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Hot Tips for Cold Weather: Off-Season Park Use and Hunting Season

By Rebecca RoyVermont State Parks Conservation Education CoordinatorOur white pine trees--taller than every other tree in the Vermont woods, are heavily laden with cones this year. These giants of the forest started the summer months growing bright green female cones in large clumps at the ends of all the upper branches. The cones were so plentiful, they weighed the branches into curved arches pointing down. Throughout the summer, the seeds hidden under the cone bracts developed, the cones turned brown, and the seeds came sailing out with their adapted wing--hopefully planting some new white pines. At least that is the goal of the pine tree as it grows more and more cones, and more and more seeds.The summer of 2016 we saw a drought. Remember how low the lake levels dropped that summer? Well, our trees are reacting to that stress by producing way more seeds, nuts and fruits than normal. Our pine trees started developing this year’s cones in 2016, so the drought triggered them to grow …

By |2020-03-05T11:02:45+00:00November 7th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Something Wicked This Way Comes: Strange Happenings at Mt. Philo

The night sky above Mt. Philo State Park. "All a skeptic is is someone who hasn’t had an experience yet.” — Jason Hawes Halloween occurs in between the sweet vibrancy of summer and the dark, quiet depths of winter. Transition bring change and uncertainty. Many cultures around the world believe that during this period the worlds of the living and the dead can bleed into each other. Although it’s been a couple of years since a major occurrence, it appears as though something might be reaching out at Mount Philo State Park.  Mount Philo State Park is the oldest Vermont State Park and is no stranger to ghostly apparitions or bizarre occurrences (see our classic blog post on ‘Freaky Philo’ for more). Throughout the 2019 season, strange animal carcasses were found here and there in ways that made it seem as though someone (or something) was engaging in some form of macabre taxidermy. After some time, it just stopped and all returned to normal. In late September, things quickly veered back into the strange. College students were enjoying a scenic drive up the mountain road. When, BOOM! The back window of their car exploded for no clear reason and it felt as though all the air had been sucked out of the car. When they pulled over to examine the car, they could find no reason for the explosion. There was no sound before the glass shattered and no source of damage could be found. Even more strange? The glass blew out as though something has been forced out of the car from the inside (rather than inward which would be the case if it were something falling on the car). Trying to find answers to these strange occurrences, park staff set up a game camera in an area where several of the strange events happened. Since early October more than 2,300 images have been taken. Most of the photos are very clear and are of staff or guests (some curiously examining it with flashlights). On the morning of October 4th, something explainable appeared on the camera. These 4 shots were taken in quick succession one after another. This indicates that, whatever this was, it was moving across the lawn. A mysterious shape moves in front of the game camera. What do you think it was? Did something slink from the inky blackness of the unknown and onto Mt. Philo? Is the Devil’s Chair Trail even more sinister than even the name suggests?  Make sure to share your stories and photos to our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts with #vtstateparks. Have you had any unexplained happenings in Vermont State Parks? Share your thoughts, ghost stories, or tales of the unknown below!   

By |2020-03-05T11:02:41+00:00October 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Public Invited to Public Meeting on Bingham Falls Conceptual Master Plan

The beauty of Bingham Falls makes it increasingly popular.  The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation invites you to a Public Meeting on the Bingham Falls Conceptual Master Plan. The Public Meeting will be held on Thursday, November 7, 2019 at the Stowe Akeley Memorial Building from 5:30 – 7:00pm. There will be a presentation on the conceptual master plan for Bingham Falls by the consultant team of SE Group, Timber & Stone, LLC and Grenier Engineering followed by a comment period. Their work was guided by a project committee with representatives from Stowe Land Trust, the Town of Stowe, Stowe Mountain Rescue, and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. The conceptual mater plan design for Bingham Falls addresses parking, pedestrian paths/trails/loop trail, pedestrian bridges and viewing platforms, directional and information signs, location for potential future bathroom facility and any needed utility systems to support the planned infrastructure and facilities. The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation acquired the 72.5-acre Bingham Falls property for $1 million in 2001 with funding assistance from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Town of Stowe, the Freeman Foundation, the Lintilhac Foundation, the Oakland Foundation and Stowe Land Trust members. Conservation easements are co-held by Stowe Land Trust, Town of Stowe and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board for the purposes of conserving and protecting wildlife habitat, natural communities, native flora and fauna and waterfalls, gorges and cascades, and to foster pedestrian recreational use and use of the property.  The Bingham Falls parcel, which is part of Smugglers’ Notch State Park and Mt. Mansfield State Forest, has become one of Stowe’s most popular destinations for visitors. Recent surveys indicate that 85% of visitors are from other areas besides Stowe staying approximately one hour at the site. The highest number of visitors per day was 1,431 visitors with 180 visitors per day on average. The primary attraction at Bingham Falls is a series of stunning cascades, gorges, and pools collectively referred to as Bingham Falls reached from VT Route 108 by a moderate trail to the top of the gorge. The West Branch of the Little River flows through the center of the property and is surrounded by steep forested hillsides to the east and west making this a unique natural place. Use of Bingham Falls by hikers, swimmers, anglers and sightseers has dramatically increased over the past 15 years as more people have discovered the area. As a result, the area is starting to show how popular it is as trails have widened and soil is being compacted from visitors attempting to see the falls. This has resulted in loss of understory vegetation and threats to the old hemlock trees that surround the gorge and falls. In recent years, there have been more rescues from unaware swimmers and jumpers to the deep fall pools. In general, new visitors to the area are unaware of the uniqueness of this site and the potential dangers that are found surrounding the gorge. Written comments will be accepted until December 1, 2019 either through the survey link above or by directly emailing Susan Bulmer, NE Parks Regional Manager, at susan.bulmer@vermont.gov

By |2020-03-05T11:02:37+00:00October 29th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Off the Beaten Path: Sentinel Rock State Park

270° views showcase mountains to the west and southwest. Sure you've heard of Camel's Hump or Smugglers' Notch, but Vermont State Parks is more than just the 55 developed, staff-operated parks. We want to shine a light on our equally beautiful, but lesser known parks. First up: Sentinel Rock State Park. Check out this spotlight from Ellen Hinman of the St. Johnsbury Office. Sentinel Rock State Park, located on Hinton Hill Road in the Town of Westmore, is one of the Department’s undeveloped state parks. The property was donated to the State in 1997 by the Wright Family. Throughout the Wright family’s half century of stewardship, two basic objectives for the property were pursued “FIRST, to maintain the property in as good a condition as we (sic Wrights) found it, and SECOND, to share the enjoyment of the natural attributes of the location with others who would appreciate them as we (sic Wrights) have.” (from the Long Range Management Plan, 2010). Sentinel Rock SP is 356 acres in size and offers spectacular scenic views and many ecological, recreational, and wildlife values. Sentinel Rock, the large glacial erratic the Park is named for, is the location for viewing many beautiful Vermont sunsets. From where the “Rock” sits, there is a spectacular vantage point for 270 degree views to the west and southwest. The use of the site for interpreting natural history probably began with Ballard “Bud” Ebbet, former professor of geology at Lyndon State College, who brought many of his classes here. Dr. Herbert Hawkes, a retired geology professor from the University of California, also included Sentinel Rock’s glacial erratic in his renowned tour of Westmore’s geology, and several geology workshops sponsored by the Vermont Leadership Center (now Northwoods Stewardship Center) have also visited the site. The Wright Family standing in front of the old farmhouse. While in the ownership of the Wright family, the area was used primarily for hillside farming and logging. The farmhouse was built in the 1890s by John McLaughlin. Across the road was a large barn. In the 1950s, the Wright family renovated an old chicken coop on the property into a guest house. In later years, the Wrights offered hay and pasture privileges to their neighbors and friends, the Coles. The Coles have used and maintained the Sentinel Rock Farm fields for hay or pasturing cows for a number of years. The practice continues today; the Department has an agreement with Alan Cole to maintain the agricultural fields at Sentinel Rock SP.At the time the property was donated to the State, the farmhouse, barn, and guest house remained on the property. In 2004, FPR contracted a building contractor/ inspector to do an assessment of the structures. The initial plan was to convert the farmhouse into a lodge facility for summer work crews from the Vermont Leadership Center (now Northwoods Stewardship Center). Following the assessment, the Department determined it would be too costly to renovate the farm-house and other buildings to meet present-day code requirements. The decision was made to remove all three structures from the site. A Northwoods Stewardship Center trail crew installed trails at the park to highlight the The namesake rock left behind by glaciers. property’s scenic vistas and upland forests, connecting two short universally-accessible paths, and high-lighting a scenic stream valley.The farm house site is mowed all summer and is a beautiful spot for a picnic or a wedding ceremony. The Rock continues to be used as a vantage point for spectacular views. Following the removal of the buildings, the foot print of the farmhouse was installed at the site. Educational signs have been installed, showing the history of the farm site. To review the Long-Range Management Plan for Sentinel Rock State Park, visit the web page here. While the park is open to visitors, any special events (weddings, group tours, etc) require a permit. Visit the web page here for permit information. Contact the Barre District office for Park details. 802-476-0170 or email here.

By |2020-03-05T11:02:33+00:00October 24th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Caught in their web: Spooky Facts about Vermont Spiders

A spider builds its web. Legs of eight, slowly creeping.Watching, waiting. Crawling, sneaking. Waiting, feeling. SNATCHING. Weaving. Wrapping. Then r e c e d i n g … In Vermont, we have over 100 species of spiders including orb weavers, fishing spiders, garden spiders and jumping spiders.  Although we encounter spiders in our day to day life, these masters of stealth star in many nightmares. What makes them so terrifying and otherworldly? Strange bodies. Spiders belong to the arachnid class which includes other creepy critters like scorpions, mites, and ticks. Arachnids have four pairs of legs and no antennae. Their skeleton is a hard suit of armor that protects it’s body. Have you ever found a dead spider? You’ll notice the legs are pulled tight to the body.  Spider’s muscles can only pull their legs toward their body. To push their legs out, they must pump fluid to extend their legs.  Hydraulic powered legs! Oozy silk. Whether it’s sticky and used to trap their next meal or super strong threads to build their own shelter, all spiders secrete silk from their bodies. Spider silk is more than 5 times stronger compared to steel relative to weight. Scientists have been trying to replicate spider silk at large scales for decades to use to create super strong and lightweight products like bulletproof vests.  A spider eats captured prey.  Expert hunters. Whether they passively wait for prey to fly into their web or are actively hunting, spiders eat a variety of insects and pests including mosquitoes! Humanity should be glad to count spiders as allies. According to the resident spider expert at the American Museum of Natural History, the world’s crops would be destroyed by critters like aphids, caterpillars, and mice if not for the 614 species of eight-legged pest control found in North America. On average a single spider eats around 2,000 insects per year! Deadly venom. Most spiders that live in Vermont have venom that is not exceptionally harmful to humans. There have been no confirmed bites of northern black widow or brown recluse in the past 15 years. Spiders use their venom as a tool to catch a meal.  Spider venom is injected into their prey to stun or kill their prey. Spiders do not eat humans (we’re much too large). If a spider bites a human, it is trying to protect itself from a perceived danger. With modern medicine, lethal bites are quite rare.   Ancient knowledge. Next time you scream when a spider catches you off guard, thank your ancestors. Recent studies suggest the deadly legacy of spider bites may be a driving force behind the widespread fear of spiders. Scientists found that arachnophobia is partially genetic. This means that someone who has never seen a spider would still experience fear seeing a spider for the first time. One possible reason could be that ancestors who feared spiders and were able to avoid spider bites. This would result in them having a longer life and be able to pass on genes to allowed future generations that would help them to avoid spiders. While spiders might give you a scare, many cultures around the world consider spiders a symbol of good luck.  In ancient China, spiders dropping from the ceiling was viewed as good luck descending from heaven. While our eight-legged neighbors can certainly produce a shriek, be a good neighbor to your friendly neighborhood spider. Looking for more cool spider facts and activities? Check these out! What spiders have you noticed around your house or in the woods? Have a cool photo of a spider web or spiders? Make sure to share them to our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts with #vtstateparks.  Are you afraid of spiders or do you see them as allies? When have you found a spider in an unexpected place? Let us know in the comments below!

By |2020-03-05T11:02:26+00:00October 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

“Gold in its Pocket” – Autumn’s Unexpected Pop of Color

By Rebecca RoyVermont State Parks Conservation Education CoordinatorOur white pine trees--taller than every other tree in the Vermont woods, are heavily laden with cones this year. These giants of the forest started the summer months growing bright green female cones in large clumps at the ends of all the upper branches. The cones were so plentiful, they weighed the branches into curved arches pointing down. Throughout the summer, the seeds hidden under the cone bracts developed, the cones turned brown, and the seeds came sailing out with their adapted wing--hopefully planting some new white pines. At least that is the goal of the pine tree as it grows more and more cones, and more and more seeds.The summer of 2016 we saw a drought. Remember how low the lake levels dropped that summer? Well, our trees are reacting to that stress by producing way more seeds, nuts and fruits than normal. Our pine trees started developing this year’s cones in 2016, so the drought triggered them to grow …

By |2020-03-05T11:02:22+00:00October 4th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Fall Field Trips with Vermont State Parks

By Rebecca RoyVermont State Parks Conservation Education CoordinatorOur white pine trees--taller than every other tree in the Vermont woods, are heavily laden with cones this year. These giants of the forest started the summer months growing bright green female cones in large clumps at the ends of all the upper branches. The cones were so plentiful, they weighed the branches into curved arches pointing down. Throughout the summer, the seeds hidden under the cone bracts developed, the cones turned brown, and the seeds came sailing out with their adapted wing--hopefully planting some new white pines. At least that is the goal of the pine tree as it grows more and more cones, and more and more seeds.The summer of 2016 we saw a drought. Remember how low the lake levels dropped that summer? Well, our trees are reacting to that stress by producing way more seeds, nuts and fruits than normal. Our pine trees started developing this year’s cones in 2016, so the drought triggered them to grow …

By |2020-03-05T11:02:18+00:00September 18th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

‘Fall’ in love with state parks – Parks open through autumn

By Rebecca RoyVermont State Parks Conservation Education CoordinatorOur white pine trees--taller than every other tree in the Vermont woods, are heavily laden with cones this year. These giants of the forest started the summer months growing bright green female cones in large clumps at the ends of all the upper branches. The cones were so plentiful, they weighed the branches into curved arches pointing down. Throughout the summer, the seeds hidden under the cone bracts developed, the cones turned brown, and the seeds came sailing out with their adapted wing--hopefully planting some new white pines. At least that is the goal of the pine tree as it grows more and more cones, and more and more seeds.The summer of 2016 we saw a drought. Remember how low the lake levels dropped that summer? Well, our trees are reacting to that stress by producing way more seeds, nuts and fruits than normal. Our pine trees started developing this year’s cones in 2016, so the drought triggered them to grow …

By |2020-03-05T10:56:59+00:00September 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

New cabins now available at Mt. Ascutney State Park

By Rebecca RoyVermont State Parks Conservation Education CoordinatorOur white pine trees--taller than every other tree in the Vermont woods, are heavily laden with cones this year. These giants of the forest started the summer months growing bright green female cones in large clumps at the ends of all the upper branches. The cones were so plentiful, they weighed the branches into curved arches pointing down. Throughout the summer, the seeds hidden under the cone bracts developed, the cones turned brown, and the seeds came sailing out with their adapted wing--hopefully planting some new white pines. At least that is the goal of the pine tree as it grows more and more cones, and more and more seeds.The summer of 2016 we saw a drought. Remember how low the lake levels dropped that summer? Well, our trees are reacting to that stress by producing way more seeds, nuts and fruits than normal. Our pine trees started developing this year’s cones in 2016, so the drought triggered them to grow …

By |2020-03-05T10:56:48+00:00August 21st, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Vermont State Parks Announces Completion of Improvements to Alburgh Dunes State Park

By Rebecca RoyVermont State Parks Conservation Education CoordinatorOur white pine trees--taller than every other tree in the Vermont woods, are heavily laden with cones this year. These giants of the forest started the summer months growing bright green female cones in large clumps at the ends of all the upper branches. The cones were so plentiful, they weighed the branches into curved arches pointing down. Throughout the summer, the seeds hidden under the cone bracts developed, the cones turned brown, and the seeds came sailing out with their adapted wing--hopefully planting some new white pines. At least that is the goal of the pine tree as it grows more and more cones, and more and more seeds.The summer of 2016 we saw a drought. Remember how low the lake levels dropped that summer? Well, our trees are reacting to that stress by producing way more seeds, nuts and fruits than normal. Our pine trees started developing this year’s cones in 2016, so the drought triggered them to grow …

By |2020-03-05T10:56:44+00:00August 6th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments