Author Archives: abruzas

Wrapping Up

Salmon hole is a place where the interconnectedness of human’s and nature is evident.  It is a place where beavers eat, birds chirp, and fish spawn.  A place where, during the spring thaw and rainy season that we are in now, the Winooski flows in a wild torrent, sweeping away debris from the sandy shore in its wake.  It is also a place for people to walk, to get away, to find peace, to view nature.  The path that runs down the side of the hill and along the bank is a physical manifestation of how the human presence is felt in even remote, seemingly undisturbed places.  A reminder that our actions always have an impact on the natural world and that we cannot separate ourselves from it.

You can see the human presence to in the nearby mills.  The mills that harnessed the power of the river and altered its course.  The mills that brought industry to the town, which now stand empty or subject to gentrification.  The human presence is all to evident in the amount of waste that washes up on the banks.

Upon first considering the second question, do you feel connected to this place? my first answer was no.  I think that a relationship with a certain place is developed in a more organic way.  This assignment made the formation of a deep connection with this place too forced.  I felt as if I had to make observation, take notes, photos, rather than wanting to, or simply finding that I had after I had left.  For me there is more to a place than the observations you make there.

As I began to write though, I started to think of times I had at this place, where I brought visitors or noticed something interesting, or the time I had to crawl up the hill on my hands and knees because it was covered in ice.  In remembering these things so fondly, I realized that I am apart of this place.  i do have memories and emotions connected with it. I think that this connection which seems like a type of nostalgia will only deepen as time goes by.  I look forward to visiting the Salmon Hole next year, seeing what feelings come back, and what new ones form.

Spring has yet to sprung

Spring had not yet sprung when I visited my phenology spot this weekend.  I was disappointed not to have found any amphibians, I had hoped to see signs of salamanders or perhaps a soft- shelled turtle, yet I think the unseasonably cold weather deterred their movements.  I listened for American toads and peepers, but their songs were silent.  I saw a few waterfowl, including a few Canadian geese and seagulls.  Those were the only animals out and about on     this dreary windy day.

I did bring my family, who was visiting from Pennsylvania, to the salmon hole today.  My Grandmother was thrilled to see the destruction caused by the beaver I have been flirting with throughout the project.  It was helpful to have four more sets of eyes looking for splashes of green amongst the brown debris on the forest floor.

However, there was not too much green anywhere around the Salmon hole.  None of the trees had yet begun to flower and I didn’t see a single wildflower bloom.  I did however notice that some of the mosses had released sporophytes to release spores.  And I noticed a few ferns, yet they were not fiddle heads and my dad figured they were to mature to have surfaced recently and had simply survived the winter.

It was evident however, that the April showers slated to bring may flowers had begun.  The river was swollen and moving rapidly.  There was a current swirling near the shore carrying debris, mainly sticks but a few Styrofoam pieces and plastic bottles that had likely been swept of the streets of Winooski in a recent storm.  My Pop Pop enjoyed watching the path of a big round log being carried by the water.

You can see how far the water has moved up the bank and how fast the water is moving

The edge is extremely close to my spot, the road is only about 50 yards from the river.  However, the roads do not separate this spot from another habitat but simply allow for a small swath of natural land amidst human development as the other side of the road is housing.  There is not enough forested land here to support interior species, especially with the walking path further dividing the forest.

Peace Valley Park, Bucks County PA

I always find that I am drawn to water.  Not surprisingly then, the natural community found at Peace Valley Park, is similar to that of my phenology spot on the Winooski river.  Peace Valley is a county park that features a man made reservoir, Lake Galena.  Though this water body is not as fast moving as the Winooski river, meaning less sand producing erosion, the shores here are largely mud.  The tree composition of the surrounding forest also differs, showcasing cedars and oaks.

The lake is man made, a river was damned to create the lake for recreation.  Old fences made of stacked slate divide the landscape and several old barns and houses deeper in the woods have been left unkempt, allowing nature to reclaim them. These are echos of the lands past use as farmland.  An old road runs through the park, and an old bridge completes a walking path around the lake.  I have been coming here since I was a child to count turtles with my grandparents where they sit on the rocks and logs by the bridge.  Canada geese and ducks are common, as well a blue heron or two.  It is also unusual to visit the park without seeing a few deer.

five male cardinals sitting in a tree

Peace Valley has a great nature center with a bird blind, where I went and sat for a while.  I’m not really a bird person but as I sat there I was thrilled to see 12 male cardinals at one time, with several females. I also saw black capped chickadees, a pari of  downy woodpeckers, red winged blackbirds, a blue jay, a red bellied woodpecker, mourning doves, purple finches, and a dark eyed junco. There were also a few turkeys roaming the park.  Birding proved to be more exciting than I thought.




The woody stems in the park had some buds, a few of an unknown variety appeared to be ready to sprout leaves.  The only green on the forest floor was a few clumps of crab grass. The few maple trees that grow in the park were tapped and the sap was flowing, one huge old tree’s bucket was overflowing with sap. I was surprised by the parks modest sugaring operation which I learned from the ladies in the nature center is really just for demonstration.  They boil the sap in a kettle over and open fire to demonstrate how local tribe used to do it, they don’t actually look to make profit off of it.



March on the ‘Noosk

March 3, 2018


39 degrees

The effects of the recent thaws were evident at Salmon hole this week.  The large blocks of ice that covered the banks had mostly melted.  The melt water had carved an interesting pattern in the sandy soil, which had been filled with a fresh layer of snow from the night before.  The blocks of ice caused plenty of destruction, leaving evidence in the form of organic litter, logs and branches snapped and left to rot.








There was further evidence of my beaver friend this Saturday.  In addition to fresh teeth marks on a tree there was a perfect cast of a print.

The thaw must have made the soil soft, capturing the animals foot and preserving the print as the soil froze once more as the temperatures dropped.

The river was also the highest I’ve ever seen it, swollen with melt water, threatening to submerge the sandy shore.



Considering Wetland, Woodland and Wildland I would classify Salmon hole as an Upland Shore, specifically a Riverside outcropping.  I think that the topography and hydrology of the spot make this pretty obvious.  There are spots were the shore is entirely dominated by

exposed bedrock where there is no plant life.  These spots were most likely caused by the swift moving currents of the Winooski, and the ice flows that push against the rock in the winter time.

However, beyond the immediate rocky bank, nutrient rich and well drained sandy soil permits for excellent plant growth.  I believe that the majority of the shore is a Silver maple-osterich fern Riverine floodplain forest, as the dominant tree species here is Silver maple.


According to biofinder, Salmon hole is home to a high priority animal species which I believe to be the sturgeon, which spawn there.  It classifies the spot as a rare upland ecosystem.


February 4, 2018

1:15 pm

30 degrees, windy, light snow

This afternoon as I ventured down the side of the road I risked slipping, not on dead leaves, but ice.  The entire landscape was slick.  On the river bank, large blocks of ice covered the shore, I have never seen anything like that before.  The log where I usually sit had either frozen into a block of ice or washed away.  There was also thick coatings of ice around the base of the tree trunks.

There were lots of prints to look at as the ice provided an excellent base to prevent the prints from sinking into too much snow.  Many of the prints belonged to humans and their dogs.

There was an abundance of Grey Squirrel tracks.  Their bounding galloping pattern, was scattered and sloppy.  One even made a brief appearance before hopping away.

There was also another track I saw a lot of that I had a little more difficulty identifying.  My first thought because of the absence of claws and pretense of leading toe was a common house cat. It could also be a bobcat, but I think there’s a little too much negative space between the toe and the pad.  The stride was about 14″ which could be a bobcat, but coincidentally could also be a house cat.

Young basswood trees and silver maples were popping up everywhere.  The twig I have the best close up picture of is what I believe to be an ash.  It has the same crescent around each bud and the large smooth terminal bud.

End of Semester Observations



35 degrees Fahrenheit

As fall draws to a close and winter begins, salmon hole was devoid of green.  The landscape seemed hollow, empty somehow with its dense underbrush leafless and bare leaving the sandy shore exposed.  A small amount of the mornings snow remained leaving a sprinkling on some services.  The river had swollen considerably since my last visit with places on the bank I had previously walked over underwater.

The beavers working the area had made plenty of progress since my last visit.  Their mark was left on quite a few trees along the bank.

I also heard the hammering of a hairy woodpecker.  He let me get pretty close but I couldn’t get a good picture.  It was funny to see him hopping up and down the branches.

Several young trees bore new frost cracks on their south facing side.  This is due to the fluctuating temperatures of late and the stress that places on the wood of the trees.  The water within rapidly expands and contracts, and exploits impurities in the bark.

Human History

The salmon hole along the Winooski has an interesting human land use history.  It received its name from the “spawning salmon that gather in the swirling pool below the Winooski one hydro dam” (  The dam that provides this ideal spot for a wide variety of fish has a rich history.

The River was first damed here by Ira Allen in 1786.  He created an important saw mill, and the spot remained of value to the Vermont lumber industry well into the 1800s.  The land was then won in a court case by a relative of Ira, who began grist mill in 1812.

Throughout the 1800s the mill was home to many industries, which experienced dynamic change as new markets were formed.  It was the perfect place for a mill, as the river provided transportation and hydro power, and the rail road was not far. Grist, textiles, paper, lumber, and oil were all processed on the site.

The mill experienced frequent fire and flooding.  The only ruin of this past production powerhouse is small part of the Cotton mill that extends into the river just beyond the bridge. (

Aside from the dam, the Abenaki people farmed along the banks of the river.  The soil was extremely fertile, and they cleared small areas to farm maize.  The river is so named for the wild onions that grew along its banks. (

The area is now a popular site for fishing in both the spring and fall, as it is a popular spawning site for a multitude of species.  However, it is closed to anglers between March 15 and June 1 to protect the endangered sturgeon.

Returning to a Familiar Place


3:33 pm

45 degrees Fahrenheit

Hilltown, Pennsylvania

As winter draws near, the foliage seems to hunker down, drawing closer to the Earth’s surface as if to share its warmth.  No longer is the eye drawn heavenward with to the dense canopy of fiery oranges and reds, but down the barren brown trunks towards the ground.  Here, vines and woody shrubs send out new shoots interlacing to crochet a blanket over the soil, layered with dead leaves as if to insulate it from the impending snow.  Paths have been cut through this blanket where twigs have been flattened by the daily commute of a herd of deer, eager to fill up on the infantile buds of the surrounding shrubbery.

This woodland area borders a small farm where the farmer has harvested his crop, the landscape is littered with hollow corn husks carried on the breeze, a sign of another successful autumn harvest.  This landscape was he perfect childhood playground. We would lose each other amongst the rows of corn, which towered over us blocking our vision.  At the forests edge it was not uncommon to catch a pant leg on the rusty barbed wire, snaked across soil a reminder of the lands past as a cattle farm.  The sun was low in the sky, its rays dancing playfully through bare branches, inspiring a kind of melancholy as I reflected on a familiar landscape and applied new knowledge which only served to deepen my connection with this place.

The woods at this place in Pennsylvania differed from those at Salmon hole.  The dominant species here is red oak as opposed to the Cottonwood which comprises most of the over story at Salmon hole.  Cottonwoods prefer river banks and the well drained sandy soils found there which explains why it would not be found in this moist soil.  Paper birch, common to Vermont, are also absent from this location.  Perhaps the elevation is not high enough for the pioneer species to thrive.  Honeysuckle is a significant contributor to this sight’s understory as well, it is also common throughout Vermont however it is absent from my phenology site.  The variety found here is the Japanese  honeysuckle, distinguished by its black berries that bloom in the early fall.  A few berries remained, perhaps a product of the unusually warm fall which persisted into early November.  The climate is similar here to that of Vermont, there is four seasons which come with similar changes in temperature, light, and precipitation. It seems as though the phenological changes presently occurring in Vermont were mirrored here, with Pennsylvania remaining just a bit warmer.