Clippings: Vermont island getaway is special

There are some places in Vermont so special, you almost want to keep them to yourself. But it’s time to share.
Years ago, when our soon-to-be-high-school-senior was just in third grade, a classmate’s dad at Mary Hogan generously tipped us off to The Best Place to Family Camp in Vermont Ever.
So here goes — whether this draws the ire of others who guard this particular “secret” or whether it’s just a public service — here goes.
Burton Island.
Make a reservation. Go there. Go there now. If not now, next year. Just go.
When that other dad first told us that there was a state park with no cars, that you could only get to by ferry, that was on an island in the middle of Lake Champlain, we were wowed with disbelief.
“Really? No kidding?”
“Yes. Really.”
Backroad adventurists, we thought we’d covered a lot of miles investigating state parks, from Jamaica to Underhill, from Sweet Pond to Lake Carmi. But somehow we’d missed this one.
And so our love affair with Burton Island began.
Snapshots of some favorite Burton Island moments:
•  Four little girls (two of ours and two of a friend’s) in the mud, chasing frogs, giggling, slipping, and getting muddier and muddier.
•  Sitting at picnic tables outside the little store/coffee shop (it has a coffee shop!), sipping coffee and watching the lake and the boats and the swimmers.
•  Playing croquet (we haul our own set over on the ferry).
•  Playing endless rounds of cards by lantern light.
•  The time the zipper broke off, somehow leaving us trapped inside our old, red Coleman tent, and we all escaped (big-butted grown-ups and skinny kids alike) out of the 12-by-12-inch “window” at the back of the tent. The memory of my six-foot-two husband wriggling out of that “window” and snorting like a dinosaur (why he said he was impersonating a dinosaur, I don’t know) still sets us off in fits of laughter.
•  Sitting at a campsite, watching the waves, feeling the wind off the lake, and listening to the wind rustling the leaves and the water lapping.
•  Walking the trails around the island.
•  Watching sunsets.
•  Watching stars.
•  Sudden storms that blow in, with fast-driving winds and hard-driving rain, loud and powerful enough to blow a tent away or send you crouching in the lean-to, just waiting it out, and then the peaceful sky returns.
•  Our dog’s utter happiness that she gets to go everyplace with us.
•  Stopping to admire the swamp white oak that towers above the “Larch” and “Apple” campsites, its aged bark deeply grooved. This tree is over 15 feet around (I have measured with outspread arms, more than once). It looks to be 50 or 60 feet tall, with snaking branches that extend out close to 90 feet in diameter. When you look up at its spreading branches, you realize that the tree is so huge almost any main branch off the trunk itself could be a tree in its own right.
It’s a little humbling how some of the most important things in life — time with family, being in nature, the peace and stillness to think quiet thoughts — are just so simple.
Burton Island gives you that ferry ride to help make the transition. You park your car at — yes, it’s really named that — Kamp Kill Kare State Park. And when the ferry sets off, you leave your car and your cares and your lists and your preoccupations behind. That 15-minute ride helps take you to another world where just worrying about starting a fire (one of my favorite occupations, from way back in my Girl Scout days) is enough.
What I re-learn and re-remember — every visit — is that, along with the folks you love, a fire, a table and a little bit of shelter are all you really need to make a home.
Of course, Burton Island isn’t the only jewel in the sparkling crown of the Vermont state park system. Our state has no less than 52 parks, including 29 beaches, one swimming pool, 2,225 campsites, 605 lean-tos, 42 cabins, nine housekeeping cottages, and 44 picnic shelters.
So what are you waiting for? Go jump in a lake! Literally. Get outta here!
There’s still 12 days of summer before the school year begins, 35 days until the September equinox makes it autumn officially, and as many as 60 days of state park camping if you choose the right spot.
And Seyon Lodge, the Vermont state parks’ guest lodge on a lake (they make a great breakfast!), is now open all year round.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected].

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