Vermont State Parks e-newsletter                                        November 2017
Sunny day at the newly constructed Barnes Camp ADA accessible boardwalk near Smugglers' Notch

Greetings, Everyone,

Craig Whipple, Director of State Parks 
Wow. Here in Vermont, it has been a great summer followed by unseasonably warm, sunny summer-like weather that lasted well into the fall. Opportunities for our summer outdoor adventures just kept going on and on. But, alas, it all has to come to an end sometime.  As I write this, we have just experienced a very Vermont-like transition that reminds us of the winter to come. When it comes to outdoor activities, though, all seasons offer some great choices. It's all about stepping away from our screens, dressing for whatever the weather throws at us and heading out the door. Your state parks are always available no matter the season. Except for during the busy summer season, most parks are completely without staff or services but we can still enter the park and enjoy all beauty and inspiration the outdoors can give us.  So, friends, in this season of thanksgiving, offer some thanks to those who came before us with the wisdom and foresight to set these special places aside for us all to enjoy.    

Craig Whipple
Director, Vermont State Parks

The Outdoor Observer:
Busy Blue Jays

By Rebecca Roy,  Conservation Education Coordinator for Vermont State Parks 

Vermont woods are quieter now, with the departure of warblers and other migratory birds. We are left with our favorite winter friends: chickadees, nuthatches, kinglets, and blue jays (among others).

I started paying closer attention to blue jays recently after I was matched to these birds through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's  What Bird are You Most Like? quiz. This fun quiz entertained many of my friends and colleagues as we matched our personalities with the characteristics of wild birds. You can try it yourself here.

Close-up of a blue jay feather, by 2017 photo intern Rachael Drinker 

Blue jays are considered nest robbers, predatory bullies eating the eggs and young of other birds. Even John James Audubon depicted a blue jay devouring eggs from a bird nest in one of his paintings.  However, blue jays are much more vegetarian than carnivore or omnivore. An 1897 study by F. E. L. Beal examined 297 stomachs of blue jays from 22 states and Canada. Only 5 of them contained egg shells and/or parts of birds. Blue jays mostly eat seeds, nuts, and some insects. Very occasionally they eat small vertebrates. 

In 2016, we had a very dry year in Vermont, and trees were stressed. This year most Vermont trees are reacting by producing a larger number of seeds than normal.  We call that a heavy mast year. Apple trees had more apples than ever, white pines are heavily laden with clumps of cones, oaks are drooping with many acorns, and beech trees developed many beech nuts. This provides great food for wildlife here in Vermont, including hungry blue jays.

The blue jay's top food choice is not eggs from other nests, but nutritious acorns. Jays hold acorns with their toes and peck away at them with their beaks to open them and eat them. Blue jays can fit up to four acorns in their crop (a pouch in their esophagus.) They store acorns in their crop, fly away and then cache them, or hide them in different locations to eat later. Like squirrels, blue jays do not remember all their acorn cache locations and so they are planting oak trees. Blue jays are responsible for increasing the expansion of oak trees after the last glaciation.

Have you ever found a blue jay feather on the ground? Bright blue stands out against dried leaves in the November woods. However, blue jays are not blue. The pigment, or coloration, in their feathers is brown, but microscopic structures in their feathers reflect light in just the right way that we see blue. This is like how we see cloudless skies as blue.  If you hold that feather you found up with the sun shining through behind it, you will see the true color- grayish brown. Then lower the feather in front of you and you will see it is blue again.

Bright blue jays bring color to the brown world of November, but not all blue jays stick around. A small percentage of Blue Jays migrate each year, forming huge flocks of 250 birds flying together down the Atlantic coast. No one knows why these jays choose to migrate-individual birds will migrate one year, and then stay put the next year. Birds that stay are often found in widely different areas. This behavior may be based on the availability of those favorite foods-acorns and beech nuts. Since we are having bumper crops of tree seeds this year, we expect to see plentiful bright blue jays in our woods and at our feeders this winter. Keep an eye out for these bright birds on your next outside adventure. 

Off-Season Camping & Day Use at Vermont State Parks 
"I love my favorite park... can I still go in after it's closed for the season?"

This is the most common question we get during the fall and winter months.

The short answer is "yes!" Staff have gone home, and parks are officially closed for the year, but the off season is a great time to visit, for hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing, or even a late season picnic.

Late fall at Mt. Philo State Park. Photo by Lene Gary

Basic rules & things to remember:
  • Access is free, and no facilities or services are available: restrooms, running water, etc. Carry-in and carry-out everything that you bring with you, and leave no trace of your visit. 
  • Please park only in a manner that allows access by others and please drive only on established roadways or parking areas. This means that when a gate is closed, park outside without blocking it, and walk in.
  • Park staff are only present sporadically during the off-season. We invite you to be our "eyes and ears" by reporting to anything amiss or out of the ordinary (vandalism, break-ins, inappropriate facility use, etc.)
Off-Season Camping
  • Off-season camping is available from November 1st through April 15th, and has an additional set of rules. Please request an online permit at least 3 days prior to going in.
  • Plowed parking is available during the winter months at some locations. A full list of winter access areas can be found here. 
On Black Friday, Choose To Opt 
Outside With Us
Over the past few years, you may have noticed the growing movement around the country focused on getting folks outside and active on Black Friday as an alternative to shopping. Outdoor retailer REI has been a leader in promoting this message- closing its stores on Black Friday and promoting it online using the hashtag #OptOutside.

That's a message that we can get behind. For the second year in a row, Vermont State Parks is joining in, and we want to remind everyone once again that all of our parks will offer FREE admission on Black Friday. (In fact, for the rest of the off-season, too!)

Instead of shopping, we encourage everyone to spend your free time with friends and family outside. Spend time together in a beautiful natural setting, whether by going for a nature walk, hiking, biking, birding or just enjoying the view.

Want to get involved in #OptOutside?

We're also inviting people to take pictures of themselves, friends and family as they #OptOutside, and share them with us on social media. Post them to our Facebook page, Twitter feed, or Instagram, and tag them #OptOutside and @VtStateParks. By sharing your photo, you'll have the opportunity to win a 2017 Vermont State Parks punch pass!

We will be posting updates and photos on social media and our website throughout November, so stay tuned.

Most importantly: mark your calendars and on Black Friday, remember to #OptOutside.

Hunting in Vermont State Parks
Before you head into the woods during this time of year, keep in  mind that hunting season may be in progress. Hunting is an annual tradition for Vermonters and an important part of the state's cultural heritage. Vermont was the first state to adopt constitutional language that protects your right to hunt, and many people view hunting as a way to source their meat locally as well as build a relationship with the land. Hunting is allowed on all state lands, including state parks, during the off-season.

Please come and visit, but remember to be cautious in the woods. Dress in blaze orange (dogs, too) and make yourself heard!

You may be less likely to run into hunters at parks that keep their gates closed, such as Mt. Philo State Park in Ferrisburgh, Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington, and Townshend State Park in Townshend. Niquette Bay, Underhill, and Knight Point are also good choices. When planning your hike, please note that hunters are required to stay back at least 500 feet from park facilities and structures on state lands, so walking on park roads (no matter what park you're at) is a good option.

Vermont Fish & Wildlife Partial Hunting Calendar

Big Game Seasons:
September 01- November 10: Early Black Bear Season
November 11- November 19: Late Black Bear Season
November 11- November 26: Rifle Deer Season
December 02- December 10: Muzzleloader Deer Season
October 7- November 3 & December 02- December 10: Archery Deer Season (split) 

View a full calendar of hunting seasons from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website.
Thanks to our featured Photo Interns!  
Rachael Drinker
Rachael Drinker was born and raised in Springfield, VT and is currently a sophomore  at Smith College. She loves to use her camera as a window into the details of nature and little moments of our lives which often go unnoticed. She enjoys hiking, biking and exploring throughout VT. 

Alex Baldor
Alex was born and raised in Richmond, VT, and developed a passion  for photography as he grew up. He currently attends school at Lyndon State College where he is majoring  in photography . In his free time, Alex enjoys soccer, volleyball, and being outdoors. 
Vermont Parks Forever

Thank you 2017 business partners! 

This year 23 Vermont businesses supported Vermont Parks Forever's work on behalf of Vermont State Parks. 

Thank you for your support, 

Sarah Alberghini Winters
Executive Director, Vermont Parks Forever 

Order Vermont State Parks Holiday Gift Packages, Parks Passes, Gear, Goodies & More

Gifts for the outdoor lover on your shopping list 

This holiday season, we invite you to purchase holiday gift packages, park passes, gear and gift certificates for friends and family. Not only will they benefit the recipient but they will benefit the parks, too.

This year's popular gift packages are all new with colorful, useful gear designed to make your outdoor adventures both stylish and fun. These packages come fully wrapped and ready to give, and shipping is free. 

Order securely online, though the mail, or through our central call center toll-free at 1-888-409-7579, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. 

2017 Holiday Packages:
Day Tripper Package 

Comes gift wrapped and includes the following:
  • 1 punch card good for 10 park visits at any day use park 
  • Notebook and pen set 
  • Vermont State Parks travel mug 
  • Free shipping 
Weekend Getaway Package

Comes gift wrapped and includes the following:
  • Coupon for 2 nights of tent, RV or lean-to camping
  • Coupon for a free armload of firewood 
  • LED mini flashlight 
  • 2 Vermont State Parks water bottles 
  • Free shipping 

Full Season of Family Fun

Comes gift wrapped and includes the following:
  • 1 season vehicle pass (good for day entry of up to 8 people in the vehicle, all season long) 
  • 2 one-hour boat rental coupons 
  • Frisbee 
  • Deck of playing cards 
  • Insulated backpack with mesh top 
  • Free shipping 

Close-up of the lime-green mesh backpack

More Featured Items:
Trucker Hats & Ball Caps 

Choose from a variety of caps with the parks logo. Ball caps come in khaki, tan, and camo.  

The trucker caps come in two color combinations: green/ yellow (shown above) and slate gray/ orange. 

Stewards Of Fun Hoodie

This soft, cheery blue hoodie is emblazoned with the orange and yellow "Stewards of Fun" logo. 

Stoneware Pint Stein

Toast your favorite park with this stylish stoneware stein. Made in the USA.  

Gift Certificate

Just choose the dollar amount, and the recipient can redeem however they like: with a camping trip, park pass or merchandise. Gift certificates can be purchased for any amount larger than $20. 

Vermont State Parks' 2018 Operating Schedule 

Open flag at Townshend State Park by 2017 photo intern Alex Baldor

Summer may be officially behind us, but it's never too early to think about 2018 and start planning next year's adventures. 

As usual, the first park to open in 2018 will be Wilgus, open for the season on April 29th. Other parks opening early in 2018 include Niquette Bay, open May 5th, Grand Isle, open May 11th, and Jamaica, open May 7th. 

The last park to close will be Little River, open for camping through October 21st. Several parks will be open through October 15th, including Quechee, Underhill, Mt. Ascutnety and Gifford Woods

2018 Park Passes Now On Sale

It's time! 2018 park passes have arrived and are  ready to order.  All passes may be ordered online , through the mail, or through our central call center at 1-888-409- 7579. Here are your options:

Vehicle Pass
Unlimited day use entry for up to 8 people in one vehicle at any state park day use area, all season long. A great deal for families & those who plan frequent  park trips. 

Individual Pass
This pass entitles the owner to unlimited day use entry to any of our state parks and is good for the whole season. 

Punch Card
The prepaid punch card is good for 10 child or adult admissions to Vermont State Parks for a day visit. Never expires. 

Quick Links 

Vermont State Parks

Vermont Parks Forever

Knight Point State Park

Little River State Park

Niquette Bay State Park

Molly Stark State Park

Niquette Bay State Park

Mt. Philo State Park

Townshend State Park

Underhill State Park

Off-Season Camping

Vermont Fish & Wildlife

Hunting Seasons Calendar

"Reel Fun" Fishing Program

State Parks Blog

Vermont State Parks' Shop Page




General Info

This is the official newsletter of Vermont State Parks 

"I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."

-Nathaniel Hawthorne

Vermont State Parks | 888-409-7579 |
 1 National Life Drive, Davis 2
 Montpelier, VT 05620