To truly appreciate the rich, patchwork beauty of the North Country you must take the road less traveled. In other words, get off the interstate and put away your watch.

Take your time and follow Route 5 from Barnet south all the way down to White River Junction. Most of the way, Route 5 follows the Connecticut River and the small villages alongside the river are all historic reminders of the earliest days of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Route 5 is scenic, with family farms, two-hundred year old houses and quaint villages all along the way. There are any number of places to pull over and enjoy the scenery, have a picnic lunch or shop in the small villages. A wonderful way to see the real Vermont and relax.

You can start your journey by taking Exit 20 in St. Johnsbury. Take a right onto Route 5 north for a short distance to access a welcome center and several stores for gas and other road trip supplies. Then head back down Route 5 south toward Barnet. You'll know you are on the right track when you pass a state police barracks on the right.

Once you're in Barnet you can take a side trip over to Ben's Mill, a water-powered blacksmith shop and workshop lovingly restored. To get there take Bimson Road or Church Street out of Barnet Village to the West Barnet Road. Ben's Mill is about 2 ½ miles past the interstate. Ben Thresher's Mill dates to 1872 and includes a woodworking shop that has produced, at different times, wagon wheels, wagon bodies, working sleds, truck bodies and water tubs for cows.

An adjacent blacksmith's forge is dedicated to metal work. A third section of the mill houses a hydraulic apple cider press. All the woodworking machinery is in working order. The mill is open from Memorial Day weekend until Columbus Day.

Not far from Ben's Mill is a definite point of interest for those interested in Buddhism. Karme Choling Shambhala Meditation Center is easily accessed off West Barnet Road by taking Patneaude Lane.

If you keep heading south on Route 5 stop at Paul's Whistle Stop for a cold drink. Then take a left at the store leading to the McIndoe Dam. Take the first right before the dam and you will find a scenic picnic area just below the dam along the Connecticut River.

Your journey south on Route 5 will eventually take you to Wells River where you can cross into New Hampshire to visit a classic covered bridge spanning the river in Woodsville or head out to Bath, N.H., a very early New Hampshire town with a number of early New England buildings and a long covered bridge.

Keep heading south on Route 5 and you'll find yourself in Bradford where there are several shops and restaurants including local hot-spots, the Colatina Exit restaurant and the Perfect Pear Cafe.

Mentioned in this article:

Ben's Mill - West Barnet Road, Barnet, Vt., 802-748-8180 - bensmill.com

Karme Choling Shambhala Meditation Center- 369 Patneaude Lane, Barnet, Vt., 802-633-2384 - karmecholing.org

Colatina Exit - 164 Main St., Bradford, Vt., 802-222-9008 - colatinaexit.com

Perfect Pear Cafe - 48 Main St., Bradford, Vt., 802-222-5912 - theperfectpearcafe.com

Reporting by Jim Jardine and Todd Wellington

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