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The Outdoor Observer: Birds Are Sneaking Back

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May 2018
By Rebecca Roy, Conservation Education Coordinator 

There is great comfort in busy flocks of Chickadees in winter woods. Calling, hopping, curious little flocks of small black and white friends is a rare view of vibrant life in the bleak winter landscape. It seems a miracle they survive the harsh northern New England winter. This winter seemed harsher and longer, and we find greater delight in arrivals of our summer residents, the migratory birds.

We mark spring by the first calls of Red-winged Blackbirds here, these are followed by Phoebes and other flycatchers. We watch carefully for thrushes, and the first warblers. Yesterday I saw a Loon in Silver Lake State Park. Birds are sneaking back.
Everyone in Vermont is itching to get out on trails as soon as snow is melting in the dooryard. It is mud season now, when trails are most fragile and feet make the greatest impact. There are still wonderful safe places to hike to spot some of these early migratory bird arrivals.
I went to M…

Classic blog: Finding wildflowers in spring

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Despite the (shall we say) variable conditions so far this month, it's exactly that time of year to head into the woods and look for growing things! Spring ephemerals are the first flowers you will find in the woods, and favor deciduous hardwood forests. They are usually not large but hardy, and well adapted to withstand cold and variable conditions of early spring. Ephemerals bloom early, often before the snow has completely gone, and complete their life cycle before the trees leaf out, taking full advantage of full sunlight on the forest floor and insulation provided by least years' leaves on the ground.

Here are some spring ephemerals to watch for, and suggestions on where to look: Hepatica: This tiny, fresh-smelling flower is one of the very first to appear in the woody areas in spring. Hepatica grows low to the ground and can be pink, white, purple, or blue. If you look closely, you will see that hepatica is furry! These tiny hairs on the stem are another protection from …

Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge Returns For 2018

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It’s time again! Venture Vermont has returned for 2018, with brand new activities and chance to win free park entry all season long.

Every summer, individuals and families participate in Venture Vermont, which is rather like a state-wide outdoor scavenger hunt. Participants complete a variety of outdoor activities to earn points. Once a participant reaches 250 points, the prize is a coin that offers free admission to any day-use state park, for all of the current year and all of next.

Last year over people participated from locations all across Vermont… and from a few other states too. One great thing about Venture Vermont is that participants are able to pick their own activities & go at their own pace. There is always something new to learn! Activities for 2018 include DIY bowling, going on a backpacking trip, looking for dragonflies. Some challenges are park-based, but most can be completed anywhere, on vacation or in your backyard.
Learn more about Venture Vermont, and downloa…

Mud Season is Here! Help Us Protect Fragile Trail Environments

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Vermont – Today the Green Mountain Club (GMC), maintainer and protector of Vermont’s Long Trail and Vermont’s hiking trails advocate, along with the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR), manager of Vermont State Forests and Parks, and the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF), announce the return of mud season to the Green Mountains.
The wet soils on and around hiking trails are very susceptible to erosion at this critical time of year.To protect fragile soil and surrounding vegetation, some trails may be closed by the land manager during this time.Please respect the signage you see.Hikers walking on saturated soils or on the sides of trails cause damage to surrounding vegetation, widen trails, and inhibit natural drainage of our beloved hiking trails.
“It can take hours for a volunteer or trail crew to fix what takes just moments to damage by hiking on muddy trails,” says Jessica Savage, FPR’s recreation program manager. “In between spring showers, we are all ready to hit …

Camping 101: Tips, Tricks & Resources

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Here in Vermont, snow is melting and spring is (intermittently!) in the air, which means that camping season is fast approaching. If you’re new to camping or haven’t been in awhile, here are some great resources for brushing up on your camping skills so you feel confident on your next adventure. 

CAMPING 101

Need a refresher on all the basics of camping? Watch our full series of “how-to” videos (seven in all) covering all the basics of camping, from picking out a site, setting up a tarp & tent, and the basics of camp cooking. Watch all the videos on YouTube here.
Below is the first video, "Choosing A Campsite".
WHERE TO GO CAMPING? 

There are almost 40 Vermont State Parks with campgrounds located throughout of the state, offering a variety of amenities, accommodations and all sorts of activities to suit almost everyone's taste. Use our "Park Finder" feature to search by popular activities and amenities, and lodging types to find the perfect park for you. 
If you …

Maple Recipes To Sweeten Your Next Camping Trip

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This upcoming weekend (March 24-25th) is Vermont’s annual Maple Open House Weekend, a chance to visit a working sugar house, observe & learn about the process in person, and of course sample some sweet maple treats. If you’re looking for some easy camp recipes to try with all that fresh syrup you come home with, we’ve got you covered, from breakfast through dessert.

Breakfast: Classic Flapjacks
While camping, THE classic breakfast recipe is pancakes cooked on the griddle over a campfire after waking up in the fresh air & getting ready for a busy day. A filling, delicious meal is called for, and pancakes are a great choice. The basic mix is simple and can be made ahead of time, but the recipe can be personalized however you feel like. Add berries or other fruit, nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, or whatever else you can dream up. A good flipping technique is also important…no one likes burned flapjacks!
When your ‘cake is finished, drizzle (or smother) with syrup an…

The Groton State Forest: A Winter Playground For All Ages

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Many know and love the 27,000-acre Groton State Forest as a summer destination, returning year after year for camping, swimming, hiking, nature walks, biking, horseback riding, and more. As the season wears on, nights turn from crisp to cold, crowds at the beach disperse, and the last campers return home for the season as leaves turn from green to gold and orange. And so, by the time winter brings fresh snowfall to the forest, few people (and critters) that live there year-round are there to see. The landscape is less lush, of course, but with its’ own stark beauty. If you haven’t had experienced a winter Groton adventure yet, it’s definitely worth a trip.

Travelling on a warm day in February with my snowshoes and no particular destination in mind, this was my first winter foray- and to be honest I was slightly skeptical about visiting “off-season”. I have been camping at Ricker Pond since I was small and have many fond memories of days at the beach, campfires, and so on. In my memorie…