Pack up the gear and load up the boat, it’s time for some kayak camping! Ever since our overnight at Voyageurs National Park this past summer we’ve been wanting to get out for more kayak camping. We considered doing an overnight on Lake Superior during our 10 day trip through Canada, and then again while on the Maine coast, but in the end ditched both of those ideas in favor of a weekend at the scenic and remote Green River Reservoir in northern Vermont.
Not only is Green River the perfect place for both paddling and camping, but its location in our former home state meant that we got to invite some friends along! I’ve been taking camping trips with these two lovely ladies since high school.
Green River is a very popular spot for camping and paddling. In fact, it seems more popular now than ever before. I called to make a reservation a few months ago thinking that since we wanted to go after Labor Day it would be no problem. Nope. Our first choice of weekends was booked so we had to push it back another week. No big deal, but a good reminder that people still really like to camp even after Labor Day. You would think I would know that by now :)
With only 32 sites spread out around the big shore, even on a booked weekend it doesn’t feel crowded here — except at the very small launch point where groups with multiple boats all try to launch at the same time on a Friday afternoon. Somehow we got lucky and slipped into the water right before the masses arrived.
The small launch area requires that you park at the unloading area and walk your boats and gear to the water. Thankfully they provide rolling carts. Tim and I had no problem fitting all our gear into a single cart and easily packed it into our kayaks. We brought all the same gear as last time with the addition of a small soft-sided cooler that I stuffed into by big hatch along with an extra sleeping pad. Even with all that stuff I somehow still had a bit of room to spare in my kayak.
Of course, it helped that we were camping with a group and had planned ahead so we could divide up the food and cooking supplies. It also helped that we had a canoe with us for hauling the big items like a full-size cooler and a bunch of wood.
To make things even easier the canoe had an electric trolling motor. The motor normally goes on a small fishing boat, so some adjustments were needed to make it work. Eventually, all the kinks got worked out and we set off paddling and silently motoring across the calm water.
Our site was only about a mile from shore which made for a quick journey. I did a better job balancing the load in my kayak this time and felt like I could have paddled around for much longer, but with evening quickly approaching we needed to set up camp before dark. Here’s the landing area for our site. I apologize for the blurry photo, but it’s the only one I have and I wanted to show how little room there was for docking and unloading. You can also see how private the sites are. Without the tiny sign on the tree, you would never know that a campsite is back there.
We made quick work of unpacking and set-up. By the time the tents were up and sleeping bags unrolled a fire was blazing and a delicious meal of pre-made crockpot chicken and roasted veggies was warming over the fire. We stuffed ourselves and lounged around the fire for a few hours before setting out for a night-time paddle.
By some wonderful coincidence, our camping trip fell on the same night as the full moon. Not just any full moon, but the very special harvest moon that occurs around the fall equinox. As we slipped our boats into the water and paddled silently into the middle of the lake a curtain of mist rose up from the water and engulfed us. Stretched out in front of us was a trailing path of light reflecting off the giant moon hovering above. I tried to get a photo of this magical scene, but with just my phone camera and a deep shroud of fog surrounding us they all came out looking like I was underwater, so you’ll just have to use your imagination. We paddled around for a bit until the cool night air had us shivering and quickly heading for shore. Back at camp, we had one more round of s’mores before retiring into our tents.
In the morning I took some pictures of our site. It was tucked just far enough into the trees that we didn’t have a water view, but we did have plenty of space for all our tents and gear. In fact, despite a few large rocks and unlevel areas, we could have fit another tent or two. The sites here are categorized into how many people they can accommodate. Site nine is considered a six-person site. The five of us with three tents had plenty of room to spread out, and I think if six people showed up with six (smallish) tents, they could make it work.
Hey look! We got a new tent! After our single overnight with our too-short tent in Minnesota, we decided a better tent was in order. A bit of research, and two days later we had a new tent. Not sure how we bought things before Amazon Prime? The new tent is not much bigger than the old one, but its rectangular shape allows Tim to stretch out full length, making for a more comfortable night of sleep. My favorite feature is that the tent has two doors — one on either side — so we never have to climb over each other to get in or out. I also like how the rain fly stretches out and down past the doors leaving a convenient spot to store shoes or other items that you don’t want inside the tent but don’t want to be exposed to the elements.
The other upgrade we made was a second mattress for me. Remember last time how time I barely slept because my backpacking blow-up pad wasn’t working out? Well, I took the advice of so many of you who recommended a self-inflating pad. Except instead of just the one pad, I layered both of them for an ultra-cushy bed. It was still far from the best night of sleep I’ve ever had, but at least, this time, I was able to sleep in one position for more than an hour at a time.
We had grand plans to kayak around the reservoir on Saturday, but the wind had picked up overnight to the point where there were actual whitecaps out on the water. After watching a few groups of paddlers struggle against the wind we decided to instead spend the day cozied up to the fire in our kitchen/dining/living room. The wood that came over in the canoe was supplemented by a surprising amount of downed wood found around camp, and we had a blazing fire for our entire stay. By the way, see how Heather is tending to fire in the above photo. I can’t be sure, but she’s either stirring the delicious egg and veggie combo that we cleverly cooked in a tin pan over the fire, or she’s making a breakfast s’mores.
After spending the day sitting around the fire while consuming a big breakfast, many marshmallows, the leftovers from the night before, and some of the goodies we brought for lunch (camping makes you hungry) it was time to pack up and head out. The decision was made days before to turn our weekend trip into a single night adventure due to a big storm forecasted to arrive sometime on Saturday night. None of us were up for packing our gear while wet in the morning. We were also really not up for the possibility of paddling across the water in the morning while it was still raining. So a single night it was. Unfortunately, the clouds and wind came in way ahead of the storm, not only putting a damper on our daytime paddling adventure but also turning our paddle back to the parking lot into a serious struggle against the wind.
None of my pictures even begin to show how windy it was. We made our way across the open water getting jostled around and splashed the whole way. By the time we reached the calmer waters of a narrow inlet between islands we were all soaked.
The launch area was as busy as ever with tons of people coming and going. Somehow we managed to find a spot to land and hauled all our gear and boats back up to the parking area. From here the next logical stop was the local brewery not far from the reservoir. Lost Nation Brewing is a somewhat new establishment with a really cool outdoor kitchen and dining area.
After spending most of the day eating, no one was terribly hungry, but we ordered some food anyway along with a few tasting flights. All around a good end to a great weekend. Let’s do it again!