Extra Credit Orenaug Park Phenology Part 1

Orenaug Park in Connecticut is a short and steep trail with three trail entrances that lead to a firetower. This firetower offers a full view of the town of Woodbury. One trail entrance is by a pond, another is by the senior center, and the third enters on a road. I will attach an image to clarify. 

Orenaug is surrounded by pines, oaks, and maples. There were many leaves on the ground and fallen branches, off of the path but around it nonetheless. In Centennial there are mainly white pines, sugar maples, and paper birches. The path at Centennial is muddy compared to Orenaug and seems to be less obstructed by fallen branches. 

Overall, being at this site feels a bit different from my site in Burlington. Orenaug is more a part of the town, and not as isolated as Centennial Woods. I feel familiar in both spots, perhaps more so in Burlington because I’ve visited my spot there to a greater extent. Although both are away from the local town enough, Orenaug feels more a part of the community and I experienced more people on my travels there. 

The sunset at part of Orenaug trail

Orenaug is the “Native American name for the trap rock cliffs” (Town of Woodbury, Orenaug Park section) which suggests part of the history of the natural area. Many surrounding areas and landmarks are named after the Native Americans who lived there before, such as the Nonnewaug River. 

The fire tower itself was built in 1911 to lookout for fires within the Pomperaug River Valley. 

The geography of Orenaug is more rocky than Centennial. There are rock cliffs and caves, whereas Burlington is mainly ups and downs as well as mud and pines. I mentioned vegetative species in one of the above paragraphs. I notice that this fauna is kind of similar, but more tuned to the natural environment of both places. For example, the type of soil and weather differs. Orenaug is rocky and dry while Centennial is typically muddy and supports a variety of species. Both places are significantly filled with hills; however, I believe Centennial offers more variety.

I have been to Orenaug before but this time I explored a new trail of it. This definitely made me feel more of a sense of place in Burlington because the trail I went on in Woodbury felt dark and lonely almost. I also came across evidence of people’s history there as I have in Centennial. In Burlington, I know my area well, I am familiar with the landmarks of the area like the large pine and wooden planks. For Orenaug I had to discover these things for the first time.

Thanksgiving Break Sense of Place

The sense of place I chose was the firetower in my hometown of Woodbury, CT. I go here a lot when I’m home and it’s a nice place to take a quick hike and socialize with friends or get away from family. It’s universal among the younger kids, ages 14-19, as a place to hang out and get some exercise. The hike itself is relatively short but it’s a steady incline so it gets your heart rate pumping. I remember when both of my sisters were in high school they would go to the firetower all the time, and I found myself doing the same. The top of the structure is covered with graffiti on the inside, marking everyone who’s been there before. It’s nice to see how people can express themselves in such a public and safe way without consequences. It’s like the firetower is ours. 

Part of the firetower trail was a place of worship for a nearby church where some members would go to for service. The trail also connects to the senior center in the town which is right next to the police station. The other end of the trail is by an off-road next to a picturesque pond. Some areas of the firetower trail have been clear cut for access to nice views, but there aren’t many instances of this. 

There are a lot of walking and hiking trails within easy access of all parts of town; this creates a nice refuge for those who need some relief. The whole town just feels homey and safe. 

I think that the majority of the town has a lot of variety, so it’s the perfect place to grow up in. There are plenty of places to eat and walk and it’s pretty lively the majority of the time. This deepens the sense of place I have for Woodbury because I get excited to visit some of these places. 

Over my lifetime, I found that my hometown was getting smaller. There wasn’t as much to do and I would frequently visit other places. The only things that are really available now are restaurants, diners, and a couple parks. I still find peace of mind when I’m there, but when my friends are away, it feels much lonelier. Since I left home for UVM, I found myself wanting to see the people in my hometown rather than the town itself. I was excited to see certain landmarks, like the cannons on the green, or the most popular grocery store there, Labonnes, as my mom and I drove through it entering Thanksgiving break. Overall, I still feel at home when I’m in Woodbury, but I realize that my sense of place is with the people I love: my friends and family. 

My sense of place at home has influenced the types of environments I feel comfortable in. Since it’s relatively suburban, I am wonderstruck by cities and feel lonelier around isolated areas. Also, considering the physical environment around me, I appreciate the mountains and oceans more because I don’t see them as much. 

This is me at a clearing on the firetower trail
This is me in a hammock at the top of the firetower

Phenology and Place 11/12/19

My experience with my site at Centennial Woods is one of dual-nature. Ironically, to me nothing is quite as freeing as being surrounded by trees. There’s something about evergreens in specific that make me feel at peace. I prefer darker tones so forest green and dark brown is comforting to see as I sit on the wooden planks and gaze at the mossy rock I’ve been examining for the past couple of weeks. When I sit in my spot I feel both a little bit nervous and comforted. My mother has warned me not to enter a forest alone and each time I do her voice rings in my head. So as I sit, although I realize there are dangers to the woods like wild animals, I am also aware of the atmosphere. The large white pine in front of me emits a powerful energy and there’s something about the snow-covered wooden bridge that makes me feel at peace. This past experience at my spot the wind caused the trees to creak like old doors which was unnerving at times but I learned to respect the sound. The forest felt more alive to me than usual most likely because of this factor combined with the sounds of migrating birds and the last of the leaves falling from the branches.

When compared with Burlington as a whole, my spot in Centennial makes me feel small again, but in a good way. You need somewhere to come home to after exploring and that’s what my spot feels like to me. In terms of all of New England, I feel the same smallness at Centennial but I see many characteristics of my spot scattered throughout the states. I’m sure if I spent the time at any one area i’d develop the same feelings as I have for my spot. Moreover, when I compare Centennial to a specific river across from my house in Connecticut, I feel the same feelings. One is not better than the other as they are both familiar and comfortable. I do believe that a sense of place doesn’t have to be an actual place though. I feel most connected and at home with certain people, but this is a different calm than I would have sitting in the woods alone.

Aside from that, thinking about the evolution of my spot makes me curious. I wonder how it might have looked, if any trees I see there now were there long ago or will be there well into the future. My own history with Centennial has grown as well. The more I visit, the more familiar it becomes to me. However, I believe I felt more at home when I visited during the late summer, early fall months. The warmth added to the comfort of the place which is something winter takes away.

Perhaps my site is a sense of place in Burlington to someone else. Throughout history my site has most likely evolved from forested, to heavily messed with, to recognized. What I mean by this is that it wasn’t really noticed, and the first time it was by settlers it may not have been appreciated as it might have by indigenous people. As time went on, perhaps it was looked at in a more respectful way which leads it to what it is today, as people care for the bridge in the area, they respect what surrounds it. I’m not sure what this place may hold for those in the future or what may happen to it. Perhaps it will become overgrown and the bridge will be swallowed by a sea of green. I feel as though if I were to not go back to my spot for years I would still feel the familiarity when I returned. Such is the power of a sense of place.

11/1/19 Spot Notes

The six organisms I recognized were eastern white pine, yellow birch, white ash, paper birch, and sugar maple trees as well as honeysuckle. I viewed a squirrel within my area and could hear birds but wasn’t able to see them very well. I believe one organism stands out the most to me with characterizing my site and that is the large eastern white pine tree to my northeast when sitting and facing the moss rock. It has a powerful presence that does not go unrecognized. When you see the tree, you know you are in the right area. The rest of the organisms do well to characterize the area as the honeysuckle and sugar maple are behind the sitter. The paper birch tree is on the outskirts of the site and is a marker that you are entering the site. Looking up from the rock you see the yellow birch and white ash tree.

The vegetation was fuller during my last trip. As fall continues, there are less leaves in the trees and the bushes I see are sparser. There is a noticeable amount of pine needles mixed with the muddy soil underneath the boardwalk. Similarly, the trees other than the eastern white pine, such as paper birch, yellow birch, white ash, and sugar maple, have less leaves on them. This leads to the tree canopy looking less dense and letting more light in.

In previous visits, my spot in Centennial Woods was not as muddy or wet. Due to Halloween night’s flooding, the soil was pooling underneath the boardwalk. This means the color was darker, the texture wasn’t uniform, and the smell was stronger. The rest of the path coming to and from the boardwalk spot had wet soil that was mixed with more pine needles.

The act of mapping allowed me to view my spot with a deeper perspective. This was true for the trail leading to my spot as well. Marking specific figures along the way to help guide the reader was informative in the sense that I understood which figures were important enough to mark. Similarly, I took a slower walk to my spot and spent more time at my spot looking for landmarks as well. My sense of place at my spot was heightened through this experience as I took myself with more patience and allowed myself to view the different species.

Field Notes 10/24/2019

  • temperature around 60°F and humid
  • breezy and partially sunny
  • 1:56 p.m.
  • ground is damp and muddy from the on and off rain
  • forest is alive with chatter and leaves falling down
  • sun is sort of peaking through the tree tops in some areas can hear the stream running in the near distance
  • no animals but birds can be heard
  • not many travelers