Exploring Centennial Woods: Tuesday, October 2nd

In 1845, Henry David Thoreau committed himself to two years alone in the wood. Why did he go? Well, Thoreau believed his generation to be grossly consumed by materialism and abundance, and too distanced from nature, which he viewed as the source of the purest pleasures in life. In Walden, he states that he:

…Went to the woods because [he] wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if [he] could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when [he] came to die, discover that [he] had not lived. [He] did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did [he] wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. [He] wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.

Certainly Thoreau’s dedication to the world is admired by almost everyone, especially English teachers and naturalists. Thoreau’s work is also greatly appreciated by myself; While I embarked on a roughly 10 minute journey with some bug spray in hand to the the great outdoors- aka the trailhead of Centennial Woods- for the purpose of this phenology project, I went for myself as well. I was curious as to what Centennial Woods could offer to me, what I could offer it, and maybe suck the sap out of some sugar trees ala Thoreau (or settle for some Yerba Mate instead).

So, very importantly, how does one get to my observation site in Centennial Woods? The trailhead is accessible on Carrigan Drive past the Centennial Court Apartments, and from there you can begin on the path. Continuing forward for five or so minutes you will meet a small brook, and from there follow the trail to the left and up a slight incline. After the incline there should be a flat area, and then continue up to the right along another incline. Follow this path, until you approach a maple tree with various trunks and branches. This is the spot for my semester long observation.

I chose this site using the advice of the guest lecturers, Matt Kolan and Kaylynn Two Trees, from September 21st. Their lecture focused on their experiences with the environment and identity, and how one should form a connection in nature. The five key steps they outlined for approaching any site in the natural world are: searching for invitation, asking permission, giving an introduction, listening, and offering gratitude. I did not strictly follow these steps when I first searched for a site of observation, but I used them to guide me. I was not just a casual hiker, simply enjoying the scenery of Centennial Woods, but I deeply immersed myself to become one with the ecology. I engaged all of my sense to absorb my surroundings and to have my surroundings absorb me. When I finally approached my site, I knew it was for me. Perhaps my body was just too hot to go on, or perhaps the nature motioned me to stop, but I knew I had found it.

My site consisted of a lot of clear space. Around the trail were trees, of course, but there was a lot of low grasses and shrubs. Many of the trees were varieties of maples, especially Norway maples, that were quite mature and hung over the path, creating some shady spots. Continuing down the path for about 20 feet, one will find some pine trees. On the ground there was a light layer of some pine needles and leaves. The canopy was not too dense and filled with bright green leaves, and there was the faint sound of cars driving on Route 89.

Fall is now beginning to show me it’s bright, beautiful colors, and Centennial Woods will be my primary spot for appreciating this Vermont scenery. I will continue to investigate and invest myself in this area to become a part of the habitat.

  • Thoreau, H. D. (1908). Walden, or, Life in the woods. London: J.M. Dent.

Looking down the path, opposite to the large maple tree

Looking up the path, past the large maple tree

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