Friday, October 31, 2014

The Golden Arm

By: The Lester Family

Once upon a time there was a very, very rich man. He lived in a great old castle atop of the misty mountain.

He was so rich that people would travel the winding road that led up to his house to ask for favors and donations of money.

Children would venture to his door, trying to peddle their girl scout cookies, candy bars and magazine subscriptions for school. But even more often, parents would arrive with their daughters in tow...knowing this rich man was not married, they hoped that he would fall helplessly in love with their daughter.

He turned the children away, despite all the wonderful goodies they had to offer. Likewise, he turned all of the fair women away...many of which were young and beautiful. He turned them all away because he believed that no-one was really interested in him...that they were only really interested in his money & his castle on the hill.

One day, a woman arrived at his door. She was not looking for money or for love. She simply needed directions. He was suspicious, but after listening to her tales of getting lost, he found himself most captivated by her arm...her Golden Arm.

He invited her in for tea ....she must be very thirsty after her long & lost travels. He would give her the directions she needed, but curiosity got the best of him & he wanted to know more about this Golden Arm of hers.

So over a glass of tea, she told him how she had been born the daughter of the richest man in the land (a man even richer than himself) and how she had been in a terrible horse riding accident as a little girl riding the horse her father had given her. Her father felt terrible.

When she lost her arm, she cried & cried & cried. Who would ever fall in love with a one­-armed girl? How would she ever tend to a home, a husband and a child with only one arm?
Her tears of pain & loss only made her father's guilt grow.

So when she was a young lady, her father gave her the gift of the Golden Arm. It was made of the finest gold of the world & made to look exactly like her other arm, but of solid gold. Her father told her that no-one, no thing, no accidents, no horses could ever take this arm from was her Golden Arm.

Entertained by her tale of the Golden Arm, he gave her the directions she needed and then invited her back for tea the next day.

Day after day, they enjoyed afternoon tea together and eventually they married.
He thought no man was as fortunate, as blessed, as lucky as he.

Then suddenly one day, his wife died. He was saddened, but truth be known, he loved her Golden Arm much more than he had ever loved her.

(voice drops, slightly above a whisper)
So, not long after his beloved wife had been buried, he grabbed his shovel & began to dig. With each dig of the shovel into the dirt that covered his wife, he thought to himself...oh, that Golden Arm... I must have that Golden Arm...I am going to get that Golden Arm.

And eventually, he found her & her Golden Arm. Covered in dirt, her face was so pale.

In the moonlight her lips were so ashy...
but that Golden glistened, it shined, it was so bright & still so beautiful.

He grabbed it out & quickly covered his dead wife with the fresh dirt he had piled up.
All the while, thinking to himself...

I have the Golden Arm! I got it! I finally got the Golden Arm!

He ran with the Golden Arm through the cemetery, through the woods and up the foggy dark hillside, back to his castle. He took the Golden Arm & hid it deep in the secret safe. The
safe that no-one else had ever known about, not even his beloved wife.

After all his hard work digging & his wild uphill running, he found himself exhausted. He sat in his chair,the chair he always sat in for afternoon tea & quickly fell asleep.

But he awoke to a sound (voice in a sing-song whisper)
"Who's got My Golden Arm?"

(story teller looks maniacally into the eyes of the first child)
The old rich man is startled by the ghostly vision of his dead wife before him.
(sing-song whisper)
"Who's got My Golden Arm?"

(story teller peers deeply into the eyes of the second child)
Her skin was so pale, he was terrified.
(sing-song whisper)
"Who's got My Golden Arm?"

(story teller looks frantically  into the eyes of the third child)
Her ruby red lips were ashen & gray...could it really be her?
(sing-song whisper)
"Who's got My Golden Arm?"

(story teller looks insanely into the eyes of the fourth child)
Her hair was clumped with fresh dirt...could she still be alive?
(sing-song whisper)
"Who's got My Golden Arm?"

(story teller looks nervously into the eyes of the fifth child) (sing-song whisper)
"Who's got My Golden Arm?"

(story teller looks painfully into the eyes of the sixth child) (sing-song whisper)

"Who's got My Golden Arm?"

(story teller looks desperately into the eyes of the seventh child) (Whisper falling to just a trace of a voice...singing in an increasingly desperate, eerie, high pitched tone, causing us children to reel in closer, gripping our knuckles tight & keeping our eyes wide open)
"Who's  Got  My Golden Arm?" 

"Who's  Got  My Golden Arm?"

"Who's got My Golden Arm?" Once all the kids are torn between anticipation and desperation, the story teller would abruptly scream 'YOU DO!' as she grabbed hold of one poor childs' arm.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Staff Profile: Jordan Newth

Our hardworking staff keeps Vermont State Parks looking beautiful and running smoothly all year long. The parks are a fun place to work and we are lucky to count so many interesting people among our staff members. One of these individuals is Jordan Newth, Maintenance Assistant for the southwest region of the state and Professional Downhill Mountain Biker!

Growing up in West Rutland, Vermont, Jordan has been racing mountain bikes professionally since he was eight years old. He has raced all over North America and internationally, and is currently ranked 1st/2nd on the New England professional circuit this year. According to Jordan, his favorite part of the sport is getting to travel and “go to races all over the world and do what I love.”

Jordan began working for the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation seasonally in 2006 and just finished his 9th year. He says that he loves getting to do different things every day and having the opportunity to work in 11 different parks.

Every fall, Jordan heads to Colorado and he will soon be gearing up for the Continental Championships in Columbia in late March. This will be his first time in South America and he is looking forward to getting to race there and visit the region.

So cool! Best of luck, Jordan! 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Short Hikes, Big Rewards

With this year’s gorgeous foliage colors and pleasant outdoor temperatures, fall in Vermont is off to a great start. There is no better time to get outside and enjoy the beauty of our state. Play outside and get a bird eye’s view of the changing season by taking a scenic fall hike or walk. We have put together a list of a few shorter, family-friendly hikes that offer big rewards in the way of views and scenery.

Owl’s Head Trail, Groton State Forest
The Owl’s Head Trail, located in the Groton State Forest, is a short hike that leads to the summit of Owls Head Mountain. This 1.5 mile long moderate trail is accessible from the New Discovery State Park road. From there, you ascend to a parking area and climb stone steps constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s to the summit. Alternatively, hikers can take the seasonal road to the parking area and trek up just the last leg of the trail via the stone steps to reach the summit. At the top, take in stunning views of Kettle Pond, Lake Groton, and the Green Mountains, a particularly beautiful view during peak fall foliage.

Mt. Philo State Park
Mt. Philo State Park in Ferrisburgh is one of the most iconic sites in the state. Views of the Lake Champlain Valley and Adirondack Mountains are dazzling, and attract both residents and visitors to the area. To get to the top, take the Summit Trail, a ¾ mile long easy to moderate hike. Another option for visitors is to take the steep park road (not recommended for trailers) to the top. During the fall, the valley below is lit up with fall foliage and the views are incomparable. 

Allis State Park Fire Tower 
Climbing one of Vermont’s remaining fire towers is a fast and adventurous way to experience some amazing views. Allis State Park in Randolph is a peaceful and remote park located on the summit of Bear Hill. For those willing to climb to the top, the park’s fire tower is one of its most popular features and the ideal spot to enjoy panoramic fall foliage views. Mt. Mansfield and Camel’s Hump can be seen to the north, Killington and Mt. Ascutney to the south, Mt. Ellen to the west, and New Hampshire’s White Mountains to the east.

Brighton State Park, Northeast Kingdom Nature Trail System
If you’re interested in exploring Vermont’s famed Northeast Kingdom, take a visit to Brighton State Park in Island Pond. This wild and remote park is situated on the shores of Spectacle Pond, a warm and shallow body of water that is home to yellow perch, great blue heron, and osprey. Great hiking is found in the Northeast Kingdom Nature Trail system.  The Loggers’ Loop, Main, Red Pine, and Shore Trails all connect in a loop along the Pond and provide lots of opportunities to spot wildlife and brilliant fall colors. Look for signs of ruffed grouse and wild turkey habitat along the trail and keep your eyes open for the red fox and deer that call Brighton home.

Jamaica State Park, West River Trail
The 2-mile long West River Trail in Jamaica State Park is universally accessible is great for strollers and is  a favorite trail among bikers, joggers, and walkers. The trail was converted from an old rail bed and follows the former route of the old West River Railroad an. As you walk, keep your eyes open for “The Dumplings,” a grouping of boulders along the water. From there, the trail continues on to Cobb Brook and then to the Ball Mountain Dam. Observe lovely fall foliage along the banks of the West River as you stroll on this peaceful trail.

Lake Shaftsbury State Park, Healing Springs Nature Trail
Lake Shaftsbury State Park, located in southwestern Vermont, is a popular park with a colorful history. During the 19th century, the site of Lake Shaftsbury was known as Vermont Healing Springs. Mineral water from the springs was bottled and sold for its healing abilities. Today, you can take a walk along the calming Healing Springs Trail, a ¾ mile long loop trail that winds along the Lake.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Karalyn Mark: A Summer in Vermont

Guest Blogger: Karalyn Mark 
Karalyn Mark spent the past summer as a Vermont State Parks Photography Intern.
She grew up in Southeastern PA before traveling to Ithaca, NY, where she is currently pursuing a B.S. in Still Photography at Ithaca College.

At the age of 10, Karalyn began experimenting with disposable cameras given to her by her parents and fell in love with the art. Her passion for photography has continued to expand, and she enjoys photographing in both digital and film mediums. This past fall, Karalyn self-published a book Southbound, consisting of 35mm color photographs.

As my internship with the Vermont State Parks comes to a close, I can say that living in Vermont has been an incredible experience. I was raised in the suburbs of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and am currently a senior majoring in Still Photography at Ithaca College. I was intent on spending a summer in a new environment and exploring the outdoors. I found an apartment, and moved to Warren, VT this past May to begin working as a Photography Intern.

This summer provided me with an opportunity to focus on my photographic work, both for the parks and personal projects. I expanded my photography portfolio with images of Vermont’s wildlife, flora, and landscapes. I have also been working on my Photography Workshop project (senior thesis), which consists of a body of film photographs. My work acts as an exploration of my immersion in these new surroundings, while documenting the still forests and habitats within Vermont.

This internship has allowed me to explore all that the Vermont State Parks have to offer. I often revisited parks, as I would find something new to capture during each outing. I’ve photographed numerous parks, and have met many welcoming individuals along the way.

While expanding my portfolio, I was able to enjoy outdoor activities at the parks, such as swimming in the lakes and hiking. The Groton State Forests and its parks became one of my favorite places in the state. The pond trails at Seyon Lodge, New Discovery, and Kettle Pond allow for relaxing, meditative walks. My camera became a tool for me to record these experiences, and my photographs of the parks act as a journal of my time spent here.

After a beautiful summer in the Mad River Valley, I’m feeling thankful for this experience. I hope that my photographs from this summer will provide others with a glimpse of Vermont’s beauty. While I’m missing Vermont already, I look forward to returning soon and making more photographs.

See more of Karalyn's work on her website:
To see photos from her Photography Internship, visit:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2014 Park of the Year Awards

Every year, one park from each region of the state is chosen as “Park of the Year.” The purpose of the award is to recognize parks that exemplify excellent customer service and uphold our environmental mission. These parks go above and beyond to keep the parks running smoothly and enhance the experience of everyone who comes to recreate and enjoy the outdoors.

So without further ado, we would like to announce the 2014 Parks of the Year:

Jamaica State Park

Grand Isle State Park

Half Moon State Park
Smugglers' Notch State Park

Thanks to all of our parks and to YOU for a tremendous season! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Microhikes and Microbrews: Sterling Pond and Crop Bistro and Brewery

By: Erin & Evan Meenan

Welcome to the final installment of Microhikes and Microbrews. To celebrate the official end of summer, we visited Stowe to hike up to Sterling Pond through Smuggler's Notch State Park. This is among our favorite hikes because it combines one of the most unique (and at times scary) drives in Vermont and certainly one of the best hikes under 3 miles round trip.  

You can reach the trail head from either side of the Notch on Route 108. The signage is clear, there is an information booth, and usually plenty of parking despite this hike's popularity. The is a more strenuous hike than those from our previous posts because it involves some steep stone staircases and, depending on the season, it can be a little slick. That said, the views make it worthwhile. When you first reach the top, you will arrive at a serene, picturesque pond. If you continue your hike on the Long Trail North (marked in blue), you will come to the Top of the Notch ski lift where you will see a beautiful view of the mountains. Then if  you keep hiking past the Sterling Pond shelter you reach several other vista points that look our over the pond, which is surprisingly vast.

After our hike, we drove back towards the center of Stowe and grabbed lunch at Crop Bistro and Brewery.They brew all of their own beer. We sampled three different varieties and loved each. Best part, all the beers are only $5 and there is great outside seating near the bike path. Finally, we would be remiss if we didn't mention their fried pickles. They're the best we've ever had!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Invasive Plants on the Land – A Vermont Challenge

By Colleen Balch

Vermonters’ lives are connected to the land of our small state. We hike and farm. We fish and sugar. We walk and ride and hunt. We care for our yards and gardens. We value our wildlife and lovely green vistas. We spend time outdoors. And, while we might not always recognize it, we are witnessing a change that could impact many of the things we value about our small, green, mountainous state. The quiet spread of invasive plants across our landscape presents a call to action.

An invasive plant isn’t simply a problem because it’s from somewhere else. A plant from somewhere else that stays put is just a polite and welcome visitor wherever it takes root. It can add color to our yards like our favorite daffodils, tea roses, and hydrangeas. It can give us the great taste of a summertime garden with that first warm, ripe tomato fresh from the garden. Or, it can stock our root cellars with home grown potatoes and cabbages. It doesn’t pose a threat. 

A family putting the skills they've learned to good use in an Invasive Plant
 Habitat Restoration program at Emerald Lake State Park
What makes a plant an invasive is that it’s very good at making a living here in Vermont.  So good in fact, that when it goes head-to-head with the plants that belong here, it out-competes and forces the native plants out. When that happens, impacts move through the habitat in a variety of ways. 

Vermont Traditions and Economy
Replace a score of native plants that normally grow together here on the forest floor with one invasive honeysuckle, and an impenetrable thicket results. For folks who manage a sugarbush, sap lines are hard to run. For hunters, sightlines disappear and browse for deer populations drops. Seedlings that naturally sprout to renew economically valuable trees within the forest, never reach maturity. 

Tick Presence
Invasive plants, particularly Barberries, create conditions that promote larger populations of Deer Ticks, the small pest that spreads Lyme Disease. Barberries are thorny and create protected havens for mice which Deer Ticks need during their life-cycle. More and larger mice populations equal more and larger tick populations. Larger tick populations have greater impacts on human health. And, the Barberries also create areas of higher moisture that help out ticks too.

Wildlife and Fish Habitat
Lose a number of plants that normally live on the forest floor to a pure carpet of invasive Garlic Mustard, and that loss impacts the animals that feed on, nest in, hide in, and use the native plants in any way.  Replace shrubs with strong and durable roots that have lined our mountain streams for millennia with Japanese Knotweed, which dies back below ground each fall, and the streambank soil becomes stripped and vulnerable to springtime floods.  As the powerful floodwaters scrub the streambanks, soil erodes and is carried along.   Much of that soil ends up filling the tiny spaces between the rocks in gravel beds that trout use to spawn.  With the spaces filled in, the fish eggs and their teeny hatchlings lose protection from the force of rushing waters and predators.  Fish populations struggle.

These threats are not a forgone conclusion. Vermonters can protect the lands we value in our state, especially when we work together. And getting the know how, information, and practice that can make the difference is a lot easier now than it has been. The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is launching an engaging new program across the southwestern portion of our state. They are reaching out to community members, businesses, organizations, and any others from Bennington to Burlington to engage Vermonters in this critical conservation effort that puts both private and public lands at risk. In half-day programs, volunteers join Department specialists to learn how to identify and combat invasive plants and practice removal skills. And while they are learning, the volunteers are spending a day in a great spot and helping combat invasive plants in State Forests and Parks. To learn more about the Invasive Plant Habitat Restoration program, contact Colleen Balch at (802) 377-2615 or Join us and learn to care for your own lands, support our native wildlife, support our Vermont traditions, and our Vermont economy.

Colleen Balch works with the Invasive Plant Habitat Restoration Program of the Vermont Department of Forests Parks and Recreation, teaches field and conservation sciences in the Rutland area, and lives in the Taconic Mountains in southwestern Vermont.