Starting down the trail together
Honeymoons are as different as the people who take them, but a significant number of newly married folks are opting for active getaways. Not all of them are summiting Kilimanjaro or surfing the Banzai Pipeline. Every year, some honeymooners opt for an inn-to-inn walking tour arranged through aptly named Inn to Inn (inntoinn.com), based in Brandon, Vt. Spending your days on the trails with the prospect of a good meal and a comfortable room at the end of the day is exactly the right kind of togetherness to kick off a life’s journey. We asked Seth Hopkins, director of Inn to Inn, for some details.
Q. Do honeymooners have special requests?
A. They will often want a special room to make their honeymoon memorable. We have some inns that are particularly good at catering to the romance package. They will welcome the honeymooners with champagne and chocolates.
For the day time, honeymooners ask for the same things that most of our hikers ask for. They want to do some quiet, scenic hiking and have opportunities late in the day to visit a brewery or a winery or an art gallery. Sometimes the honeymooners ask for a two-night stay somewhere along the way. They are not always as interested in making constant progress as other hikers. It’s an active vacation, but honeymooners might not want to be in constant motion.
Q. How do you go about putting together an itinerary?
A. What we do is try to match the couple’s tastes in accommodations with their dates. Some people want a country farmhouse and some people want a small hotel in a village setting where they can walk around and have a little bit of nightlife.
Q. How do you accommodate different fitness levels?
A. We call our system “choose the best trail for the day.” We don’t need to know ahead of time whether couples want to take rigorous hikes or just want a walking vacation. With the trail system, each of the inns has developed a menu of options. After breakfast, the innkeepers will do a little trail talk. There’s always an easy option and a difficult hike. But most people tend to like something in between, like a six- to nine-mile hike on a moderate trail.
Q. How would you describe the couples who have opted for a hiking honeymoon?
A. More than half of our honeymooners are on their second marriage. They are folks who are maybe in their 50s or 60s.
Q. What makes the west-central area of Vermont so appealing to hikers?
A. We have this really great concentration of classic, antique, well-kept inns right in or around the Green Mountain National Forest. Brandon is our headquarters town. We have four different inns that we use. Brandon is adjacent to the part of the national forest that is called the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area. There are lots of trail options. Hikers are never walking on a road. They are going to have probably the quietest four or five or six hours that they have had in the last several years — just walking these quiet footpaths through the woods.
Q. How do you select your partner inns?
A. We like to have inns that are going to be very happy to have hikers. They don’t mind muddy boots coming in and they understand that on a rainy day guests might want a late check-out — or an early check-in. We want innkeepers who themselves get out into the woods and on the trails once in a while so that they have some personal experience.
Q. Describe a typical day.
A. The couple would wake up at the inn and be served a nice, full country breakfast. That’s a big meal. The innkeeper packs them a trail lunch with a sandwich, some fruit, cookies, and a drink. After the trail talk, the innkeeper and guests arrange the car shuttle. The couple will have chosen the trail based on whether they want some water features, or they want some big views, or they want to do a climb in the morning while they are still fresh. Then they will stop on the trail for their lunch and a little break. Then they will walk another two or three hours in the afternoon and come down to the trail end where their car is waiting for them to drive to the next inn.
If the inn happens to be in a village, they will freshen up and change and go into town to do something cultural or a little bit of shopping or visit the breweries. It’s “urban Vermont,” the towns are like 5,000 people.
Q. What’s included in your packages?
A. Everything except alcohol. Every day would be dinner at the inn, usually three courses, the overnight in a room with a private bath, a served breakfast, a packed trail lunch, and shuttle in the morning. We include gratuities for the housekeeping and wait staff and the meals and rooms taxes.
Q. Do you get feedback from honeymooners?
A. On their fifth- or 10th-year anniversary they might come back for a return visit. It’s a memorable kind of honeymoon. Often we’ll hear back that they shared the pictures on Facebook or they brought the pictures to their family Thanksgiving party. Everyone was thinking, “what a great experience!”