Downtown Poultney

The last time I was in Poultney, I was at a conference at Green Mountain College, and didn’t get a chance to wander the downtown, though I eagerly wanted to. I was pleased that our visit to Lake St. Catherine included a Saturday lunch in town so we could explore the area. It’s not big, so park anywhere and walk everywhere. Here are a few of our highlights:

Hermit Hill Books – A wonderfully stocked and must-free shop that lives up to the promise of antiquarian, rare, and used books. Local Vermontania, coffee table art books, along with sheet music and other ephemera were among the trove of unexpected finds.
Miss Maisie, one of the shop's four-legged keepers.

Miss Maisie, one of the shop’s four-legged keepers.

Tot’s Diner – A comfortable eatery with a menu to satisfy hungry campers. The front room includes a counter and tables and booths. There’s also an attached dining room that holds the overflow. Home to locals and visitors, the staff was very friendly–giving the old regular a bit of lip, and us a tip that about the town-wide yard sale in nearby Fair Haven. The Saturday lunch menu does not include fried foods, so our sandwiches came with chips instead of fries. I ordered the mushroom burger and Daniel ordered the tuna melt.
Matching curtains, napkins, and table cloths, even.

Matching curtains, napkins, and table cloths, even.

Poultney Town Cemetery – From the street it looks like a tiny hillock of crumbling stones, but once inside the gates, it goes on for quite a while. A downed tree blocked a part of the drive, and as we turned around, we got turned around and exited a block from the entrance.
We also went to East Poultney Cemetery, too.

We also went to East Poultney Cemetery, too.

The Memorial Day Parade – We left camp on Monday and decided to take a pit stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts before making the 2-hour drive home. With our coffees in hand, we watched as the Memorial Day parade marched down Route 30, past the cemetery, to end up at the town municipal offices. It lasted all of 5 minutes. The townsfolk gathered at the intersection only had to turn around after the procession to take part in the ceremony.
The Stateline Band played the national anthem as we left town.

The Stateline Band played the national anthem as we left town.

The DD is part of a gas station, where even this guy doesn't get a break.

The DD is part of a gas station, where even this guy doesn’t get a break.

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Lake St. Catherine State Park

Lake St. Catherine State Park

Location: Route 30, Poultney, Vt.

Type: Overnight camping and day-use area

Size: 117 acres

Camping: 50 tent/RV sites and 11 lean-to sites

Things to do: Hiking trails, swimming at the lake, kayak and canoe rentals, fishing, Nature Center.

Amenities: Three bathrooms, sandy beaches, concession stand, children’s playground, firewood for sale. Campground is a 10-minute ride to the Poultney General Store.

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Lake St. Catherine on a warm, windy day.

Lake St. Catherine is known as a cool water lake and the Vermont State Park that surrounds part of the 930-acre body of water lived up to its name on the first night of Memorial Day Weekend camping this year. Temperatures dropped to the low 30s after dark and were accompanied by a howling, biting wind that seemed to cut right through the thin plastic of our tent.

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Morning coffee and morning fire after a first cold night.

Phayvanh and I woke up early Saturday morning chilled to the bone. A morning fire and coffee warmed us and as the sun emerged from behind the clouds, we quickly forgot all about the arctic-like night. As the weekend continued, the weather just got nicer, hitting a high in the low 80s on Sunday.

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One of the abandoned buildings in the woods.

Lake St. Catherine State Park has been in operation for more than 60 years, but much of the land was once farmland, slate-mining quarries, and a boy’s summer camp. Reminders of the park’s past life can be found in the 117-acre campground, including the collapsed ruins of old buildings and vintage tools rusting in the brush.

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Sunset on the park green.

But the campground doesn’t feel like an aging throwback – instead, it’s comfortable and sprawling and perfect for families with young children. The center green at the campground’s main four corners resembles a downtown village square, right down to rows of Maple trees along the dirt road. The center green truly feels like the heart of the campground and kids and families gathered there to play tag, softball, and basketball.

In addition to the campground, there is a day-use area with a semi-sandy beach (if you want to go swimming, I recommend the smaller beach in the campground area – it was more private and the beach and shallow water area had less rocks), a concession stand, and kayak and canoe rentals (we went with a two-person pedal boat). Pets are allowed in the camping area, including that beach, but not in the day-use area.

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Most of the ten sites are shady with great moments of sun.

We stayed three nights at Tent Site #28, located in the middle section of the park and along one of the main roads linking the two clusters of campsites. This spot is private, elevated, and nearly completely surrounded by woods. We could only see two other campgrounds.

Other spots that look good include Tent Site #44, which has a small cabin behind it and a sunny grass knoll; Tent Sites #41-42, which make a great private pair for two families; the lean-to named Pine looked private as well. Avoid Tent Site #37 – it is too close to the very busy boat launch.

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Phayvanh explored the woods, but did not finish the fairy house she started.

The campground’s Nature Trail is a short, handicapped-accessible walk through the woods. It’s not very dynamic, but it does connect with the Loop Trail, which brings you deeper into the old woods surrounding Lake St. Catherine, offers a worth-the-hike view of nearby Birdseye Mountain, and drops you off in a grassy field near a chestnut tree breeding orchard.