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A Quarter Century of Camping Tradition

Hailing from Connecticut, the Gorman/Ballard Family began camping in Vermont State Parks in July of 1998 and have come back nearly every year since. Although for generations prior, the family had camped each year at a variety of parks Maine, New Hampshire, and upstate New York, once we discovered Vermont State Parks, we were hooked. It quickly became an annual trip to VT, starting at Molly Stark State Park and venturing out to explore several other parks over the next 25 years, including Woodford, Ascutney, Wilgus, Emerald Lake, Silver Lake, Quechee, Jamaica, Townshend, and Ricker Pond State Parks. With legendary Grandma Anna and Aunt Colleen overseeing the planning and execution of the trips over the years, the campers from year-to-year included several other aunts, uncles, cousins, and beloved family pets (even a few 2nd cousins on occasion!).


It was a proud moment in our family to reach age 4, because that was when, as one of Grandma Anna’s grandchildren, you could start going on the family camping trip. We were quickly taught the rules of camping, like how to pitch a tent, not to run near the campfire, and NEVER to eat Uncle Peter’s ice cream. Now, all of her grandchildren are all adults, and we still make time to camp together in the VT State Parks each year. This year, we will return to Quechee, where we camped for a few consecutive years back in the early 2010s but haven’t visited in nearly a decade.


On our first trip to Quechee State Park in 2010, consisting of just Aunt Colleen and her then 14-year-old nephew, Shea, we faced a heavy and unexpected thunder and hail storm, which flooded our site and led us to haphazardly throw our tent and tarp onto the back of her yellow convertible VW bug and set up at a new site (while it was still raining). In spite of being soaked and dirty, we managed to find some dry clothes to change into and still enjoyed card games under the tarp before bed, a typical pastime on our trips. The next day, the weather cleared up, we swam in the gorge and got ice cream at the stand across the street, and fell in love with the park. We would bring the whole family back for several years after, hoping to see a moose, and instead being awoken by sounds of Barred Owls mating during the middle of the night (at the time, not knowing they were owls and thinking it was something much larger out there, not sleeping a wink).


Trips to Woodford included leisurely walks at the trail around Adams Reservoir followed by swimming and kayaking in the lake until the sun went down, at which time we would light a fire, make many, many s’mores (competing to see who could make the best one for Grandma Anna - I’m not sure if any of us ever quite got it), and sharing stories from the weekend or laughing about mishaps from years prior. Rainy days meant lots of UNO, Yahtzee, and other card games at the campsite under the tarp. One year, on a particularly rainy day, then 8-year-old cousin Sean got so excited to win a game (after many consecutive losses) of UNO, that his celebratory dance led him to fall backwards and land right on his butt in the fire ring. Luckily for him, it wasn’t lit at the time.


In general, trips included a high volume of both laughter and tears, from lost teeth to lost games of UNO, 4-year-olds anxiously trying to get their melting marshmallows off of forks and burning the tips of their fingers, a swarm of young cousins gathering their strength and trying to push Aunt Colleen off of the dock at Silver Lake, rescuing each other from capsized canoes, racing to the top of Mount Ascutney, and gazing quietly in awe at the stars that just don’t shine that brightly a few states further south. Growing into adulthood, life has taken each of Grandma Anna’s 4 children and 9 grandchildren in many different directions with work, school, and building homes and families of our own. In spite of our busy schedules, each July, we leave behind our laptops and return to Vermont to re-capture the simple and carefree joys of running barefoot through the grass, splashing around in lakes, and sitting around the campfire that these special weekends in Vermont have brought us.


- Shea Gorman



View of the bridge in the Quechee Gorge
Quechee State Park, Photo by Vermont Parks Forever

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