Today's Vermont: A Midsummer Snow in Vermont?
Here in Craftsbury, summertime sledding and skiing is fast becoming a cool new tradition.
The snow comes from deep in the woods of North Craftsbury, where it’s stored under layers of insulation to slow the melting process. Some of the snow is trucked down to Craftsbury Village to create a sledding hill near the general stores during the annual Craftsbury Block Party. The real goal, though, is to keep enough snow frozen all summer long so that it can be used in the early winter season to fill in bare patches on the trails of the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, and help the Center recover from sudden and unpredictable thaws.
Scientists from the University of Vermont are studying Craftsbury’s snow storage project, and their research could soon help Vermont’s nordic ski areas become more resilient in the age of climate change.
To be honest, I roll my eyes a little when the impact of climate change on Vermont ski areas is cited as a major concern. After all, although it would certainly be a bummer to have a shorter ski season in Vermont, and a real shame to see Vermont ski resorts go out of business, these impacts pale in comparison to other climate related issues, such as mass extinctions, epic floods, and the creation of climate refugees.
Plus, as we discussed in last month’s edition of Today’s Vermont, the growth of the global ski industry depends on the economic growth and inequality that fuels the climate crisis, so its long range viability is not exactly high on my list of climate concerns. That said, Craftsbury’s snow storage research is a great example of an innovative strategy for community resilience that connects cutting-edge science with old-time techniques for living well in the land we call Vermont. After all, in the days before electricity, Vermonters would routinely use icehouses to store blocks of pond ice under sawdust straight through the summer to keep food from spoiling in the heat.
Saving an enormous pile of snow is certainly one way to stay cool during a Vermont summer, but there are plenty of other ways to beat the heat. The Green Mountains are blessed with countless swimming holes, many of which are documented in David Hajdasz’s excellent book Take the Plunge: An Explorer’s Guide to Swimming Holes of Vermont.
It can be a lot of fun to soak up the scene at a popular and well-known swimming hole like Bartlett Falls in Bristol, the Dorset Marble Quarry, or Bingham Falls, located off the Mountain Road in Stowe, but I also love finding little known swimming holes where I can skinny dip and meditate by the water without being distracted by boisterous crowds.
Finding secret swimming holes in Vermont involves a little bit of sleuthing. If you have time to explore, try looking at a map to identify a small stream that flows through steep terrain on public land, find a place to park your car or stash your bike, and then hike upstream until your desire for a rest matches the beauty of a sparkling pool. A more direct approach is to simply ask folks at the local store, post office, or library if they have recommendations. More often than not, I’ve found that Vermonters are willing to go out of our way to point you in the right direction, especially if you ask nicely and bribe us with iced coffee.
No matter which swimming hole you choose to explore, be sure to exercise appropriate caution when jumping into water, pack in whatever you need to be comfortable (snacks, towel, and insect repellent is a good start) and go ahead and treat yourself to a maple creemee on the way home.
High summer is also a classic time for camping in Vermont.
For the last two summers, a dozen members of my extended family have gathered for an August camping trip at Emerald Lake State Park, in Dorset, where we sleep in tents, cook over a campfire, and follow a forest trail down to the beach, where canoes and kayaks are available for rent. Many Vermont campsites are located near swimming areas, providing an easy recipe for a relaxing and affordable family vacation.
In addition to Emerald Lake, Elmore State Park and Maidstone State Park are two excellent options for swimming, camping, and hiking. If you stay in Elmore, be sure to try some Fire Tower Pizza, made with local grain and topped with seasonal ingredients, best eaten overlooking the lake on the back porch of the Elmore Store.
Simplicity is a big draw for camping at most Vermont State Parks. You can drive a car right up to your campsite at Emerald Lake, Elmore, and Maidstone, and access amenities fairly easily, but you’ll likely be sharing the woods and water with dozens of other camping groups.
For more of a wilderness experience, I recommend reserving a spot at Green River Reservoir State Park, in Hyde Park, where all campsites are only accessible by canoe. Canoe camping definitely requires more advance planning than car camping, but if someone as technically inept as myself can figure out how to securely strap a boat of some sort to the roof of a car, so can you. Canoes are available for rent in Morrisville, where you’ll also find the best donuts in Lamoille County.
There’s something magical and deeply relaxing about canoeing out to a waterfront campsite. Green River Reservoir is a particularly special place because of what it lacks - shoreline development and the sound of cars - and because of what it has - deep green forest as far as the eye can see, healthy populations of perch and smallmouth bass, and several pairs of nesting loons whose tremulous yodelling call will stir your heart in the stillness of the early mornings. Extra points for packing in donuts.
Donuts or no donuts, for tips on cooking delicious meals while camping in Vermont, follow the work of my friend Suzanne Podhaizer, one of the most dedicated and creative people in Vermont’s luminous food scene. Suzanne is spending this summer as the official campfire chef for Vermont State Parks and is sharing seasonal recipes and campfire cooking tips on Instagram all summer long @vtstateparkscooks.
Finally, to get a sense of just how sweet a Vermont summer can be, check out A Summer’s Day, a photo essay by the talented Vermont photographer Nathanel Asaro, whose work we are privileged to publish right here at State14.
Do you have a favorite Vermont camping spot?
I recently posted this very question on the State14 twitter feed, and received the following generous tips, along with the general consensus that sleeping out in Willoughby State Forest and waking up for the sunrise on Mt. Pisgah is a very good idea - thanks, @Shane_Rogers922.
Silver Lake is a great choice for camping with kids, as recommended by Mike Beganyi, a Vermont ex pat living in Switzerland @mikebeganyi
The remote spots at Kettle Pond come recommended by Richmond-based travel writer Jen Rose Smith, who also suggests Knight Island, another Vermont State Park with campsites that are only accessible by boat @jenrosesmithvt
Whoever runs the twitter account for Coldwell Banker Islands Realty recommends Woods Island, and agrees that boat camping is always an adventure. Sign us up to tour Vermont island properties by boat, #lakeshoreexperts! @cbislandsrealty
If you’re feeling generous, please share your favorite Vermont camping spots on social media as well, using the hashtag #TodaysVermont. As always, thanks for reading.