The first time I went to Centennial Woods I said that it reminded me of a state park near my house called Castlewood, and because of that it made me feel at home. I thought it only made sense that while I was back in St. Louis I visited Castlewood, and at home I felt. The trails of Castlewood State Park are as cutoff from the hustle and bustle of life as you can get in West County. They wind through woods, radiating a sense of calm that I gladly take a piece of to carry with me. The stream, when the rain has been plentiful and the water is high, is cool and refreshing in the summer – my favorite time to visit. Today, I do not dip my toes into the cold water. The stream is low, but still intrigues me, still calms me. Sitting here, thinking of Centennial Woods, I feel grateful and at peace. Leaving Vermont behind and coming home to Missouri has been hectic and emotional, but I’m realizing here that feeling I have two homes now shouldn’t make me feel torn. Instead, I feel more whole knowing that I have more than one place where I can experience this comfort and serenity.
Though many of the feelings of Centennial Woods and Castlewood are similar, they have many ecological differences. While Centennial Woods has a combination of deciduous and coniferous trees, the trees at Castlewood are exclusively deciduous. This may mean that the soil at Castlewood is less acidic. There are also recreational differences. The Centennial Woods trail is for walking only, with little space for parking, but bikers frequent the trails of Castlewood and cars can be seen driving throughout the park.
Another visit to Centennial Woods included a further decrease in canopy and green, and an increase in leaves carpeting the ground. The trail filled me both with nostalgia for the warmth summer and a longing for winter and snow.
It’s 71 degrees in Centennial Woods today. The sun is out, but a brisk wind blows through the trees and through my hair. The first time I came here, I looked up and saw green. Green needles and green leaves covered every tree. Two weeks ago, I looked up to a still full canopy, but one on the brink of change. Leaves were beginning to turn yellow, orange, and red. Today, it seems like I missed almost all of that change in such a short time. When I look up, I see green again: the green of coniforous tree needles here to stay, and of Norway Maple leaves that have not yet begun their metamorphosis. The shrubs – barberry, buckthorn, and others – and the ferns remain unchanged, but there is an abundance of bare trees now, and an even greater abundance of fallen brown leaves covering the ground, trail, and stream.
The animals have not yet gone for winter, into hibernation or away in migration. I don’t see any, but I hear the occasional ruffle of leaves or snap of twigs that I know come from animal movement. Bird song persists almost constantly; flies buzz their wings close to my ear. I need only to turn over one of the rocks at the bottom of the stream to see the many macroinvertebrates that dwell there.
Today is October 23rd, and Centennial Woods is very much alive.
I wonder how long it will be before it is too cold for these creatures, or before it is too cold for me to dip my toes into the stream as I write.
Today I went to Centennial Woods to hike and hammock, and I found that there is so much more to the natural area than I realized. Centennial is both very big and very diverse, and I’m looking forward to exploring the trails, learning more about the organisms, and observing the environmental changes through the seasons both in and outside of my selected radius.
A few questions I have about Centennial Woods after today:
What are the physical, chemical, and biological conditions of the streams in Centennial Woods?
What made these holes?
What about these?
How do man-made structures impact the ecosystem?
And how do they impact the aesthetic/recreational value of the area?
The first time I went to Centennial Woods I was struck by how home I felt. The trail is very reminiscent of a state park near my house, named Castlewood. I couldn’t think of a better place to spend my time throughout the year.
Centennial Woods is located just off campus, past the UVM medical center.
The forest is rich with diverse trees and vegetation, including many of the 21 tree species we studied in class. Clearings of paper birch and others of white pine are present, and buckthorn and barberry line the brook’s edge.