The point of this blog is to review books, but I don’t (quite) spend ALL my time reading. I spent Memorial Day weekend “car camping” in Vermont. In fact, I’ve spent the past 25 Memorial Day weekends camping with the same crowd of friends. I would guess we’ve stayed at 15 different campgrounds in seven or eight states, all public rather than private. We usually occupy 8 or 10 campsites and total around 40 campers, of all ages.
What makes for a good campground? Let’s see… Location, infrastructure, activities, staff, alcohol policy, pet policy and “atmosphere”.
There is no perfect location. As a group, our center of gravity has shifted north over time. Jamaica, Vermont (the town and state park share the name) was a seven hour trip for the families from farthest south, four hours from Boston and half an hour from those who now call Vermont home.
Under location, we can also consider geography. We’ve camped in the flat Pinelands of New Jersey, near beaches in Connecticut and Maryland, and in hilly forests. Vermont falls in the later category. We really like woods and hills!
Our basic infrastructure requirement is flush toilets and hot showers. Check! We turn down “group sites” because they often have pit toilets.
Jamaica State Park is very small, about 40 campsites, some equipped with lean-tos. Our reserved site was listed as having a “prime lean-to”. It was large and sturdy, consisting of a floor, three walls and a roof, enclosing enough space so a tent could be placed within. Given our experiences with bad weather, this was wonderful! We pitched two more tents on the ground. The weather stayed dry.
Missing was one amenity we’ve occasionally enjoyed, namely a sink at the wash house with hot water for washing dishes. Oh, well, can’t have it all.
Activities? Hiking and bicycling were at hand. The swimming area was just a place to wade in the small, fast moving river. No lifeguards, and no boat rental. Vermont is very tourist friendly, so those of us who decided to go exploring enjoyed scenery, shopping and the Green Mountain National Forest.
Our main activities are eating and talking, anyway.
The staff at Jamaica State Park was friendly, the alcohol policy was easy to deal with (no kegs or underage drinking), and dogs were allowed if leashed. To my surprise, we had six dogs along for the trip!
So what about “atmosphere”? It was great! Our fellow campers were pleasant. The employees who enforced quiet hours weren’t obnoxious. I’ll be happy to return to Jamaica or try another Vermont state park any time. (For the record, I find New York state parks creepy. New Jersey’s park employees act like they really wanted to be in the state police. Connecticut runs its megapark at Hammonasset with wonderful aplomb and professionalism.)
Vermonters deserve to be very proud of their parks. I’ll be back!