Friday, July 30, 2021

Vermont State Parks–7 in a day

July 11, 2021                                                            Most Recent Posts:
Moose River Campground                   Sticking Close to Home in Vermont
Saint Johnsbury, Vermont                            Out and About in Vermont

Like most of my posts, this one is best viewed on a laptop or tablet rather than a phone.

Map from moose

Back when I first began our original blog, I posted every day.  We were doing so many things that each day was chock full and we wanted a record of our new wonderful lives.   I can’t imagine now how I did that.  But this day is one of those too full days so it’s going to get its own post.

The Groton State Forest has 7 state parks in it so I made a round trip tour from my campground.  I started with New Discovery and then went to Kettle Pond, Stillwater, Boulder Beach, Ricker Pond and Seyon Lodge.  The map above shows my entire 82 mile round trip. Most of the travel was getting to and coming back.  But since google maps clustered some of them together, below is a more detailed picture of the state parks area

7 parks map

I started my tour at New Discovery State Park where I bought a seasonal park pass for $30 hoping that I’d see enough state parks in my two months in Vermont to more than pay for it at about $4 a visit otherwise.  I was hoping this tour would tell me whether Winnona and I might spend a summer moving from park to park as I do during the winter in Florida.


IMG_6681At New Discovery I first checked out Osmore Pond.  It’s small but might be fun to kayak.  The  path to the launch is not so long but I’d have to put the wheels on since it goes straight down to the water and would be a haul coming back but it’s doable.  Still the pond is not that large so unless I could run into the loons, not sure it would be worth the work to get the kayak off the car, down to the launch, back up the path and back onto the car.  Might take as long to do that as to paddle the pond.  So for now, I hiked the lake loop trail  around the pond which turned out to be wonderful and made me rethink spending an afternoon on the water here.


At the start of the hike there were several nice picnic spots along the lake.  Much better than a picnic ground I think.  Picnic table and rock grilling spot.  I wonder if this was built by the CCC?  They had a presence in this forest, creating trails and buildings.


Views along my way




I found several canoe or kayak in campsites right along the water.   This one was occupied.  The canoewas  tied on the water and the campsite was just up the hill but within view of the lake.


Looks like you can just spread your sleeping bag out in the lean-to or pitch your tent in it as this camper did.  Vermont’s state parks have a lot of lean-tos in their organized campgrounds and primitive campsites.  I like the idea.

I imagine hearing the loons calling at night.  Wonderful sleeping.  This lake too has nesting loons.  They seem to be in nearly every lake in Vermont



The path became more rocky as I went.



Orange seemed to be the color of the day for fungi.  I saw them everywhere or perhaps I saw only them because they jump right out.



This one had a lacy fringe edge rather than being button shaped although I suppose it might have been a button earlier in life.  We all change as we grow older, don’t we?

The sounds of tiny cascades of water flowing into the pond were wonderful.



I thought this was a beauty.

At one point the trail veered away from the lake into the deeper woods and the path narrowed.


It didn’t become less but rather more rocky.



At some points it became overgrown and hard to see.


But then it returned closer to the pond and the area was more open and even more rocky.

After the hike I checked out the campground loops to see if Winnona might fit.
There are no hook ups but they do have a bath house and a dump station.  The section in the middle of Loop A is open to the sun and has several campsites in it that are Winnona sized separated by nothing.  The ability to use solar in a wooded area is great but the privacy not so much. 

After that I was on my way.  I have other parks to visit.   Luckily, nothing is too far apart. 

IMG_6763Back in my car, I had a short 2.1 mile drive to Kettle Pond State Park.  Clearly there are a lot of lakes and ponds in Vermont and they are very close together in places like the Groton State Forest.

The map below shows the entrance to this “campground which consists of 26 lean-tos arranged in 5 separate groups plus 5 remote lean-tos and 1 remote campsite on the pond I assume.  No place for RVs.

The pond has no trail around it.  Only a trail to it which made me laugh as did the hiking sign here.  There are two entrances from the state road.  One to the campground and this one above to the kayaking/canoeing area.  I do really like that there are no power boats on this little pond as is true on Osmore also.

Map of Kettle Pond SP

The trail to the pond is long enough that I wouldn’t be able to drag my kayak.  I’d have to put on the wheels again.  This is no small task for me alone since the kayak weighs about 40 pounds with its rudder.  I certainly wouldn’t be shouldering it like this guy did his AND he came back to the parking area and brought his mother’s that way as well. 


The path is wooded and nicely surfaced.  But it’s hardly what I think of as a trail.  It’s a walk to the launch spot.



It’s small, but I’d still enjoy kayaking Kettle Pond too and might be able to do Osmore in the morning and Kettle in the afternoon except that the taking off and putting on of the kayak twice would be a lot of work after all the paddling.


IMG_6777But today I’m on a reconnaissance information gathering mission .  No time for kayaking.  On Ruby and I go, 2.4 miles more to Sillwater State Park.

  Stillwater is located on Lake Groton.  It’s the largest lake in the state forest and as such allows powerboats.   I talked to the ranger at the gate who looked at my new pass and then was very helpful in giving me the map of the park in the brochure shown here and said I was welcome to go down to the beach and take a look.
Lucky for me, there was an abandoned beach chair just waiting for me.

I set down on it and had my lunch while I watched a couple of power boats, one of which was towing a comfy sofa.  What happened to kids water skiing?  I LOVED water skiing when I was a teenager at a couple of lakes in Ohio and Indiana during August summers when my dad’s factory closed down and EVERYONE took their vacations whether they wanted to or not.

Might be fun but no more fun than water skiing and a lot less exercise.


Others were enjoying the lake too.


I was at the swimming beach which was relatively small and had to cross this bridge to get to the section for boat launching.



Walking into the boat launch area I was surprised to see a big RV launching a boat.  I wondered if he was camping here but didn’t want to interrupt them to ask.


Don’t you love the name??

Because I saw Large Marge, I drove around the campground which has 56 campsites and 19 lean-tos.  The road through it is rough and I didn’t see any sites that jumped out as big enough,  Like many state parks Vermont parks appear to have been built years ago for tenters.  Small trailers will work but few sites can accommodate anything of any size.  I’d have to come back and walk around the loops to know for sure.

IMG_6806Next I visited Big Deer State Park which is a 28 site campground.  No trails, no boat launch.  But it is close in distance to Stillwater and to Boulder Beach, the next park on my tour.  It’s a small quiet campground and I found at least one site that would clearly be big enough.  But is the window to the sky enough for using my solar??   The draw back is I’d have to drive to do any hiking or kayaking.


Boulder Beach is just that.  It’s a big day use beach.  But it does rent boats and have a kayak/canoe put in on Lake Groton.  It also has a picnic area with grilles and a small concession area.


IMG_6822From Boulder Beach I headed down the road to Ricker Pond State Park which is a campground with 27 tent/rv sites, 23 lean-to shelters, 5 cabins and 2 waterfront cottages.   It has a small swimming area and a boat launch both for campers only.

The road through the park is also the Montpelier-Wells River Rail Trail for bicycles.  It dead ends at a gate so that cars don’t drive onto the Rail Trail.


IMG_6823It’s a long  lovely wooded dead end road that goes the entire length of the park and has two side road loops.  The first is also long before you get to the loop and leads to all the lean-tos  many of which are right on Ricker Pond.

The boat launch is also there off of a short spur.  There is a second short spur off of the main road leading to a loop with 12 campsites on it which also has the small beach.   The main road has a few campsites but mostly cabins and the cottages off near the end.

Because I was running out of time and had yet another park to see, I didn’t go down the side road to the parking area and walk the park to see the campsites lean-tos, boat launch and beach.  Walking this entire park given the length of the road in and the road to the boat launch would have given me a lot of mileage.  I set that aside for a return visit and just drove through and looked at what I could see – some sites, all occupied and the cabins and cottages which were at the end of the road and also looked occupied.  Cars in the drives.  There was not even anywhere to turn around at the end of the road just before the gate.

IMG_6831So I backed up and found a cabin that didn’t have a car in the driveway and pulled in to turn around.  Maybe it’s empty I thought so I got out and quickly took some pictures.

I didn’t go up on the deck and look in the windows as I might if I had been sure no one was in it and just temporarily away.  But these are very sweet cabins and cottages which front the lake.  You can launch your boat right there and enjoy your outdoor picnic table and your lake front deck.


Seeing them led me to thinking about cabins and cottages in state parks and wondering how many parks had them and if, when I can no longer drive Winnona, for whatever reason, but I can still drive a car, perhaps I could travel from state park to state park and stay in cottages so I can still hike and kayak when the weather is too awful to be in Virginia. Read that both summer and winter. 

When I got back to Winnona this evening I did some research on line and found that many states including Virginia, Florida, Texas and Oregon have cabins in their state parks but they rent for between $85 and $125 a night because they are large enough for families.  At $100 a night that would be $1400 for two weeks.  More than I’m paying to stay in my private RV park here for a month.  Oh well . . . . .  but the real kicker is that most of them have no indoor plumbing.  WHAT?

I set off for my last stop which would be quite different.  On the way I stopped at a cute country store for a sweet treat.  It’s been a while since my lunch.


IMG_6834Big advertisement for ethanol free gas outside at the pump.  Must be a lot of older trucks around this part of Vermont.  Since the state forest was heavily logged in the 20th century, I’m not surprised.

I read in a publication I was given about the forest that there is very little “virgin” forest left.  The area was extensively logged for timber and to supply the wood-burning trains.  It was also devastated by several forest fires.  The largest were in 1876, 1883 and 1908.  It was hit by a hurricane in 1938.  The state bought its first tract of land here in 1919 and continued to enlarge its holdings.  Today the forest is approximately 26,000 acres.

Inside, I found not only the little store but a cute little food counter and booths that serves breakfast and lunch.  It had just closed.  Sure wish I was going to be around tomorrow morning at 6am when it opens.

My last stop was the most unusual state park.  It’s called Seyon Lodge and is located 3 miles down a road which turns to dirt at 1.5 miles and is off of State Route 302 which isn’t a big deal itself.

It’s located on Noyes Pond at the headwaters of the south branch of the Wells River.  The pond was a privately owned brook trout fishery for many years.  The pond was created in the 1890’s by J.R. Darling who operated a mill on the site.  The property changed owners many times until Harry K Noyes of Boston bought it in 1939 and named it Seyon Trout Ranch which is Noyes spelled backwards.  He built a guest house and converted the Darling Sawmill to a waterwheel for generating electricity.  It still stands.

I took a look in the down stairs window.

And then walked around the side to the upstairs door and looked in.



In 1967, the State purchased almost 5,000 acres including Seyon Ranch.  It renovated the house and today Seyon Lodge is popular for fly fishing, cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, meetings, conferences and weddings.   It is a gorgeous spot as you can see.

They do not allow you to bring in your own boat but there are row boats for rent and while I was visiting, 3 renters with fly fishing equipment took them out.  It’s catch and release which I don’t exactly understand.  Fishing to eat is one thing, fishing to put a hook in a poor fish’s mouth is another.

I spotted this sign for a trail as I approached the crossing over the dam for the water wheel.

What a view from the crossing.

By this time it was 4:00 in the afternoon and I knew I didn’t have time for another hike still I couldn’t help going just a little ways into the woods.


I turned around and came back just beyond this view of the lake vowing to return and check out this trail and others here in the park



I’m not sure there is a more beautiful setting than my lead picture for this section showing these two chairs in the distance over looking the lake.  I had to sit a while before I left this place.

And while I was sitting right here, just after I had taken this picture, a loon came up right in front of me and began calling.  It was exquisite!



Their faces are so black.


He called over and over for quite a while.  I was mesmerized and afraid my camera might scare him away.   If you’d like to hear what I heard, use this link.


He stayed right in front of me for what felt like a very long time and then he moved off to my left.  You can see him, the dark black spot on the water in the picture below.  He was 3X that close to me before he moved.

I stayed until he went under the water for the 5th or 6th time and then I walked back to the lodge and the parking lot.

Just as I was about to leave, the manager of the lodge came up to meet me and tell me she had seen my encounter with the loon on her way out to where I was but didn’t come out because she didn’t want to disturb the magic.   Amazingly her name is Sherry and she’s from Virginia.

She has an apartment in the lodge and arranges its booking and does all the cooking.  Meals come with the rental.  She said the most recent group was a quilting group that comes for several days a couple of times a year.

What a big job for one person.  What a gorgeous spot to work and live.

Another place in Groton State Forest I want to return to.