Waterhouse Campground, Salisbury, VT

Years and years ago, either while Jack was still working, or just when he’d retired, we’d taken off for a special get-away in Middlebury, Vermont. We stayed at the posh and historic Middlebury Inn and rode our bikes around the backroads, which at the time were little used. We also visited a cheese-making facility and drove around the countryside admiring the quaint, New England flavor of the rock walls, covered bridges, stone houses, and rolling, verdant hills.

At the time, I was still riding horses, and we visited a high-end Morgan Horse Farm that was open to the public, and we bought a raffle ticket to win a Morgan horse. Didn’t win, of course, but it was a spectacular facility with gorgeous horses and a beautiful statue out front, on a stately lawn surrounded by training rings and paddocks.

Hoping to recapture some of that enchantment, late on July 6, we arrived at a private campground, marina, and tavern on the shores of Lake Dunmore between Salisbury and Middlebury. The actual campground (called Waterhouse) is across the marginally busy road from the marina, tavern, and beach—the signage was terrible for newcomers trying to figure out where to enter, and with whom to register. Across Lake Dunmore is Moosalamoo Mountain, and the prospect of the Lake and Mountain is very pretty.

Our site, #23 (with electric and water) was tucked down in a deep, sloping, shady spot next to the Leicester River (feeding Lake Dunmore) with a nice little beach-like access point. Overall (and amongst the permanent RV sites, which made up the majority of the campground’s métier) it was among the best possible site available to transient campers.

It was, however, nearly impossible to get Roomba into the site from the direction we approached. So with Jack guiding me, I pulled a 36-point about-face and when we came in from the opposite direction, were able to get the angle correct to back in without hitting any trees or the cars of the permanent RV across from us. We even managed to angle the awning to the water.

It had been a lovely but long drive to get there, along backroads all the way—during which we decided the roads were to narrow and twisty (and busy) for any serious consideration of riding our bikes out and about. And, we’d been able to discover zero rail-trails or other bicycle-friendly opportunities to which we could port our bikes. So we didn’t even take them off the rack during our stay.

Because we could find no “host” site amongst the campers, and since no one came by to register us or check-in, we walked across the road to the beach/marina/tavern, which was absolutely teeming with people, none of whom was wearing a mask. We tried to find the “office” but the “store” was locked and the doorway adjacent said it was not an access point to the tavern (even though the sign above the door said it was).

So, masked like the lone strangers, we wandered through a gate and around the deck (with several groups of people having drinks and a great good time at tables nowhere near 6 ft. apart) we found what looked like a room with glass windows where you rented water-fun equipment (oars, life jackets, volleyballs, etc.) 

That turned out to be the place to register, and the guy behind the glass also was un-masked. The only 2 masks we saw amongst all the various water-babies were: one on the waitress who emerged from the tavern to call her colleague, outside chatting with friends, whose mask (#2) was down around her neck.

Anyway, we secured our site and got the heck outta there. Asked for a map of the campsites, and got a teensy, elderly, unfocused reproduction of a map we could hardly read (and which did not match the online, color version, it was so old). The only time Jack returned was when we needed ice—expensive little five-pound sacks that were watery upon acquisition.

On July 7, we hopped into the car, thinking to go to the pretty burgh of Middlebury and wander about, finding a cafe or brewery for lunch, recalling our former visit. We also hoped to find a good, old-fashioned butcher shop to find excellent grillables. The good points of our day:

  • $1.99 fuel
  • Saw a marsh hawk
  • Drove around Button Bay State Park (need to go there one day—it had been closed when we’d tried to book a site)
  • A lovely covered bridge
  • Some fun, New-Englandy painted shutters on houses

The frustrating bits:

  • Most of Middlebury was under construction
  • Many country roads were closed for bridge work
  • Library: Closed (but we discovered robust wifi for a fee at the campground)
  • Butcher: Closed
  • Morgan Horse Farm: Closed
  • Otter Creek Brewery: Closed

It was a disappointing day abroad. But we laughed about our effort to “recapture” the past when 20+ years had passed and the world was in a pandemic. What were we thinking?

They do have an excellent Hannaford’s grocery store on the edge of Middlebury, where we found a beautiful piece of wild-caught salmon, which Jack grilled to perfection on our final night in camp.

Salmon0871Web

We decided our site was the best thing about Waterhouse. Overall, the staff were lackadaisical (there was trash all over our site upon arrival, with half-burnt plastic and cardboard in the fire pit—all of which I cleaned up during our stay) the toilets were old and rather unkempt, there was no dump station at all, no one came by to speak with us or check whether we needed anything, and it was obvious the permanent residents were more important to them ($$) than we transients. In the shower house (also unkempt) many signs demanded that one should use the shower curtain to keep water off the floor, yet the shower curtain in my stall was hanging from just two hooks and was otherwise shredded and impossible to use properly because it was too short. In sum, the staff took no pride in the property, probably because they didn’t have to do so.

Nor did the guests. The seasonal and permanent site users were quite clique-ish, gathering for corn hole games and cocktails in the evenings (past quiet hours) swimming and boating in the day, and speeding around the campground in golf carts, packed in like brown, wrinkly sardines (without masks). A few even dissed us for using masks everywhere we went.

Our second full day at Waterhouse was a stay-in and relax day. I worked on the blog upload from our stay at Rbt. Moses (June 29 – July 5, uploaded in two parts) and we sat in our chairs positioned in the water’s edge, and dangled our feet in the shallows, watching the neighbors play in the water. 

The forecast was for rain, and when it came, it really poured. But we were snug and dry (even though it was hot) and ran the air conditioning to dry things off.

RainOnRiver0870Web

So we won’t go back there and won’t recommend it to any of our friends. Next stop: Green Lakes State Park, New York.

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