December is a month for taking stock of what we appreciate and how to support the people and organizations we care about. Some year-end free associating follows.
Charlotte is rich in outdoor resources: Vermont’s first state park and three Nature Conservancy preserves, Williams Woods and Raven Ridge, both with marked trails and parking, and Lewis Creek Hill Natural Area, 123 conserved acres on Spear Street that has neither parking nor marked trails.
Charlotte Trails, including the Town Link Trail and Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge, are volunteer-driven resources being improved by dedicated Charlotters with a mission and vision. If you are able to make a financial contribution, tax-deductible donations go to: Town of Charlotte, with Trails Committee or Charlotte Park and Wildlife Refuge in the memo lines. And, next time you have a chance, thank the volunteers who make your enjoyment possible.
Gifts of experience, nourishment and knowledge
Shelburne Farms membership
Membership supports the stewardship of Shelburne Farms and its educational and agricultural missions. Members receive free admission to walking trails, including the Children’s Farmyard, advance notice of events, discounts and newsletters.
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) memberships make great gifts. Subscribers invest in a farmer’s cost in exchange for a share of production. Consider a gift card to a local farm market. Charlotte is home to a number of both, with more appearing each season. (I hesitate to list them for fear of leaving out a farmer.) Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA) is a source for local farms and keep reading The Charlotte News.
Green Mountain Club membership
Green Mountain Club is the non-profit steward of Vermont’s Long Trail and membership is a year-round gateway to the outdoors. The Green Mountain Club offers classes and clinics and its volunteers organize outings year-round. Other tangible benefits include notification of hikes, member rates for Green Mountain Club workshops (learn winter hiking or how to be safe in the woods) and discounts at some inns and outdoors stores.
Ice has already settled on some shady stretches of trail. Traction devices to keep us upright abound, a worthwhile investment for anyone who plans to walk or run during the winter months. The number and types of grippers have proliferated, perhaps because climate change has delivered more ice and less snow and perhaps because baby boomers are aging and developing brittle bones. My repertoire includes YakTrax, MicroSpikes, Get-A-Grip and Icebugs, boots or shoes with spikes embedded in the soles. Shop at a local outfitter to explore the options and see and feel the differences among the offerings. Even the most expensive are cheaper than a broken bone.
If you plan to winter hike there’s a lot to consider. The Green Mountain Club urges hydration, fuel and staying dry. Make sure to drink water even if you don’t feel thirsty. Carry high-value foods: cheese, peanut butter, trail mix or bars and chocolate.
Remember the three Ws: a wicking layer next to the skin; a warm layer (or several) of wool or fleece; and a waterproof and windproof top layer. Leave cotton at home. Once cotton gets wet it stays wet and will leech heat from your body. Wear insulated boots designed for winter hiking. Pack extra clothes — mittens, hats, layers, chemical hand warmers, an extra jacket — even a protective layer in case you get stranded. Winter days are short so always carry a headlamp. Make sure someone knows where you are heading and when you expect to return. Be smart to stay safe.
When there’s almost no snow or a fresh dump that’s too deep to navigate on skis, snowshoes are a salvation. They are available in many shapes and sizes and can last for decades (mine have). Variables include bindings, materials, size, shape and crampons.
The most basic plastic models for kids start at $30 and new adult snowshoes can be found for about $100. Look for used ones at swaps or second-hand stores. Shoe from your back door or on preserved lands in Charlotte. Float over deep snow, scale steep slopes and stride over stumps and rocks. You’ll burn up to 1,000 calories per hour, stay toasty and see fresh tracks, scat and the landing trail of raptors.
For every $100 spent in independently owned stores, $69 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you shop at a national chain only $43 stays local. Spend it online and nothing comes home.
Charlotte Food Shelf
Many of our neighbors struggle to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, gas in the car and heat in the radiators. No gift-wrap required. Give as generously as you can. P.O. Box 83, Charlotte 05445.
Local non-profits add value and safety to our outdoor experience. Local Motion’s Trail Finder, is an invaluable resource for walking, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and in-line skating. Your gift supports education, advocacy, the bike ferry, bike and pedestrian safety and special events.
Other non-profits that support our natural world: Charlotte Land Trust, Lake Champlain Land Trust, Vermont Land Trust, Lake Champlain Committee, Intervale Center and The Nature Conservancy.
If you are able, consider a tax-deductible donation to The Charlotte News where you are reading this. All contributions will be doubled by a grant from NewsMatch.
May your generosity and thoughtfulness bring joy this holiday season.