Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Volunteering at Button Bay State Park, Ferrisburgh, Vermont - A 5-Cheese Experience!

Traveling along Routes 365/8 through the Adirondack Mountains, we left New York State to yet another rainy, dreary day.  But the nasty weather could not detract from the beauty of our next destination:  Button Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, where we would be volunteering for the next 6 weeks.

We met Lauren, our Park Ranger/Manager, along with the other Staff members and our volunteer counterparts on Loop 2, Pat and Jeannette.  All are personable, hard-working, accommodating, and team centric.  A truly wonderful group of people!  I was especially thrilled to meet the Park mascots, Nora, Summit, and Haley!




We were escorted to our complimentary graveled site on Loop 1, which offered 50 amp electric, water, and sewer (the volunteer sites are the only ones in the Park with these accommodations).  It is nicely-sized and can fit Big Boomer, our medium duty truck, right next to our Keystone Montana fifth wheel.  The site also is spacious enough to unload our motorcycles and Rat Patrol, our little side-by-side utility vehicle, while still leaving room for the Park-provided picnic table and our traveling tomato plant and bird houses.  We encountered one teensy problem with our site, though.   The soil in Vermont is clay, and there had been considerable rain in this area recently.  The paved roadway is barely wide enough for one vehicle.  All the non-volunteer sites within the Park are grassy fields.  And, of course, Mom was parking us.  Long story short, Big Boomer got stuck in the mud in the site in front of us as Mom was disconnecting the trailer!  The good news:  the trailer was dropped in place already, and no guest was scheduled to come in that day to the site where Big Boomer was stuck.  Furthermore, we had switched from Escapees Roadside Service back to Coach-net, so service was dispatched IMMEDIATELY without any stress or arguments.  Coach-net dispatched a properly-equipped vendor, and Big Boomer was freed from bondage within 1.5 hours.  Mom felt bad about ruining the grass on the site.  Then she learned from the service vendor that getting stuck in mud is a common occurrence here during periods of heavy rainfall.  In fact, volunteers Pat/Jeannette also required a tow out of mud when parking their fifth wheel upon arrival in April!

Just like my Rock Art in the desert of Quartzsite, I always mark my spot--this time with chalk!

After offering to pay for our tow (no need—that’s why we have Coach-net) and offering us free firewood (a perk of the volunteer position), Manager/Park Ranger Lauren gave my parents the weekend off to get acclimated, so we wasted no time in exploring!

Button Bay State Park is a gem, situated on a bluff above picturesque Lake Champlain, which is the sixth largest body of freshwater in the USA! Though small in size, Button Bay State Park offers many amenities for its dry camping as well as day-use guests:  Full-service restrooms/showers, picnic area, and playground.    Loop 2 of the campground is a big, open field with sites to accommodate larger RVs and cabins that offer wonderful views of the Lake and mountains.    Though you can’t see Lake Champlain from Loop 1, it does provide more private sites for tents and small campers, many with lean-tos that are a God-send during rainy stays.

The Park contains many species of trees, wildflowers, grasses, and wildlife. The Canadian Tick-trefoil were so prevalent and colorful—they reminded me of Alaska’s fireweed!   I met up with a young doe and her new fawn on several occasions.  Bunny rabbits were daily visitors.  I guided a juvenile turtle to his destination across the road, sparing him from getting squashed by vehicle tires. I was cognizant that I should not deviate from his intended direction (a tip I picked up while my parents volunteered at the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, NJ, earlier this summer.  We saw the turtles lay their eggs there, but completed our commitment before the eggs hatched).

The Park requests that we all keep an eye out for Champ, Lake Champlain's version of the Loch Ness Monster!  Reported sightings date back centuries, with sightings as recent as 2018!   But alas, though I looked high and low, this Rambling RV Rat never spotted the elusive creature.

A Champ float in nearby Port Henry, New York


I discovered the Park’s Dog Walk, though used infrequently by pet owners, connects with another trail that leads to the boat launch.  It provided spectacular sunset views.


We walked along the Button Point Natural Area, which culminates at the Nature Center.  Open several hours each day/5 days a week (Memorial Day through Labor Day), the Nature Center contains a wealth of information regarding the geology, culture, and history of the area.  We hiked along Champlain Trail, where fossils in nearby rock formations fascinated me.  Surrounded by water, we arrived at the Point to cast our fishing poles (volunteers are provided with complimentary Vermont fishing licenses), and we witnessed the first of many lovely sunsets behind the Adirondack Mountains.

Who knew the Bay was named for the shape of the concretions found along its shoreline?  Or that the “island” just a mile or so from the shores of The Point once had an eleven-room home on it?   Or that these lands, prior to becoming a State Park, were the site of the 1962 Girl Scout Roundup?   I learned so much about Button Bay State Park during my stay!

If you and the kiddies enjoy water, The Park has a swimming pool.  Get there early though!  Due to lifeguard shortages this season, the Park was forced to reduce the number of people allowed in the pool at once.  And we had a few occasions that the pool was closed to the public--let’s just say something was floating in it and it wasn’t a Baby Ruth bar! 

The Park has a pavilion that can be rented for celebrations and special occasions.  We witnessed several beautiful wedding ceremonies on the bluff and lots of merrymaking at the pavilion.  (Whenever my parents heard good music emanating from the Pavilion, they hung out in the nearby picnic grove and created their own dance party!)   The Pavilion also hosted special events like the Vermont State Waterfowl Calling Competition.  As a spectator, I found this very cool!  It takes a multitude of patience and practice to get good at this, but those who participated all got the seal of approval from Daffy Duck and his descendants!

During peak season, the Park offers special events and activities for kiddies and adults alike, from making our own telescopes to taking a night hike.  One of my favorite special events was the brainchild of our Manager/Park Ranger Lauren:   a birthday party for Smokey the Bear, who turned 75 this year!  What a well received idea and well attended event--folks came from other Parks just to participate!  While we bestowed Smokey with a birthday cake, he educated us about the importance of preventing wildfires.  He shared all sorts of promotional goodies with our guests like posters, pens, and post-it notes, and, most importantly, he provided us photo ops!  Way to go Smokey!  May you be around for another 75 years to reiterate that only we can prevent forest wildfires!

A pretty cool cake for Smokey--notice the campfire in the left-hand corner!

Group Photo with Smokey

For 75, Smokey is a pretty fun-loving agile bear!

Since the Park does not offer Wi-Fi in the campground, we used our phone hotspots.   We found our Verizon cell signal was golden.  But listen to this:  the nearby town of Panton still has a public telephone booth!

The Park’s proximity to fun places and entertainment is favorable.  There is tons to do within an hour’s drive or less, from berry picking to wine tasting, from visiting historic sites to telescope star-gazing, from dancing, comedy, and karaoke to factory/plant tours like Ben and Jerry’s.   In fact, as a Vermont State Park volunteer, you get free access to lots of places!  (I’ll tell ya about all the places we visited in another post).  And having two days off/week gave us plenty of time to sight see!

We enjoyed being in such a lovely rural area! We would often walk down to Webster Road to see the farms. Nothing says “country” better than the smell of sweet corn—and cow poop!  Interestingly, the houses in this part of the Champlain Valley were quite traditional and fitting to their surroundings.  Although there were wealthy homesteads along the Lake, there were no ugly ostentatious McMansions in this neck of the woods.  Looking for restaurants, taverns, laundromat, grocery store, or free Wi-Fi?  Vergennes, just 7 miles away, offers all these amenities.  Settled in 1766 and named after a type of grape, Vergennes is Vermont’s smallest city by size AND population.  Like many nearby towns and villages, band concerts and farmer’s markets are held weekly on The Green during the summer months.  Americana at its best! 

 A Vergennes grape vine.

Monument located at The Green pays tribute to the men and women of Vergennes who served in the Armed Forces.

We were amazed at how friendly and courteous Vermont drivers are.   No one seems in a hurry, and most people abide by the State’s maximum speed limit of 50 mph.  Need to merge into traffic, come on in they say!  This really was helpful to us since we used our motorcycles as our main mode of transportation.  We could ride safely yet enjoy looking at the magnificent scenery.  I don’t think I heard a horn blare once during our 6 weeks in the Green Mountain State!

So you see all the perks of our volunteer gig with Vermont State Parks:  complimentary site (sadly, Button Bay is the only Park that can accommodate big rigs), complimentary fishing license, complimentary firewood, free access to historic sites and State Parks, guaranteed 2 days off/week, and lots of fun things to do in the area.  So what did my parents have to do in return?  Vermont asks for a 30 hour/week work commitment per site.  Each Park’s Manager/Ranger determines individual assignments.  Tasks assigned specifically to volunteers at Button Bay State Park consisted only of cleaning the bathrooms/showers several times a day and doing “rounds” to ensure we had happy and compliant campers.  But my parents are always ready, willing, and able to do more physical tasks.  So Dad also assisted with mowing the expanse of grass while Mom weedwhacked with the most portable, light-weight weed-whacker she has ever used!  They helped remove sumac along the bluff and lopped brush along the trails to ensure no encumbrances.  Since all Staff and volunteers were on duty Friday through Sunday, everyone had their days off between Monday and Thursday.  This usually left an overabundance of tasks and a limited number of Staff members to complete all tasks during weekdays.  Therefore, my parents volunteered to clean our Loop 1 bathrooms/showers each morning on their scheduled days off, and they also cleaned the Loop 2 bathrooms/showers when Pat/Jeanette were off.

Yours truly giving Dad a safety lesson in the proper use of mowing equipment!

An example of campers NOT complying with Park rules.


Vermont State Parks truly appreciate all their volunteers and recognize the contribution that volunteers make to the success of the Park system.  The Regional Managers organized a Day of Recognition, providing us all with a luncheon, promotional items, and words of gratitude.   But it got even better! Ranger/Manager Lauren and the Staff at Button Bay State Park awarded my parents “Park Employees of the Year”, which included certificates and specially designated drinking cups.  (It’s really this Rambling RV Rat’s superior “supervision” that should be recognized, but I’ll throw my parents’ a bone).  The Staff presented them with parting gifts, including yummy authentic Vermont maple syrup (which Mom turned into a tasty dessert for the Staff) and a hand-made camping wreath that we have hung proudly!

Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed the gig, loved the people with which we worked, and relished in the beautiful surroundings of the Green Mountain State.    The volunteer experience at Vermont’s Button Bay State Park earns one of this Rambling RV Rat’s coveted 5-cheese awards!

Between volunteering at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Basking Ridge, NJ, from May to mid-July and then volunteering at Vermont’s Button Bay State Park from mid-July to September, summer of 2019 has been entertaining, enlightening and rewarding!

We are heading back to Texas now to take delivery of our 2020 DRV Mobile Suites 40KSSB4!  Tell ya all about it in an upcoming post!

We would like to thank the following organizations for all the great service and support they offer to the RVing community:

Escapees RV Club


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RV Dreams

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1 comment:

  1. It’s been MANY years since we’ve been to that kale. Such. Pretty area and who doesn’t love Vermont?!! What generous perks they gave you too. The new rig sounds like a beauty. Can’t wait for pics!