Quimby Country | Vermont’s Original Family Sporting Camp

Since 1893 going off the grid has been a specialty at Quimby Country, a rustic family-friendly Northeast Kingdom resort.

By Ian Aldrich

Aug 17 2018


Quimby’s land includes more than a thousand acres of pristine Northeast Kingdom wilderness and two lakes.

Photo Credit : Courtesy Quimby Country

It was out in the middle of Big Averill Lake, a clear, cold body of water located in the eastern tip of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, where my 7-year-old son, Calvin, began lamenting our imminent departure. We’d whiled away the past five days amid some exquisite summertime weather at Quimby Country Lodge and Cottages, a family resort in the tiny town of Averill (pop. 24). We’d hiked, paddled, biked, played tennis, battled at ping-pong, relaxed by the campfire, and even managed to win at bingo.

Quimby Country includes more than 1,000 acres of pristine Northeast Kingdom wilderness.
Photo Credit : Courtesy Quimby Country

Calvin had also made friends with a few other boys his age, and together they’d roamed the property with a kind of freedom that seemed lifted from an idealized version of summer. They’d hunted for crayfish, gorged on s’mores, navigated shoreline rocks under an evening sky, and slept out under the stars. There had been soccer games, archery lessons, and bike races.

“I wish we didn’t have to leave,” Calvin said, dipping a hand into the water.

I wasn’t sure how to respond because, frankly, I didn’t want to either.

Kids play on the rocks at sundown on Big Averill Lake.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich

Even by Northeast Kingdom standards, Quimby is remote. Averill, after all, is not a place you stumble upon. Up and up you go, past more familiar towns like St. Johnsbury and Burke, practically scraping the Canadian border, before you arrive. Quimby land includes more than 1,000 acres and two lakes. It practically is Averill.

In addition to all those woods and waters, Quimby offers a main lodge, a clubhouse, and 19 lakefront cottages. Many of the cottages have full kitchens, and all have full baths and woodstoves. Guests gather in the lodge for three big meals a day and a lot of porch-time reading in between. There’s a weekly cocktail party and a midweek tennis tournament, which is fittingly dubbed Quimbledon. Staffers serve the meals; cleaning crews turn over the cottages each morning. Everything’s rustic but not uncomfortable — and at times it can even feel a little sophisticated.

Each of the camp’s 19 cottage is named after a particular fly tie. This was ours, Red Ibis.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
The cottages are rustic but offer plenty of comfort.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich

The story of Quimby Country begins in 1893, when Charles Quimby, a local hardware store owner, took on half-ownership of the camp in lieu of payment for the material used to build it. Cold Spring Camps, as it was then known, catered almost exclusively to fishermen, attracting anglers from around New England. The earliest guests slept in platform tents; cottages and a series of boardwalks connecting them were added later.

Quimby bought out his partner in 1904. Upon his passing in 1919, his 29-year-old daughter, Hortense, inherited the property. For nearly half a century, Hortense was the face of Quimby as she pioneered a new kind of vacation spot, one for a growing class of Americans who wanted something more from their leisure time. Under her watchful eye, Quimby grew from a tiny fishing operation into one of the first family-style resorts in the Northeast. For weary city folks who wanted a shot of true Vermont, there was no better destination than Quimby Country.

Evidence of Hortense’s success and the loyalty she inspired in generations of families can be seen in what came next. In 1965, when failing health prevented her from managing the camp any longer, she sold the retreat to a group of longtime guests. Over the next 50 years, these owners remained true to Hortense’s original vision even as they expanded upon it.

In early 2017, Quimby came under new ownership, as Gene Devlin and his wife, Lilly — two Vermonters experienced in running wilderness and school programs — took over the camp.

In an age of hyperconnectivity, the Devlins, who are in their mid-40s and the parents of three teenage boys, are attempting something ambitious. Beyond just breathing new life into a property that had started to tire, the Devlins want to build something that’s for but not of the 21st century. Families have always come to Quimby to unplug, but today the opportunity to do so is especially potent.

Gene and Lilly Devlin, far right, toast guests at Quimby’s regular Sunday-night cocktail party.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich

Cell service is virtually nonexistent at Quimby, and the Devlins make Wi-Fi available for only brief stretches in the mornings and evenings. The result is a vacation spot that allows for more serendipity. Oh sure, there are structured activities — canoe trips on the Connecticut River, hikes up nearby Brousseau Mountain, archery lessons and baking classes — but there are also wide-open stretches of the day to explore, to play.

During our time at Quimby, Calvin and his buddies organized their own tennis matches, bike races, and soccer games. They built a fort. They kayaked. They swam. Just a little bit of time away from screens created a whole lot of distance. Not once did my son ask if he could watch something.

“We want this to be a place where families can take a real vacation together,” Gene Devlin told me, “where they can truly spend time with another in a way they might struggle to in their regular lives.”

They are well on their way. For more information, go to the Quimby Country website.

Below are more photos from our time at Quimby Country.

Scenes from Quimby Country

A chalkboard on the porch of the main lodge shows new guests where they’ll be bunking for the week.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
Archery lessons are a part of the children’s programming.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
As a special treat, the Devlins set up a screen one night so the kids (and some adults) could watch a Harry Potter movie. Three giant bowls of popcorn accompanied the event.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
Counselors and kids pose for a group shot before heading down to Big Averill Lake, where they would camp out for the night.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
Quimby offers a number of diversions for adults, too, like this landscape painting class.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
On our first night, Lilly Devlin led the kids and one adult (OK, it was me) in rounds of bingo.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
Quimby’s main lodge.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
Inside the lodge are photo albums from nearly every year since the camp opened in 1893.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
The earliest photos document Quimby’s origins as a fishermen’s lodge and getaway.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
Even as the Devlins institute gentle changes to Quimby Country, many traditions remain — like the ringing of the bell to announce meals or activity time.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
On one of our first days at the camp, a crew of us hiked to the top of Brousseau Mountain, which offers some of the best views in the Northeast Kingdom.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich
Dogs are welcome at Quimby (the Devlins own three). Here, a patient pooch watches his owners paddle around Forest Lake.
Photo Credit : Ian Aldrich

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