Wild times in pine hill park

Wild Times at Pine Hill Park by Tom Estill

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

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.

Exit Strategy repair

UPDATE JULY 6th: Exit Strategy is now open.

UPDATE JUNE 14th: A mountain biker and runner felt they were entitled to run and ride on Exit Strategy despite the orange snow fencing saying the trail is closed. We have put in 220 volunteer hours to repair it for two people to basically set us back another couple of weeks before the trail can open.

UPDATE June 11: Exit Strategy has been repaired with new material added to the corners. Thank you YES Plan. The last day the two girls crushed it as their classmates decided to play hooky.

Thank you Omya for donating the crushed marble/quartzite material.

We are letting it firm up before the trail opens which hopefully will be in the next 2 weeks. Thank you for your patience.

Refurbishing corners

UPDATE as of Friday 5/31: Material is here and lots of it. Monday YES Plan will move as much as possible in a couple of hours. We will be holding a Community Work night Tuesday at 5pm. Come when you can to help us finish the repair work. Meet at the top of Exit Strategy with lots of bug spray and water.

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Monday, June 3rd we are hoping to repair the corners on Exit Strategy where the under lying material is ‘surepak’.

When Exit Strategy was built in 2013 we moved 17 tons of surepak into the corners for the foundation. We then covered those corners with dirt that was dug out from borrow pits. Between the heavy use Exit Strategy receives, the hard rains we’re getting and the people that felt it was ok to ride it when the trail was super fragile. The dirt is being eroded off so the surepak is starting to show.

We have material coming this week (5/27) that we hope will set up and provide a firm top coating. YES plan students will be moving the material on June 3rd but they are not allowed to run machinery. We will be using Nemo and buckets to move material.

What we’re really looking for is an adult(s) that can run the whacker packer and help with Nemo. YES plan runs from 9:30-1:30. If you could help us out for 4 hours great, only an hour or two-that’s great too. Please email pinehillpartnership@gmail.com.

Thank you!

OUR Trail Building Policy

Pine Hill Park is unlike many other mountain bike trails systems in North America, and visitors from in- and out-of-state travel to the park to experience our unique trails. This unique character includes hand-made single-track, berms, drainages, and playful bridges through the Park’s hardwoods and quartzite boulders and ridges. Since trail-building began in 2003, trail builders have worked to maintain this unique user experience. As of 2019, Pine Hill Park’s 325 acres are almost at capacity for trails. But anyone with ideas to improve sections of trail is welcome to make a plan, then present the plan for approval to the land owner and steward.

To that end, please take a look at our Trail Building Policy page for more information on how you can help to improve the park.

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.


you are the best. Thank you!

We simply can’t express how awesome our volunteer community is in words, so we submit a video and a few stills to give you a sense of the turnout and the effort that was donated to your local trail system today.

Despite a cold rainy miserable morning, we had over 50 volunteers turn up to help us spiff up the front entrance and start to apply the TLC to our trails that make Pine Hill Park such a great place to play!

Unfortunately we are still closed to bikes because of the unusually wet spring (and last fall) that has water settling on the trails in places we’ve never seen before. We had several crews out this morning working on cleaning drainages, and making some temporary measures to get us open just as soon as possible.

We’re so thankful for everyone who turned out to help the trails today. You are awesome individuals, and should feel PROUD !

economic impacts of pine hill reported

We had great Annual meeting on Monday, March 25th. A group of 50+ members and general public heard first hand about our accomplishments this past year and about some of our plans for 2019.

We also revealed the initial results of the user surveys and trail counter data collected between April 2018 and March 2019. Our conservative estimates are that the visitors to the Park contribute over $1.3 million to the Rutland area economy!

A discussion session led to lots of great ideas. Hopefully we can move forward with some of the great suggestions and enthusiasm that were present in the room!

We want to thank the following business and organizations that donated items for our raffle: MTBVT, Alpine Bike Works, Basin Ski Shop, First Stop Ski Shop and Killington Bike Park.

For more detail about the meeting you can read the Meeting Minutes and watch the PowerPoint Presentation. Vermont Public Radio reported about the meeting which you can listen to and read here.

Here’s to a great season of playing in the Park!

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.

Gritty girls & More

Introducing our Gritty Girls Mountain Bike Club! Grades 3-8; Sundays from 1-3pm, 4/28/2019 – 6/2/2019. Dates may change due to weather.

Cost $35 for Rutland city residents; $46, non-residents.  This all-girls club will encourage and promote confidence, knowledge and basic skills in a supportive team environment through games, group rides, and fun challenges.

Includes t-shirt. Equipment loan and/or bike discounts are available. Get ready to ride the trails!  

An optional Killington Resort and Suicide Six day for riding will be available at a discounted rate.


Link for registration:  https://register1.vermontsystems.com/wbwsc/vtrutland.wsc/search.html?module=AR&primarycode=230011

Women’s Mountain bike clinic for beginner/advanced beginner starts Thursday, April 25th at 6pm. Registration link: https://register1.vermontsystems.com/wbwsc/vtrutland.wsc/search.html?module=AR&primarycode=561041

Youth Mountain Bike group starts Thursday, June 6th at 6pm. Registration and more information: https://register1.vermontsystems.com/wbwsc/vtrutland.wsc/search.html?module=AR&primarycode=230011

winter report of wild times in Pine hill park

Wild Times at Pine Hill Park Winter 2018/2019 Summary

One week after the official start of winter in 2018, three of us participated in the annual National Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count. We saw dark-eyed juncos, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, pileated woodpeckers, brown creepers, crows, ravens, and a red-bellied woodpecker. Those were animals we were expecting to see. What we didn’t expect to see was a Green Frog swimming along the shore of Rocky Pond, in a very small area where the pond had not frozen over.

The frog looked emaciated and was swimming weakly. My guess was that it was hibernating in the mud at the bottom edge of the pond, but a recent warm up in weather had thawed the area and freed the frog from its frozen cell. Squirrels could still be seen scurrying about the forest on Dec. 29th. Small streams were flowing throughout the park.

By the final day of December, the forest had become very quiet and the only birds I saw on my 3 hr. hike that day were a hairy woodpecker and a black-capped chickadee.

Jan. 2nd found the forest floor bare and temperatures in the low 20’s. Both ponds were completely frozen over. At both ponds, cracks, booms, bangs, and sloshing could be heard as the water underneath the ice was moving here and there.

By Jan. 5th, a light dusting of snow could finally be found covering the forest ground. Temperatures were in the low 30s and small park streams were gently flowing. Thick ice covered both ponds. Birds seen included Hairy and Pileated woodpeckers, tufted titmouse, black-capped chickadee, and white-breasted nuthatch.

On Jan. 19th, a few inches of snow now covered the lower trails, while upper trails had 6 inches or more. Very quiet in the forest, with a major snow storm to reach the park the next day.


Single digit temperatures on this day, also. Saw only hairy and pileated woodpeckers and crows. Lots of deer, squirrel, and predator(fox and coyote, mostly) tracks seen in the snow. Many spots could be seen where deer were digging through the snow to get to their ground food.

One week later, temperatures were in the teens, and snow was averaging about a foot in depth. Birds seen included crow, hairy and pileated woodpeckers, and white-breasted nuthatch. I was very surprised to hear mourning doves “cooing” near Rocky Pond, so early in the season. Snow fleas could be seen for the first time at the base of some trees. Many gray squirrels were seen, along with their dug-up food caches. Many deer and fox tracks also seen.

The first week of Feb., sound snow depth averaging about 1 ft. A new HUGE pileated woodpecker hole could be seen high up in an oak tree half way up the Upper Giorgetti Trail.Just looking for the carpenter ants they so relish. Saw crows and a hairy woodpecker, and watched a barred owl perched high in an oak tree, then was amazed to see it “spit up” a pellet. I collected the pellet, took it home and dissected it, finding the bones of 4 small mice in the pellet. Made me wonder, how a barred owl can hear mice scurrying about under at least 1 ft. of snow. Their hearing truly is as amazing as ornithologists say it is.

Feb. 16th found many of the trails covered in ice. Had to use my boot ice straps to safely get about. Sunny day, but temps. in the low 30s. Hairy and pileated woodpeckers, crows, and white-breasted nuthatches seen. Beavers very active at the 3 dams at the Rocky Pond outlet. Both ponds frozen over, but Rocky Pond outlet stream was flowing surprisingly high. Lots of deer and squirrel tracks.

The first week of March found temperatures in the low 30s, and snow depth averaging 6 inches. Black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse, crow, and hairy woodpecker all seen. Barred owl seen near the top of Upper Giorgetti trail. Gray squirrels seen throughout park, and Rocky Pond completely frozen over and covered in snow.

March 9th was a beautiful day, with the park covered in a few inches of snow, with the exception of a few south facing slopes which showed bare ground. Many gray squirrels seen throughout park and both ponds completely covered in ice and snow. Tufted titmouse singing, and crows, white-breasted nuthatch and black-capped chickadees flying about. Lots of deer, predator, rodent and squirrel tracks seen. Bobcat tracks on Ridge Runner trail. Park streams frozen over. And a Wooly Bear was photographed by Lauren White sitting on the snow at Rocky Pond.

By March 17th, temperatures had been reaching into the low 60s, and most of the snow on the lower Giorgetti trails had disappeared, with only a few patches of snow. Upper regions of the park were covered in a few inches of snow, with patches of bare ground found here and there. Crow, hairy woodpecker and tufted titmouse were the only birds seen.

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