique motor along with a collection of canoe paddles.
You could not miss the carved brook trout hanging from the ceiling, and the beams held up by tree trunks.
The king size bed with its fluffy pillows and comforter was constructed from tree trunks originating from the nearby
forest and the headboard was carved like fiddlehead ferns. Then there was that stunning oil painting by the well-
known artist Levi Wells Prentice of a 19th century camp scene in the Adirondacks adorning one of the walls next
to the bed.
Nearly all of the inn's rooms come with wood burning fireplaces, Jacuzzis and some even with steam showers. In
addition, all are equipped with individual air-climate controls, telephones, concealed televisions with VHS player,
CD music player, computer and fax hookups. To sample the other inn's rooms visit their website.
Afternoon tea with finger sandwiches and cookies convenes daily in either the Tracks room, where you will notice
the prints of the indigenous animals found in the Mad River Valley, or in the Robert Frost Library. When the weather
is chilly enough, you will no doubt welcome the warmth of the crackling fire emanating from the fireplaces housed
in each of these rooms.
Breakfasts are a real treat here and it includes juices, breads, muffins, choices of eggs, and other goodies that
will start you off with a full stomach before tackling some of the many activities that await you.
Guests have complimentary access to Trek Mountain and Hybrid Road Bikes including helmets, as well as Mad River
'Explorer' Canoe including paddles, selection of life vests and sponge roof pads with straps that will fit automobiles.
There is even a room to store hiking, biking and ski equipment as well as a boot and glove warmer. They also have
access to the Sugarbush Health and Racquet Club,
less than a ten- minute drive from the inn. If your stay is two nights mid-week or three nights weekend, you are
also entitled to complimentary golf green fees or lift pass at Sugarbush.
For those seeking beauty or relaxation, the Alta Day Spa & Salon located next door to the inn offers a spa,
manicures, pedicures, facials, and full body massages.
A favorite among the locals is the The Pitcher Inns Relais & Chateaux-quality restaurant, The
Garden Room. It is here where you can indulge in some of the finest cuisine in the valley that is pleasing
both to the palate and the eye.
The atmosphere is elegant yet informal, and menu choices are such that we had a difficult time making
up our minds.
I opted for the sautéed veal scaloppini with potato gnocchi, artichokes, olives and tomato confit. My
wife Lily decided on the monkfish with tomatoes, capers and niçoise olives.
Both were prepared to perfection.