Autumn Hill Reserve (March 21st/March 29th)

Autumn Hill Reserve is right behind my townhouse community, a quick 90 second walk from my house. This allows me to have easy access to a piece of nature with limited human impact and was the place that really made me fall in love with the natural world, and ultimately was a large contributor in me being a Environmental Studies major. The reserve was once a farm, as there are stone walls and a rusted car further back, eventually it had to be abandoned and tree’s grew. By my estimation, half of these trees still stand today alive, while the other half cover the forest floor, dead and rotted. Many of the biggest trees I’ve ever noticed that have fallen, occurred during Hurricane Sandy which completely changed the look of the reserve.

Stone Wall

It is interesting as there are some new wide trails, meaning trail creation projects have occured since I left for college. This is interesting, as since I started going to this reserve my Sophomore year of high school, there had been no signs of effort to fix any of the various accessibility issues on the reserve and I had always thought it more as abandoned. These trail creation projects are done because many of the typical paths are pooled with water and muddy, making it difficult to get from place to place without being covered in mud from the knees down. These projects are actually bad as they ignore the real issue being the lack of sufficient soil, as there isn’t adequate ecology to root the soil. 

Besides the rotted trees, there are many birds constantly chirping, leaf litter, as well as nuts on the ground for the countless squirrels around. Fun fact when I sat to take my notes on a large rock, a bunch of squirrels darted out under my feet, as I didn’t even realize I stepped in the entrance to their secretive home. I saw a group of 4 deer when I went out, which makes sense as there are many bent dead branches around. Interestingly, deer in New Jersey don’t fear humans unless you yell loud or scare them off, as hunting laws are extremely strict, so human’s don’t ever harm them. This means you can get extremely close to them and all they do is look at you, one time I felt confident enough to pet a deer. I’d say it didn’t seem to mind much. 

From the eight days between my two visits, I could see there was more growth in the understory as peeks of green have appeared and even some plants have shown early signs of flowering. This makes me excited as my favorite time to be at Autumn Hill is when it’s extremely green but hasn’t gotten super hot, so late to mid spring. Seeing these signs in late March, makes me think by this time next month, I will be back in my green oasis.

    There were also people spotted in the reserve which might have been the strangest thing I found during my 2 trips. As there are only 2 parking spots total to access the reserve, as well as nearly nobody in my townhouse community knowing that the reserve actually exists, I found it strange to see two adults walking by. Maybe people are more interested to go because they heard about them fixing the path or people are more open to explore, feeling trapped in their house due to coronavirus.

February (Survival)

During my February visit at Wiggly Wood, I was able to identify Cottontail Rabbit tracks. Cottontail rabbits’ ideal place to live are in open fields with shrubs to take cover in, but are adaptable depending on the situation (Vermont Wildlife and Fisheries). This is the exact description when you first enter, Ethan Allen Park (greater Wiggly Wood area). This cottontail rabbit moved into the woods as winter proceeded because it needed a larger array of shrubs in the understory. This larger selection allows for more bud/stem options to feed on as well as more understory choices on where to live, as they tend to barry either day or night. By retracing the cottontail rabbits steps, I noticed that it came from a bush that had lots of buds chewed on. These steps went from this point, crossed over Wigglywood and went downhill crushing branches along the way. It’s my belief that the rabbit went from it’s safe space, on a search for food, and the tracks I saw were the rabbit heading back to this safety. 

The only major phenological change that I noticed is that there are less overall leaves. The leaf litter that was once on top of the snow has now compacted by more snowfall over the course of February. February also took a toll in terms of the few leaves remaining on the trees, as winds blew the last few away, making nearly all the trees completely naked. This doesn’t surprise me much as February was a continuation of the consistent cold and snow that January brought, not allowing most of the ecology to flourish.

I would be interested if I would have found more if I would have gone a week or even a few days earlier. It was 50 degrees outside, leading lots of snow to melt. This made it hard to view tracks as many were half melted and extremely deformed. At one point, I found what I believe to be a subnivean zone, but the top portion melted caving into the zone itself, so I’m hesitant to attach it to my findings.

Eastern Cottontail. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2020, from

Levine, L., & Mitchell, M. (2014). Mammal tracks and scat: life-size tracking guide. East Dummerston, VT: Heartwood Press.

January: Endurance

Since I last visited my phenology spot, (prior to winter break), lots has changed. There is significantly more snow on the ground, as January is almost always below freezing so snow has less of a chance to melt. All of the coniferous trees, except for one, have pine needles on them while the one other has dead brown leaves on it. All the deciduous trees have a few dead brown leaves on them. The only sign of wildlife, outside of animal tracks and crushed sticks, are hearing birds singing as I was exiting my phenology spot. These bird’s songs could be them warning each other that potential pray could be in the area. The snow on the path and understory are flattened from lot’s of humans and animals traveling on and along the path. 

Lab Notes
Wiggly Wood (1/26/2020)

I was able to identify two twigs. The first one is a paper birch twig as it is slender with reddish brown color and more than three bud scales. The second one is white oak as it is reddish brown and has multiple terminal buds which are small and round. When looking at the snow, I noticed cottontail rabbit tracks, coyote tracks, and gray squirrel tracks. 

Levine, Lynn (2014). Mammal Tracks and Scat Life-Size Pocket Guide. Heartwood Press

White Oak Twig
Paper Birch Twig
Cotton tail rabbit
Gray Squirrel

Lone Rock Point (Pieces/Patterns/Processes)

Lone Rock Point has several pieces that seem unusual but with further research makes sense on how they have come to be.Lots of Dunham Dolostone were present meaning calcium rich shells were once present as Dolostone is a type of limestone. Dunham Dolostone is easily erodible which creates the caves around Lone Rock Point. The Calcium is good for vegetation and is clear through seeing Calcium Rich Site Indicators like Basswood and Herbaceous Plants. The Champlain Thrust Fault has Dunham Dolostone on top and Iberville Shale on the bottom. This is despite the Dunham Dolostone being there first as during the Taconic Orogeny plate movement led to pressure to build leading the bedrock to buckle. Rock Point has a very unique shape. Rock Point is a large deposit from the glacial melt that formed Lake Vermont 15,000 years ago. The “Mesic Maple Ash Hickory Oak Forest” has less enriched soil with Sugar Maple, Red Maple, White Oak, Red Oak, White Ash, Shagbark trees all present. The Shagbark Hickory is home to the Indiana bat which is rare to Vermont. All of the trees allow songbirds to feed and breed freely. The dense forest is also good for White Tailed Deer, Mice, Chipmunks, Squirrels to reside. The “White Pine-Transition Hardwood Forest” has lots of White Pines present. This is due to the land being largely clean cut in the mid 1800s for subsistence farming and having an apple orchard. This farm took up lots of land at the time so the White Pine makes up a large portion of forest composition. The wetlands are made up of areas with silty and clay soils. Due to being close to North Shore the Red Maple Swamp has trash blown in. The wetfields allow American Woodcock to dance and Vernal Pools allow amphibians to lay there eggs.

Sense of Place @Home

My sense of place runs from the corner of Washington St and Route 206 through Autumn Hill Reservation and Herringtown Woods. Through this is my house along with my neighborhood, the two reservations stated above, Van Horn Park, and Burger King where I once worked.

This area overall is flat land, with various gradual inclines throughout. It is by no means hilly and very easy for anyone to walk. This allows people to go and transport freely as there is no bad hill to go up or down during rough weather thus leading to economic growth as people can still run the errands they once wanted. Formerly the area was nearly all family farms. This flat land allowed farmers to be successful as all the nutrients seep directly into the soil. Since it was once farmland there was very limited tree cover in most of the area. Although due to suburbanization trees were planted throughout in order to enrich the soil for building along with aesthetic reasons. Now in this section all that is left is one family farm despite that being the prime occupation in the area back in the mid 1800s.

The built environment influenced my work, my quarters, and my recreation. My work was influenced as it is in walking distance. It was a 30 minute walk due to building trails that went through a small patch of woods. Building these walkways saved me a significant amount of time allowing me to get to work easier and quicker thus making more money. Living in a townhouse allowed me to get to my friends quickly as all of our houses were pressed up closely. Being so close allowed us at a young age to have a lot more freedom than most as since we were close by to each other we could walk around and explore. There was a large park built, which is close by so me and my friends could walk to it. We could play on the large jungle gym or more commonly play basketball on the basketball courts. Basketball was a great way to improve my skills along with improving my friendship with my friends. Over the summer as kids we used to go there daily. Autumn Hill Reservation and Herringtown Woods have not been built and have always been left untouched leaving 100s of acres of open forest. This not being a built environment allows me to have a natural area in the midst of suburbia.

The area has very good schools which has led lots of people to want to move here. Ever since the late 1800s, there has been more and more suburbanization in the area but more recently it has become hyper suburbanization due to the recognition that the school district has been receiving. Where once open fields lie have been turned into neighborhoods or shopping centers. Due to there being a mixture of farmers who have once lived there, stable families with children, and people who are barely making ends meet who move there in the hope of providing their children with a good education there is a wide variety of morals. Due to a mixture of types of motives for living in this place, I have learned a variety of different perspectives on issues. This has made me think that many things don’t have necessarily concrete solutions. Being in my place at home has made me realize how much hasn’t changed but how in fact I have.

Wiggly Wood Sense of Place

Wiggly Wood has experienced many signs of phenological change during my latest visit. There are no longer any species in the area as the bugs have become hidden or died off while the birds have migrated south. The forest is less dense as leaves have completely fallen off all the trees giving in an area that once was defined with it’s wide variety of color as one that appears dead looking giving a sense of despair. The understory is fully bare and mostly dead overall. As the leaves are no longer on the trees, the wind is a lot more apparent, giving a sense a sense that winter is on the horizon. There are less people in the area as the colder weather acts as a deterrent for people who like to participate in recreation in the area. Finally, the soil is a lot drier than previously, as due to Wiggly Wood being atop a hill the water flows down the hill. Additionally, there has been a lack of major precipitation which also contributes to the dry soil. 

November 10
November 1
October 20
September 28

Wiggly Wood is just a small slice of many larger places. It is defined by its close location to the Ethan Allen Tower in Ethan Allan Park on the North End of Burlington. In a broader sense it displays the many beauties of Chittenden County, Vermont, and New England as a whole. This sight now sits as a place where people can participate in outdoor recreation or take in the calm and relaxation of a beautiful landscape. In the past the site was more chaotic as military personnel once used the path as regular transportation from Ethan Allen Tower to other locations. In the future, Wiggly Wood may be preserved as a historic relic of Vermont history

Wiggly Wood Mapping/Charismatic Species

At my site there is currently Red Oak trees, Red Maple trees, Paper Birch trees, Poison Ivy, Moss, a Single Eastern Whitepine, and I spotted a eastern gray squirrel. There was a high density of Red Oak and Red Maple trees which ended up covering the path in leaves. The Paper Birch trees are all concentrated in one area by the path allowing them to flourish as it has disturbed soil with a plentiful amount of available light for such a dense forest. Poison ivy was also found along the cleared path which seems fitting as poison ivy grows in high densities in disturbed land. The singular Eastern Whitepine is found in a portion of the path that has a more sandy soil in comparison to the remaining portion of the forest meaning this was planted by humans rather than appearing on it’s own. The Eastern Gray Squirrel was found in this prominently hardwood environment which is where they like to live.

Earlier in the season, during my previous two visits I had noticed mosquitoes, bees, and birds although during this visit they were no longer. This is due to the fact that we are now in the midst of fall and closer to winter than we are summer. Previously, there were flowers on some of the plants in the understory but this is no longer so the bees have nothing attracting them to this area anymore. The male mosquitoes have simply died off while the females have gone into hibernation with their larvae. The birds on the other hand have begun migrating south.  

Nearly all of the trees have their leaves gone and they are spread out on the ground covering some of the trail. The understory is overall less dense as some of it has died. The berries, acorns, pinecones are no longer on the ground as they are either covered by the dead leaves or taken and stored by animals. The soil is wet as there was a major rainstorm the day before causing the soil to be extremely moist. Since in order to get to our spot the topography has a major elevation gain causing lots of access rain to flow down the hill. Mapping out the area has given me a new perspective as before I had only thought of things from a ground level perspective. It made me realize the unique characteristics of our particular area as it was at the top of a greater slope compared to the area surrounding it . 

Introduction to my place, Wiggly Wood

Wiggly Wood is defined by the man made structure that I call the “wiggly wood walkway”. This walkway is carved tree wood with screws that attach it to pieces of plywood that help keep it sturdy so that people can walk on it. The walkway is warped due to both age and weather affects.

Wiggly Wood is characterized by the variety of different types of life. There is plenty of plant life as I observed birches, maples, oaks, shrubs, grasses, and poison ivy. The majority of trees have thin trunks meaning many of these trees are on the younger side. You can hear birds chirping and see an occasional bee or a mosquito flying by. On the ground there are rocks, moss, leaves, pine cones, and red berries. Three quarters of the leaves have already changed colors.

I know that I am in my place when I am on the tower side of the wood structure, facing towards the remainder of the path. In order to get there, I bus from the Gold Line down to Downtown Transit station and get on the Red Line until I get off on the stop by the Walgreens on North Avenue. I then walked to the parking lot of Ethan Allen Park which has a paved path leading you into the woods. I stay on this path until I notice a sign relating to the tower which I then turn left onto a dirt path. Eventually there will be a fork in the path in which I veer to the left eventually taking me to the Tower. I then make a right at the tower and in roughly 40 steps you arrive at Wiggly Wood. 

The experience of being at this place is mostly calming outside of hearing the occasional traffic or running into the occasional visitor. The combination of birds chirping, a light breeze against the trees, and the smell of nature gives a tranquil experience. Looking at the Ethan Allen Tower makes me reflect on the history of this location as it had been a former lookout tower in the United States military. It makes me wonder what other things I don’t know relating to this area.