Before you doze off, have you ever visited the Oven at Raven Ridge?
If not, take a jaunt to The Nature Conservancy preserve that straddles Charlotte, Hinesburg and Monkton.
Parking is on Rotax Road, just over the border into Monkton. More information.
This geological formation resembles an old-fashioned oven, an arch of rock layers that folded under pressure millions of years ago. The Oven is down a steep set of stairs with no railing, so for anyone with compromised mobility or balance, a visit would be tricky or impossible.
A loop trail follows a ridge overlooking the Champlain Valley. Caves and ledges tuck under this route where wild blueberries and wintergreen flourish. The loop continues through a mixed forest, returning to the access trail that leads to the parking area. In addition, an observation platform overlooks a beaver pond. More info.
I don’t generally spend my days thinking about anticlines, yet last week I hiked in Bristol, at The Lands of the Watershed Center, part of the local water system. There another, much bigger anticline soars over the walking trail. It’s a spectacular sight and because of the terrain, much easier to view than the Oven. The Voices of the Land Trail at the Watershed Center is an easy to moderate walk.
Before I wax too poetic about the Watershed Center, I must tell you that trails are not marked. The Watershed Center produces a good but incomplete map. With no trail signs plus paths that are not mapped, it takes some focus to sort out a route.
Allow extra time and take a compass. That said, in addition to its spectacular geologic formation, the property hosts a rich ecosystem, cliffs and ledges, mosses and lichens, giant hemlocks and mixed hardwoods, several clumps of the rare walking fern, and a panoramic view of the Champlain Valley to the Adirondacks. The parking area on Plank Road is about 30 minutes from Charlotte. Hunting is permitted in most of the preserve, so save this outing until Nov. 27.
Poor signage at the Watershed Center brought to mind an article that was published by the Sierra Club many years ago, “How Not to Die in the Woods.”
I read it only after I had spent an exasperating morning, low on food and water but abundant in mosquitoes and horse flies (walking in circles, I later realized) in an effort to find the summit of Buck Mountain near Vergennes.
I had a host of lame excuses but I found myself without many of the basics we should all carry, whether we expect to get lost or not. These include water, snacks, a candle, a disposable lighter or matches in a waterproof container, compass, emergency blanket, hat, gloves, kerchief (can also be used as a sling) and a basic first-aid kit. Bug dope is a good idea as well. If things really go awry, petroleum jelly in a container with a bit of dryer lint could be used to start a fire. The season and weather will determine an appropriate list.
The Green Mountain Club hosts via Zoom an Introduction to Winter Hiking on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Participation is free but the non-profit club encourages a donation to support their education programs and the Long Trail.
From the Green Mountain Club: “A thorough understanding of safe winter travel in the backcountry is essential to enjoying Vermont’s outdoors during our long winters. This workshop provides hands-on winter-specific information where you will learn what to wear, what to bring and what gear you need for a safe and successful winter trip. We will discuss clothing, layering, socks, footwear, traction, sweat, handwarmers, navigation, trail-finding, hydration, Leave No Trace and more. Vermont’s outdoor recreation offerings are exceptional, and this workshop will teach you how to safely get out and enjoy all there is.”
Get out there but be smart about it.