Director of State Parks
Welcome to the fall edition of our e-newsletter. As you read these articles you get the clear sense that we here at Vermont State Parks really enjoy this wonderful time of year! It is truly special in all sorts of ways and we encourage everyone to get outside and relish it every chance you get. For example, take Jenny's advice and try exploring the country side on the back of a mountain bike. There are lots of trail choices made available all across the state by our partners at the Vermont Mountain Bike Association and their local chapters. If you have the urge and the time, consider volunteering to help their efforts and certainly consider becoming a member by joining any of the chapters.
Speaking of partners, we are particularly excited to announce the creation of a new nonprofit partner for Vermont State Parks called Vermont Parks Forever. This group of passionate, motivated community members has joined together to attract resources to make your visits to parks all the more valuable! Check out their website at www.vermontparksforever.org. Their gala kick off fundraising event, "Story Tellers on a Mission" features nationally known story tellers performing to benefit our state parks led by none other than author, radio personality and Board member, Tom Bodett. See the announcement below and follow up on the web to see how you can get involved.
Now...get outside! See you out there!
Director, Vermont State Parks
The Outdoor Observer
By: Rebecca Phelps
Things you enjoyed in summer are even better now
Red maples snuggled in swamps are turning red. Morning commutes start in the dark. Cedar Waxwings are flocking up and eating insects on the wing en masse. Autumn is here in Vermont. We are transforming into our autumn selves; wool- coat wearing, cider-sipping, foliage-admiring, wood-stacking Vermonters.
Just as summer memories warm our hearts, our faces turn to the colors of fall, one of the best times to get outside. You can camp without insects bothering you. You can snuggle into your sleeping bag and stay warm and cozy during chilly nights. You can wake early to ignite a crackling fire to brew your coffee and brown your pancakes. You can spend your days hiking in the dry, sunny, cool, crisp air.
The same places you visited this past summer, making memories while skipping stones, sauntering under a canopy of green, and practicing your cannon ball form are transformed into new places by changing seasons. Revisit these places and experience them for the first time.
Some of the neat things you can see in the Vermont autumn woods are colorful mushrooms sprouting out of the bark of trees, milkweed pods exploding with silk, paper wasp nests hanging in branches, loons molting, frogs moving and Great Blue Herons gathering in fields.
Autumn is a nice time to look for colorful mushrooms; fungi will form mushrooms after a cool rain this time of year. Chicken of the woods is a bright yellow/orange edible shelf fungus found most often on oak trees and normally fruiting in the autumn woods. Oyster mushrooms are a delicious, white, shelf type fungus found growing in clusters on deciduous trees, stumps and logs. Both these mushrooms are delicious cooked in a variety of recipes, and could contribute to your fall evening meal.
For more information on how to safely identify mushrooms, click HERE.
All summer you watched frogs plop into your favorite Vermont swimming spot, maybe you were even quick enough to catch one and admire it up close.This time of year is also an interesting time to watch frogs. Our pond friends are moving from their summer habitat to their winter hibernation areas. It feels surprising to spot a frog this time of year. Days are colder and as ectotherms (animals that regulate body temperature through external forces), they are moving slower, but frogs are still moving through the forest all around you while you hike on these glorious autumn days. Wood frogs are moving from the wet, wooded lowlands they enjoyed in summer to the higher, drier surrounding hills. Wood frogs dig under the leaf litter, into the top layer of soil where they freeze solid in their hibernation state for the entire winter. Green frogs are changing color from the bright green you saw in summer to a duller brown and they are migrating from pond areas to areas with running water, such as seeps and streams where they will dig into the mud under the water to spend the winter safe under water and ice.
Another summer favorite is the Great Blue Heron. You probably watched these graceful, tall, beautiful, blue birds catching fish in marshy areas of Emerald Lake, Lake Carmi, Boulder Beach and Camp Plymouth State Parks this summer. Fall is another great time to spot these tall birds as they gather in agricultural fields in preparation for their mass migration to the south. In the summer you may have seen solitary herons fishing gracefully on the edge of the water, but today you can spot a handful of these birds gathered together and it is striking to see.
Get out into the autumn woods and make your own observations about everything exciting and new. There are many beautiful state parks still open so you can get out into nature and fight the urge to snuggle under a quilt in front of the television for a little bit longer. (Vermont winters are long and there is plenty of time to catch up on episodes of Nature.) Take a look at the park operating season website to see your many options for autumn camping adventures. My favorites are Jamaica, Half Moon, Underhill and Little River State Parks.
"I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
--Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks
Mountain Biking in Vermont
By: Jenny Montagne
It's hard to deny the beauty of fall in Vermont, and with all this beauty, it's even harder to stay inside. As access to Vermont's extensive trail system has increased, so have the legions of dedicated trail enthusiasts, including a growing number of mountain bikers. The sport of mountain biking has been gaining popularity over the past three decades and draws people from near and far to explore and enjoy Vermont's unique trail assets.
Mountain biking originated as a West coast fringe sport in the 1970s. Mountains bikes differed from more traditional road bikes because of larger tires and strong suspension systems, making them better equipped to travel on variable terrain. With hundreds of miles of trails spread out across the state, it's not surprising that the sport quickly spread east and gained a following in Vermont.
Jessica Savage, the Recreation Coordinator for the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR), sees mountain biking as an important part of the state's recreation vision: "We are responding to an increased interest in the sport. A recent survey conducted by UVM Extension found that 7.9% of the state's residents participate in this activity, or over 49,000 people. People travel from other states and Canada to Vermont in increasing numbers to mountain bike as well. At the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA) festival in 2013, 66% of respondents were from out of state, and 60% of them were willing to travel over 100 miles to attend. That says something about the passion and drive to find new mountain biking experiences!"
As mountain biking continues to grow in popularity, FPR will work with local partners to enhance existing trail systems and develop new ones. Savage notes that riders should honor the land by respecting the trail, adhering to trail closure notices, and playing it safe. Tom Stuessy, Director of VMBA, echoes this sentiment by emphasizing the importance of "being honest with yourself and choosing the right trail."|
If you are new to mountain biking, there are several great locations across the state to get out on the trail. Stuessy recommends the Blueberry Lake trails in Warren.These trails are perfect for beginner bikers or bikers with children.With two routes, Leonard's Loop and Flying Squirrel, measuring 2.3 miles round trip, bikers can get to know the trails while gently increasing their speed. Riding these trails is also a fun way to explore Vermont's Mad River Valley, a destination for amazing fall foliage!
The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont is situated as a premier leaf peeping locale and a wonderful, family-friendly mountain bike resource. The Lodge is in close proximity to both idyllic Stowe Village and Waterbury, considered "Vermont's Recreational Crossroads," where you can enjoy tasty farm-to-table fare, sample craft beers from various breweries, and explore nearby Smuggler's Notch. With over 20 miles of double track and 5 miles of single-track trails, there is lots of space to get comfortable and gradually build your skill set at Trapp. Check out the Sugar Road Trail, a double-track mile-long trail that weaves through acres of old-growth forest before ending at Picnic Knoll. Another recommended trail for families is the Greenway Loop. Enjoy views of Mt. Mansfield and the Worcester Mountain range. This trail passes by the Trapp Lager Brewery, so be sure to stop in to see what's on tap.
Mt. Ascutney State Park in Windsor will be opening a new trail system for mountain bikers in spring 2015. The new trails are rated easy and will extend three miles with some loop options. Riding Rail Trails, like the D & H Rail Trail in Rutland County and flatter bike paths like the Lake Champlain Byway is another way for beginner bikers to gain comfort and confidence before heading out on the trails.
More experienced mountain bikers will find a multitude of trails across the state ranging from intermediate to expert. The Catamount Family Center in Williston is a valuable mountain biking resource. Located just minutes outside of Burlington, Vermont's biggest city, Catamount offers over 20 miles of trails, with many trails available for beginner- to intermediate-level bikers. The terrain is varied between flat areas and more hilly sections with astounding views of the Green Mountains. For intermediate bikers, Catamount suggests the Pure Bliss, Cliffs of Insanity, and Liquid Velvet trails, which together form a 3-mile loop. The property is part of the Giles Chittenden Farmstead, a gift from Thomas Chittenden, Vermont's first governor, to his eldest son. Today, part of the Mountain Bike Center is based out of the original house. Bikes are available to rent and the Center offers clinics and biking programs for visitors.
The Perry Hill Block in the CC Putnam State Forest located in Waterbury is 12 miles of what Savage describes as "some of the best riding in Vermont." These challenging trails are maintained in partnership with a local chapter of VMBA and are best suited for advanced riders. The Howe Block of Camel's Hump State Forest is another more challenging set of trails tailored to experienced mountain bikers. The trails range from moderate, like the Revolution and Enchanted Trail, to more difficult, like the Maple Twist Trail. All of the trails have natural hazards like rocks and tree roots, so practice caution and become familiar with the area before riding.
If you're looking for a new way to experience Vermont's recreation opportunities, mountain biking may be your new favorite sport. To learn more about how to get started and where to go, take a look at these resources:
Vermont Mountain Bike Association
Mad River Riders
Catamount Family Center
Fellowship of the Wheel
Storytellers on a Mission
On Saturday, November 1st join some of the nation's best known storytellers for Storytellers on a Mission at Burlington's Flynn Theater.
The event will bring together Tom Bodett, Ray Blount Jr., and others, for a memorable night of live performance and storytelling to benefit Vermont Parks Forever, the foundation that provides donation-based support to Vermont State Parks.
Help commemorate 90 years of our state parks and preserve the legacy of Vermont's beautiful public lands for generations to come.
The event is sponsored by The Hatch, an organization that produces live events to support and strengthen Vermont communities. For more information, click HERE.
A Call for Venture Vermont Entries!
Leaves are changing, the air is growing cooler, and the 2014 Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge
will soon be coming to a close on October 15. We hope that you had lots of fun camping, hiking, crafting, and exploring! When you have completed the challenge, send in your scorecards, photos, and any supporting documents to:
Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge
Vermont State Parks
1 National Life Drive, Davis 2
Montpelier, VT 05620-3801
This year's entries are starting to arrive and we love seeing and hearing all about your outdoor adventures. Keep 'em coming!
Scenic Fall Drives in Vermont
By: Jenny Montagne
Here in Vermont we are experiencing a magical fall wonderland with chilly mornings, golden afternoons, and trees illuminated with brilliant color! This annual change of the seasons is a treat for both year-round residents and visitors alike. Vermont's landscape offers lots of opportunities to observe and appreciate the fall, including the joy of a scenic drive. Exploring the many villages, waterways, and natural areas along our winding roads and scenic byways provides a glimpse into all of the beauty that this season has to offer!
Mad River Byway & Route 108
Central Vermont's Mad River Valley
has a reputation for fun and lively downtowns and stunning scenery. Every year visitors come to the Valley to tour the funky towns and villages and hike, swim, and ski. See it for yourself by taking a trip on the Mad River Byway
, a 36-mile route that passes through the heart of the state. The byway weaves through towns like Warren, Waitsfield, and Fayston following the Mad River. Much of the byway runs parallel to the Green Mountain National Forest
and ascends to the top of Appalachian Gap via Route 17 where the views are spectacular!
Route 108, between Stowe and Jeffersonville, is an iconic Vermont road. Starting in famous Stowe village, follow the winding road as it stretches upwards into Smugglers' Notch
, a narrow pass that runs between Spruce Peak and Mt. Mansfield. During the fall, intense colors light up the Notch and surrounding peaks. Get a literal taste of Vermont by passing through nearby via Route 100 Waterbury, home of the Ben & Jerry's Factory
and Prohibition Pig
Lake Champlain Byway
Take a drive along Lake Champlain to experience fall foliage later in the season! Because of low elevation, fall comes later to communities along the water, making it the perfect route for mid-fall travelers. The Lake Champlain Scenic Byway
is a 134-mile stretch of road that begins below the Canadian border and meanders alongside the Lake through Grand Isle, Burlington, Vergennes, and Middlebury, via Routes 2 and 7. While cruising through the charming Champlain Islands
, take in the lake framed on either side by yellow, orange, and red leaves. There are several stopping points along this byway including Burlington's Waterfront
and Queen City Parks for nature walks, Kingsland Bay State Park
and Mt. Philo State Park
for picnics and supreme lake views, and Middlebury's business district along the Otter Creek.
Stone Valley Byway
Route 30 snakes between the towns of Manchester and Hubbardton along the southwestern border of the state, creating what is known as the Stone Valley Byway
. This scenic route leads travelers through idyllic country towns and among some exceptionally beautiful natural landscape that really comes alive during the fall. Lying in the valley of the Taconic Mountains, the region is characterized by its stunning mountain views and proximity to multiple waterways like the Battenkill, Metawee, and Poultney Rivers. This area is also a recreation hub with great hiking, paddling, and camping at nearby Lake St. Catherine
and Bomoseen State Parks
. Development in this part of the state was largely driven by the slate and marble industries and evidence of the area's mining past can still be seen in the rural communities along the route. Take a break along your drive and grab some fresh, local snacks at Poultney's Stone Valley Community Market
or stop for a stroll through Manchester's popular downtown.
Connecticut River Byway
The Connecticut River forms a natural border between Vermont and New Hampshire on the state's eastern edge. In this region, mountains rise dramatically from farmland and quaint Upper Valley villages capture the essence of the state. The Connecticut River Byway
, which runs between the borders of Vermont and New Hampshire, is the longest roadway of its kind in Vermont. See striking foliage as you travel along the River or get a closer look by going for a relaxing paddle at Wilgus State Park
in Weathersfield. To experience an expansive view of the changing leaves, hike to the summit of Mt. Ascutney via the Slot or Slab Trails
. For travelers with children, take a detour to the nearby Montshire Museum
and the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium
to learn about the ecological history of the area.
The beauty of the season is inescapable so you can't go wrong by taking a trip on one of Vermont's many scenic byways, highways, or country roads.
Meet Ellen McCarron,
Chief of Park Operations
Hello! I am so thrilled to join Vermont State Parks as Chief of Park Operations. I'd like to tell you a little about me and why I've made the drastic move from my native Florida to Vermont to accept this position. Although I am brand new to Vermont as a new resident, I spent several years in operations at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in a state lands companion program to the Florida Park Service. As Assistant Director of Florida's Office of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas, or CAMA as we called it, my job was to oversee operations in Florida's 41 Aquatic Preserves, three Estuarine Research Reserves, and in CAMA's role co-managing with NOAA, the Florida Key's National Marine Sanctuary.
This unique office had diverse responsibilities ranging from providing many different kinds of visitor services to conducting highly technical research in Florida's estuaries and coral reefs. My background in biology really helped me understand and better appreciate the importance of the research and restoration work we were doing relative to the challenges of managing Florida's densely populated coastline.
So why Vermont, you might ask? Actually, Vermont has been my favorite state since the fourth grade when I learned about New England in a school project. Since then, I have visited and thought about moving here many times. Finally, in recent years, I decided to get serious about pursuing a next great career adventure in Vermont where I could apply my background in operations and management. So to be here now as a part of Vermont State Parks is a real dream come true!
So that's a little bit about me. Since joining Vermont State Parks, I have received an incredibly warm welcome by so many in the Agency of Natural Resources. Turns out I've not only moved to a land of endless beauty, I am surrounded by incredibly wonderful people as well.
Please let me know if you have any questions for me or would just like to sit down and share a story about your favorite park or some ideas for our operations. Here is my contact information:
Address: Vermont State Parks
1 National Life Drive
Montpelier, VT 05620
Why I Love Vermont
Vermont State Park visitors share their experiences
When you pull on to Moscow Road and are almost to Half Moon Pond State Park, a calming feeling comes over you. We absolutely love it there. The staff do an amazing job ! They are always so friendly, always willing to help make your stay the best, and everything is so clean.
I have a new kayak and forgot my life jacket and paddles. We asked a park employee if we could rent some and his reply was no but you can borrow some. I will be right back with some. Just drop them off when you leave.
We are always impressed with how the sites are cleaned as soon as someone leaves. We have stayed at several state parks in Vermont and New York Half Moon Pond is like staying with your best friends.
We love it there and can't wait to come back for Columbus Day weekend.
David & Pat Shuhart
Do you have a story to share? Send your favorite state park memories and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to our Photo Interns
Lené Gary is a writer, poet, and recreational photographer living in central Vermont. Her writing has won national literary awards and appears in both print and online journals. Her photographs have been published in
One New England, Vermont Nature, and The Bridge.
When she's not writing, she can be found paddling her well-worn Mad River canoe. Thanks to Lené for the beautiful photo from Ricker Pond State Park!
Born and Raised in Massachusetts, Dave moved to Vermont in 1982 from Dayton Ohio before retiring in 2008 with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dave now lives in Bradford. Vermont where he is an outdoor enthusiast (who enjoys) fishing, hiking, camping, and capturing Vermont's landscapes and wildlife. He can be found in Groton State Forest with a smile and his Nikon coolpix 5400. Thank you, Dave for the photo of bikers in the Groton State Forest.