Category Archives: Hikes

wild times in Pine hill park

At Pine Hill Park Fall 2019/Winter 2020

As late as the first week of Oct., a few summer resident birds could still be found in the park, including yellow-bellied sapsuckers, Eastern phoebe, and wood ducks. Day temperatures could be considered generally cold. And an occasional garter snake could be seen slithering among the leaf litter. The forest seemed alive with chipmunks scurrying about searching for, and storing, their winter food supply of acorns and other available nuts and seeds.

By mid-October, the forest floor was covered in a thick layer of colorful leaves, a layer which would persist throughout the fall and winter months

By mid-October, the forest floor was covered in a thick layer of colorful leaves, a layer which would persist throughout the fall and winter months. Eastern newts could still be seen swimming in Rocky and Muddy ponds.

By the first week of November, the seasonal birds had left, the hundreds of migrating waterfowl had left both ponds, the forest had become very quiet, trees were bare of leaves for the most part, and both Rocky and Muddy ponds were still open water, with newts seen swimming along the shoreline.

At the end of the first week of November, a thin layer of ice had formed over a few small areas on the edges of the ponds. On a Nov. 9th walk, I saw only one crow, but plenty of gray squirrels and chipmunks scurrying about. On a Nov. 17th hike, I had noticed that most of the oak trees had finally dropped their last leaves, an inch of snow was on the ground, gray squirrels and chipmunks were continuing their collecting of food, both ponds were covered with about 2 inches of ice, and not a single bird was heard or seen.

Two days before Christmas, temperatures in the low 50s were recorded, causing a major snow melt, but both ponds were now covered with thick ice. On Dec. 28th, Dave and Shelley participated in the annual Audubon Christmas bird count, observing tufted titmouse, mallard, crow, red-tailed hawk, raven, black-caped chickadee, downy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, American goldfinch, hairy woodpecker, pileated woodpecker, and Eastern bluebird.

On Jan. 12th, bluebirds were seen at a birdhouse near the park trailhead. Hopefully, they’ll be nesting in one of those houses in the spring. But because of the proximity to people, that very well may not happen. On this day I saw common resident bird species including downy, hairy, and pileated woodpeckers, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadees and dark-eyed juncos. Both ponds were covered in a few inches of water caused by recent heavy rains, and temperatures in the 60s! Snow was almost completely gone from the forest floor.

The third week of Jan. found the forest floor covered in about 4 inches of snow, with temperatures near single digits. Many places could be seen where white-tailed deer had been digging up the snow in search of acorns and other nuts.

The first week of Feb. found the lower trails forest floor still bare, but the higher trails all had about an inch of snow covering the ground. The forest was still relatively quiet, but I did observe gray squirrels mating. A RED squirrel, an only occasional sight, was seen in the hemlock forest near Muddy Pond, and tufted titmouse birds were singing, signs that spring was not far away.

By mid-Feb., about 6” of snow was on the ground, many animal tracks were seen throughout the forest including white-tailed deer, coyote, fox, squirrels and chipmunks, many squirrels were scurrying about, snow fleas were observed for the first time, and cardinals were singing.

On Feb. 23rd, while sitting on the edge of Rocky Pond, I could hear rumbles, moans, and groans coming from the pond as ice was moving and cracking underneath the snow covered surface. All streams and ponds frozen over.

March 8th was a gorgeous day. Squirrels and chipmunks could be seen active throughout the park, snow was gone on the lower trails with snow found only in protected, isolated areas throughout the upper trails, Rocky Pond had a few spots of open water, spiders were seen crawling about, and streams were starting to run.

By mid-March, snow was gone from most of the park with just a few patches of snow found only in small protected areas. Both Rocky and Muddy Ponds had some small open patches of water along the perimeter with Canada geese, mallards, wood ducks and hooded mergansers found there. Eastern newts were seen in large numbers along the shores in these open areas. Hairy woodpeckers were heard all throughout the park drumming.

All 50 American chestnut trees survived the winter, but 2 of the trees have small spots on their bark which show outer bark degradation. Whether this is the dreaded blight or not is too early to tell at this time according to a VT State Forester who looked at a picture of the spots I had taken for him to examine.
Shelley observed bluebirds leaving and entering one of the bird houses near the trailhead. We can only hope they decide to nest in one of the houses this spring.

That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails and enjoy your walks through the beautiful trails of Pine Hill Park.



Park is now open for bikes

UPDATE MARCH 27th: Trails are officially open for bikes. We will not be posting this on social media or updating TrailHUB. TrailHUB will still show closed to the right of your screen and it will stay that way for a little while. If the park is super wet we’re asking folks to be smart about riding. Remember your social distancing too. There are a lot of pedestrians in the park so please be courteous. Please have your dog leashed at all times. Thank you for your patience.

UPDATE MARCH 25th: Trails are drying out nicely until we picked up 4″ of snow late Monday. As of late Wednesday there is still some snow on the ground so trails are soft. We need to have the snow melt completely then a few more days to dry everything out before we open to bikes. Please be patient.

When the trails do open it will be a quiet opening. TrailHUB will still show closed. If we change from closed to open an alert will go out to about 24,000 people. Needless to say we do not need to broadcast this to 24,000 people that park trails are open.

Exit Strategy, Lichen Rock and the steep hill on Droopy will be closed until they really dry out late spring.

We are currently hoping to hold our community work day Saturday, April 25th, 9AM at the front entrance.

At this point in time we are not sure about our volunteer groups coming this summer. We know Exit Strategy needs some TLC but as of now we’re not sure how it will be repaired at this point in time.

We are still hoping VYCC will be in this fall but we need to raise $15,000 for a two week crew. If you have not renewed your membership please do and we will take contributions of any amount which are tax deductible. We are applying for grants to help offset this cost but we could use your help.

___________________________________________________________________________

Well, folks it’s that time of year with the freeze/thaw cycles. We’re asking folks not to ride any type of bike with the the weather cycles we are currently experiencing. The trails are not freezing at night.

Someone decided to ride one of those warm 50+ degree days and basically destroyed part of Escalator. Our volunteers do not need extra work by repairing the ruts left by this one person who thought the sign at the front entrance did not apply to them.

We know folks are jonesing to ride but please be patient and not create more work for the volunteers who already have enough to do this year.

Grooming!

Our volunteer Nate N has been out grooming the last few days. He’s been able to lay down a pretty sweet path in the woods and down around the ball field. Like what you see? Please consider a donation to the Snowdog fund. More snow in the forecast so the riding/skiing/walking should get better! If temps go above freezing please refrain from biking/walking/skiing on the groomed trails please.

Winter trail update

Exit Strategy, Lichen Rock, Droopy Muffin (steep hill) between Intersections 30A and 30 are closed for winter. Orange snow fencing is up please respect these trail closures. They will reopen in the spring after the freeze/thaw cycles are done.

Would you like to help groom trails this winter with the snowdog? Send us an email: pinehillpartnership@gmail.com

Community work night

Come join us on Tuesday, August 6th for a weed whacking party. Meet at the front entrance at 5pm, bring a weed whacker if you have one we will have a few extras for folks to use. Bring water and a headlamp. We will shuttle people up to Rocky Pond and we will hike on the Carriage Trail to get grass/ferns, berry bushes pushed back. We could use 15+ people so maybe we’re done before 9pm! THANKS!

Wild times in pine hill park

Wild Times at Pine Hill Park by Tom Estill

Summer, 2019 Summary

Wild Times At Pine Hill Park
Summer, 2019 Summary

The first day of summer turned out to be a gorgeous day this year. Many birds could be found in the park including, American redstart, hairy woodpecker, black and white warbler, red-eyed vireo, hermit thrush, robin, ovenbird, immature yellow-bellied sapsucker, and great-crested flycatcher. Gray squirrels and Eastern chipmunks were a common sight.

A week later, on June 27th, I spent the day at the park clearing weeds from around the base of the 50 American chestnut trees, cutting down encroaching saplings, and spraying the leaves of the chestnuts with deer repellent. All the 50 trees are doing well, with one of them now over 10 feet tall! The big question now is, will one or more of them FLOWER next spring? Birds seen on this day included robins, scarlet tanager, hermit thrush, veery, ovenbird, red-eyed vireo, American redstart, chestnut-sided warbler, and black and white warbler. A few years ago, I would hear only one scarlet tanager singing in one place in the park, but this year, scarlet tanagers were singing on Crusher Rd., lower, middle, and upper Giorgetti trails, Carriage trail, and near Rocky Pond.

On July 2nd, the chestnut trees were watered as they always are after a dry spell. A red admiral butterfly, a not uncommon butterfly, was seen flying about. Many species of butterflies inhabit Pine Hill Park. I was particularly happy to hear from many park visitors that they had been observing more monarch butterflies in the park this season than they had in the past. Each year, local school students plant more and more milkweed in the forest in an attempt to increase the dwindling numbers of Monarch butterflies. Milkweed seeds are collected in the fall, refrigerated until spring, grown in the classroom, and then planted near Rocky Pond. The Rocky Pond milkweed population is an official Monarch Waystation. Also on this day, a young yellow-bellied sapsucker could be heard calling from its nest near Intersection 12. Yellow-bellied sapsuckers have successfully nested in that same tree, but different holes, for the last 4 years. Birds seen that day included cardinal, tufted titmouse, wood thrush, hermit thrush, scarlet tanager, great blue heron, red-eyed vireo, yellow-throated vireo, American redstart, and myrtle warbler.

On July 8th, an adult osprey was seen sitting on its nest at Muddy Pond, and an Eastern Peewee could be heard nearby. We all wondered if the adult was brooding eggs.

On July 21, an Eastern garter snake and tiny American toad toadlet were both seen on Crusher Road near the old quarry. And on July 23rd, I noticed that the forest was suddenly getting much quieter than it had been in the recent past. Also on this day I saw monarch, painted lady and great spangled fritillary butterflies flying about.

By the last week of July, the blueberries had ripened, and there were areas where the ground was covered in blueberries. Fawns could be seen walking about with their mothers, and other adults could be seen walking about by themselves looking for those blackberries and blueberries to feed upon, no doubt.

On the last day of July I took a walk through the VERY QUIET forest and saw American goldfinch, robins, red-eyed vireos, hermit thrush, crows, and great blue heron and one osprey at Muddy Pond.

The first week of August found a very quiet forest, a kingfisher at Rocky Pond, cedar waxwings nesting in pitch pine trees at the south side of Rocky Pond, and button bushes flowering along the shore of that pond. Button bush seeds are collected each fall by local school children, refrigerated during the winter, then planted in the spring along the shores of Rocky Pond in an attempt to attract more waterfowl to that pond. The seeds are eaten by waterfowl. This time of year you can still see red-eyed vireos, Eastern pewees, American goldfinch, great crested flycatcher, tufted titmouse, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

On August 6th, 2 young ospreys were seen in the nest, while 2 adults were flying overhead, with one of the adults holding a fish in its talons. That’s two years in a row now those ospreys have successfully raised young in their nest. On this same day, I saw my first Lichen Moth, one of the most beautiful moths I have ever seen. The contrast between the yellow and black colors of its wings was quite striking.

During a walk in late August, I heard barred owls calling near Rocky Pond and saw a double-crested cormorant flying overhead. Small wood frogs and toadlets were a common sight along the rain soaked trails.

On Sept. 8th, I took a late afternoon walk to Rocky Pond, and during that slightly over two hour walk, I didn’t see or hear a single bird. That’s the first time that has ever happened to me at Pine Hill Park.

Ospreys were seen at Muddy Pond until around the middle of Sept. when they abandoned the nest for the season. Will they return to the same nest next year? My guess is that they probably will.

The week before the fall equinox gray squirrels and chipmunks could be seen scurrying about collecting acorns and other seeds in preparation for the approaching cold weather. Though the forest was very quiet, you could still find flying about, birds such as yellowthroat, broad-winged hawk, black-capped chickadee, blue jay, song sparrow, belted kingfisher, great blue heron and wood ducks. It was nice to end the summer season with the sight of a beautiful, healthy looking red fox up near the quarries.

That’s it for this issue. Please stay on the trails and enjoy your time at the park.

Spring, 2019 Summary

At the beginning of spring, lower Giorgetti trails were all bare ground; while throughout all the upper trails one could still find patches of snow and ice, especially on the north facing slopes.

The last day of March found both Rocky and Muddy ponds covered in ice with a few puddles of water dispersed throughout the ice cover.  A few Canada geese were seen at Muddy pond and pair of mallards were seen at Rocky Pond swimming in a few small patches of open water on the perimeter of the ponds.  The only birds I saw that day were a pileated woodpecker, crow, and the waterfowl mentioned above.

By April 7th, the snow was almost completely gone from the park, but both ponds were still covered in ice with the exception of a narrow band of open water around the perimeters of both ponds.  I was terribly disappointed to see the old osprey nest tree blown down by a recent storm.  Osprey had successfully nested there the last two years.  Eastern newts were seen for the first time this season, along with a few northern migrating birds including yellow-bellied sapsucker, hermit thrush, wood ducks and osprey.

In mid-April, all signs of ground snow and ice were gone, and ice was completely gone from both ponds.  Streams were running high, red oaks were budding, trout lily leaves were emerging from the ground cover and coltsfoot was flowering.  Water level at Rocky Pond was so high; it was flowing over the top of all 3 beaver dams.  More and more northern migrating birds were seen each day.  In mid-April you could see Turkey Vultures flying overhead, and common mergansers at Muddy pond.  Wood frogs, in large numbers, were calling from a wet wooded area just south of Rocky Pond.

In April, Lauren White made contact with representatives of VELCO in an attempt to get them to install an osprey platform on a power pole they were installing at the north end of Muddy Pond.  Her efforts were successful and in the third week of April, 2 osprey were seen building a nest on the platform, after starting one on the top of an adjacent power pole, then leaving it.

On April 22nd, spring wildlife was out in full force.  Birds seen that day included tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, yellow-bellied sapsucker, hairy woodpecker, crow, black and white warbler, turkey vulture, mallards, Canada geese, osprey and white-breasted nuthatches.  Spring peepers were calling, and painted turtles were sunning themselves.  Many insects were flying about including the Mourning Cloak, the first butterfly to always appear in the park.  2 deer ticks were found crawling up my pant legs.  I always do a thorough job of checking for ticks after each of my walks.

By the first week of May, many flowers were blooming including trout lily, wood anenome, white violets, trailing arbutus, wild oats and partridge berry.  A few days later, the forest floor could be seen covered with fiddleheads, barren strawberries, white and purple violets, jack-in-the-pulpit, coltsfoot, and trout lilies, with Solomon’s seal starting to emerge.

In mid-May, polygala and toothwort were flowering, and the great crested flycatcher, catbirds, and rufous-sided towhees could be heard singing in the park.  Gray treefrogs were calling and red efts could be seen on the trails, especially after a rain.  All 50 American chestnuts survived the winter except one.  That dead tree was replaced by an American chestnut obtained from the State of Washington.

By the end of May, foamflower, starflower, and pink Lady’s slipper were all flowering.  Indigo buntings were once again nesting in trees under the powerlines on the Carriage trail, and a two-lined salamander was found under a rock.

At the beginning of June you would find false Solomon’s Seal, Canada mayflower, smooth Solomon’s seal and pink Lady’s slippers all flowering.  New birds seen included the yellowthroat, broad-winged hawk, Eastern peewee, and least flycatcher.

Mid-June found yellow swallowtails flying about, Eastern chipmunks and gray squirrels scurrying about, and Osprey sitting quietly on the nest, probably keeping 2 or 3 eggs warm.

That’s it for this issue.  Enjoy your time at Pine Hill Park, and please, remember to stay on the trails.

Summer events

Community Work Night Tuesday, August 6th, 5pm. Bring a weed whacker, water and a headlamp. We will shuttle up to Rocky Pond and hike in the Carriage Trail to the top of Library Pass and work our way back to Rocky Pond. It is National Night Out please park down at baseball field. There will be a few parking spots on the Pond Rd just past the gate. Please do not park at the end of Evergreen Ave. We will have a few spare weed whackers for folks to use.

Summer Sunset 5K Race is coming up Tuesday, August13th, 6:30pm. More information at https://www.rutlandrec.com/races

Droopy Pedal Mtn bike race is coming up Tuesday, August 20th at 6:30pm. More information at https://www.rutlandrec.com/races

New trail at Intersection 36 has another section open. Thanks to YES Plan and Youth Works for breaking open 1338 feet of trail and doing over 900 feet of finish work. We only have another 1600 feet to go to Intersection 38. This trail does have a permanent name yet. A few trail names in the hat are: Milk Run, Milky Swirl, Milky Way, au Lait, Holy Roller all in reference to the milk crates found on the side of the trail while laying it out. If you have trail name suggestion please let us know at pinehillpartnership@gmail.com. We will hold a contest and winner will get a Pine Hill Partnership t-shirt.

__________________________________________________________________

Summer Sunset 5K race Tuesday, July 9th, 6:30pm. Next race is Tuesday August 13th at 6:30pm.

Droopy Pedal Mtn bike race Tuesday, July 16th, 6:30pm. Next race is Tuesday August 20th at 6:30pm.

Volunteer Days: Monday July 15th, 22nd, 29th. Tuesday July 16th, 23rd, 30th. Meet at front entrance at 9:15. Bring water, food and bug dope. We will supply tools and gloves. We are working on the new trail off Intersection 36 with Youth Works. Many hands make light work.

Some trail names being kicked around:

Milk Run, Milky Swirl, Holy Roller, Rocky Ridge, Coulée de lait (French for Milk Run) or lait au chocolat (Chocolate Milk). The reason for the ‘milk’ in the name are the multiple milk crates found while laying the trail out.

Opportunities to volunteer

Anyone is welcome to join us on these days. We will be working on the new trail that was started last year. Plus some maintenance work on other trails in the park.

YES Plan from Rutland High School will be in on these dates:

June 5th, meet at front entrance at 9:15

June 7th, meet at front entrance at 9:15

June 10th, meet at front entrance at 9:15

June 11th, meet at front entrance at 9:15

June 12th, meet at front entrance at 9:15

June 17th and 18th starts Youth Works. Meet at the front entrance at 9:15.

June 24th and 25th is Youth Works meet at front entrance at 9:15.

July 1st and 2nd is Youth Works meet at front entrance at 9:15

July 15th and 16th is Youth Works meet at the front entrance at 9:15

July 22 and 23rd is Youth Works meet at the front entrance at 9:15.


Community Work Day

UPDATE: April 26th, We are pushing start time back to 10AM in hopes the hard rain will have stopped. We still have projects that can be done in the damp. We need YOUR help. Thank you.

9AM at the front entrance of Pine Hill Park. We will be working to clean up the front entrance and do repair work to Exit Strategy. We have tools and gloves. Bring water and sunscreen.