Sports

Matt Dickerson: Outdoors (and outdoor winters) in Vermont

This coming June, the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) is hosting their annual conference at Jay Peak up in northern Vermont. It’s a great gathering of outdoor communicators: writers, photographers, filmmakers, editors and publishers, and others affiliated with the industry including reps of various manufacturers.
I’ve been to this conference twice in the past four years: when it was held in Montana in 2016 and then again in Arkansas in 2019. As enjoyable as those locations were, and as much as they had to offer in outdoor recreation, I’m even more excited to have the conference come to Vermont in 2020. Though as one of the “local” OWAA members I got drawn into some of the organizational work of planning the event, the work should prove worthwhile for several reasons.
One reason is I won’t have to travel by plane to go to the conference this year.
A bigger reason is that Vermont has a lot to offer when it comes to outdoor activities. I have more than a little pride in my state, and am glad people from away get to taste a bit of that. When I’m interacting with my outdoor communicator colleagues at the conference, I’ll claim all those great outdoor opportunities as my own, as though I know all about them and get to take advantage of them all the time. I’ll hope to be given credit for how much the state has to offer, or at least to be viewed as a possessor of local knowledge.
The reality, however, is that I’ve experienced only a fraction of Vermont’s outdoors, and the activities that take part here. Even while I’m pretending to be the expert local host to the visiting writers, what I’ll really be doing is learning a bunch of stuff myself.
The official conference lasts three days over a long weekend. Before and after the conference, however, there are a number of pre- and post-conference outings planned for attendees. Since, as already noted, I’m helping to organize the conference, I’ve seen the preliminary list of these. Thanks to a number of Vermont guides and outdoor recreation businesses, and especially to Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, the breadth and number of these is impressive. 
The list includes a guided muskie fly fishing trip on the New York side of the lake, a guided hike on a northern portion of the Long Trail, a guided canoe-to-bike adventure that will include part of the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, a bike trip on the Colchester Causeway, a vineyard tour, a bike-and-brewery tour, an ecologist-led expedition to view cliff-nesting birds, a bear-habitat tour, a fishing expedition for salmon and lake trout on Champlain, moose viewing, bass and pike fishing on Memphramagog, birding on the Clyde River, and a trip to see brook trout habitat in a National Wildlife Refuge.
And here’s the thing. I’ve lived in Vermont for more than three decades, I consider myself a fairly avid outdoors person. I get outside a lot. My wife and I make a point of visiting state parks around the state (or at least in the northern half), and canoeing new waters. We have cross-country skied at numerous ski centers. I spend a lot of time fishing.
And yet I’ve never done any of those things on that list. Reading the list was a good reminder of just how fortunate Vermonters are. And the fact that I haven’t done any of the things on the list (in those locations) is also an indication of just how much I can do without traveling more than a few miles from my house in Addison County — with the Green Mountain National Forest almost in my background, Otter Creek running through town with numerous tributaries feeding it every few miles, and the Long Trail within a few minute’s drive.
I haven’t decided which pre- or post-conference outing I will sign up for. At least one will probably be fishing, but a bike tour to breweries is looking pretty good too. What I do know is that Vermont has enough to keep this outdoor writer full of column ideas for at least another 20 years.

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