Thursday, July 24, 2014

Microhikes and Microbrews: Fort Dummer & Whetstone Station

By: Erin & Evan Meenan
For this month's edition of Microhikes and Microbrews, we decided to take advantage of the recent collaboration between the Vermont State Parks and Whetstone Station. This summer, Whetstone, located in downtown Brattleboro, is brewing two beers inspired by two of Vermont's state parks. The beer currently featured at Whetstone is Fort Dummer Summer inspired by, of course, Fort Dummer State Park.

Fort Dummer State Park is located in Guilford, VT. The park contains several camp sites, including some with lean-tos. It also offers a recreation field and three hiking trails: Sunrise Trail, Sunset Trail, and Broad Brook Trail. Combined, the trails are approximately 2 miles long and are all really well maintained and marked. The Sunrise and Sunset Trails both have vista points. On the Sunrise Trail, you can see the location of the original fort and from the Sunset Trail you can see one of the oldest churches in Vermont. These two trails are relatively flat and wide, which make them perfect for a group hike. The Broad Brook Trail is definitely the most strenuous of the three trails, but it is still really well maintained and marked.  Most importantly, it contains a popular swimming hole to cool off in at the half way point.

Another way to cool off after the hikes is to have some lunch and a beer at Whetstone Station located about 5 minutes away from the park right on the Connecticut River.  It has a full menu of great food and beers. If you go this month, you can try Fort Dummer Summer. If you go next month you can try Molly Stark Dark, named after Molly Stark State Park. Or, you could go twice and enjoy both! 


Friday, July 18, 2014

New Trail Running Blog Series! Introducing the Vermont State Parks Trail Runners Chapter 1: Little River State Park

Three friends who love trail running together were given the gift of the ultimate project by the Vermont State Parks Director—to trail run in as many beautiful state parks as we can, write interesting blog entries about our experiences and take photos of our sparkling smiles while we do it. Yes, life really does get better all the time.

After several intense meetings in the middle of our cubicle maze work space, we decided to start with Little River State Park in Waterbury. 

Little River is a popular park with two camping loops and two beaches on clear, refreshing, sandy bottomed Waterbury Reservoir.  Thousands of people spend time in their sleeping bags, in front of campfires, and paddling around the reservoir during the summer and fall.  Less people dig into the miles and miles of trails full of history and natural beauty on the other side of the park. 

Running trails in Little River is a journey through time. The miles of stone walls, cemeteries, cellar holes and orchards give evidence of life one hundred years ago. The pioneers cleared the fields and roads of rocks and stumps without the aid of machinery. The younger generations were not as prone to such laborious work and abandoned their farms, leaving them for the forest to reclaim. This seemed like the perfect spot to explore on our first state park trail running adventure together.

Jay, Steve and I invited our friend Matt, who is training for the Vermont 100 trail race later this summer—Matt is preparing by running twice a day and running at every hour of the day.  Yes, we have really fun and interesting friends.  The four of us took off after work and parked at the Dalley Loop trailhead parking lot on the way to campground loop B in Little River. 

You can access the whole network of trails from this starting point; we decided to make a loop starting with a section of the Hedgehog Loop Trail.  We set out at about 6:00pm, the skies were getting dark with the threat of raindrops, but none fell on us.  The sky was constantly changing during our two hour adventure, with bright spots of sunlight surprising us by sporadically illuminating the fresh green leaves, and dark purple clouds folding over each other in viewpoints along the way.   

Of course we had wonderful company in each other, there was lots of great jokes and storytelling, but there is so much to entertain you out there if you go on a solo adventure or if your company is not as lively as ours.  There is so much history in the Little River and Cottonwood Brook basin, there are interpretive panels along many of the trails so you can stop for a snack and read about the people who used to live there (we did that) and you can enjoy Vermont natural history at its best.  Some of the things we saw and heard included a pink lady slipper flower, Barred Owls making territorial calls, Ruffed Grouse drumming (and we spooked one off its roost), foam flowers, Canada mayflowers and Veeries singing songs like waterfalls during the last few downhill miles.

You might notice something left out of that list, biting insects.  I think we maybe saw one mosquito during the whole run.  We even loitered in the parking lot afterwards and there were no blackflies.  We don’t know how long these conditions will last, but right now it’s definitely a good time to go trail running at Little River if you don’t like bug bites!

From Hedgehog Hill Trail we turned on Cotton Brook Loop Trail.  This was a nice climb out of the Stephenson Brook drainage into the Cotton Brook area.  The trail has the feel of an old tote road combined with single-track because there is a narrow path through the bushy mass of several years of growth.  It gives you the feeling of being in an area not heavily visited, like a secret stash of running trails. 

We were trying to make a loop by turning left at the Bragg homestead to cut over to the Dalley Loop Trail, but we never saw that intersection.  We overshot that and ran to a nice solid bridge over Cotton Brook.  We admired that rippling stream and then turned around and ran to the Kelty Trail, which also connects to Dalley Loop. 

One of the great things about trail running is the adventure, you usually do not know exactly how things will turn out but you always end up having fun and you always end up somewhere really cool.  Steve packed a map to make sure we did not get completely turned around, which I recommend.  You can pick up a map at the park office.

The Kelty stretch was wetter and not heavily traveled; still it was easy footing (all the trails we ran had easy footing).  Ferns were everywhere around us, everything vibrant, bright green even in the low light. Lots of ghost stories come out of this area because the hillside is dotted with house foundations from people who all moved out with the advent of Waterbury Reservoir.  Being way out in the quiet woods surrounded by signs of people who used to live there, with the skies darkening, I can understand how easy it is to get your imagination going.  I am not going to lie to you, I ran very, very close to Steve during the Kelty crossover!  It was so quiet and felt very spooky in there, it was very thrilling.

Once we hit the Dalley Loop, we turned right and ran the rest of the loop counter-clockwise. Our run ended with a nice smooth downhill back to the trailhead.  After nine miles and two hours, we toasted with cans of Baxter Brewing Company IPA courtesy of Steve. That was a fitting conclusion to a really fun trail run with good friends.

View Little River Trail Run Page 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The 4th of July at Brighton State Park

By Eric Bouchard

The 4th of July at Brighton State Park was full of excitement and entertainment for the entire family. Kicking off our weekend, Friday July 4th 2014 was a “Come and Go” event, where participants moved through 4 stages:
  • Paint the American Flag: A sheet was drawn up to map out the Red, White and Blue portions of the flag. Each participant had their hand painted with the color of their choice and placed their print in the appropriate area.
  • Color Uncle Sam: Each child was given a half a sheet of paper with Uncle Sam printed on it. The pictures were colored and hung in our Nature Center for all to see.
  • Decorate a Cookie:  Cookies were put out and those involved were able to decorate the cookie with frosting, sprinkles and candy.
  • Make a Betsy Ross Star: Individuals were given a sheet of paper and instructed how to cut out a Betsy Ross Star. They were given a brief history about the flag and how it was formed originally through the friendship of George Washington and Betsy Ross.
That night we offered a free movie Balto in our Nature Center and handed out ice pops to the movie goers.

Saturday, we had a sand Castle contest at our Camper’s Beach with seven teams of three-to five participants. Each sand creation was unique in their own way and some very intricate. It was a fierce competition that lasted only 30 minutes and the builders could only use sand and water. In addition, the winner received a s’mores pack for the family to share. There were also consolation prizes, including goodie bags and glow sticks.

Saturday afternoon, we drove around the park handing out freeze pops to the kids and reminded everyone about the town fireworks. The Day Use Beach was packed with cars and spectators to view the town and private fireworks displays. It was a both a fun-filled weekend and a reminder of the steps we took to gain our independence all those years ago. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Number One Brew State, Vermont Taps State Parks for New Pint Partnership

In the Green Mountain State, Vermonters’ love for the outdoors and passion for local brews have come together in a State-brewery collaboration. Vermont State Parks and Whetstone Station in Brattleboro, Vt. have brewed up a partnership that features two state park named beers, Fort Dummer Summer and Molly Stark Dark, brewed with water sourced directly from those two State Parks. The partnership also includes free entry to state parks, local charitable giving and everyone’s favorite – koozies for your next camping trip.

Beginning July 16, Whetstone will give away up to 100 vouchers for free park entry into Fort Dummer and Molly Stark State Parks, to patrons who order these limited edition brews. Fort Dummer and Molly Stark Parks will also distribute vouchers for a complimentary koozie at Whetstone Pub & Brewery.

About the State Park brews:

Fort Dummer Summer, Release date: July 16, 2014
This beer is a tribute to the beautiful Fort Dummer in Guilford. Bright, fresh and clean, this brew combines local malt, traditional hops and fresh water collected from the Broad Brook, located in Fort Dummer State Park and brings it all together in this delicious way to celebrate the season. At just 5% ABV this session pale ale is a perfect brew to enjoy in the sun. Extremely limited and available draft only this tasty summer beer won't be around long. You can also find Fort Dummer Summer at the sold-out Vermont Brewers Festival July 18-19.

Molly Stark Dark, Release date: August 13, 2014
This beer is a tribute to the Vermont State Park of the Year, Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington. This American take on a Dunkelweizen, combines Massachusetts grains, fresh water collected from within the park itself, a Vermont yeast strain and a touch of local hops, into a dark, but light, sweet and delicious beer. Follow the Molly Stark trail to Brattleboro and enjoy this draft-only, extremely limited, craft beer while it lasts. At just 4% ABV, but full of flavor, it's a perfect summer evening treat by the fire.

The launch dates of each brew are set for Whetstone’s Community Pint Nights. Each Wednesday, $1 from every brew sold goes to a local charity. For more information on the 52 Vermont State Parks, visit VtStateParks.com and to learn more about Vermont’s brewing scene, visit VermontVacation.com/beer.

Please tell us how you like these beers at Vermont State Parks on Facebook or @VTStateParks on Twitter.

Parks images and beer logos are available upon request. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Announcing Random Acts of Camping Giveaway


We are coming to Camp Plymouth State Park in Ludlow this weekend!

To share the joy of camping with Vermonters, Vermont State Parks will be launching a new promotion designed to encourage day-users to try camping. The Random Acts of Camping program rewards lucky visitors to day-use parks with two free nights of their choice of tent, lean-to, RV, or cabin camping at any Vermont State Park campground. One winner will be chosen every weekend from June 21 – August 3, weather permitting.

The program was developed as a way to increase statewide accessibility to camping and to foster a lifelong love of the outdoors. Vermont State Parks will be giving away the free park stays to day-users at Waterbury CenterSand BarLake ShaftsburyCamp PlymouthMt. PhiloBoulder Beach, and Crystal Lake State Parks during busy weekends this summer. The winners will be chosen at random by park staff. Winners will also receive personal trip planning assistance from the Parks Sales & Service Manager.


“Camping with your family and friends creates memories that can last a lifetime. Our hope is that this promotional program encourages a few more people to realize those wonderful benefits,” says Craig Whipple, Director of Vermont State Parks.

Random Acts of Camping has visited Waterbury Center, Lake Shaftsbury, and Boulder Beach State Parks so far! Announcements about when and where the promotion will be taking place will be made each week, weather permitting, on the Vermont State Parks websiteFacebook and Twitter feeds. 

Micro hikes and Microbrews: Kingsland Bay and Drop-In Brewery

Welcome back to Microhikes and Microbrews!  For Vermont Days this year, we decided to visit Kingsland Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh and Drop-In Brewery in Middlebury.

Kingsland Bay State Park sits right on the shore of Lake Champlain and is open for day use.  There are several historic buildings on site that are available for groups to rent out. When we arrived at Kingsland Bay, preparations for a wedding were well underway. With the sun starting to peek out from behind the clouds, we could tell it was going to be a beautiful event.  

The State Park also offers two different hiking trails.  We were able to sneak around the wedding preparations and take the first hike that led us from the main state park grounds and along the lake to a small vista point. We then drove out to the Ferrisburgh town beach and took the second hike out to the park's remote camping site. It is also possible to access this site by water from the main state park grounds. Because these were relatively short hikes, we were able to complete both in the same morning.

After completing the hikes, we headed south on Route 7 to Drop-In Brewery, which has been in operation for about two years. They had several tasty beers on tap, which you can taste and purchase to-go in one of three sizes: Squealers, Grumblers, and Growlers. We picked up two Squealers to take home for a BBQ later that night. For those looking to enjoy some food with their beer after their hike, they can do so right next door at the Grapevine Grille. Sabina, who was pouring beers during our visit, also let us know that Branbury State Park is located nearby right on Lake Dunmore. We'll be sure to check out that park on our next visit to Middlebury.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Letterboxing

In recent years, letterboxing has taken off in communities around the world. Part treasure hunt and part art project, letterboxing is a fun and exciting way to interact with your community, ignite your spirit of adventure, and spend time outside discovering or rediscovering natural areas.

What You Will Need:
  • Personal Stamp (You can have one custom-made or carve one yourself!)
  • Ink Pad
  • Logbook
  • Pencil
  • Any navigational tools like a compass or a map.

How to Letterbox:

Letterboxing is an activity in which one person or family hides a waterproof box in a secret location of their choosing. The box contains a carved rubber stamp unique to the person or family who hid it, and a log book. After hiding the box, they post clues, directions, and maps about where to find it. Finders use the clues provided to locate the box. Once it is found, they leave a record of having been there by stamping their own logbook with the stamp in the box and stamping the box’s logbook with their unique stamp. The finder can add the date that they found the box and any comments about their experience next to their stamp in the box’s logbook.

There are thousands of letterboxes across North America and hundreds in Vermont alone! Many are located within Vermont State Parks like Brighton, Coolidge, HalfMoon Pond, Knight Point, Little River, Maidstone, Molly Stark, Mt. Ascutney, Niquette Bay, and Woodford State Parks.

For a full listing of Vermont’s letterboxes, visit Atlas Quest or Letterboxing North AmericaUse the links to explore Vermont and find letterboxes near you!