Out Doors: local discoveries in the Green Mountains and beyond

The Fire Tower Trail includes a short ladder and a bit of clambering over rocks. The fire tower is in good repair and has an enclosed viewing platform. On the Ridge Trail expansive views open to the west where a large rock outcropping provides a perfect picnic site. On center stage: the Stowe Valley, Mt. Mansfield and two small airports. The trail then crosses the ridge to eastern vistas before reaching Balancing Rock. This huge boulder, deposited by Ice Age glaciers, perches on the bedrock.

Along the Ridge Trail bright green lycopodium, commonly known as princess pine and ground cedar, covers large swaths of the understory. Towering glacial erratics and walls of bedrock serve as “nurse rocks,” hosting ferns, moss and even small trees. For most of the gentle two-plus-mile descent the trail weaves beneath a mixed forest of hemlock, spruce and hardwoods.

The terrain immediately surrounding Elmore Mountain and Lake Elmore was colorful in mid-October. From Charlotte the drive is between one-and-a-quarter and one-and-a-half hours, about equidistant via Montpelier and Route 12 or Route 100 through Stowe. The park is several miles south of Morrisville on Route 12.

What’s up on Mount Philo?
Those who clamber up the trail at our state park have seen some pretty big equipment clearing a swath through the woods that, at some points, comes menacingly close to the footpath—in fact re-routing it at one point.

“We’re bringing water up from a well at the northwest corner of park property,” Park Ranger Jon Frigault said. “We’ve had to truck fresh water into the park and hope that this well will resolve our problem.”

Wells on Mt. Philo have traditionally been reluctant to give water, Frank Spaulding of the Division of Vermont State Parks said. “So we’ve gone farther down the mountain. The well has been tested as a public water supply, and its output will be piped to the summit.”

Those who lived in the Champlain Valley during the 1998 Ice Storm witnessed what appeared to be a deathblow to trees on Mt. Philo, Pease Mountain and elsewhere. For two decades the land has been healing with an explosion of young trees, shrubs and wildflowers. The path of the water pipeline will likely follow suit.

Visitor Center at Dead Creek National Wildlife Refuge
If life takes you to Addison in the coming days, stop at the new visitor center on Route 17, just west of Route 22A. The center will close at the end of October and re-open in the spring.

Two bright rooms brim with informational posters, photos and specimens, including a stuffed bear cub and fox. Sobering information includes the fact that spring has come to Vermont on average three days earlier and fall four days later in each decade since the 1940s. The math is sobering. Displays cite many consequences of our warming climate. An example: The mighty moose can be brought low by ticks, tens of thousands of them, no longer killed by cold temperatures. Ticks suck blood and weaken the animals, making them vulnerable to anemia and disease.

Be tick-smart and get outdoors!