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Northern Vermont gives you a good slice of both ends of the state's spectrum: the old-school dairy-farmer-driving-a-snowplow-for-a-winter-job local, and the drinks-only-organic-free-trade-coffee recent arrival.

On the region's western edge, along the shores of Lake Champlain, you find Burlington: the state's largest, most lively city, ringed by fast-growing suburban communities and chock-full of microbrews and the arts. But drive an hour or two east and you're deep in the heart of the Northeast Kingdom, the state's least developed and most remote region, which is only now slowly being discovered as a place for second homes.

Travelers can find a great variety of activities within and between these two extremes -- exploring Champlain's rural islands, dining in Burlington's creative restaurants, hiking the Long Trail across the state's most imposing peaks, mountain biking abandoned lanes, exploring quirky museums such as those in St. Johnsbury. In the winter, excellent resort-style skiing can be had at Stowe and Jay Peak, among other mountains, yet there's also plenty of snowshoeing, ice fishing, town-pond hockey and figure skating, and cross-country skiing for little or no cost if you look in the right places.

You can enjoy outstanding foliage and taste apples, milk, cheddar cheese, and maple sugar right from their local sources -- but also Ben & Jerry's ice cream and a bevy of pricey local gourmet food items that are relative newcomers.

The northern reaches of the state are also far enough from the Boston-New York megalopolis that weekend crowds tend to be lighter, and the sense of space here more expansive.

Above all, though, ponder the improbable existence of the region, which is still as steadfastly old New England as can be in an age of Wi-Fi, PDAs, second homes, and fast cars. Here you're still likely to share the road with a 20-year-old pickup or a draft horse, and the local country store is probably still stocked with feed and nails rather than stuffed teddy bears or tiny tins of city-priced maple syrup. It may not stay this way forever. My advice: See it now, before it's too late.