Archive for the ‘Nature Walks’ Category

Otter Creek Gorge Preserve Hike

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Having faced two cancelled hikes to Otter Creek Gorge Preserve we were wondering if this particular hike would happen at all for Sharon and her group of dedicated hikers. Otter Creek Gorge Preserve Trail is part of the Trail Around Middlebury (TAM), a 17-mile loop around the Town of Middlebury in Vermont. Sharon details the hike for us:

The weather finally cooperated and we made it to New Haven for a hike.  But once there, on a whim, we decided to do a different loop.  Same starting place but we traveled through Otter Creek Gorge Preserve instead of Wright Park.

Otter Creek Gorge Preserve

Otter Creek Gorge Preserve

We started out by crossing two suspension bridges over Otter Creek and its waterfall at Belden Falls dam.  Then we meandered through shady woods and past moss-covered ledges with Otter Creek often in sight.  At one point we scrambled down an embankment to a ledgy “beach” (slab instead of sand formed the shoreline).  This was just downstream from where the water rushed through the gorge and then spilled into a wider cove area.

Queen Anne's Lace

Queen Anne's Lace

Wild Mint

Wild Mint

Back on the trail, we continued through woods, took a detour on an un-mapped trail, then retraced our steps when that path ended.  We eventually came out to a road that we walked on for about a quarter-mile, and then climbed into a cow field via a double-sided ladder over a fence.  After about 5 minutes, we climbed back out of the field via another ladder and entered onto a woods trail with occasional tree identification signs posted along the way.

 Soon we were back at the waterfall, recrossing the bridges, and making our way back to the parking lot for a total of about 4 miles.  It was another evening with great scenery and great company.

Vibrant Thistle

Vibrant Thistle

Hiking in the Hinesburg Town Forest

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Last week Sharon & her fellow hikers had a fun adventure, covering 6 miles, in the Hinesburg Town Forest.  Let’s see what she has to say about one of the best trail systems in Vermont.

We started out on a wide trail, climbing steadily for about 3/4 of a mile.  Then we veered onto a narrow woods path that led us to the top of an unnamed hill of about 1,500 feet elevation.  We could see hints of views of the local hills in between the trees and surmised that this would be a great snowshoe hike when the absence of leaves would better reveal the vistas.  The footpath continued along the ridge for quite a while before gently winding its way downhill.

 

Ferns on the Ridge of Passing the Horizon

Ferns on the Ridge of Passing the Horizon

There were a ton of switchbacks on the trail and it was amusing to see the paths almost touching one another in places as the route curved back on itself again and again.  The woods were pretty open with an understory of ferns.  Most of the way, we had the trails all to ourselves and deep into the hike a bicyclist came upon us (most of the trails were made by a bike club).

Jewelweed Spotted Touch Me Not Flower

Jewelweed Spotted Touch Me Not Flower

The final leg was done mostly in the dark and we opted to rely on our night vision rather than use a flashlight.  A barred owl serenaded us while we rambled along.  Eventually another biclyclist came up behind us, this one with a headlight on his mountain bike.  He made sure we were okay and assured us we were almost back to the parking lot.  And, about a dozen switchbacks later, at 8:45pm, we reached our vehicles.  Hooray to my hardy trailmates for easily tackling the “mountain” as well as taking the nighttime hiking in stride.

East Woods & Beyond

Friday, July 23rd, 2010
East Woods - Cornfield

East Woods - Cornfield

Hiking Down the Trails

Hiking Down the Trails

Sharon gives us yet another trail adventure this week. It’s hard to imagine these vivid pictures are in an area backed by busy street traffic. Vermont is certainly living up to its “Green Mountain” name this month. So much green – so gorgeous! Here’s what Sharon writes for us….

We had a refreshing ramble through woods on both sides of Swift Street, starting from the East Woods parking area.  Although these areas are bounded by busy roads, the woods had a peaceful, remote feeling to them and we had the trails to ourselves.  We first did trails off of the bike paths and as we were heading over to East Woods, a deer bounded across the field we had just edged and then dashed across the road into the woods on the other side.  Our view was close-up but fleeting as the beautiful deer quickly clattered across the pavement. 

Chicory

Chicory

We heard a barking dog in the distance who followed a couple minutes later, nearly getting run over in the process.  After all that excitement, we dipped back into cool woods and enjoyed walking along Potash Brook which is a lot prettier than what my photos were able to show. Another great evening on the trails with good company!

Pretty Potash Brook

Pretty Potash Brook

On Colchester Pond

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Another week, another trail walk. This week my fellow co-workers tackled trekking around Colchester Pond. Being the only Floridian of the bunch, I had to laugh at all the humidity talk that ensued in Sharon’s description. But then again, they laugh at me during my visits when its 60 degrees outside and I have my winter coat on. Here’s what Sharon writes…

Pretty Colchester Pond was last week’s destination. Four dedicated (foolhardy?)walkers braved the heat, humidity, and air-quality warnings to take a stroll around the pond. Pulling into the parking lot gave us a great bird’s-eye view of the large pond, and I thought, “Wow, we’re going to walk around that? That looks longer than the advertised 2.5-3.0 miles!”

Colchester Pond with view of golden grass

Colchester Pond with view of golden grass

Several large birds quickly caught our attention and we decided to travel counterclockwise in order to get closer to the shoreline where the birds were hanging out. We saw a heron, a cormorant, and an osprey. The osprey made a spectacular dive into the water in search of fish (or maybe he was just hot). We walked on double-planked boardwalks close to the shoreline and then rambled through fields on mowed paths at the south end of the pond. Then we entered onto a wide woods path that we followed for the remainder of the route. We tackled several hills and saw a few toads.

Reflections: The pond & the bridge

Reflections: The pond & the bridge

 

A short spur path led to an outlook at the northern end of the pond. There were wooden slats nailed to a slanting tree trunk and a rope for swinging out into the water. Back on the main trail, we hit a couple more outlooks to the water and saw a couple canoeists.

Purple Flowering Raspberry

Purple Flowering Raspberry

 

We walked past a large field and then were soon heading up a final hill back to the parking lot, feeling either lighter (from the exercise) or heavier (from the sweat and humidity) from our efforts. Based on it taking 2 hours to circumnavigate the pond, as well as info from my mapping software, I’d say we hiked nearly 4 miles.

Red Berries

Red Berries

Checking Out Colchester Causeway

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Colchester Causeway provided a great outing for six of our employee/dedicated walkers last week.  Our narrator/walk coordinator, Sharon gives a wonderful recap of their experience.  Read on! 

The causeway juts 2.5 miles out into Lake Champlain, allowing for ample views of the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains, and several islands.  It was hazy yet we could still see the outlines of the many surrounding peaks.  There were fishing boats, sailboats, and canoes that also captured our interest.

Colchester Causeway Trail in Vermont
Colchester Causeway Trail in Vermont

We started at the closest parking lot on the Island Line Rail Trail and reached the causeway proper in just under a half-mile.  I was surprised to see a few trees lining the causeway at the beginning – I had been expecting a barren expanse of stone.  The trees quickly became scarcer and the views were expansive, but the trail was by no means barren.

 Wildflowers lined the gravel footway, as did shrubs and occasional trees.  Big blocks of marble could be seen alongside the causeway.  It was a fairly popular place for a Tuesday evening with walkers, joggers, and bicyclists.  People often climbed down amongst the blocks and vegetation to perches closer to the water and out of sight of the trail.

 The variety of wildflowers was impressive and I learned several species that I hadn’t seen before, including those with such interesting names as umbrellawort (wild four-o-clock) and viper’s bugloss.  There was also bedstraw (tiny, but abundant white four-petaled flowers), daisies, yellow sweet clover, crown vetch, cow vetch, wild roses, and many more.

 

Wildflowers: Crown Vetch
Wildflowers: Crown Vetch

Every step of the way was delightful with perfect temperatures and pleasant breezes.  For those of you that have walked here before and wondered if the causeway ever ends, we can attest, that yes it really does finally end.  Although, even as we approached, it looked like the trail kept going since the water cut was fairly small and the trail picked right up on the other side.  There was a bench at the end, a dock on both sides of the cut for the bike ferry, and a sailboat traveling through the opening.

 The return walk was also enjoyable as the setting sun cast the mountains and sky in pretty colors.  This would be a neat place to walk on a clear night with only starlight illuminating the landscape.

 

View of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks

View of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks