October 2019
The sun setting over Waterbury Center State Park.
Fall in love with Vermont State Parks
Greetings Everyone!
Full disclosure: I am not a Vermonter. I have, however, lived here for over 40 years and I have a hard time imagining living anywhere else. Like so many other residents and visitors, one of the main reasons I love this state is our outdoor culture and our access to a seemingly endless suite of incredible outdoor recreation opportunities. Vermont offers so many ways to enjoy the outdoors and be active in every season of the year. And our State Park system is a prominent feature in all this!

Our 55 State Parks are places we can all enjoy as destinations themselves or as launching points for even bigger adventures. Another full disclosure: fall is my very favorite season here. Fresh, cooler days with crisp nights make spending time outdoors particularly special. That’s why we fully operate about half of our campgrounds through mid-October and don’t forget, all the other parks are always open and available even though we scale back the services and facilities. So, get out there and enjoy all the great outdoor adventures Vermont has to offer us!
See you out there!  

Craig Whipple , Director of Vermont State Parks 
Congratulations Park of the Year Winners!
Park of the Year awards were announced at our annual meeting on September 5th. This award is given out yearly to a park in each region of the state, and is based on a number of factors: hospitality, staff relations, safety, facilities, tool and equipment care, and report/ record-keeping. 
Northwest Region: Burton Island
Northeast Region: Ricker Pond
Southwest Region: Kingsland Bay
Southeast Region: Fort Dummer
Fall Foliage Hikes
To the left: Hikers climbing a stone staircase on the trail.

With temperatures dropping and fall foliage coming into view, it’s the perfect time to go hike. There’s a trail for every skill level and adventure. Here’s just a few of our favorite hikes:

Mt. Olga Loop, Molly Stark State Park in Wilmington. Trail Map.
A 1.7-mile hike takes you up Mt. Olga and back again. This trail includes a fire tower to where you can see mountains in three states: Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. You can camp at Molly Stark through October 14th.

Deer Leap Overlook, Gifford Woods State Park in Killington. Trail Map.
This park is home to one of the few old growth northern hardwood forests in Vermont. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike with views, Deer Leap offers spectacular views and is near both the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail for a longer trek.

Vista Trail Loop, Emerald Lake State Park in East Dorset. Trail Map.
This is another southern park with an underrated trail system, including an easy walk following the shore of Emerald Lake. Emerald Lake is open through October 14th, and close to Dorset and Manchester.

Healing Springs Nature Trail , Lake Shaftsbury State Park in Shaftsbury. Trail Map.
During the 19th century, the site of Lake Shaftsbury was known as Vermont Healing Springs. Mineral water from the springs was bottled and sold for its healing abilities. Today, you can take a walk along the calming Healing Springs Trail, a ¾ mile long loop that winds along the Lake.
To the right: View from Owl's Head Lookout in New Discovery State Park.

Owl’s Head Trail , New Discovery State Park in Groton State Forest. Trail Map.
The Owl’s Head Trail is a 1.5-mile moderate trail and is accessible from the New Discovery State Park road. From there, you ascend to a parking area and climb stone steps constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s to the summit. Head to the peak to view Kettle Pond, Lake Groton, and the Green Mountains.

Stevenson Brook Trail, Little River State Park in Waterbury. Trail Map.
Stevenson Brook Trail is a choose-your-own adventure trail. There are several side trails you can add to your hike. Take the main body of the trail or branch off and explore remains of historic homesteads, sugar houses, barns, sawmills, and a cemetery.

Northeast Kingdom Nature Trail, Brighton State Park in Island Pond. Trail Map.
If you’re interested in exploring Vermont’s famed Northeast Kingdom, take a visit to Brighton State Park in Island Pond. This wild and remote park is situated on the shores of Spectacle Pond, a warm and shallow body of water that is home to yellow perch, great blue heron, and osprey. The Loggers’ Loop, Main Loop, Red Pine, and Shore Trails all connect in a loop along the pond and provide lots of opportunities to spot wildlife and brilliant fall colors.

For more information on trails in Vermont State Parks, check out:
Take a bite out of VT State Parks Cooks!
Photos, from bottom left (clockwise): Fire-roasted corn, beef, and a small salad; Campfire Chef Suzanne Podhaizer assembles skewers at Little River State Park while filming a cooking show; Ingredients on the picnic table at Cherry Lean-to at Little River State Park.
Outdoor Observer: Scurrying Autumn Squirrels
To the left: A very curious squirrel.

Are you someone who loves or loathes squirrels? I have friends in both camps. Squirrel ingenuity and dedication to survival make them pests for folks wanting to keep furry rodents out of the eaves of the barn or the walls of the house. When we talk about squirrels that annoy us, we mostly discuss red squirrels who embrace an attitude of aggression and chase away everyone else. If you, like me, lived with flying squirrels in the walls of your house, you know that just about any squirrel can be annoying despite its apparent adorableness.

Autumn in Vermont is a great time to see these pesky and industrious rodents in action. Any walk through the woods yields squirrels busily gathering seeds and nuts. Red and gray squirrels are in a category of tree squirrels because they build nests up high in tree branches. If you’ve seen a lumpy, messy clump of leaves high in a tree you have seen a squirrel nest. In late fall when the deciduous leaves drop from trees in Vermont, I like looking up at squirrel nests and wonder if they feel embarrassed their nests are now in plain sight.

Red squirrels are larder hoarders when it comes to their winter stash of nuts and seeds. They gather all the food items in one central place and continuously, aggressively defend their one big stash. Red squirrels are opportunistic and take lots of different seeds and nuts. If you have seen a mushroom stashed someplace unexpected in the woods where it obviously did not grow, such as wedged in a crook of a tree, most likely a red squirrel stuck the mushroom there to let it dry out before adding it to the pile.

Gray squirrels on the other hand are scatter hoarders, meaning they collect and bury one nut at a time in different areas throughout their entire home range, which can be up to seven acres. This different food storage plan explains the different temperaments of red and gray squirrels. While red squirrels need to aggressively defend their one big seed bank, gray squirrels are peacefully using deceptive caching to trick other squirrels.

Some of the tricks gray squirrels play on other squirrels, and blue jays too because they also love acorns, is to repeatedly dig holes and fill them back in without depositing a nut in the hole. Sometimes gray squirrels cover a spot with dry leaves even though there are no nuts hidden there. They also move nuts to new locations after a few days to further throw off nut stealers. Only about twenty-five percent of gray squirrel stashed nuts are stolen. Gray squirrels have remarkable spatial memory: studies have shown they remember where 95% of their food is buried. The other five percent of nuts forgotten create the next generation of oak saplings.

On your next walk through the woods in your favorite state park, stop and observe squirrels and their seed gathering behaviors. They are busy this time of year. I like watching them in Gifford Woods, Woodford, Niquette Bay, and Ricker Pond State Parks but they are everywhere.

Rebecca Roy, Conservation Education Coordinator
Did you know...
Over 30 parks are open through mid-October! The Parks Operating Schedule can be found on our Vermont State Parks homepage.

Trivia: Lean-tos in most Vermont State Parks are named after trees. Which parks break the trend? What are their lean-tos named after?
You can make reservations for the 2020 season now!

Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance. The inventory for the entire month opens the first business day of the month at 9 am for all parks with the exception of Burton Island (where the inventory opens the first business day at 9am, on or after the 15th of each month).

With our Risk-Free Reservation Policy, you may change your reservation prior to 2:00 p.m. on the day before your expected arrival date at no cost if you keep the same number of nights and sites. The reservation may be moved to different dates or to a different park within the same park season.
Vermont Parks Forever

Thanks to donations from park enthusiasts like you, this summer Vermont Parks Forever:

  • launched 205 adaptive kayaking trips
  • provided field trips for over 120 at-risk youth 
  • distributed 150 park passes to foster families

To learn more and be a part of making our parks accessible for all, visit our Parks Access Fund page.
Featured Photographers

Francois Gossieaux is a passionate photographer and firm believer that beauty can be found anywhere. When he is not shooting what he observes around him, Francois spends his time helping small businesses with their marketing and their digital/social presences. You can find his work at HumanObservations.com. Francois is also a founder at Local Captures, and he volunteers his time as a photographer for the Mentor Connector. 
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Thank you for reading the official newsletter of Vermont State Parks!
Vermont State Parks | 1 (888) 409-7579 | anr.parks@vermont.gov | www.vtstateparks.com

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