Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Random Acts of Camping is Coming to Vermont State Parks This Summer

MONTPELIER - Designed to share the joy of camping with Vermonters, "Random Acts of Camping" will be coming to a state park day use area near you.  Random Acts of Camping rewards lucky park visitors with two free nights of tent, RV, lean-to, or cabin camping in any Vermont State Park campground. One winner will be chosen at random on nice weather weekends through August beginning in Camp Plymouth State Park on the weekend of June 25-26.

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 Camp Plymouth, Kill Kare, Boulder Beach, Branbury and Waterbury Center 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 state parks customer service team. 

"Camping with your family and friends is so much fun and the outdoors is so good for you. Our hope is that this program encourages a few more people to give camping a try," says Rochelle Skinner, Parks Sales & Service Manager.

Random Acts of Camping will kick off at Camp Plymouth State Park this weekend. Every Wednesday, if weekend weather is looking good, we’ll announce which park we’ll be at for the upcoming weekend on the Vermont State Parks’ website, Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A Walk with Words, the Poetry Walk at Niquette Bay State Park

By Guest Blogger Lisa Liotta, Park Manager at Niquette Bay 

When Penny Cunningham, the Adult Services Librarian at Colchester’s Burnham Memorial Library, contacted me in May of 2015 and enthusiastically shared her vision of the Poetry Walk at Niquette Bay State Park, I was immediately intrigued. Penny had experienced Anne Ferguson’s Storywalk® project for children, which Niquette Bay and other Vermont State Parks have featured in prior years, and she was inspired to create a similar walk with poetry, mostly for an older audience.  Penny’s idea was simply perfect for Niquette Bay which is already a natural gem and true oasis for appreciating nature in Vermont. Poets have long received inspiration from nature, why not feature poetry in situ?

Together, Penny and I drew from our own favorite poetry works and sought further inspiration from the park’s natural features and scenic beauty when creating the collections. Last year’s Poetry Walk was so successful and beloved by park visitors, that we are extremely pleased to present the Poetry Walk with favorites from last year as well as new poems this year for our visitor’s enjoyment.

This year, as the Poetry Walk meanders through the forest, it weaves in and out of several different natural communities, over a babbling brook, slowly climbs an ancient limestone ridge that presents a breathtaking vista of Mt. Mansfield before it culminates with a sweeping westward view of Lake Champlain, the Champlain Islands, and the Adirondacks in the distance. The total distance of the walk including the return to the parking lot is a little over three miles and about 260’ in elevation gain on a moderately difficult trail.

Along the way, sixteen nature-themed poems that contemplate life’s passages, many of which were suggested by participants last year, are placed on the trail. Each poem, specifically chosen for both its location and sequence in the overall collection, enhance the natural surroundings with their words, while the poems add a whole new dimension of appreciation of the park’s natural environment.  

Poetry lovers will recognize classic works by Walt Whitman, e.e. cummings, Mary Oliver, Robert Frost, Gerald Manley Hopkins, and many more. Also included in the different collections throughout the season are such diverse works as those by a tenth-century unknown monk; local poets such as Paige Hauke, a former Rice Memorial High School student; Julie Cadwallader Staub, a Burlington poet whose works have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writers Almanac; and Cheryl Savageau, an Abenaki writer and poet, and many others.

Brochures that detail the route and the works featured are available in the park office, or in Nature’s Library, the park’s lending library at the trailhead. At the end of the Poetry Walk, a journal box with a journal and colored pencils has been placed for visitors to record their thoughts and reflections, a drawing or sketch, and even a little poetry if they so desire. As evidenced by the very personal and moving entries in last year’s journal, the Poetry Walk resonated profoundly and deeply with many visitors who were undertaking their own life’s passages.
We welcome participants to suggest nature-themed works that they find meaningful as the collection of poetry featured will change on the first of every month through October. The Poetry Walk is appropriate for all ages. We hope to see many of you in the park this summer!

After all, in the words of Vincent Van Gogh, “…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Make Music Day comes to Vermont: Parks host free musical events at locations all over the state

Join us at 5 state parks locations across Vermont on Tuesday, June 21st for the inaugural MakeMusicVT day!  

“MakeMusicVT brings music makers of all ages and experience out to the sidewalks, parks, porches and public places of the state on June 21, 2016, the first day of summer — a free celebration of music-making that takes place on the same day in more than 120 countries and 700 cities across the globe.

Anyone can take part in Make Music Vermont. All day long, anyone lucky enough to be in Vermont can join in to make music or enjoy being surrounded by it. It’s the longest day of the year, the best to spend making music!”

Park entry is FREE to attend these performances, which will be happening rain or shine.

The parks making music are:

4:00 – 5:00 PM The Bob Loblaw Band, eclectic and oddly heartwarming hits you’ve never heard.
5:45 – 6:30 PM Robin Reid, Cranky originals and some choice covers.
7:00 – 8:00 PM Paige Thibault, piano and vocals singer-songwriter

7 bands confirmed plus open jam session until dusk! 
1:00 PM KiefCatcher, foot-stomping chunky riffs and spacy lyrics
1:50 PM Daphnee Vandal, violin, guitar and vocals, covering a wide variety of music
2:40 PM Myles Doesn’t PlayThis, jazz duo playing classics and originals
3:30 PM Lil Benny, afro pop, reggae and hip hop music to move to
5:10 PM No Cons (Musik and John Stone), saxophone and hip hop
6:00 PM Plastique Mammals, ambient alternative with element of punk and pop
6:50 PM Coquette, American indie
7:40-9:00 PM Open Jam Session

6:00 PM Luminous Crush, Banjo, bass, guitar, and soaring harmonies

2:00 PM The New Economistas, Folk-style political satire

11:00 AM – 2:00 PM Dave & Jed, blues and country rock
More bands announced soon, 2:00- dusk

Make Music Day began in France in 1982 as “Fete de la Musique”

MakeMusicVT is being organized by Big Heavy World, an independent collective uniting Vermont musicians.

Come join these artists to hear parks across the state filled with music!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Guest Blog: 4th of July Weekend at Townshend State Park

By photo intern Matt Parsons
Check out Matt's blog here:

Earlier in the year I scored carte blanche status with my “photo boss” for covering a Random Acts of Camping promotion for the Vermont State Parks. I love the state parks in my area but had been hankering to explore some parks in the southern part of Vermont. I was recovering from a hernia surgery at home and was feeling a bit cooped up. I decided to make plans to camp for the July 4th weekend. My first choice, Jamaica State Park in Jamaica, Vermont was full. The nice lady on the phone suggested a smaller park in Townshend. I took her advice and called. Pat was very nice in helping me choose an available tent site. In closing she asked if anyone in our party played a musical instrument. “No, but why do ask? Pat explained that every Saturday night is music night in the park and that all the musicians get together to play. By now I was intrigued and couldn’t wait for the July 4th weekend!

This was the first time that Ann and I had a disagreement over how long to camp but we worked it out. The weekend arrived and Ann did most of the packing to keep my guts from falling out. Normally we would take a less direct route just for fun. Since it was a 3 hour drive, we decided to stay on the interstate. We did find a short cut that wound its way up through the hills and lead us across a narrow covered bridge to Route #30. The quaint little town of Newfane with its white houses and picket fences indicated that we were not far from our destination.

The dirt road that leads to the park follows the back side of the West River. Along the way we caught glimpses through the trees of people floating by in inner-tubes. By the sounds they were all having a wonderful time. Of course I was curious and had to find out more. We arrived at the park and the stone ranger station built by the Civilian Conservation Corps was magnificent. I have always admired the forethought, dedication and hard work of the CCC. This particular building had a built in pavilion with a stone fireplace. In front of the pavilion was a stone patio with stairs leading up to it. This was the perfect place for a good old fashioned hootenanny!

Pat welcomed us like old friends and pointed us in the direction of our camp site. Setting up camp wasn’t as quick this time. I had to be mindful of my recent operation and take it easy. I was excited to be at a new State Park, so I loaded up my camera gear and we set off to explore the lay of the land. It didn’t take long before we found a trail. I did a little photo research on this park and discovered very few pictures of Bald Mountain or it’s trail. The area had received a good bit of rain and the mountain stream was looking picturesque. I took many pictures and put myself in some jeopardizing positions that upset my concerned wife. This was not a good time to ask if she wanted to hike to the top. Instead we went back to our site and rested before getting our ample supply of fire wood.

Getting wood was another opportunity to talk with Gary and Pat. I could not leave without finding out about tubing the West River. Pat explained that up the road is the Townshend Dam. Many people arrange to be dropped off below the earthen dam and float down, where they can be picked up miles down stream. I had not been tubing since I was a kid. The days of kicking back and floating lazily down the Lamoille River, which flowed through my home town were flooding my mind.  My curiosity sparked a second wind that had us in the car quicker than you can say West River. People on the river were making the best of the last hours of day light. This was a classic summer day. People gathered at the river to float and swim. Kids were diving off an abandoned covered bridge with fearless abandon while others watched on a near by rock that sloped into the gentle waters.

I had worked up quite an appetite and shish kabobs cooked over an open fire were on the menu. We dismissed the thought of checking out Townshend Dam and headed back to camp. I pride myself on creating a nice fire to cook on. The wood supply was full of dry hardwood that was perfect for cooking. Ann remained busy preparing the table while I cooked over the fire ring. In the evening the fire pit becomes our television. We gaze into its hypnotic flicker and talk about the days events. I’m not sure, but we may have discovered the answer to some of life’s problems in the process. One by one, we eventually retired to our tent. In the morning we performed our morning rituals of coffee, meditation and breakfast around the camp fire. On this particular day, rain was imminent and we needed to get things under cover. Putting together a shelter using a tarp,  bungi cords, and rope is sometimes a challenge if the trees aren’t in the right place. Today everything lined up.

Rain is always a possibility when you are camping, so we maintain our adventurous attitude and come up with alternate plans. On the way in we noticed a large vegetable stand called Dutton Berry Farm in Newfane. We love going to places like this and thought it would be a good place to start our adventure. By the time we got on the road it had begun to rain. Did I mention that everything lined up? On our mini road trip we explored the West River from the road, entertaining the idea of someday tubing down it’s crystal clear waters. We stopped at the vegetable stand, browsed for a bit before purchasing a few fresh delights for the camp. Today was a day to be inside as the rain became heavier. Ann likes antique stores and there happened to be one up the road. I remember striking up a conversation with the owner who was familiar with the town we live in more than 3 hours away. Small world! All of this was making us hungry so we randomly chose Newfane Cafe and Creamery. I don’t remember what we ordered but I do remember a cool waiting bench made out of quarters and an interesting motorcycle that sat in the middle of the dining room. There was no need for us to hurry but tourists began coming in for lunch, so we left to make room. Besides we had Townshend Recreational Area to check out.

The rain was starting to lift. We were surprised to see people already at the recreation area celebrating the 4th of July with their family and friends. The dam and the park are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We did our usual exploring and imagined how we could enjoy the park. A park ranger was kind enough to answer our questions and give us some additional information about the Army Corps of Engineers. Later while exploring the reservoir and beach, our ranger friend came and told us of 2 eagles that were in a tree nearby. I wasn’t in a good place to shoot pictures but I got as close as I dared. Any pictures I could get of an American Bald Eagle on Independence Day weekend would be a bonus for me. I tried many positions to steady my aim, including laying down in the wet grass and resting on a cold wet rock. People driving by must of thought I was practising some kind of weird “photo yoga“. Eventually the eagles majestically flew off and circled the reservoir before heading up stream.

It would be 5;30 by the time we got back to the car. We still had to cook supper and get a fire going for an evening of relaxation. Ann likes to read. I usually tend the fire and review the many pictures I take through out the day. A short trip down the road and we were back at our site. Everything stayed dry under our make shift dining hall. The tent platform was strategically placed under a large pine tree which sheltered our tent from rain. You know it’s been a GOoD day when you can survive the elements with very few struggles. Knowing the camp site was secure eased our minds. We needed more wood for the evening so we headed up to see our friends Pat and Gary. Upon approaching the pavilion we could here 2 ladies proudly singing patriotic songs. It was a perfect evening to recline in a chair and get warm by the fire Gary or Pat had started in the fireplace. There hospitality is as warm as any fire

Friday night back at the camp was spent reminiscing and dreaming in front of the camp fire. One thing I like about my relationship with Ann is that we can dream together. Our dreams often include blessing friends who have been a blessing to us. Nate and Molly have been a positive influence in our son David’s life and they have gone out of their way to do it. Out of love and appreciation we thought a camping trip to this park would be a blast. We imagined bringing David and tubing down the West River. Since Nate plays the guitar, Molly sings and David plays the cajon, ( box drum ) this would be a great place for them to play together. This would be a huge dream come true as we have never seen David play or have we known him to play in public. Sometimes our dreams are seeds of faith. All we can do is put the pieces together and trust the Good Lord to connect the dots. We love to watch Him at work doing thing we can’t do with our own knowledge or strength. It didn’t take long before we committed ourselves to making plans with Nate and Molly for the Labor Day weekend.

Saturday was the 4th of July and we spent most of the day at camp cooking and relaxing. I was both excited and anxious for music night. Excited because this was a new and unique experience at a state park for us. I was anxious because if I were to do this event justice, I would need to have the freedom to move around freely. Moving around freely meant announcing who I am and why I am there. Announcing who I am might indicate to some people that I am an accomplished photographer. I am not. I’m just fortunate enough to have a nice camera and likes to take pictures of the things I experience. The camera was sold to Ann by a trusted friend who was upgrading his equipment. They both wanted it to be an encouragement to me. I have had tremendous fun and success but I still get nervous when people ask me technical questions or want to see my pictures. This was going to put me in a very vulnerable position.

The time arrived and we grabbed our chairs, cooler and camera gear. It was a short walk to the pavilion. By now we felt like family as Pat greeted us in her customary fashion. I had told her that I was a photo intern when we first met, so she was very open to what I had in mind. I thought it would be best to address the crowd and let them know who I was and why I was there. It would be the perfect time to warn people that I would be seeking consent forms. I would also ask that if anyone DIDN’T want to have there picture taken to let me know. Pat was very kind in introducing me. I was taught public speaking through out school so addressing the crowd wasn’t that difficult for me. I was very pleased with how receptive and open the people were. I actually felt right at home. Through out the night Ann and I were able to converse with many people who allowed me to take their picture.

On this particular night it was Gary and a professional flautist named Patrick. The duo received instrumental and vocal support from the 2 ladies who proudly sang God Bless America from the night before. Ann and I had the extreme pleasure of getting to know Patrick and his wife (whose name escapes our memory) It turns out that they are from New York City and that they visit the Vermont State Parks to see the stars in the sky. “We don’t see them in the city” Patrick said. On one of their first ventures to Vermont, they camped at Molly Stark where Gary and Pat were doing their thing as park rangers at the time. A friendship was formed and now the couple visits them where ever they may be working. A true testament to the kind of people Gary and Pat really are. Gary started the evening and played familiar folk and country songs with help from Patrick and the ladies. He even took requests.

Patrick played several Jethro Tull songs that were delicious to the ears. The most memorable moment for me, however, was when Patrick broke out with his rendition of America the Beautiful. The back drop was perfect. An American flag was proudly waving in the gentle evening breeze as Patrick sat beneath it’s glory. Now this is where it gets crazy! As Patrick played in the late twilight, people from across the river were touching off fireworks from behind him. I ran out of talent and gear to capture this image, but the memory will forever be in my mind as we stood with our hands over our hearts and sang. The fireworks lit up the sky behind the American flag and above Patrick’s head as if a star had exploded over New York City.

Pat complimented the warm fellowship and sweet music by serving us popcorn. When the evening ended and the consent forms were collected, I felt like we had made some lasting friendships. We were happy to learn that some of our friends would be coming back for the Labor Day weekend. Slowly we dispersed to our camps knowing we had experienced a very special evening. The night quickly emptied into the morning. Sunday was our last day at the park and tearing down camp seemed to be especially sombre. It was going to be a long 2 and half months before we would see each other again. Heading home from a camping trip always has a degree of sadness but this time I was able to pick myself up knowing that our son and friends would be joining us next time.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Know Your State Parks: Branbury

When I visited Branbury State Park on a warm day this spring, I got a small unexpected treat. I was the first person to walk across the freshly raked sand on the beach by Lake Dunmore. This is a small pleasure, for sure. But after a long winter, walking across a beach is a distillation of the essence of approaching summer. That’s a good feeling, right? I was tempted to skip, or maybe twirl in circles. The other park visitors were stretched out on their beach towels like pale starfish and soaking up warmth. This is a very local talent. After wading, I was reminded why the others were enjoying the lake from further away. In May, lakes in Vermont are still darn cold. Or, if you prefer, “bracing”.

One of the many fine things about Banbury State Park is that it doesn’t oversell itself. It doesn’t have to. The park is clean and spacious, with plenty of room to walk, swim, play volleyball, grill, or just relax in a gorgeous setting by the Green Mountains. After I was done on the beach, I walked around the grounds under many white and pink blooming apple trees. Bees kept me company by the trees. Apple blossoms have a lovely delicate scent. The bees, while an essential part of the ecosystem, do not.

No matter which direction you come from, the ride to Branbury provides nice scenery for your eyeballs. If you are coming south from Burlington or north from Rutland and Manchester, Route 7 runs past miles of fertile farmland between the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. Route 7 travels the length of western side of Vermont, straight down through the Berkshires of Massachusetts, and into Connecticut. It eventually ends up in the Long Island Sound. However, I came from the east, and over Brandon Gap in the Green Mountains. From the top of the gap you can see miles of hills- as well as glimpses of Lake Champlain, and the Adirondacks of New York in the distance. Gaps like Brandon Gap and Middlebury Gap have been used as a natural east-west throughway for years- first by the Abanaki people travelling through the area, and later on by European settlers.

Lake Dunmore is a naturally formed glacial lake, long and thin- one mile across in some areas, and three miles long. It is vaguely fjord-like in aesthetics and spirit, though without the sea, whales, or Norwegian cruise lines. Most of the shoreline is privately owned. Route 53 neatly bisects Branbury in half in space, landscape and geography. One half is dominated by Lake Dunmore; the other side is a wooded forest.  

This proximity to the forest is Branbury’s other popular draw. The park is adjacent to the Green Mountain National Forest, and so provides access to a network of miles of hiking trails (including the Long Trail), biking, wildlife viewing, picnicking, and the Moosalamoo National Recreational Area. The Moosalamoo area in particular offers a network of walking or hiking trails, and mountain biking opportunities (on specially marked trails only) and forest roads. There are several trailheads directly to the south and the to the north of the park, including to the Falls of Lana, a popular waterfall. You can also hike to the top of Mount Moosalamoo, a moderate to difficult 4- 5-hour hike.

Branbury also has a cottage that can be booked for a week in the summer, or for 3 nights earlier or later in the season. The name, appropriately enough, is the Moosalamoo Cottage. Are you wondering at this point what “Moosalamoo” means? I was curious too. There is actually a sign at the park that explains it. According to modern Abenaki translations, it probably means something like “he trails the moose” or “the moose departs”. Now you know!

There are 17 tent sites at Branbury close to the beach, on the edge of an open field. The other camping area is across the road in the wooded area. When I walked through this camping loop, spring rain had created a small waterfall off the rocks by one site. There are two trails that begin right at the campground- the lower cliff and upper cliff trails. These trails lead up the side of a hill and give views of the Lake Dunmore and beyond from above. I walked up the lower cliff trail, and observed some colonies of wildflowers, and a mysterious red flower I had never seen before (EDIT: I believe this flower is wild columbine, I will try to confirm this). You will also pass by some impressive boulders and rock formations. The area has an interesting geological history and quartzite, sandstone, limestone and marble are found here. Some of these larger rocks are just the perfect size for making a person feel small.

Branbury is 40 minutes from Burlington, 20 from the town of Middlebury, and 45 minutes from the Lake Champlain Bridge crossing from New York State.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Mount Philo State Park Public Meeting & Recreation Workshop

MONTPELIER - As part of the ongoing update of the long-range management plan for Mt. Philo State Park, the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation is hosting a recreation workshop meeting for the public.

The meeting will be held from 6:00-8:00 PM on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at Kingsland Bay State Park, Ferrisburgh, Vermont.

Mt. Philo, Vermont’s oldest State Park is dominated by the 968-foot Mount Philo with spectacular views of the Lake Champlain Valley and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The park is popular for camping, hiking, and weddings. The 2010 donation of 60 acres from Charles and Gwen Allmon brings the total acreage of Mt. Philo State Park to 232 acres. General information about these lands is available (
The format for the workshop will include facilitated small group discussions on a variety of recreation topics related to Mt. Philo State Park. Workshop participants will be asked to bring their ideas and input to these discussions which will help to shape the discussion regarding management at Mt. Philo. There will be opportunity at these discussions to share ideas and input along with others interested in recreation at the state park. There will be one table that provides an opportunity for generating ideas. Information gathered from this and other public involvement events will be considered during the development of the long-range management plan for Mt. Philo State Park.

Pre-registration is required. Space is limited; please RVSP at If interest in the workshop exceeds building capacity, we will host a second workshop. 


Maria Mayer                                                                          Lisa Thornton 
Parks Regional Manager                                                       Stewardship Forester
VT Dept. Forests, Parks & Recreation                          VT Dept. Forests, Parks & Recreation
271 North Main Street, Suite 215                                          271 North Main Street, Suite 215
Rutland, Vermont 05701                                                        Rutland, Vermont 05701                                           

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Vote for Vermont in the Great Outdoors Month Video Contest 2016!

Fun fact: June is "Great Outdoors Month." It's official- check out the proclamation from the Governor! Each year, the American Recreation Coalition holds a Great Outdoors Month Video Competition nationwide to promote outdoor recreation. Vermont State Parks submitted a video and we were selected as a finalist in the competition, along with 10 others. Now, the public gets to vote to choose the 5 finalists. Here's our video:

Here is the link to look at the other finalists and vote. Of course we suggest watching all the videos and making an impartial selection.. we would NEVER suggest simply voting for our entry because we're biased towards Vermont.

June has been officially designated as Great Outdoors month since 2004. It's a way to highlight fun outdoor activities in our shared resources like state parks and forests. The American Recreation Coalition is a nonprofit based out of Washington, D.C. The group is "dedicated to the protection and enhancement of everyone's right to health and happiness through recreation." 

Voting is open until May 25th.