Friday, December 5, 2014

Place Writing: Little River State Park

By: Sage Coates-Farley

In Waterbury, Vermont, just off Route 2, lies one of Vermont’s many State Parks. This place is known as Little River State Park. But it’s not just any state park, it holds many memories. Picture a large lake, surrounded by campgrounds in the peak of summer. Laughing kids, the smell of campfires, and a relaxed environment. The calm Waterbury Reservoir makes nearly a perfect place for a day of leisurely kayaking as a family. I can recall many days at the parks beaches after a long paddle around the serene reservoir. I first learned how to paddle a kayak at this very place and I’m so glad I did.

In the Fall. Picture a network of interlocking trails and camping grounds. But now picture this very place full of bright red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. And see families enjoying the last evenings of beautiful weather around a glowing bed of coals. I’ve spent many nights with my own family doing this same thing at that very same park. The sounds of campers laughing and the crunch of branches as they move through the woods give a mysterious atmosphere. The fear paired with the thrill of being in the forest during the dead of night is unlike any feeling you can experience.

The author leading a dogsled team at Little River
But at the same time the safeness you feel puts you at ease. And those late night thoughts start to sink in. Awareness of everything going on in the world around you. None of it matters because all you feel is what is currently surrounding you: peace.

Winter. Although bitter cold an miserable for many, the park can brighten anyone’s day. In the winter, every visit to Little River is an adventure.

See this same place, though it’s not the same anymore. All the color is gone. The reservoir is frozen solid. Everything covered in a blanket of snow. The grounds are deserted. Although it paints a desolate picture to most, look closely and you will see the beauty of the emptiness. How the snow glistens in the sunlight. The ice weighing down the delicate tree branches. The eerie silence. But best of all is the whines of eighteen eager Siberian Huskies.Their howls of excitement to be attached to the sled and take off down the trail. These days are a special occasion for my dad and I to take time to ourselves and the dogs. At first the stress of handling and packing for mushing doesn’t seem worth it. Once the lines are released and the snow hook is pulled, everything is silent again. You take off down the trail. The wind in your face and the steady breathing of dogs. My first ever experience of driving a dog team were in this park. Although those memories are sometimes unpleasant, it’s a part of life and part of learning. Everything I once struggled with is so worth it when experiencing the serenity of the abandoned park behind a team of six powerful sled dogs.

And at last it’s spring. The snow is melting. The trees are blooming. Birds are chirping. There’s a sense of life once again to the quiet park. The start of a fresh new year, and a repeat of the life cycle in the campgrounds. However, it’s accompanied by a feeling of loss. The loss of the previous year and marking the official end of winter. In the spring time my visits to Little River feel like dealing with unfinished business. To take down sled dog signs and say goodbye to yet another winter. A melancholy feeling of leaving a great year behind.

But, through the ups and downs of emotions associated with my favorite place on Earth, I still can't picture a year without a visit. It holds so many of my favorite memories and the potential to create more.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Nature Crafts for Winter

This is a fun time of year to create artwork and crafts that celebrate the season. Using nature as an inspiration, we have found some cool art projects to decorate your home and help you get into the spirit of winter!

Ice Suncatchers
What you'll need: Natural items, a container, twine, freezing temperatures

1. Go outside and gather twigs, leaves, berries, pebbles or any other natural material you would like to include.
2. Fill a cake or pie tin with water and place the objects you found in the water. If you would like to hang your suncatcher, remember to include a piece of twine in the pan, placed halfway in and out of the water so it won't completely freeze.
*To create different shapes, you can place a cookie cutter in the pan and place your objects inside the shape. 
3. Let freeze outside overnight. Alternately, you can place the container in the freezer overnight. 
4. When the pan has completely frozen, let it thaw for a few minutes or run under hot water to loosen it up. 
5. Hang the suncatcher from a tree or on the outside of your window.
Source: Mommy Poppins blog

Salt Painting 
What you'll need: Pastels, thick paper, watercolor paint, salt

1. Draw a wintry scene on paper using the pastels. 
2. Paint over your creation with the watercolor paints
3. Sprinkle salt over the page to create the effect of falling snow. 
4. Once the paper has dried, rub off the excess salt.
*As an alternative to the paint, you can create an image using tape. Arrange the tape in a shape or pattern, then paint and sprinkle the salt over it. When the paint has dried, carefully remove the tape for a unique tape-resist look.

Twig Snowflakes
What you'll need: Found twigs or small sticks, glue (or glue gun)

1. Head outside and look for small sticks or twigs on the ground of various sizes.
2. Arrange your sticks in the shape of a snowflake, using the larger pieces for the base and the smaller pieces to add more detail. If you would like to hang the snowflake, attach some twine to the top.
3. Once the glue is dry, hang the snowflake from the door or place in a window. 
Source:  U Create Crafts

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hunting Season Hiking

With a fresh snowfall blanketing Vermont, it's a beautiful time to go outside, look for animal tracks in the snow, and take notice of the changing season. Before you head into the woods during this time of year, keep in mind that hunting season may be in progress. Hunting is an annual tradition for Vermonters and an important part of the state’s cultural heritage. Many people view hunting as a way to source their meat locally and build a relationship with the land. Hunting is allowed on all state lands, including State Parks, during the off-season.

Though hunting season may be in full swing, the parks are still available for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, or skiing.  Please come and visit the parks, but remember to be cautious in the woods. Dress in blaze orange (dogs, too) and make yourself heard.

You may be less likely to run into hunters at State Parks like Niquette Bay, Underhill, Knight Point, and Mt. Philo. When planning your hike, please note that hunters are required to stay back at least 500 feet of park facilities and structures on state lands, so walking on park roads is a good option.

For more information on hunting in Vermont, view Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s Hunting and Trapping Calendar. For more information on trails, view the Vermont State Parks Hiking page

Vermont Fish & Wildlife's Hunting & Trapping Calendar:

Nov 15, 2014 - Nov 23, 2014            Late Black Bear Hunting Season
Nov 15, 2014 - Nov 30, 2014            Rifle Deer Hunting Season          
Dec 6, 2014 - Dec 14 2014                Bow & Arrow Deer Hunting          
Dec 6, 2014 - Dec 14, 2014               Muzzleloader Deer Hunting Season

Friday, November 7, 2014

Getting Outside During Stick Season

Photo by Krista Cheney
From late September to December, the Vermont landscape undergoes a dramatic transformation from late summer’s verdant greens, to our stellar fall foliage, to bare trees and quieter woods. For Vermont residents, the time after the autumn leaves have fallen and before the first snowfall is often referred to as “Stick Season.” When you get outside during this time of year, you’ll see why: the trees, free of their leaves, look like sticks against the mid-fall sky. Some people see Stick Season as a chance to cozy up indoors, cook up some hearty fall dishes, and prepare to hibernate for the winter. Other people find this period to be particularly peaceful and rejuvenating and look forward to getting outside to enjoy all of the advantages of Vermont’s “sixth season.”

There are lots of ways to gain an appreciation for Stick Season like raking up and then playing in a pile of crunchy fallen leaves or taking your kayak out for a tranquil paddle under a clear November sky. Going for a hike during this season is a unique way to experience the beauty of Vermont’s natural spaces. The newly bare trees afford some tremendous views on trails covered with dense tree growth during the summer. This is also a wonderful time to try to try to hear and spot wildlife in the woods. Some higher elevation trails may have some snow, so be prepared and pack with extra warm clothes for your hike. Hunting is another activity that occurs during Stick Season and an important part of Vermont’s cultural heritage. If you’re heading into the woods, remember to wear blaze orange and walk on more established trails.

Seeing Vermont during this time of year really makes you appreciate the full range of beauty here. If you are typically an early hibernator, or just like to wax your skis before the first snowfall, consider heading outdoors this fall to experience the tranquility and beauty of the changing season.  Pack up a thermos of hot apple cider, grab your coat, and be prepared to become a Stick Season convert.  

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.