Allis State Park & The Miller's Quest to visit all Vermont State parks

by Lori Miller

Let the adventures begin! 

Memorial Day Weekend kicked off our 2013 Vermont State Parks season.  And what a kickoff it was, for those of you who recall – cold, rainy (snowy, if you live in Jay and some other places) and generally not picnic conducive. Mother Nature granted us some reprieve, however, giving us a lovely day on Monday, although still somewhat windy, as I was to experience on our first State Park visit of the season.

We started almost alphabetically, with Allis State Park (Alburg Dunes being the alphabetical first, but we've already checked that one off our list). Never heard of Allis, you say? I hadn't either. And for good reason. Allis is located in true, rural Vermont. Even after visiting there, I’m still not entirely sure exactly what town I was in. We drove from my mother’s house in Randolph and Google Maps sent us down one dirt road and then another to get there. It was a beautiful drive, even though naming a road “Vermont 68”, which sounds like it should be a grand thoroughfare for cruising, is somewhat deceptive. It’s more like a dirt lane that seems barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other. And there Allis sits, perched atop that steep, winding dirt lane, with its fire tower at the peak, standing tall against the (finally) clear, blue sky.  

The kids scrambled out of the car after being freed from their car/booster seats. It wasn't a terribly long drive from Randolph to Allis but for little kids time is a different dimension and they had spent most of it asking when we would get there. We do our best to point out the natural beauty of our state to our kids as we drive though Vermont but I guess when your eyes are about the level of the base of the window, a lot is probably lost on you. We picnicked at the tables under the fire tower, enjoying our peanut butter and jelly with the hum of the breeze that tried to blow our lunch away. Eating doesn't take very long when there is a fire tower to climb.

I had been eyeing that fire tower with some trepidation since we arrived. It seemed taller up close and had many sections of steep stairs with open railings. Given the fact that I constantly tell my kids to be careful and hold the railing coming down our wide, carpeted, and surrounded-by-walls stairway at home, I thought maybe we were a little crazy to contemplate bringing a just-turned-three year old and an almost-five year old up those steps.

But, trying not to be a worry wart mother, and trying not to pass on my fears to my happy and enthusiastic children, we started up the tower slowly and carefully, with one parent directly behind each child and my mom (Nana, to the kids) bringing up the rear. After about two flights of steps I suddenly realized that I, myself had a trace of acrophobia as my stomach began to do little somersaults in my abdomen and my legs had a strange feeling of looseness about them.  Brian was up ahead with our daughter, while I was stalled down below with our son and my mom. Trying not to look down, but looking down anyway (because that’s the first thing you do when you tell yourself not to look down) I gave up on not being a worry wart and told Brian I didn't want the kids walking up on their own. And I was unable to carry my son up in one arm while my other hand clung to the railing with peanut butter and jelly stickiness. Brian ended up carrying both of them up (no, not at the same time!), while I inched my way up, white knuckled on the railing and trying my best to stare straight ahead.

Remember that breeze I mentioned before? Well it turns out that when you’re at the top of a hill, with an amazing 360-degree view I will say, a small amount of vertical gain (like a fire tower) amounts to a surprising increase in wind velocity. I was wishing I hadn't eaten peanut butter and jelly and wondering if it came back up whether it would make it to the bottom of the tower or just be blown away by the gusting wind. Reaching the top, I was thankful to see that it was enclosed, unlike the rest of the structure, and I relaxed slightly for a moment against the metal sides before taking in the view.

It was quite a view! As long as I didn't look down too much or pay attention to the noise and feeling of the wind blowing the metal sides of the tower like a flimsy cookie sheet, I had to admit that the view was worth the climb.  I could see all the way to what was Camel’s Hump (I think).  There is a map indicating which peak is which but I was too frazzled to pay much attention to it. I managed to snap a couple of photos, which I felt was an accomplishment, while I was waiting for my turn to go down. Brian had to do double-triple duty and carry the kids down one at a time. As it turned out, they wanted to go back up again later so he had to make two more trips up and down.

All in all it was a lovely start to our State Park Challenge. It reminded me of the diversity of Vermont State Parks, from the large well known ones to the quiet solitude of a park like Allis. We are looking forward to the rest of our summer adventures, large and small.


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