Camping with the kids on Burton Island

It’s such a bummer when you make a big deal out of being all independent and capable, ignoring advice and reminders from your loving husband (even feeling insulted and annoyed by said loving reminders) and then blow it. Admitting to an “epic fail” (as the boys termed it) after haughtily rebuffing your husband’s well-meaning reminders is no small task.  Here’s the story.

The boys and I were invited on a last minute camping trip to Burton Island State Park on Lake Champlain with one of my best friends and her girls. Yes, that’s right, no husbands…just us gals and the kids. It’s a spectacular place accessed only by a walk-on ferry– no cars allowed– which adds to a sense of peaceful solitude. Once you’re on the island and the ferry stops running at dusk, there is no connection to the mainland. When you pull into the parking lot on the mainland, you’re met with a huge wheelbarrow to cart all of your things onto the ferry and then over to your campsite. The kids brought their bikes and backpacks, and the moms carted over all the food and gear. Well, almost all the gear.

burton island ferry

Apparently the poles to our tent are not stored with the tent, a teeny little detail that I did not discover until well after the ferry had stopped running. We had enough food to feed three families; pillows, stuffed animals, and dry clothes for ten kids; a gorgeous lakeside site; and a lovely little camp fire, but no tent poles. My friend had remembered all of her own essential equipment, so we set up her tent and decided to let the kids sleep inside while we enjoyed an evening under the stars.

At about 11:00 p.m., wide awake with my head crammed inside my sleeping bag to avoid the army of mosquitos feasting on any fraction of exposed skin, my friend admitted that she couldn’t stand it anymore and was getting into the tent with the kids. Two adults and four kids crammed into a small tent on a sweltering summer night doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep.  I had lots of time to remember my husband reminding me to get the tent poles out of the basement.

By morning, I was pretty much over camping, but here is where Burton Island really began to shine. First and most important, the Island store serves breakfast. Pancakes, bacon, egg sandwiches, french toast, and FRESH, HOT, COFFEE.  Hallelujah! Second, without cars, the island is really safe for the kids to explore on their own. They took off on their bikes, checking out the beach, nature center and playground, while my friend and I sipped our coffee and enjoyed the view. Back at the site, we all took a rejuvenating dip in the lake. By mid-morning, the sleepless night seemed a distant memory.

lake champlain

In fact, we all enjoyed Burton Island so much we swore we would make it an annual trip. That was last summer, and unless we snag a last minute cancellation this month, it doesn’t look like I’ll have a chance to redeem myself. The campsites book up really far in advance and require a two-night minimum during the high season, but if you call within two weeks of the dates you want to travel, you can sometimes find an odd single night that’s free, or take advantage of a cancellation. I’m holding out hope that we will find at least one night to get back before summer ends. This time, I’ll plan extra time for fishing and kayaking (they provide boats), and I’ll bring tent poles so that we don’t look like this on the ferry ride home:

burton island ferry

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