Get outdoors and stay safe: The leash has been lengthened

Though it got a good dose of snow, this tulip survived Saturday night’s flurries. Photo by Elizabeth Bassett.

Our leashes have been lengthened! Governor Phil Scott and his administration are gradually re-opening Vermont, and with that comes more opportunities to get outdoors at this beautiful time of year. Here are some ideas.

There is at least one owl’s nest on Mt. Philo, possibly two. Grab your binoculars and take a look. Also plenty of migrating birds at this time of year.

Are the wildflowers more beautiful and abundant this year, or is it the unbounded joy of seeing them in these dark times? Our long stretch of cool weather seems to have frozen many flowers in time, from daffodils to hepatica and spring beauties. White trillium carpet many locations—check out Kingsland Bay for an extravagant display.

Green Up Day will unfold in Charlotte on Saturday, May 30. Pick up some green bags for trash and a clear one for redeemables and give our roadsides some TLC. Make sure to stay socially distanced and take the usual precautions against poison ivy and sharp objects. Look for a sign-up link on the Town of Charlotte website.

Several friends have been exploring some less-familiar places, among them Colchester Pond in northern Colchester, East Woods on Swift Street in South Burlington, Rock Point in Burlington, Trail Around Middlebury (TAM), area town forests, and the Otter Creek Wildlife Management Area in North Ferrisburgh.

Perhaps you have noticed “Local Traffic Only” signs in Burlington’s South End? This is an effort to make safe spaces for bikers and pedestrians by slowing traffic. Local Motion, a nonprofit that advocates for safe access for people-powered activities like walking, running, and biking, hosts a website that is rich in ideas for having safe fun in the outdoors: scavenger hunts for families, bike routes from five miles to 100+ for bikepackers, bike games, safety and maintenance refreshers, how to use a balance bike to teach a child to ride on two wheels, even yoga for cyclists. Local Motion is advocating for bike shops to be considered essential, ensuring that repairs and purchases can unfold with curbside delivery and pickup.

Local Motion maintains the very popular Bike Ferry connecting Burlington and Colchester to South Hero. Major reconstruction of the causeway has been delayed, so the May opening of the ferry has been postponed until July. Check Local Motion’s website before setting out for a ride.

I’m not encouraging more screen time—we’re all getting plenty with work, social and family obligations—but some rainy day check out Green Mountain Club’s virtual workshops and events: Zoom Hiking 101—basics for hiking close to home or a thru-hike on the Long Trail, including fitness, planning, Leave No Trace, proper gear, and more; Nature Story Time with GMC; Online Outdoor Trivia; iNaturalist and Northeast Alpine Flower Citizen Science Training; and Long Trail End-to-Enders Panel,

Vermont State Parks are accepting camping reservations for June 15 or later. Parks are expected to be operational for the 2020 season with possible changes to park services.

If you are heeding the request to remove invasive garlic mustard while taking walks, keep a few things in mind. Wear gloves as there may also be poison ivy or dog poop, as some have discovered. Try to remove all of the thick white tap root. The root stores enough energy for flowers and seeds to continue to develop long after the plant has been pulled. For this reason, do not compost garlic mustard; each plant can produce thousands of seeds. Keep a black plastic bag handy and dispose of it as trash.

Rules of thumb to keep us all safe: If a parking lot or trailhead is crowded, consider another location or another time of day. Walk single file if you meet other walkers. Carry hand sanitizer. Don’t expect restrooms to be open. Keep dogs, if permitted, leashed and close if you pass others. Wash hands as soon as possible. If you feel sick, stay home!

Get outdoors. Be safe and smart! Enjoy!