Tag Archives: camping

Schodak Island State Park, Schodak Landing, New York

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I didn’t pick this campground! Flood plain location, built on dredge spoil, near two rail lines AND under a turnpike bridge. Really, who decided to put a state park here? Just as well I didn’t know all of that in advance.

Schodak Island State Park turned out to be great! For starters, it’s close to the mighty Hudson River, so beautiful and historic. The State Park is relatively new, so the bathhouses are nicer than anything I saw in other New York state park campgrounds. The bathhouses were helpfully marked “shelter here in case of inclement weather”. I’ve experienced enough “inclement weather” in my camping trips to be very grateful for clear advice.

After flush toilets and hot showers, what makes a good campground? At Schodak Island, the campsites have been improved with a layer of sand, so securing tent stakes is easy. The camping area is blessed with tall trees and wildflowers. With only 66 sites, the campground felt cozy.

The highway and train bridges near the site are very, very high. I never heard the highway traffic. I heard the train engines moving past, but only once in three days did I hear a shrill whistle.

Management and staffing are important. At this state park, facilities were clean and functional. Our main contact was a friendly campground host, who not only answered questions but also delivered wood and ice for a nominal sum, whenever we wanted it. Delivering wood is smart management, as scavenging by campers can be destructive. The ice delivery was a GREAT luxury in a campground that’s relatively isolated. If there was a convenience store within 5 miles, I didn’t spot it.

So how did we spend our time in the woods? The usual… eat and talk… talk and eat. Plenty of casual hiking and bird watching. Bicycling for the more ambitious.

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A little north of the State Park, I saw my first pileated woodpecker! (Photo from Wikipedia. I was in a moving car…)

Some of us are diehard public transit enthusiasts, and Schodak Island is, in fact, quite readily accessible, by (you guessed it) TRAIN. There’s a station about 20 minutes to the north (Albany Rensselaer) and another a little further south (Hudson). Three campers took advantage of this.

So I take back some of what I’ve said about New York state campgrounds in the past. (It wasn’t nice.) I’ll be happy to return in the future.

PS! Almost forgot something very nice! We found a shelf of books on the outside of the bathhouse – a “free library”, so if it rains and you forgot to bring something to read, there it is! The reaction of most of our group was “I should have brought some books”.

Rating a State Park for Car Camping – Vermont’s Jamaica State Park gets Five Stars!

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!