Day 10 - A day at Button Bay

Trip Start Jun 30, 2012
Trip End Jul 15, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Vermont
Monday, July 9, 2012

Day 10 
Around 4:30 am I woke up to a bunch of birds in the bushes behind our site that sounded exactly like a very talkative R2D2 unit. I don’t know what kind of birds they were but they were loud and I am sure that we don’t have anything that sounds the same in Georgia. I was pretty annoyed, but did get back to sleep eventually. Will said he didn’t hear them. When we finally rolled out of the camper I tried to make the just add water pancakes. The batter looked great, but when I poured it into the tiny pan I knew that it wasn’t going to work. Just for perspective, it has taken me about 4 years at home to figure out how to make pancakes successfully with a mix. No lie - metal spatula vs. plastic spatula, vegetable oil vs. butter vs. no greasing, med high vs. high all severely confused me for years. Anyway, I think the heat was too high on Chanel’s burners, so the kids ate burned batter balls that were liquid in the center. But they did eat them with VT maple syrup! After breakfast we went back to the general store and bought picnic fixin’s. Returning to park we stopped at the ranger station and rented a canoe for 4 hours for $20. A bargain in my opinion. They gave us the vests and paddles. The boats just stay pulled up on the shore at the bottom of those wooden stairs. We made lunches, stuck them in dry bags and put our suits on, then shoved off from shore after repeated warnings to the kids to stay in the middle of the canoe. The lake was very shallow from where we pushed off, so that Will and I had to walk the canoe out like 30 feet or so before getting in. The mud was gooey and deep and smelled a little gross, which in my mind I tried to attribute to natural decaying organic matter instead of where my mind wanted to take it - to past camper decaying organic matter. After the grown-ups hopped in with rinsed feet we started paddling out into open water. When we stopped to rent the boat I asked the ranger to where we should paddle for our picnic. There are two islands in Button Bay and she recommended Button Island, the one farthest away from the boats, saying that she thought she remembered hearing that there was more room to picnic. I also asked her about the lamprey eel problem in Lake Champlain. I read about it briefly online and was a little freaked out. Lampreys are eels that I thought only lived in saltwater and have a big sucking mouth that latches onto the sides of fish, cuts them open and sucks their blood. Google them and you will be disgusted too. I caught my breath at my computer in Atlanta when I read there was a “lamprey problem” in the lake. I think the Lamprey is where Stephen Spielberg got the idea for that big monster hidden beneath the sand in The Empire Strikes Back. The one that Han Solo almost walks the plank into from Jabba the Hut’s ship? I think I initially read about them in a Ranger Rick, if that gives you an idea of how long they have haunted my thoughts. Well, the ranger said she had never heard of them latching onto people and also that she thought they were not even present in this part of the lake. That, and the fact that we probably were not going to go swimming (IF the kids would stay still AND on the center line in the canoe), helped me calm down about the invasive eel issue and tone down the mental pictures of the four of us screaming and running from the lake with eels attached and flying behind us like streamers off of bicycle handles. Enough about the eels. We paddled a pretty fair distance to Button Island. The first thing we noticed as we drew nearer was a substantial mortared stone wall built around the perimeter of the island. We had our picnic on the rocky shore sitting on towels and looking alternately out at the lake and back at a small stone staircase leading up to the woodsy island. It was a perfect picnic. We all ate and then laid down on the towels in the shade of the overhanging tree limbs and closed our eyes, letting the wind blow over us. I hoped that William would not want to go exploring up the stairs (This is a big admission on my part. I would like for everyone around me to think that I have no fear when it comes to exploring, but I do. I always love it after I finally get up the courage to start. But I have a chronic case of the what-ifs, and I’ve read way too many Stephen King books to stay logical when thinking about what may happen.) He asked me if we could go and I reluctantly said yes, then inched up the stairs and down a well-worn path thwacking a stick on the ground, advising the kids not to let their bodies touch the underbrush, scoping for weird things in the bushes all while verbally encouraging them to love nature and exploring, etc. We hadn’t hiked for more than 40 feet or so when the woods opened up into a flat clearing filled with low wispy grass. The path led through the grass about 30 more feet to a stone fire pit and 30 feet beyond that was the southern tip of the island that looked out over the lake. It was gorgeous and all at once all of the apprehension vanished from my mind. We spent the next 30 minutes or so hiking all around the island where we found many stone and cement structures. There were also big patches of ornamental grasses and flowers (like day lilies) that made us think someone had once lived there. We found foundation supports, walls, stairs, and a tiled floor with “Button Island 1916” engraved in a stone middle piece. It was some of the best exploring I have ever done and certainly the best I’ve ever done with my family. We loaded ourselves back into the canoe and paddled a short distance to the tip of the Button Bay park penninsula (called Button Point). We knew there is a Nature Center there but hadn’t been yet. We pulled the canoe up onto the rocks on the edge of the water and hiked up a beautiful trail in the forest to an old log cabin that is the park’s nature center. The naturalist met us and showed us to an old photo album of Button Island and then took our kids out onto the porch to play animal bingo. Will and I pored over old photos of the house whose ruins we had just explored. Samuel Putnam Avery, an art dealer from NYC, was the first in America to import art masterpieces from Europe. He had friends in high places and was able to finagle the purchase of Button Island in the 1880's. He built a two story victorian house with a huge front porch on the island along with a cement landing for boats of supplies or people. He had no children and left the house, island and Button point (where the nature center is) to his two nieces. The last niece to survive sold the property and island back to the state when she was over 100 years old. For more info and a sketched map of the area I'm talking about:  
The state burned the house because it was in such disrepair and uses the cabin on Button point as the nature center/living quarters for the seasonal naturalist. We also learned that Button Bay State park was the site of a huge Girl Scout gathering in 1962 called the Girl Scout Senior Roundup. Over 9,000 girls scouts attended and each of the 50 states was represented. The aerial picture of all of the tents was incredible. It was all so fascinating and reminded me of the historical importance of our state parks. Chanel is definitely taking some long weekend trips to some southern state parks this coming year. After leaving the nature center we hiked along the coast of the lake for a bit, got back in the canoe and returned to the campsite. The kids really wanted to go back to the pool, but I learned when returning the boating gear that someone didn’t make it to the bathroom in time and the pool was shut down. (Now THAT will keep the Huffs away from a pool.) I felt like a window of adult opportunity had opened and promptly loaded all into the car to drive 20 minutes away to the Charlotte Village Winery. Will and I had a wonderful wine tasting and the kids ran around in the blueberry fields. They also ate Brie and crackers and drank water out of wine glasses. We were the only people there and had the best time. See pics. We returned back to camp and cooked hot dogs over the fire and hit the hay. I wish I could post pictures of our canoe adventure but we didn’t take the camera or any phones. Oh, also, Button Bay was the first campsite we came across that had coin operated showers. Very interesting. In the tiled wall next to the shower head there was a slide in metal slot, like a washing machine, and 25 cents bought you 2 and 1/2 minutes. I think we will start categorizing showers in terms of quarters. Like, “Hurry up! Make it a quarter shower or we are going to be late! Who cares if you stink!” or “Wow, you smell good. Must have been a two buck shower.” :)
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