Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mud Season Hiking

The snow has melted and the sun is starting the shine which means two things in Vermont: 1) it’s finally spring and 2) it’s mud season. Hiking trails take a serious hit during this time of year, especially those at higher altitudes that are exposed to heavy spring rain and snow melt. When walkers trek over muddy trails, it can lead to soil compaction and erosion, damaging the trail and keeping it muddy longer. Help to preserve the trails this spring by sticking to recreation paths, dirt roads, and trails at lower elevations.

Mud Season Hiking Guidelines:
  • If a trail is so muddy that you need to walk on the vegetation beside it, turn back and find another place to hike.
  • Plan spring hikes in hardwood forests at lower elevations.
  • Avoid spruce-fir (conifer) forest at higher elevations and on north slopes before late May and from the end of October until frozen or snow covered.
  • Trails at Camels Hump and Mt. Mansfield are closed from snow melt (now) until late May. Please do not hike there. Stay below 3000 feet during this time of year.
Some recommended places to hike this spring are: 

For more information about mud season hiking, visit the Green Mountain Club’s website at

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Ephemerals: Amazing Hepatica

By: Lisa Liotta

If you take a walk through a Vermont deciduous hardwood forest in mid-April, you’re likely to see a scene that looks pretty close to the one on the right.  (That is, once all last winter’s snow has melted!)  From the time the snow melts, there’s a usually a window of about six weeks until the trees grow leaves.  Once trees produce leaves, very little sunshine will reach the forest floor. This forest will be green and shady, a very different picture from this:

But, for now, it might look a little barren. However, if you slow down as you walk through the forest and look closer…..closer……look down to the ground, you might just discover the first wildflowers of the year!  Tiny Hepatica can be found among the dead leaves growing only about four to six inches tall, heralding the arrival of spring with their beautiful delicate blooms (see left).

Hepatica are often the first spring ephemerals to flower in Vermont.  The blooms can be white, pink, purple and almost blue. Spring ephemerals are a special kind of wildflower that begin growing and often flowering as soon as the snow melts.  The flowers of spring ephemerals are typically small and close to the ground.  The plants expend all of their energy into quickly producing buds, then blooms and seeds all within the approximate 6-week window when the sun shines on the forest floor.

Now, take look at these Hepatica a little closer:

Can you see the tiny hairs that cover the stems? These hairs prevent ice condensation and act as an insulator to the plant, protecting it from damaging spring frosts.  For a few nights this week low temperatures will dip into the 20’s at Niquette Bay State Park on the shores of Lake Champlain, but these plants have adapted to survive!

Another Hepatica plant pictured below has found a little extra protection from frost and cold by growing right up against the limestone ledge (see left)

And, this clump below grows up through last year’s leaves, which also provide insulation to the plant from frost and freezing temperatures once the snow disappears by trapping warmer air around the plant, and preventing frost from forming on the plant:

Hepaticas prefer to grow in alkaline soils which can be found near limestone ledges or outcroppings.  At Niquette Bay State Park, you’ll find these flowers in bloom now along the Ledges Trail as it approaches Lake Champlain.  In another week or two, Hepatica will be visible throughout the park and Vermont.  Don’t delay if you’d like to see their performance, they’ll only be featured for a few weeks!

*Join Lisa Liotta for a Spring Wildflower Hike on Saturday, April 26 from 10:00am - 12:00pm at Niquette Bay State Park. To RSVP call 802-893-5210 or send an email to For more information, visit the Vermont State Parks events page at:

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Successful April Stools' Day

By: Lisa Liotta, Niquette Bay State Park Ranger

On Saturday April 5, volunteers gathered Grand Isle, Sandbar and Niquette Bay State Parks to celebrate April Stools’ Day.  Wait!  What was that you said? …April STOOLS…does that mean……?! Yes, exactly, the brown stuff: stools, not fools.

This past weekend the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Lake Champlain Committee partnered to organize an “April Stools Day” park clean-up the first Saturday in April.  Vermont State Parks encourages people to venture outside all year round, and this winter our parks have been well loved and used for outdoor recreation in many ways. 

Sand Bar State Park. Photo by Bonnie Pease
While most people clean up litter and waste from their dogs, there are some that don’t.  What’s left behind usually accumulates until park staff return in late spring to prepare for the summer.  Hound mounds freeze over the winter, often becoming buried under layers of snow and ice.  When the temperatures rise, water from melting ice and snow runs over the surface of the frozen ground sweeping the waste away into our streams, rivers and lakes. 

Ruth Blauwiekel of Colchester came out to scoop the poop at Niquette Bay State Park.  Ruth commented, “Who knew that scooping poop could be so much fun!  Really, I enjoyed the morning and it was a good opportunity to make some new friends while doing some “spring cleaning” at the park.” 

Niquette Bay State Park. Photo by Bob Henneberger
Thanks to a team of hardy volunteers, more than 650 piles of dog waste and several bags of trash were picked up and removed from the three parks.  Among the turnout were members of the Lake Champlain Committee, the Colchester and Milton Conservation Commissions and the Colchester Democrats.  Volunteer gifts of appreciation were generously provided by Cabot Cheese, Darn Tough Socks, Outdoor Gear Exchange, Mutt Mitts and Wally’s Bagels in Grand Isle. 

Pam Keyser of Colchester who frequently visits Niquette Bay State Park with her two standard poodles shares her belief in Karma Poop with us.  Here’s how it works:  when your dog is off-leash, chances are pretty good that when they are out of sight, they will occasionally leave a hound mound behind. Practicing the art of Karma Poop, Pam always picks up a few extra mounds every time she comes to the park, and hopes that others will do the same.

So do we.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Get Ready for Summer with Camping Tips & Tricks

Spring has finally arrived in Vermont and that means Vermont State Parks will be opening soon! Are you ready to explore, play, and camp in the parks this summer? 

Our website has lots of great resources to help you organize your next summer adventure. The Camping Tips & Tricks video series walks you through every step of the camping process from choosing a place to go, to setting up camp, to building a fire. Our camp menus, recipes, and shopping lists have ideas for different breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts that you can make at your site and the Activities section offers many ideas for games and projects that will keep everyone entertained. Check out the Weekend Itineraries to get inspired during your next camping trip!

To see all of the How-to resources on our website,visit:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Vermont State Park's Knight Island State Parks Goes "Survivor"

Long known as a favored destination for naturists, Knight Island State Park is rumored to be out front in competition to play host to CBS's long running " Survivor " series.

The reality show, which has experienced deflated ratings is looking to freshen the brand by heading North.
Neither confirming or denying consideration of Knight Island, CBS executives that did not want to be identified have commented that the show does need a change of scenery. "Temps in the mid 40's at night, some black flies and poison ivy mixed in with clothing optional, yeah that's true reality Survivor".

Local resident Cedric St Allaire, a 60 year resident of nearby Isle LaMotte commented on the rumors by chuckling and then adding "just don't let them go swimming. That will surely shrink the ratings".

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

We'd Like Your Input on Proposed Fee Changes

Vermont State Parks is proposing some modest fee increases to generate funds to offset increasing operation
and maintenance costs. Revenue generated from state park services helps sustain the system and all its values, including preservation of open space and interpretation of our environment and the natural world.

We would like your input on these changes. Let us know what you think. Please contact Craig Whipple, Director of State Parks, via email at or mail at Craig Whipple, Vermont State Parks, 1 National Life Drive, Davis 2, Montpelier, VT  05620. Comments will be accepted until May 12, 2014.

You are also invited to attend a public meeting about these proposed changes, Monday, May 5, 5:30 PM at the DEC Act 250 Conference Room, Agency of Natural Resources, 111 West Street, Essex Junction, Vermont 05453.

The proposed changes are as follows:
  • Increase camping fees by $2/per night
  • Increase fee for Mt. Philo picnic pavilion to $200 Monday - Friday and $300 Saturday - Sunday.
  • Increase horse camping fee by $4 per night
  • Increase boat rental fee at Seyon Lodge to $7.50/per hour
  • Increase fee for rental of entire lodge at Seyon Lodge State Park to $650 Monday - Thursday & $700 Friday - Sunday
  • Reduce weekend day use fee at Sand Bar State Park by fifty cents per person to $3/per adult and $2/per child under 14 to be consistent with other parks in the system
  • Change Stone Hut maximum stay to five nights
You can read the complete annotated rule at this link:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Almost Full Moon Hike at Niquette Bay

This past weekend, visitors arrived at Niquette Bay State Park in Colchester to celebrate Saturday's almost full moon with an evening snowshoe hike. The 1.5 mile hike through the park had a turnout of about 40 people, including several visiting the park for the first time and Milton Boy Scout Pack #43.

The hike was led by Niquette Bay State Park Ranger, Lisa Liotta. According to Lisa, “an hour or so before the hike, a heavy snow began to fall and continued all through the event, adding a couple inches of snow to the trails and turning the park into a winter wonderland.”

Though the moon wasn't entirely visible through the snow, hikers enjoyed a beautiful winter evening in the park. Following the hike, everyone warmed up with some hot cocoa and a bonfire, expertly maintained by the boy scouts. 

Stay tuned for Wildflower Walks at Niquette Bay this spring!