Hometown Sense of Place

For me, my sense of place in my hometown is very strong. I grew up in a tight knit community where everyone knows everybody and everything about them. Our community is centered around a lake that, during the summers, opens up and all the local kids play there. When you grow up, you become a lifeguard or a babysitter and summers are just as fun. This place where we could all come together and bond really forged my attachment to the place and people.

The people that live in my neighborhood are a very important part of why I have such a strong sense of place there. I have several close  friends of 15 years or more who live a five minute walk away from my house, and the relationships we have with my surrounding neighbors is a big part of my childhood. These people who live around me help make my house and my neighborhood feel like home. The memories I have there with my friends and family are a very important part of my relationship with the place, because we all make, and share, that feeling of home. 

Additionally, the natural landscape plays a huge role in my sense of place. The community was developed in the early 1930s around the lake. Fayson Lakes was initially a place where people would live for the summer, but over time people decided to stay year round! Whether this had to do with the weather – we have a nice balance of all four seasons –  the schools, or the sense of community, I’m not sure, but I can say that it was a wonderful place to grow up. 

The lake has beautiful trails all around it – most of us are so familiar with them we could walk them with our eyes closed. During the winter when the lakes freeze over, everyone puts on their skates to play hockey, or just try to stay upright. We bring thermoses of hot chocolate, and build snowmen in the middle of the lake. In the fall, all the leaves change and the woods are perfect for hiking. But even better, during the summer the beach is always the place to go. The days are filled with swimming, tanning, and hanging out. Nights are warm enough to sit on the dam and look at the stars, play volleyball on the beach, or go for a late night swim. There is also a swim team, the Gators, that all the beach kids join over the summer, and it really brings everyone closer together. 

This place, and all of the people there, are what define my sense of place. This is my home and I know that it always will be. Sense of place has been very important to think about during the transition from high school to college, and I’m thankful that I have found a home at UVM to rival the one from my hometown.

Phenology and Place

As my Phenology Blog spot has changed with the seasons, my relationship with it has as well. This spot started as a sunny spot in the woods, off the main trail and along a quaint stream. It reminded me of the woods back home, and it had a very comforting, relaxing nature about it. Now, in early November, as the trees have lost all their leaves and the ground is covered in snow, this place feels a little more foreign to me. Snow doesn’t usually fall where I’m from until December, and this little spot in the woods – blanketed in white – feels like a winter wonderland. I have always loved the quiet that snow brings to a forest, and I was glad to have an opportunity to observe that so soon! As the woods change with the seasons, so do my favorite aspects of the spot. 

My blog spot is a little haven off the main hiking trail, this trail is a part of Centennial Woods, and Centennial Woods is a forest on the outskirts of UVM’s campus. To escape from res hall life, or bad grundle food, all it takes is a 15 minute leisurely stroll from my room to arrive at my spot. This blog spot has really become a part of my “escape” time, and is a very nice way to reconnect with nature when it’s hard to find the time. It is just a little piece of the woods, yet it has so much to offer. 

In the grand scope of history, this little spot in Centennial Woods was not always the quiet, forested refuge it is now. Centennial woods, in Vermont’s early days of being settled, was clear cut and being used as crop and grazing fields. In the mid to late 1800s, many farms in this area were abandoned, and it is likely that the oldest trees in the forest started to grow in. It wasn’t until the 1970s that UVM designated the woods as a natural area. This history is clear in the youth of the trees in the forest. This is interesting to me because I come from an area not suitable for farming, and so to see this rocky history of the land is a new perspective for me.

Mapping & Charismatic Species

While my Phenology Spot has many characteristics that define it, its most prevalent features come from the species found there. In terms of trees, I found Eastern White Pine, Boxelder, and Norway Maple. These trees are indicators that you have arrived in my spot, as well as being focal elements of the spot. The Eastern White Pine is across the stream and is one of the oldest trees in the area. It is much taller than the surrounding trees and has a much larger base than the others. This tree is marked with a band, and is indicative of the history of the area. The other trees such as Boxelder and Norway Maple are very prevalent in the area and make up a majority of trees in the area. A few other species seen at the spot are pill-bugs, squirrels, worms, sawgrass, and foliose lichen. The sawgrass shows how Centennial Woods is affected by human interference. Sawgrass is a plant native to Florida, and is considered highly invasive. This species often outcompetes natural forest floor vegetation, and so it can be detrimental to native species. 

Since the last visit to my Phenology Spot, the vegetation in the area has changed drastically. The previously lively forest was now completely dead. The ground was covered with fallen leaves and other dying plants. This makes a great habitat for the worms as it causes a buildup of detritus and a damp environment. It appears, judging by the state of the woods, that fall is almost, if not already, over and winter is coming soon.  

Because of the excess of worms and other organisms in the ground, the soil is very pilly. This likely shows that the worms have been active in breaking down the increased organic matter, as well as churning the soil. In terms of topography, the site is nearly the same. There seems to be excess sediment in the stream due to recent rain events, as well as a slightly increased flow. 

Mapping out the site really helped show me what my subconscious finds most predominant about the area. I first thought of the meadow and the stream, but when I reevaluated after visiting the spot again, there were many more features I picked up on: the trees, the wildlife, the vegetation. All of these features define the space and make it what it is. Mapping it all out gave me a broader sense of the character of the spot, and really deepened my knowledge of the surrounding area.

Introduction

Welcome to my Phenology Blog Spot!

This special place is defined by the quaint stream that runs along the path, and the meadow that can be seen over the stream and through the woods. It is surrounded by trees and shrubs, and is a minimally trafficked part of the woods. It is quiet and peaceful, and perfect for a relaxing break in nature. The bubbling of the stream really adds to this effect, and makes this spot one worth spending time in!

You know you’ve reached the spot when you see the meadow through the trees. Additionally, there is a large tree on the other side of the stream that is marked with a pink ribbon. To get to this location, you need to enter Centennial Woods on the main trail. Then, follow the main path until it reaches a small clearing with lots of pine trees. There is a small path that goes down a hill from the little clearing – follow this path until you reach the tree with the marker, and see the meadow across the stream! Along the way, you should pass by a hut made of sticks and fallen branches – that’s how you know you’re close!

Being in this spot is a wonderful experience. It has both trees, a clearing, and a stream. This combination of natural elements allows for an immersive experience that allows a person to be submerged in nature without having to travel far to get there. Additionally, it is the perfect spot to observe wildlife and their interactions with the stream, the clearing, and the forest. To see all three of these areas interact is a really unique experience, and a special opportunity. Also, if it’s cold or raining, feel free to find the hut nearby! The hut is a very cool spot that shows how people love to spend time in this area of the woods and just soak in the beauty of it. This area is a very special part of Centennial Woods, and is very indicative of the nature of the woods and the trails. It is a forest used for recreation, but it retains its wild side and really gives a showcase of how forests that were once damaged can be remediated and thrive.

Field Notes:

  • stream was running faster than usual – recent rainy days
  • leaves on the trees starting to change
  • lots of dead leaves on the trail
  • not much sunlight in this area
  • evidence of hikers – crushed plants near edge of path
  • cloudy day, and getting colder – not a lot of animal activity
  • Few birds in the trees
  • Airplanes visible above meadow, and loud enough to hear
  • buildup of sediments in the stream