While I cannot pinpoint the history of my spot exactly, there is abundant documentation about the history of the land on which Centennial Woods is now located. In my spot in particular it easy to notice the sandy soils, especially around the stream. This is because the hill behind my spot is actually a large sandy deposit left by the retreating glaciers. The retreating glaciers left the sand as well as some of the noticeably larger rocks that are in my stream. Continuing on, around three to four thousand years ago there was Native American settlement. This was discovered in 1998 by UVM students who found evidence of Native American tool making such as stone flakes, stone tools themselves, and even a spear. It is likely that there was Abenaki settlement in that particular area because it is located along Centennial Brook, which would have provided a water source. It is hard to find the deeds, but maps of land ownership show that the land was indeed owned by different men (naturally) by the late 1890s.
Going forward, there is a UVM pamphlet that points out that the land near the stream on the trail, what they refer to as “the overlook” was owned by Fred Fiske, a former UVM student who used the land for agriculture. The abundance of white pine in the area, as well as some barbed wire found in various places around the woods, are good markers of how this land was probably previously cleared and then used for farming or pasture. There are also rumors that the Green Mountain Boys, a militia that was active in the area, used the land to train.
Coming closer into the future, the area used to be home to the South Burlington Kiwanis Ski Area. The ski area opened in 1962 according to “The History of South Burlington Vermont 1865-1965” but closed down for the 1967 season and never reopened again because of a fire lit by arsonists. The area was small, consisting of only a 500 foot rope tow, however it had the potential to have led to disturbances in my area of the woods.
The University of Vermont had been acquiring the parcels of land that now make up Centennial Woods from 1891-1965. In the late 1990s, in conjunction with the Vermont Land Trust, UVM made the land a protected natural area that is meant to be undeveloped in perpetuity.
While my two places are quite different, they have more similarities than one might think. The first is located within a forested park, off the beaten path, with little interaction with people. The second is a backyard in a bustling city where any number of people and urban factors could interact with it. The first has a stream running through it, leading to the creation of wetlands. There’s also a greater variety of plant life, from the trees to the shrubs and the ferns. This is in stark contrast to my backyard, where there is grass, some old vegetables, and a few hedges. However, it seems that my backyard has more wildlife than my Burlington spot. In my backyard I saw a wren, a blue jay, my neighbor’s cat, and a squirrel. In all my time in my Burlington spot I am yet to see wildlife, though I have heard some birds.
As I walk through my backyard I cannot help but wonder what was once here. The allotment we have for our yard is barren of most life besides some grass. Nuts are scattered along the ground, broken open by a smokey grey squirrel. The grass is beginning to yellow under the weight of the brown, crunchy leaves. I notice a thin, frail oak leaf. I wonder where its tree is. There are not many trees left here, they were cut down hundreds of years ago. Some were replanted, most were not. I more often see the birds and the squirrels nesting and playing on telephone and electrical poles than branches and trunks. While the man-made poles rises into the sky, seemingly challenging all the houses in its vicinity, I can’t help but wonder why the animals prefer this foreign object to their natural homes. While I sit on the stone wall that my father built, I ponder whether I could have once seen deer strolling through my yard, a story I hear often from my friends in suburbia. Could a deer have pranced up my hill and laid among some trees or a meadow where my house now stands? Would the leaves continue to crunch the same way under their hooves as it does under my feet? Would they nibble on the nuts as voraciously as the raccoons do? I will never know.
My place during break is my backyard. Living in a city makes it hard to find a spot that has little human interaction, so I decided on my backyard because it is a place of greenery that is relatively undisturbed and I can easily access.
Here is the link to my place during Thanksgiving break: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1KT0zhW40CwF9BPO8Atp1Jv14BUfjhpRj&usp=sharing
Now that fall has truly arrived, my place has become more vibrant, though no less lively. The leaves of the coniferous trees are changing color, in some hues of orange, yellow, and red, but not with the usual beauty that’s associated with a New England fall, more of a drab, muted tone. The brook has more pine and maple leaves within it. The grasses in the wetland are beginning to yellow and become brittle and dead, however they weren’t very healthy to begin with. During my expedition I did not encounter much wildlife. There was the occasional, unidentifiable rustle of leaves and caw of birds. I did see a chipmunk race across the forest floor from behind me. The most prominent and abundant wildlife was no doubt the insects. Especially within the eroded edges of the brook there were hundreds of midges, flies, and mosquitoes. There was though, a noted absence of the ladybugs that I have been seeing all over campus. The overall look of my place has not changed, unless you count the mild change in foliage color and the beginning of the decay that the cold brings.
I have attached some sketches of a map that I did of my place. There aren’t many woody plants in my area, so most of the empty space is dominated by dirt, grasses, and ferns. I tried to mark the inclines that surround my place using longitudinal lines (grey in the colored picture) and any notable, distinguishing factors of my place. It’s a bit childish and rudimentary as far as maps go, but I believe (and hope) it gets the job done.
My place is mostly encompassed by Centennial Brook, so the area is mainly taken up by water and rocks. The most prominent woody plant species in my place is Eastern White Pine, there are around 7 of them. However, the tree that marks my place for me is a Norway Maple right on the edge of the brook. From the vantage point of the Norway Maple, you can see a few shrubs, a relatively large buckthorn, a young American Beech, and a couple of red maples. The left side of the brook, where most of the older, taller trees are, is mostly devoid of plant life on the ground, I believe because the trees cover any sun from reaching the floor. There are some grasses scattered around and a few shrubs once you get closer to the brook’s edge but that’s mostly it. If you go across the brook however to its right side, there is an abundance of grasses, ferns, shrubs, and low lying vegetation along with some young trees. Since the vegetation is so thick and the ground so moist I was not able to investigate particular species, but there is definitely a thriving micro-ecosystem there thanks to the brook. Where the brook is the sun is able to stream in because of a lack of trees. Within the brook itself there was a bend where the area had definitely been eroded and a small tree or two had collapsed into the brook.