Why did the Porcupine Climb the Tree?
To get a quiller view of the humans crossing the field. (Yeah, I know, don't quit my day job.)
This is the fifth year Claremont Christian Academy middle school students have hiked Unity Mountain Trail during an All Day Hike. It has become an annual event that students remember and look forward to each year.
The adventure began at Marshall Pond Trailhead on Mina Mine Rd. We moved along an old logging road around the pond to our first activity spot. This year we studied different types of lichens. In the past, we have considered leave no trace practices through trailside exploration and creating mini-national parks, complete with maps and guided tours. We have also investigated how leaves decompose and their roles in the forest ecosystem.
We continued to Sam's Overlook for a snack and a great view of the Green Mountains and Mount Ascutney.
All throughout the hike we played a game called Camouflage, which is a nature-based hide and seek game. We ate lunch in the woods, caught leaves as they fell, crossed creeks by rocks and bridges, and enjoyed the company of those around us.
After lunch, we rested as we experienced a solo sit in a grassy field. Students may have read, wrote in their journals, observed their surroundings, took a nap, or just sat quietly. It's a time for reflection, to think your own thoughts, to rest. It is just as important as the hiking and other activities to having a great day.
This year, as we left the grassy field, we noticed a dark, round object sitting on a branch of a tree about 15 feet up in the air. Was it a burl (a knotty growth of wood) or could it be a porcupine? As soon as the question was asked aloud, many people went to get a closer look. It was in fact, a small porcupine. While looking at that one, someone noticed two more in a taller tree nearby. These ones were very large. Was this a porcupine family? Why were they in deciduous trees? Most of us had only seen them in hemlock trees before. Many students has seen porcupines in the fall. Is this a time of migration or extra movement for them? So many questions to ponder.
The last part of the hike passed through a hemlock forest. We stopped to meet the trees here with all of our senses except sight. Students had to trust one another and be trustworthy as they guided each other to specific trees. In past years, we have created nature art and debris shelters in this space. The remnants of which were still around.
Students who had been on the hike before knew we were nearing the end of the trail when they saw the Upper Pond. They excitedly looked in the clear water for salamanders and fish. The last bit goes down a gravel drive through a hardwood forest before it opens up at the County Farm Trailhead. Another fall hike was complete and a great time was had by all.
All Day Hikes and Half Day Hikes are a great way to experience the seasons. The County Land Trails consists of over 6 miles of trails. They are open to the public and the education and outreach specialist is ready to lead your group on a hike.