Last summer, the push was on to complete a major construction project at one of our rental properties. Hoping we would be done by late August, but not knowing whether or not we’d actually be able to complete the project by then, Alan and I made no camping plans for the spring or summer of 2018. However, if all went well, we would be free to take some time off in the fall. I was reluctant to plan any type of extended or complicated vacation because I had visions of cancelling numerous reservations if the construction project wasn’t completed when we expected it to be. So, the decision was made to shoot for a couple of State Park visits within a full day’s drive from home.
One of the new-to-us State Parks we visited was tiny Half Moon Pond State Park in Fair Haven, Vermont. Half Moon Pond is a small camping area inside the 3,500 acre Bomoseen State Park. There are 52 tent or RV sites, 5 cabins, 1 cottage with its own private boat dock and 11 lean-to sites. The sites are situated along the edge of the pond and nestled in the woods around it. Only non-motorized boats are allowed.
If you like small and quiet, Half Moon Pond would be the perfect setting for you. Access is via a gravel road (actually, as it turns out, there are many gravel roads in Vermont!) and, although the Vermont State Parks reservations site indicates that trailers over 30’ and RV’s up to 34’ long will fit, we found that guideline to be a bit optimistic. The absolutely lovely waterfront site I had selected was one that Alan fought a long, hard battle to get into – and this man has been hauling boats and trailers of various types for more than 40 years. Had he not had as much trailering experience as he does, I honestly believe that we would have been looking elsewhere for someplace to stay. (If your rig is 30’ or under, I’d say come ahead and have a great time.)
The two problems with backing into our site (#25) were that the access road was very narrow with woods on either side which didn’t allow for much swing room for our truck and 32’ trailer, and the site itself was below road grade and fairly well sloped at the top. Our Creek Side from Outdoors RV Manufacturing is a rugged trailer with higher ground clearance than most. That, alone, was a huge advantage as Alan shoehorned us into our site.
|Once we got in it, we really liked it.|
We were right on the shore of Half Moon Pond with easy kayak access into the water from our site. This was one of the most peaceful campgrounds we’ve ever stayed at. Of course, its small size helped there, but it really was a place for people who simply enjoyed being outdoors, with fishing and kayaking being the most popular activities we observed during our stay.
|The view of Half Moon Pond from our site was lovely.|
A combination of Park roads and trails allows you to walk a full circle around the pond and, I have to say, the wooded lean-to sites that were set up on the hill overlooking the pond would have provided an excellent outdoor camping experience.
|A well-kept lean-to with a gorgeous view of the pond|
Half Moon Pond State Park has restrooms with flush toilets, hot and cold running water, coin-operated showers, a dump station, a play area and hiking trails to High Pond and Bomoseen State Park. Once we were settled in, I wondered why I hadn’t chosen to stay in the campground at the adjacent Bomoseen State Park, especially since Bomoseen is the largest lake entirely within Vermont’s borders. While Alan and I were out exploring our new neighborhood, the answer became apparent: both Bomoseen and the nearby Lake St. Catherine State Park had already closed for the season. Half Moon Pond State Park remained open until Columbus Day.
Alan and I decided that we wouldn’t be returning to Half Moon Pond. Instead, if we wanted to visit that area of Vermont again, we would be sure to plan a stay during the time that the larger State Parks were still open. We did visit both Bomoseen and Lake St. Catherine by parking outside their gates and walking in to the main parking areas and the beaches. The areas we saw were just beautiful but, not having a map of the Parks or knowing how far away the campgrounds were from the day use areas, we left the exploration of both campgrounds for another visit.
|Lake St. Catherine|
By the way, in case you haven’t picked up on it from previous posts, “poking around” is something Alan and I enjoy a LOT and do well. When we’re out exploring, we might decide on a particular destination for the day or a couple of particular stops we’d like to make. (Ice cream shops are usually pretty high on the list). Other than that, we might not have much of an agenda, although the greater goal is to see and enjoy as much of this grand and glorious country of ours as possible. We’ll pack snacks and drinks (no, not those kind of drinks!) and a pair or two of binoculars and set out to see what there is to see. And there’s ALWAYS a lot to see!
|Rock of Ages Quarry ~ Visitor Center and Factory|
On this trip, we bypassed the opportunity to stop at the Ben & Jerry’s Factory having already been there two or three times before. Plus, Ben & Jerry’s is much less expensive at Walmart and that makes my frugal heart happy. (I do love the Flavor Graveyard at the Factory, though, and was sorry to miss it.) Our main destination was the Rock of Ages Quarry near Barre, Vermont. Alan and I had never toured a regular stone quarry before and Rock of Ages is one of the largest and most well-known granite quarries in the country. You can have an enjoyable and educational experience simply by stopping at the Visitor Center but the tour of the quarry itself is well worth the $5.00 per person and 45 to 60 minutes of your time. We lucked out with Todd, the BEST EVER tour guide. Actually, we seem to have really good luck with Todds in general because Todd in the Outdoors RV Factory Service Department is the BEST EVER service manager. But, I digress. It’s not an uncommon occurrence. Tour guide Todd had been a school teacher early on, but worked for Rock of Ages for more than 30 years. He was extremely knowledgeable about the quarry, the quarrying process and the industry. I don’t think a question was thrown his way to which he didn’t have a prompt and complete answer. Plus, the way he delivered information was smooth and interesting, and he had a great sense of humor. I guess all those years of teaching school and guiding tours had allowed him to perfect his technique. He really was the best tour guide we’ve ever had anywhere. A self-guided Factory Tour is also available at Rock of Ages, but the factory was closed at the time of our visit so we, unfortunately, missed out on that experience.
|This is the secton of quarry that is currently being worked.|
When we finished with the tour of the quarry, Alan and I, along with two other couples from our tour group, wandered over to the outdoor bowling alley that was a short walk across the parking lot from the Visitor Center. This unique bowling alley was made of – you guessed it! – granite. It was developed as a commercial prototype but granite bowling alleys never really hit the big time because they tend to be a little rough on bowling balls. However, Rock of Ages provides bowling pins and rubber bowling balls to its guests so that families can enjoy this unique attraction. The couples took turns setting up pins for each other and we all enjoyed our one-of-a-kind bowling experience.
|Photo credit: www.rockofages.com|
Because so much granite was quarried in the area, monument makers had a ready supply of raw material with which to work. Todd provided a map to the Hope Cemetery in Barre for any quarry guests who were interested in seeing the incredibly creative headstones and cemetery monuments made by granite artisans in the area. Alan and I were really torn. While the designs Todd mentioned were intriguing, it did feel a bit disrespectful to go “touring” in a cemetery. Once assured that many tourists stop there to admire the creative sculptures, we felt a little bit better about it and decided to go.
I am, by no means, a creative person. Even my stick people are a little bit questionable. How anyone can envision such imaginative ways of celebrating and remembering a person’s life is beyond me. Yet, a number of the headstones were actually gorgeous pieces of art. Although a bit reluctant at first, we were both glad that we took the time to quietly wander through such beautiful examples of talent in a field that we don’t generally think of as imaginative or innovative.
We made several other stops while touring the Vermont countryside. One was at Cabot Creamery in Cabot and another was at Maple Grove Farms in St. Johnsbury. Maple Grove Farms was a disappointment as I expected their museum to be a little bit more of a museum, but the Cabot Creamery stop was excellent. We watched a film about the creamery in the Visitor Center and enjoyed loitering at the lovely and generous sample display that proved to be an excellent marketing tactic. We bought a couple of bricks of their deliciously creamy cheese as a result of our sampling, although I could have told you that any cheese with bacon mixed in would be delicious without even tasting it.
Our final stop on our poking around tour of Vermont was the Green Mountain Coffee Café and Visitor Center in Waterbury. What a worthwhile stop! The Café is located in the restored and still operational Waterbury train station that was built in 1875.
|Amtrak Train Station and Green Mountain Coffee Cafe in Waterbury, Vermont|
We didn’t buy any coffee because the Café staff was in the process of cleaning up and closing down for the day, but we sure did enjoy walking around the station enjoying the fine restoration job that was accomplished here.
It would have been fun to buy some coffee and sit outside on one of the benches pretending to wait for the train to come rolling down the line. (Side note: I love trains. My Dad was a machine operator for the Penn Central railroad, driving all those funny little vehicles up and down the tracks.)
|Last fall's train schedule|
Once the Green Mountain Coffee Café had closed up for the day, we decided it was time to head for Sarducci’s, located on the banks of the Winooski River in Montpelier where we would celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary with dinner at the top rated restaurant in the state’s capital. A delicious Italian dinner, a quiet drive back to Half Moon Pond and we pulled into our campsite just before quiet hours began. Poking around the towns and cities of Vermont turned out to be a full, fun and tasty day of exploring!
Upon leaving Half Moon Pond State Park, we turned our wheels toward the Ausable Point Campground in Peru, New York, situated right on the banks of Lake Champlain. A post on our adventures there will be coming up soon!