Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Winter in our State Parks, by Rebecca Roy

I saw a red fox hunting mice in a snowy field in Allis State Park recently. I was out for a trail run in the snowy woods, and popped out into a meadow area. I caught the fox by surprise; it hid behind some winter weeds, and then made a mad dash for nearby woods.

Later, at a tracking workshop, I learned that red foxes not only use their keen sense of hearing to hunt for mice underneath the surface of the snow, but they also use Earth’s magnetic field to increase the accuracy of their pounces on prey. When foxes pounce in the Northeastern direction, they are successful in catching a mouse 73% of the time. In other directions the success rate is 18%. It was very exciting to see that red fox, and even more interesting to learn more about them soon afterwards. 

This was an adventure of learning and exploration sparked by an experience in a state park, and you can enjoy the same inspiration and curiosity by visiting your favorite state park in the winter too. Seeing that fox was made even more meaningful because foxes are the favorite animal of my four year old daughter, Alice.

Speaking of Alice, winter trips to parks are made even more meaningful by sharing them with her. This week we went to Boulder Beach State Park in Groton, and enjoyed all the things we love doing there in summer. We had a picnic, explored the playground equipment, played on the beach, and went sliding off the boulders. Okay, we do not usually bring a snow sled during the summer, and we normally pack swimsuits instead of snowsuits, but winter visits to state parks are just as fun, and even more special when the gates are closed.

We found extra secret spots that I never experienced in summer months, and we pretended to be explorers in the empty park. Besides the maintenance technicians working on improvements to the bathhouse, we were the only ones there that day. It felt like a secret treasure, a beautiful place all to us. If you are looking for midwinter inspiration, or your own grand adventure, bring a friend or relative to your favorite state park. 

Some other parks that are wonderful to visit in winter are Gifford Woods, Jamaica, Woodford, Button Bay, Sand Bar, and Little River. Get out into any park and you will not regret it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Join Vermont State Parks for Fun, Guided, First Day Hikes

Start the New Year on the right foot with a hike in a Vermont State Park. Join a free, guided, easy, family hikes taking place in state parks and forests throughout the state. Hike leaders include professional guides and outdoor educators, sharing their knowledge and love of the Vermont outdoors. Don't need a guide? Then get outside at the state park or forest of your choice. They are always available and close by to all of us. Entry is free and you will discover a whole new world in the winter.

Bring the whole family! Dress for the weather; bring snowshoes if there is a lot of snow. Bring some beverages and snacks. Dogs are welcome (on leash) unless otherwise noted. You don't need to pre-register, just show up. To check the status of the hikes call 802-249-1230. Update messages will be posted on December 31st and January 1st. Check out our website at  and our Facebook and Twitter feeds for more information and more hikes as they are added.

Underhill State Park:
Meet: 1:00 pm at gate just below Underhill State Park on Mountain Road, in Underhill Center. Hike: 3 hours, easy to moderate terrain.

Groton Nature Center, Big Deer State Park:
Meet: 1:00 pm at Groton State Forest Nature Center parking area on Boulder Beach Road, 1.6 miles from Route 232. Hike: 1+ hour loop hike across multiple trails - easy terrain.

Little River State Park:
Meet: 10:00 am meet at the end of Little River Road as close as to the entrance as possible to the campground weather permitting (probably at the top of Waterbury Dam) Hike: 2 hour/ 3 mile hike/snowshoe to the LRSP History Hike (the easier, lower 1 mile route.) Please leave dogs at home.

Quechee State Park:
Meet: 10:00 am at the Quechee information center right at the Quechee Gorge. Hike: Easy hike through the park, down the gorge trail and into the woods. Approximately 2.5 hours.

Groton State Forest:Hike to Spruce Mountain Fire Tower:
Meet 11:00 am parking lot for Spruce Mountain Trailhead on Spruce Mountain Road in Plainfield. Strenuous. Bring a bag lunch.

Niquette Bay State Park: Meet: 12 pm at trailhead in State Park. Hike: 1.5 miles, 2 hours, moderate.

Smuggler’s Notch State Park: Meet: 8:30 am inside the stone gate: the sign is not up off-season, but it is 6.6 miles from the 3-way stop in Stowe Village. Note: Note: Parking is limited along the road: some is available at Bingham Falls across the street. Hike: Easy. 1.5 hours, 1-2 miles

Grand Isle State Park:  Meet 10:00 am by the park office off East Shore Road South.  There will be a sign out by Route 2. We will tour the campground and discuss invasive species. Easy 1.5 hours.

Molly Stark State Park:  Meet 10:00 am at cul de sac across the street from the park entrance on Route 9.  Hike 2 hours +/- moderate terrain on park roads and trails following the ridge to Hogback Mountain. Snowshoes or cleats may be necessary.

Bald Mountain:  Meet 11:00 am at the Frontage Road, just to the southeast of the Rutland Fire Station (Route 7 & Center Street).  Approximately 3.6 miles with some steep climbing.

Button Bay State Park: Bird walk-loaner binoculars available! Trip leaders will also bring spotting scopes. Meet 9:00 am at park gate. Easy 2.6 miles, approximately 2.5 hours.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Vermont State Parks Receives Federal Recognition

Baltimore, Md. Each year the federal community service program, AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) based in Baltimore, MD, names one project sponsor, the “Project Sponsor of the Year.” This year’s award winner is Vermont State Parks.

On Thursday, November 12, 2015, Reuben Allen, Regional Ranger Supervisor, received the Project Sponsor of the Year Award on behalf of Vermont State Parks, during the awards ceremony at the Baltimore campus. In the narrative for the nomination of Vermont State Parks, a sentence reads, “this project and this individual (Reuben Allen), deserve the highest recognition from AmeriCorps NCCC for their relentless presence and care to keep the work available and meaningful.”

AmeriCorps NCCC, is a full-time, team-based, residential, national service program, modelled after the U.S. military and the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, which put young men to work during the Great Depression.

For the Project Sponsor of the Year Award, the corps members and the staff of the program nominate project sponsors for the annual recognition. The selection criteria for the award are that the nominated project sponsors must go beyond the norm to create a healthy and safe environment for teams and develop a solid project. The winner for this award could have been from any of the projects during the service year across the entire service territory. This year, the award selection committee found Vermont State Parks to be the most deserving of this recognition.
“We are honored to be recognized by NCCC,” said Allen. “The work of the team while serving with us is what really deserves to be recognized. The impact of their work ensuring the success of the inaugural Muckross Day Camp and in removing invasive plants from Wilgus and Mt. Ascutney State Park cannot be overstated.”

The team Allen and Vermont State Parks sponsored spent 6 weeks in Vermont.  During this time the 10-member-team lived in the campground at Mt. Ascutney State Park and split their time between service at the three different locations. The Muckross Day Camp is a result of the state’s ongoing acquisition of the estate of the late Edgar May. Called Muckross, the property is slated to become the newest Vermont State Park once the property transfer becomes official. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The 1967 Lumberjack Roundup

A co-worker found an old issue of Vermont Life magazine while cleaning out his parents' house and brought it in to show us.

Of particular interest was the article on the 1967 Lumberjack Roundup, included below for your enjoyment.

The event drew thousands of people each year to Branbury State Park and included rousing activities such as the Greased Pole Climb, Watermelon Scramble, and of course sawing, chopping, felling, hewing and birling (balancing on a floating log) competitions.

There was even a "Round Up Queen" contest. Not long after the 1967 Vermont Life issue surfaced, we found a letter in the Forests & Parks archives on that old, transparent kind of typewriter paper. The memo (also included below for your enjoyment), dated April 6, 1961, was addressed to District County Foresters informing them of the newly relaxed Round Up Queen contestant eligibility requirements ..."Previously, contestants were selected from the winners of similar contests, which limited participation to Maple, Apple, Dairy, Winter Carnival Queens....". (How Vermont!)  The prize? "...The usual cup, axe and $25 check".

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mellow Thanksgiving Day Hikes: Lakeside Loops

Either way you do it: Whether you want to work off some calories after a large and satisfying Thanksgiving Day meal, or you want to work up an appetite for the feast to come, here are some easy rambles that are great for the whole family. 

Each of these hikes are loop trails that circumnavigate ponds or small lakes. With the leaves off the trees you can see farther into the woods than in the summer time, and wildlife love the edge habitat the ponds create. Combine great wildlife viewing with little or no elevation change -- you've got yourself the perfect apres-meal adventure.

Groton State Forest
Peachman, Vermont
2 miles, 2 hours. Effort Rating: Easy. This scenic loop begins at the Osmore Pond picnic shelter. The trail veers south, away from the pond's edge. It passes under a power line just before the junction with the Little Deer Trail (0.6 miles). Continuing around the pond, the trail crosses Hosmer Brook and heads north to the trail junction. At the north end of pond, the trail may be wet
Healing Springs Trailnear the junction with the trail from New Discovery Campground. The trail follows the pond back to the picnic shelter. Elevation Change: 1456 feet - 1477 feet

Lake Shaftsbury State Park
This walk around Lake Shaftsbury provides a glimpse of the area's history as well as its beautiful woods and waters.  From the days of Healing Springs to the present, both human and natural forces have shaped the environment.  By interpreting the landscape and drawing on the memories of local historians, this trail tells some of Lake Shaftsbury's story.  The path leads through rich wetlands, a home and nesting area for birds that prefer seclusion.  

Lowell Lake State Park
LudlowThe 3.5-mile long Lowell Lake Trail is one of the main features of the park. It circles Lowell Lake using a foot path and portions of snowmobile trail, multi-use path on the western side of the park and part of a town road. Trail highlights include a Revolutionary War-era cemetery, stands of large white pine trees and scenic views of the lake and wetlands. The trail is located on relatively flat terrain and the hike is easy, with some wet sections. The trail is marked with blue paint blazes.

Woodford State Park
The longer main hiking trail in the park circumnavigates the reservoir and campground, sticking to the woods on the eastern side of the park, and coming closer to the shoreline along the west. Ample opportunity for wildlife viewing. Can be accessed from the day use area parking lot or at several points along the campground road.

For more trail information, visit our Hiking Page.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Birch Bark Blast From the Past

Greetings time travelers! This Throwback Thursday, we’re taking you back. Way, way back (Ok, not THAT far). Recently, a long-time camper reached out to us with an amazing State Park related memento from her father, and correctly thought we might like to have it.

This special piece of memorabilia dates from the opening night of Lake Carmi State Park, on June 29, 1963. Her father, Gordon Bown, and family, camped at the park that first year, at site #14. On opening night, he went through the campground and collected signatures from campers at the 32 original sites (and where they traveled from)- all on a piece of birch bark from the park. The heading reads 

Opening night campers 
29 June 1963

On the reverse side of the well-traveled frame is a hand-written note, detailing its creation and journey:

Lake Carmi State Park 
Campers’ Roll on birch bark made by Gordon Bown. Birch bark obtained from block of wood on wood pile by site #14, (from birch tree cut down to open camp sites). Campers' Roll presented to the Caretaker,  on 29 June 1963. Mr. Caretaker framed Campers' roll.

Campers' Roll was hung in ticket office for some years. Mr. Caretaker gave it to Caretaker and Ranger at Lake Carmi after Mr. Caretaker retired. Campers' Roll went to Department of Forest and Parks (Vermont) at Montpelier, Vermont. CR was returned to Art Davis at park. He kept it until 18 Aug, 1982 when he returned it to Gordon Bown- the camper who originated it!

Campers' roll completed the full circle in 19 years, 1 month, 21 days.

What a find. Thanks to Pamela Bown for donating it to us, and to her dad Gordon for hanging onto it for all these years. Who recognizes a family name or friend on this list??

It also seems fitting to note two popular songs on the billboard charts that particular month in 1963: “My Summer Love” by Ruby and the Romantics, and “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” by Nat King Cole.

Who else has cool State Parks related memorabilia, photos, etc. from past years tucked away in their basement, just dying to see the light of day? Please share, we’d love to see them! 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Molly's Falls Pond to Become Vermont's Newest State Park

News Release — Vermont Land Trust
October 29, 2015

Michael Snyder, FPR Commissioner, (802) 828-1534,
Elise Annes, VP for Community Relations, VLT, (802) 262-1206 or (802) 522-9855,
Deb Markowitz, ANR Secretary, (802) 828-1294,
Dotty Schnure, GMP spokesperson, (802) 655-8418,

CABOT and MARSHFIELD, VT – The people of Vermont will now forever have access to one of the state’s most popular and well-loved recreation areas in Central Vermont—the Molly’s Falls Pond property, known by many as the “Marshfield Reservoir”. The Vermont Land Trust today announced the sale of 1,029 acres to the Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation. Now called Molly’s Falls Pond State Park, the property boasts a 402-acre reservoir, roughly 35,000 feet of undeveloped shoreline, and over 600 acres of forestland. It is a popular spot for boaters and anglers and has a fishing access area and wheelchair-accessible fishing platforms managed by the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Department purchased the property from the Vermont Land Trust with funding from the federal Forest Legacy Program. The Forest Legacy program protects environmentally important forestland properties that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. In Vermont this program has helped to permanently conserve over 67,000 acres of forestland.

The Vermont Land Trust purchased the property from Green Mountain Power in 2012 so that the State could eventually acquire the land. Green Mountain Power retained 23 acres that includes the dam, buildings for the hydropower facility and spillways on the reservoir.

“We were extremely fortunate that the Vermont Land Trust was able to acquire the property from Green Mountain Power when they did and were willing to hold onto it until the state was able to secure necessary funding,” said Michael Snyder, Commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. “This project simply would not have happened had they not been willing to take this significant risk. The property is an exceptional place, not only for water-based recreation, but also for wildlife habitat and scenic quality along the Route 2 travel corridor, and we are excited and pleased that we will finally be able to protect it as a public resource.”

Molly’s Falls Pond State Park is now part of a vast assemblage of state conservation and recreation lands including Groton State Forest. “Connecting people with the outdoors is so important to our physical and mental well-being,” said Gil Livingston, VLT President. “And the surrounding healthy forest is part of a larger 30,000-acre block of conserved forestland critical to wildlife movement in the region. Vermonters and visitors alike will enjoy this spectacular place for generations to come.”

The Vermont Land Trust also has secured stewardship funding to assist the Department with some necessary start-up and operations costs. A priority is to restore some of the most heavily used sites along the reservoir by replanting shoreline areas that are currently bare and erosion-prone. Public input will be welcome as the Department begins to develop a long-term management plan for the Park in 2016.

“Molly’s Falls is a beautiful area and we are so pleased that Vermonters will be able to enjoy it as part of the state park system,” said Dorothy Schnure, Green Mountain Power spokesperson. “We have been privileged to generate clean, low-cost hydroelectricity there for our customers for nearly 90 years, and will continue to do so while the area continues to offer recreational opportunities for all. We appreciate the commitment of the Vermont Land Trust and state officials to help make the transition a reality.”