RiseVT strongly encourages people to get out in nature and move regardless of the weather; don’t let snow stop you from exploring all those fun and exciting trails! Over the last month, I have met a handful of New Vermonters who are experiencing snow for the first time. I can’t even imagine… I grew up with snowfalls up to my waist! Whether you know your snow or are just now developing a relationship with it, here are a few thoughts I have shared with my new friends:
Be an Onion: No, don’t make me cry, just have lots of layers! Wearing multiple layers of wool or a wicking fabric (made from high-tech polyester) will allow you to regulate and adjust your temperature while you are out in the elements. With multiple layers, including a windproof layer, your body heat will get trapped in the layers and build a buffer of warmth around you. If you are out taking a simple stroll, you may generate and trap less heat than if you are hiking or playing. Being able to unzip a layer or remove a layer when you are too hot will help you keep a neutral body temperature. Overheating will cause you to soak your clothes with sweat that will cool off quickly once you stop moving. If you get wet, it will be difficult to warm back up.
Cover Up: Even if you have heat trapped in layers keeping your body warm, any areas exposed to wind and snow can give you a chill. Pull the cuffs of your gloves up over your sleeves to ensure your arms are covered. Have a scarf or buff around your neck to stop wind from snaking down your back, or to pull up over your face. Wear a headband or hat to cover those ears!
Know Your Snow: If you are unfamiliar with what an area looks like during the warmer months, it will be hard to know what obstacles are lurking under that blanket of snow. If it is hard-packed, walking should be fairly easy as you are just dealing with the uneven or slippery terrain of the trail. If the snow is still loose-pack and you sink in with each step, your foot could become lodged under a log, or slip off a stump or rock. Try to test the footing before putting your full weight on it. Deep snow, in which you sink to your knee or beyond (post-holing) can present a complicated and exhausting walk, and load your pant legs and boots with snow. If you can, try to choose a path that has been traveled, or wear snowshoes or gaiters.
Ice Can be Nice: A thin layer of snow over ice covering a pond or stream-bed is often very flat and gives you a clue that there is ice below. If you have a walking stick or ski pole, you can poke the snow and ice to try to determine what is under the snow, or if the water is frozen enough to hold your weight. Try to avoid fragile ice- getting your boots and socks wet will make it difficult to stay warm. If the ice is frozen solid, you should still pay close attention to your footing as loose snow over ice can be more slippery than plain ice. Test your footing before applying your full weight to it. Wiping out can ruin your fun.
Play, Play, Play!!! More than anything, just get out in it! Walk, slide, make snow sculptures, and taste it (just the untouched snow!) Snow that comes down in different conditions has different consistencies, textures and qualities. The best way to learn about it is to play in it. An even better way to learn about it is to play in it with an experienced child (they will teach you everything you need to know) and then tell us all about your experience on our Facebook page!
A few weeks back I went to the Town of Georgia Park and Rec Department website to get information about the Georgia Shore Park. While on the website I saw a listing for three other trails- one of which was right on 104A. What? I drive that road all the time- daily for 6 years- I have never seen a trailhead… I needed to know more.
Dr. Kent Henderson, Chair of the Town of Georgia Conservation Commission (GCC), responded to my inquiry, and met me at the trail to give me a guided tour. The trailhead at the Russell Greene Natural Area is difficult to find currently, he tells me, due to a shift in the parking. We parked on the roadside at the western side of the narrow bridge on 104A, across from Trayah Rd. We sprayed ourselves with some good bug repellant and I pulled on my low boots as there is evidence of a little bit of poison ivy right at the beginning. After that small spot, there wasn’t any further in and we could walk freely.
As we entered the little-to-no grade path covered in pine needles, Kent told me the history of the land and the work they have done on it.
In 2003, the Harrison family donated this 44-acre forest/wetland area to the Town of Georgia, which has been developed into the Russell Greene Natural Area. The State deems Deer Brook as a class II impaired waterway, due to stream bank erosion from stormwater originating from the VT Rte. 7/104a intersection and Interstate 18 exit. The wetland is a natural filter to trap sediment and Phosphorus before Deer Brook enters Arrowhead Lake. GCC was allowed to create the footpath through this wetland area, with the provision that the path be constructed for single file hiking with a series of boardwalks and bridges through the fragile vegetation of over 50 varieties of ferns and flowering plants.
In spring 2014, Vermont Youth Conservation Corp and GCC members constructed the trail which held its opening on June 29. Since the path was opened, there have been small tours and class field trips coming through. There is a gathering spot in a clearing along the path overlooking the marshland on the Deer Brook. As we approached, a mother duck warned us and flew off as her ducklings scampered for safety into the cattails. The Redwing blackbirds chided us for interrupting, and stood their ground. The logs that students would sit on during a discussion have neat rows of gnaw-marks, where beavers meticulously removed the bark for a mid-winter meal.
The entire path is about a mile and a half long. There is a very easy, wide path that had been a service road that wanders in and out of the woods, at times basking you in sunlight and wildflowers, other times going through a tunnel of the woods’ canopy, leaving you to wonder what you will discover around the bend. We experienced so many different smells and visual textures – trees in various states of growing or decaying, light coming in to help the undergrowth reach up with drifts of ferns of different shapes and sizes, the warm sun reflecting off the trail, or the cool green of the shaded trail. We saw snakes and frogs, saw evidence of deer and beaver, and heard a woodpecker drilling way up in a tree. We were there in the morning, so the biting insects were not as plentiful as I had feared.
A loop cuts off the main trail that descends into the wetlands. Dogs are not allowed in this section of the trail. Even if the owners were to pick up after them, their presence would still leave a scent that would discourage the natural wildlife from inhabiting the space. As we walked over the boardwalks, Kent pointed out the Vernal Pools- areas that stay damp throughout the season, long enough for the salamanders that live there to complete their life cycles. This path ended at the river’s edge, where the clear water of the Deer Brook cut through the sandy shores, slowly rewriting the course of their flow. There are plans to fell a few of the larger trees right along the shore to one day construct a bridge across to extend the trail. But that is for another time.
Right now the focus is on building a parking area out front, so it is safe enough for explorers to park and large enough for a school bus to enter and drop off a field trip of students. The current timeline of permitting process and construction would anticipate completion of the new parking area in October 2016. The learning opportunities are endless, for students and leisure hikers alike. I learned that I need to get back there and explore more!
A video filmed by Lake Champlain Access Television in 2014 can be found here.
This morning Brian and I were down at the VT Department of Health Saint Albans District Office for their Women’s Infant and Children (WIC) Farm to Family coupon distribution. Eligible WIC families could pick up coupons to use at local farmer’s markets across the region to access locally-grown fruits and vegetables. While parents were talking with staff about the program, children in attendance could play the Food Rainbow Game and hop on the RiseVT Smoothie bikes to blend up some delicious smoothies (which were a welcomed cool treat in this heat).
Also available was free Lead Paint test kits, doormats and wipes to reduce lead paint dust from being in your house, paining kits to re-paint, and free Smoke and CO detectors. There were emergency preparedness activity books and information about Lyme Disease, with advice on how to keep yourself safe from ticks when enjoying our beautiful outdoors.
There was a whole table loaded with amazing recipes- most of the ingredients being what could be picked up at the Farmer’s Market!! I brought a few home with me to try and add to my collection (hello broccoli pesto!!!). I might just have to hit the farmer’s market until my own garden produces…
For more information on WIC and the VDH Saint Albans District Office, contact them at 524-7970 or follow them on Facebook.
Alburgh Community Education Center has been participating in a Walking Challenge since May 2nd: the goal was to “walk” to Rio de Janeiro for the summer Olympics. A mere 14,660,000 steps.
Everybody received a pedometer and tracked their daily steps while at school (field trips and after school sports didn’t count- ouch!). There were pedometer games that included math skills, and other activities to get everyone’s steps up.
Prizes were handed out randomly and when benchmarks were reached. Everywhere I went in the school, students wanted to show me how many steps they had taken that day, see if they took more than I had, tell me about the walking they had done or what activity they participated in that increased their steps. One fourth grader swears that his pants are loose because of all of the walking he has done!
Students made a beautiful map to track the trip, so at any point we knew where in the world the school was- you know, since it was no longer in Alburgh. They also spent weeks painting flags of the world to adorn the gym in time for the all-school Olympics.
As of June 7th, the school officially reached Rio!!!! RiseVT partnered with Bike Recycle Vermont and Rock the Bike to award the school two smoothie bikes of their very own. The school can use them at celebrations and plans to use them weekly for smoothies at breakfast.
Ms. Dobson’s 3rd grade class won the award for most steps logged: 1,535,354! Can you even imagine?? That is about 768 miles. They got to break in the brand new bikes and celebrate with yummy smoothies.
Congratulations Alburgh School!
Creating smoothie awesomeness!
Ian riding the new Smoothie Bikes!
Group Photo with Ms. Dobson’s 3rd grade class!
“I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE!”
Taste Testing their creations!