In Groton State Forest, a quiet and undiscovered campsite is just a short paddle away.
Story and Photos By Nathanael Asaro
It was a weekday in June. My partner Hannah and I packed up our supplies and put the canoe on my truck. It was a beautiful early summer day and the temperature was reaching the mid 80s. We left our home in Waterbury Center, stopped at the coop in Montpelier to get a few last minute food items, and then it was on to Groton State Forest.
We arrived at the park around 3 pm. We stopped and talked to a park ranger who informed us there were spots still available at Kettle Pond where we could canoe to a remote site on the water. We unloaded the canoe and all our camping gear in the parking lot and then did some brainstorming about how many trips we needed to make to the water. From the parking lot it’s about a 10-minute walk on a flat gravel path to the water’s edge.
After two trips back and forth to the truck we had the canoe loaded up with everything we needed for the overnight.
As we paddled out to scout for our site the water started to calm and the calls of birds echoed all around us. After all the work we put into getting here, we could finally enjoy the relaxing environment.
As someone who grew up in Vermont, you’d think I’ve been everywhere in the state. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered Groton State Forest, a unique landscape that is specific to the north east side of Vermont. The park is filled with granite boulders, some covered in moss on the forest floor and others on the shores of lakes, ponds, and brooks. The abundance of water makes this area ideal for paddlers. Options to camp remotely by the water or car camp make Groton a great choice for families or for people looking to challenge themselves and find solitude in wilderness.
This year, with Covid-19 shutting down Vermont State Park campsites until June 26, it felt like we could have the place to ourselves.
We checked out a few different remote sites and settled on one that might be one my top five favorite campsites in Vermont. The site includes a log cabin-style lean-to and a beautiful stone outdoor fireplace. There were boulders and moss leading right to the edge of the pond with a few granite islands in front that you could swim out to and sunbathe on.
We unpacked the canoe and set up our tent in the lean-to. It was still in the 80s and the sun felt nice, so we paddled out to one of the boulder islands and enjoyed a hard cider and a dip in the pond. The water had become completely still. The air was soft and warm and the long June daylight lingered until hunger called us back to camp.
We lit a fire in the stone fireplace and seared our homemade veggie burgers in a cast iron pan over the open flames. As the embers burned down, the chirping of peepers and the long mournful calls of loons echoed across the pond. After a little while we decided to paddle out to the boulder again beneath a starlit sky. We sat on the rock in the middle of the pond gazing at the stars for a while and watched the moon set over a small mountain until we were tired.
I woke before sunrise the next morning to go for a solo paddle. I watched the sun come up over Owl’s Head Mountain, which you can see from Kettle Pond, then paddled back for breakfast. We took the canoe around the pond one last time with all our gear and headed back to the portage. It was still early in the day when we left the parking lot, so we decided to check out the northern edge of Peacham Pond which is only a 10-minute drive from Kettle.
We ventured out for about an hour or so before we returned to the boat launch and headed home to unpack.
We’d been gone for less than 24 hours but it felt like we’d been a world away.
Paddle-To Camping At Groton State Forest
I have camped at Groton State Forest around 10 times now in the remote sites and car camping spots and every time I go I find something new to explore. There are so many outdoor opportunities to experience—paddling, biking, hiking, camping, fishing, birding, and so much more. I highly recommend Boulder Beach on Lake Groton for swimming and a picnic.
Groton State Forest comprises seven state parks, the Groton Nature Center, and eight lakes and ponds. The area was once home to 12 sawmills and remnants are still visible. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) helped develop the area, constructing roads, trails, fire lookouts, and picnic shelters and planting trees. Glaciers covered the area 10,000 years ago and their retreat created the mountainous terrain mixed with streams, ponds, bogs, and wetlands. Groton State Forest is also home to several state-designated natural areas, such as Peacham Bog Natural Area (748 acres) and Lords Hill Natural Area (25 acres).
A number of the ponds have remote, paddle-to campsites. New Discovery State Park’s Kettle Pond has seven remote lean-tos. Osmore Pond’s 48 acres are undeveloped and home to four leanto sites and three waterfront campsites. You can reserve a site at Kettle or Osmore via Reserve America for $28 a night.
If you don’t own a canoe, you can also rent one at New Discovery State Park or at Umiak Outfitters in Richmond or Stowe. For more visit vtstateparks.com
To learn about another great hidden campsite read: How to Get Away on Burton Island