Matt Dickerson: State parks and other outdoor activities for summer

We arose early to beat the oppressive August heat and humidity, strapped on our bike helmets, and headed out for a quick loop before breakfast. As it turned out, the early morning departure wasn’t necessary to beat the heat. Though only an hour and a half away from our house in Middlebury, the temperature on Grand Isle was 7 or 8 degrees cooler and the breeze coming off the lake wonderfully pleasant.
It was one of the few times my wife has ever commented that she was enjoying biking into a headwind. (Only later did we hear from friends back home that the day had been oppressive down in Addison County. They were jealous of us when we told them the temperature in Grand Isle had been in the 70s.)
We did, however, need that early departure to beat the morning showers. In fact, we needed to have left five minutes earlier. About 45 minutes into our 50-minute ride the skies opened up. After several days of sweltering heat, however, the cool rain — like the headwind — felt good on our skin. And a large hot breakfast and coffee awaited us back at our bed and breakfast.
Though on this trip we stayed at an inn, and enjoyed hot showers and the chance to be under a solid roof when the rain fell, my wife and I have also stayed at Grand Isle State Park in the past, and enjoyed a similar overnight trip to explore the islands. We have a long-term goal to visit every state park in Vermont, and to stay overnight at all those with camping or cabins.
Bikes on the back of the car, or a canoe strapped to the roof, or in some cases both, is part of the adventure. So is a fly rod packed in the back of the car, since every state park I have visited so far is close to good fishing. For those who don’t have their own fishing equipment, Vermont Fish and Wildlife is now teaming up with state parks to provide instruction and loaner equipment in a program called ReelFunVT. More information can be found at http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/cms/.
We are making progress on our goal. Two summers ago our new park was Little River Reservoir. It may be my favorite so far. (One obstacle to reaching our goal is that we enjoy the parks we visit so much we end up returning to them before moving on to new ones.) This year we will visit Brighton State Park for the first time. We’ve stayed in tents and lean-tos, though I admit I’m increasing drawn to the luxury of a cabin in those parks that offer them. We bike and canoe and fish and hike and swim. And sometimes just sit and read. We go alone. We go with family. We bring friends. We do camp cooking sometimes. Other times we explore the local dining season.
In addition to the fishing clinics and equipment loans, the state park system also offers a series of free events throughout the summer months, including concerts, talks, nature hikes and educational events for adults and children. (More information is available at http://www.vtstateparks.com/htm/events.htm)
While on Grand Isle, we also spent an hour visiting the Ed Weed Fish Culture Station, the flagship hatchery of Vermont ‘s Fish and Wildlife Department. It’s always worth a stop if you are driving by — as is the Salisbury Fish Culture Station, the only one of Vermont’s five in Addison County, which I had visited just a few weeks earlier. (Confession: although I am ambivalent toward the stocking of non-native fish such as rainbow and brown trout, and toward put-and-taking hatchery-supported fishing, I never get tired of throwing fish food to trout in a raceway.)
Speaking of opportunities in Vermont, this fall’s bow hunt will be expanded. Vermont’s archery season will now be nearly a week longer, running a full four weeks in 2016 from Oct. 1-28. State biologists expect the impact on the deer population to be minimal.
For those seeking the opportunity to harvest a doe during the December muzzleloader season, the deadline to apply — by entering the antlerless tag lottery — is fast approaching. Aug. 26 is the final date to apply online. Statewide, more than 18,000 tags will be issued this year.
One opportunity Vermonters won’t have in 2016 is the choice of using natural deer urine as an attractant. Because of the risk of disease — particularly Chronic Wasting Disease, or CWD — spreading to the wild deer herd through deer urine harvested elsewhere and imported into the state, the use of natural urine lures is now banned in Vermont. The Fish and Wildlife board voted in this ban last year, it was approved by the Legislature, and it takes effect this year.

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