We spent the first week of August at our home in Barnard Vermont so Douglas could attend day camp at the Vermont Institute for Natural Sciences in nearby Quechee. For me, it was mostly just a different window, but we did go on a couple excursions.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park in Woodstock — Laurance and Mary Rockefeller spent summers at their home in Woodstock, and the Park Service offers daily tours (in season) of the home, as well as a couple of special tours. The most recent addition to the schedule is the Fallout Shelter tour, which seems to be offered about once per month.
There are two fallout shelters on the property, one under the house itself and another underneath the Belvidere, an outbuilding that houses pool changing rooms, activity room, soda fountain and two-lane bowling alley. The one underneath the Belvidere is the shelter open to visitors.
The tour is about 70 minutes, and a good half of it is a ranger presentation about the Cold War that preceeds the tour of the shelter. After all, how long does it take to tour a one room fallout shelter?
Our verdict: If you only have time for one tour of the mansion, take the regular house tour. It’s offered a few times a day and reservations aren’t required, as they are for the special tours. It was fine for us, because we’d already done both the regular house tour and the special Hidden Spaces tour.
If you do decide to take the Fallout Shelter tour, a true highlight was the private bowling alley, but younger kids may get restless during the ranger presentation. Consider starting your day across the street at Billings Farm, tire them out a bit looking at cows and chickens, and then take the mansion tour of your choice. A combo-ticket is offered.
As part of Doug’s summer camp week at VINS, the kids put on skits for the parents on the last day. We were so proud of Douglas, who played the part of narrator for his team’s skit. Photos are in this Flickr set.
We stayed to watch the afternoon raptor show at 3:30pm. If you are in the area, it is well worth the time.
A camp highlight for the kids was getting to hold the American Kestrel.
This weekend, we went into the Museum of Science in Boston to see the National Geographic Crittercam exhibit, which ends August 30th. We also stopped by the Black Holes exhibit and saw the Omni film Mystic India.
Our verdict: Crittercam was terrific. Hard to believe that they are able to securely attach the cams to such a variety of animals, terrestrial and aquatic, and it is truly amazing what researchers have been able to learn about animal behavior by looking at life through their eyes. Best part of the exhibit: I loved the whales’ bubble net cooperative feeding and the lion cubs investigating the camera on their mother.
Black Holes has a web-component, but otherwise seemed very similar to previous astronomy exhibits we have seen, although to be fair, I didn’t spend much time in the exhibit.
Mystic India wasn’t quite what I expected. The narration retraces the steps of an 11 year old yogi who walked across India in the late 1700s. In adulthood, he became an important religious and political figure, and it was clear from an audience full of Indian families that his story has profound religious and cultural resonance.
For Westerners like me, unfamiliar with his life, it was at times hard to embrace the storyline. Barefoot and wearing nothing but a loin cloth for four years in the Himalayas? Of course, it’s a parable and I have no wish to be disrespectful of another’s religion or icons. I have just as much of a problem with certain elements of the Jesus Christ story when played out on the screen. Somehow, the translation to film highlights some of the improbabilities that we just have to get over in order to believe.
The scenery however was magnificent, and in the end, the film-makers made their point about cultural diversity, community and tolerance. Funnily enough though, for me, it was as much from the fact that the legion of volunteers who participated in the making of the film didn’t take individual credits. It was the collective that made the film and told the story. You just can’t argue with that depth of belief.
If you are in Boston, get thee to Crittercam before it leaves at the end of the month.