It’s mud season in Vermont. Not a favorite time of year for most of us locals. The grass is still brown, the sky is grey, and outdoor pursuits are often curtailed by an incredible array of black muck that can easily capture hiking boots and vehicles and hold them ransom for days on end. This winter, however, was one of the coldest and longest many people can remember, and the approach of mud season felt more like a cause for celebration than ever before. We decided to observe to occasion with a little trip to Merck Forest and Farmland Center in Rupert, Vermont. Our destination was Ridge Cabin, a secluded little getaway high on a ridge with beautiful winter views of both the sunrise and sunset.
It’s certainly not too cold to camp in April, but we wanted the convenience of four walls and a woodstove to keep us toasty and dry out our clothes (all that mud). So, we packed up our gear that’s been sitting idle all winter and backpacked into the woods. 4 adults, 4 teenagers, and a German shepherd puppy.
The relatively easy 2-mile hike in was a bit of a sloshy mess. Everyone’s feet were pretty well soaked, and the puppy, well he was darn near unrecognizable. The cabin, however was delightful. Nice and tight with a good supply of cord wood for the woodstove, and lots of downed wood for the outdoor cook fire. We set to making the place our own for the extended weekend, and proceeded to camp luxuriously in the Vermont mountains for one of the best mud season adventures we’ve yet to experience.
The Lowdown on Cabin Camping at Merck Forest
There are seven cabins dispersed throughout Merck’s 3,000 acres of forests and fields in Rupert, Vermont. Each one is unique in style and size, and all offer the excitement of back-country camping, with the convenience of four solid walls. We have looked for other cabin camping opportunities in New England, and this is it my friends — the best of the best. These cabins are perfect for romantic getaways, family vacations, or rollicking adventures with friends.
You will be hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing from ½ mile to 2 ½ miles to your reserved retreat. As you leave the visitor center, you will pass through Merck’s working farm. In March and April, you’ll have the pleasure of visiting the baby animals. There’s nothing cuter than newborn lambs kicking up their heels on a chilly spring day, and for kids, this may just be the highlight of the trip.
Merck also makes hundreds of gallons of maple syrup each year. If you’re a fan of Vermont’s thick, delicious specialty, be sure to schedule your trip in late March to coincide with their annual maple celebration. The absolute best thing about mud season is that it goes hand-in-hand with maple sugaring!
Ready to plan your cabin-camping adventure? Here are a few more tips to make your back-country vacation at Merck Forest extra special.
- Firewood is provided in the winter to keep the woodstove cranking through the coldest temperatures. For an extra cozy experience, or really cold nights, book one of the three cabins that have sleeping lofts. That rising warmth will drive all thoughts of winter out of your head.
- Water is not readily available at all of the cabins. In fact, we had to do quite a bit of hiking to get cooking water up to Ridge Cabin. In the winter, you can melt snow. In the spring, summer, and fall, either pack in all of your water, or rent a cabin near a stream.
- Bring toilet paper! Each cabin has a lovely little outhouse nearby. Sometimes there’s toilet paper too. Sometimes there’s not.
- Porcupines love, love, love the salt on your boots and in your pee. Don’t leave your clothes or shoes outside, and don’t pee near the cabin.
- You have to reserve your cabin for at least two nights. If you want your pick of cabins, reserving a month out should do the trick.
- Bring your camera!
Seriously, I can’t recommend this place enough. If you are in our near southern Vermont, Merck Forest and Farmland Center is a beautiful place to visit and learn about ecologically sustainable farming and forest management. It’s also an amazing place to get primitive and forget about the rigors of modern life. For a weekend, or just a few hours, put Merck Forest on your list.