RUTLAND -- Just in time for the long holiday weekend, camp sites on the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) will open next Friday, May 23. In the past several weeks U.S. Forest Service employees and partners have been working to prepare the sites and other camping facilities.
Leaves are emerging, birds are migrating and wildflowers are now blooming on the forest. While campers may find some wet spots, forest roads and trails are in very good shape. Officials encourage visitors to consider bringing head nets or an effective insect repellant to combat the ever growing black fly and mosquito populations. The GMNF expects visitation from Vermonters and people from in and around New England to be up this season due in part to high fuel costs. The forest offers several recreational opportunities including; picnicking, camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, boating and canoeing.
The U.S Forest Service works hard to provide Vermonters and visitors with a quality and memorable experience on National Forest system lands. Recreation features include approximately: 100,000 acres of congressionally-designated Wilderness; two National Recreation Areas; 900 miles of trails including the Appalachian / Long Trail; 400 miles of snowmobile trails; six cross-country areas and three downhill ski areas; primitive camping with more than 100 camping sites and nine picnicking areas.
Some things to keep in mind when planning your camping trip:
- All camping on the GMNF is on a first come, first serve basis -- no reservations are required
- There is a maximum stay of 14 days in a 30-day period
- Please do not transport firewood into Vermont from out of state
- Visitors can camp anywhere on the forest unless the area is posted closed to camping
- Do not cut any vegetation and camp at existing sites
- Please leave the campsites clean by using the Leave No Trace Principles -- "carry out what you carry in."
Whether you're roughing it in a tent or planning a family outing on the National Forest, there are many ways to make sure your experience is fun and safe. Consider the following safety tips:
- Pack a first aid kit. Your kit can prove invaluable if you or a member of your group suffers a cut, bee sting or allergic reaction. Pack antiseptics for cuts and scrapes, tweezers, insect repellent, bug spray, pain relievers, and sunscreen.
- Bring emergency supplies. In addition to a first aid kit, this includes: a map, compass, flashlight, knife, waterproof fire starter, personal shelter, whistle, warm clothing, high energy food, water, and insect protection.
- Before you leave, find out the weather report. When you arrive at the site, watch the skies for changes and carry a compact weather radio. In inclement weather, find shelter until the worse passes.
- Stay dry -- wet clothes contribute to heat loss. Also, keep sleeping bags and important gear, dry at all times.
- Arrive early. Plan your trip so that you arrive at your actual campsite with enough daylight to check over the entire site and to set-up camp.
- Check for potential hazards. Be sure to check the site thoroughly for glass, sharp objects, branches, poison ivy, bees, and hazardous terrain.
- Avoid areas of natural hazards. Check the contour of the land and look for potential trouble due to rain. Areas that could flood or become extremely muddy can pose a problem.
- Inspect the site. Look for a level site with enough room to spread out all your gear. Also, a site that has trees or shrubs on the side of prevailing winds will help block strong, unexpected gusts.
- Pay attention to local regulations, particularly concerning campfires.
- Build fires in a safe area. Your open fires and fuel-burning appliances must be far enough away from the tent to prevent ignition from sparks, flames, and heat. Never use a flame or any other heating device inside a tent. Use a flashlight or battery-powered light instead.
- Make sure your fires are always attended. Be sure you have an area for a fire that cannot spread laterally or vertically -- a grill or stone surface is ideal. When putting the fire out, drown it with water, making sure all embers, coals and sticks are wet. Embers buried deep within the pile have a tendency to reignite later.
- Watch out for bugs. Hornets, bees, wasps, and yellow jackets are a problem at many campsites. Avoid attracting stinging insects by wearing light-colored clothing and avoiding perfumes or colognes. Should such an insect approach, do not wave wildly and swat blindly -- instead use a gentle pushing or brushing motion to deter them. Perform tick checks regularly.
- Beware when encountering wildlife. To ward off bears, keep your campsite clean, and do not leave food, garbage, coolers, cooking equipment or utensils out in the open. Remember that bears can potentially be dangerous and unpredictable -- never feed or approach a bear. Use a flashlight at night -- many animals feed at night and the use of a flashlight may warn them away.
- Beware of poisonous plants. Familiarize yourself with any dangerous plants that are common to the area. If you come into contact with a poisonous plant, immediately rinse the affected area with water and apply a soothing lotion such as calamine to the affected area.
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