Family Camping: Lakeside in Vermont
Lake St. Catherine State Park
3034 Route 30 South
My niece Emma is learning how to fly-fish. Her 8-year-old body sways against a summer sky. Her arms memorize the to-and-fro of the cast, the feel of fishing line gliding across her palm as she launches it skyward. Nearby, adventure guide Josh Hardt watches his pupils–Emma and her father, Paul. After an hour’s tutorial, they’re ready, so Josh packs them up and heads to the Poultney River. They’re hunting trout, the elusive but attainable dinner for our family camping trip.
They do not disappoint us. We devour the trout, and stories about the language of the river, until we douse the campfire.
When it comes to camping in New England, I wrote the book. Well, sort of: I cowrote New England Camping, with Steve Gorman, and it’s now in its fourth edition (Avalon Travel Publishing, 2005; $21.95). When it first came out, I was a wilderness camper. Three editions of New England Camping later–and with a toddler in tow–my outlook has changed. Now I require plumbed bathhouses, safe swimming areas, and activities for the kids.
Our near-waterfront campsite at Lake St. Catherine State Park in Poultney, Vermont, is a steal at $23 a night for four adults, four kids, and one golden retriever. This loch is one of a beautiful chain surrounded by rolling hills and cliffs; Vermont’s better-known Lake Bomoseen is just a few miles north.
We have access to several sandy beaches and fishing docks, paved paths for scooters and bikes, paddleboat and rowboat rentals, nature programs, a small playground, and tidy sites for tents, pop-ups, and RVs. Each is shaded by trees and has a cement fireplace. On the way to the beach, there’s a wildflower field; across the road from the park entrance is a public 18-hole golf course. Trout streams lace the surrounding forests. Swiss Family Robinson meets Sesame Street, with a touch of Club Med–it’s perfect.
State park camping isn’t exactly heeding the call of the wild. Most sites are close together, and you may glimpse your neighbors’ television, glowing blue inside their RV. But more often than not, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the murmur of campfire conversation, watching sparks float skyward, limbs tired from a day spent fishing and swimming, your belly full with the local bounty and one last s’more. Stars twinkle. The fire crackles. A dog barks.
Carol’s Family Camping Tips
Everyone pitches in. Before you pull into your campsite, review with family members their contributions for setting up camp. The quicker you establish your home-away-from-home, the sooner you’ll be on the lake.