Sunday, July 5, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend: Coolidge State Park

This Memorial Day was the first camping trip for our youngest at 8 months old. Having experienced camping with a baby once, we knew we could do it again. We had tired of camping in Massachusetts and wanted to get back up into the northern states. I knew the White Mountains would be too cold so we opted for Coolidge State Park since it was just a little over two hours away in Plymouth, VT. We also booked a lean-to site for the first time, which proved pretty useful with several toddlers running around. They loved the "stage" and it was convenient to store some of our extraneous gear in that we found necessary with little ones.

Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we did quite a bit of standing around saying, "Do you want to do something?" Someone came up with the brilliant idea to go on a hike. Eight months post baby and one major hike behind me I was game. Coolidge SP is part of the Coolidge Range and has tons of hiking trails in the surrounding area. We didn't go crazy but picked a short nature walk to get the blood flowing and enjoy the park. We followed the Slack Hill Trail which started near our tent sites and cut back into the sites by the CCC Trail. 
Heading to the trail head

Lil Dude following Zazu up hill
We started out just fine. It was warm and there was a slight breeze. The first night we camped it was below freezing so the warmer temps were greatly appreciated. I would guess that we had barely hiked a quarter mile and Lil Dude decided to bail because he was "tired" and wanted "to nap." Big Dude was okay with this because he thought he would get to try out his new hammock. So back down the trail they went and the rest of us traveled on. I was carrying Little in my Ergo and she was dozing.

Signage to head to the "Contact" Station a.k.a Ranger Station
 We strolled through a lovely deciduous forest with slight hills and pretty mild grades. We did meet up with several other hikers and families. One family warned us of a blow down ahead. It seemed to be a long time coming but honestly was only about a half mile away. It blocked the entire trail and was one of those that you could not go under or over but had to go around.
Nate sizing up the situation

Once we hiked around the tree we continued along the established path. The leaves were starting to fill in the trees and there were some neat items along the trail. 
Huge quartz

After approximately a mile and a half we descended to a vista. It was the only vista on the trail and had been manually cleared to provide the view. There was a group there ahead of us so we stayed to the side and snacked some. It was clear and Mount Ascutney could easily be seen. Ben and I had hiked that one in 2007 and assisted some hang gliders with take off. It was pretty cool!
View of Mount Ascutney from the Vista point
After some time, we moved on down the trail. It rose and fell nicely through the woods. There was little wildlife to be found, most likely because there were so many people on the trail.

Wood Nymph Melanie

Pretty wildflowers that I really should learn the name of
We reached the picnic area of the state park and crossed the parking lot. We could have hiked back down the road but opted to continue to explore. We found a terrific shelter in a large field. There were two huge stone fireplaces on each end inside. The view was awesome! You could see Killington Ski area across the field. There were still traces of snow on it and someone said there was still some skiing taking place.
View from the Bradley Hill Picnic Shelter
We hiked down behind the tent sites by the CCC Trail for approximately a half mile. Then we turned at the sign post directing us to the tent area. We weren't entirely certain where it would come out but we weren't too worried.
CCC Sign Post
The short trail had a few little stream crossings. Everything was so dry that they hardly moistened our shoes. 
Sad little stream

Bridge over mud
We re-entered the tent area and easily hiked up the road to our sites. Being Sunday afternoon on Memorial Day weekend, many campers had already packed up and ventured home. We stayed on another night and went home early enough that traffic wasn't too crazy. 

The hike itself was a nice little stroll. Little slept through most of it. I definitely appreciated the vista on Slack Hill and then the bonus of the view from Bradley Hill. Looking at the website, I see that there are letterboxing opportunities at the campground as well. If I had had some time to plan I think I would have tried to do some of that.

Coolidge State Park was a good one for those who want to camp quietly. There were very few generators and RV's. It was mainly tents and the like. It's convenient to some historic sites (Cal Coolidge's Birthplace) and tourist attractions (a.k.a. breweries for Big Dude). Before we left the campground we drove through the Lean-To site area, some of the views were fantastic. Scary sites for those of us with children due to the drop off but awesome views of the Green Mountains and Black River Valley.

Where: Slack Hill Trail and CCC Trail, Coolidge State Park, Plymouth, Vermont

Directions: From Jct. Hwy 100 and Hwy. 100A: Go 2 mi. N on Hwy. 100A.