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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Vermont State Parks offers guided hikes programming throughout Addison County – The Middlebury Campus

Vermont State Park employees, in partnership with the Green Mountain National Forest, have organized a guided hikes program for Vermont locals in the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area, located between Middlebury and Brandon, Vt. New this year, the program ran from Labor Day to Indigenous People’s Day and is planned to continue seasonally for the next two years. The last hike of this season took place on Sunday, Oct. 9.
The hikes showcase the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area’s nearly 16,000-acre plot in the Green Mountain National Forest, about 20 miles from Middlebury. The hikes typically cover areas around Salisbury, Lester, Ripton and Goshen, Vt.
The program is funded by the Green Mountain National Forest and aims to help both locals and tourists explore the area while learning from the guides. The hikes vary in difficulty, making them accessible to people of various ages and skill levels, and they are free for everyone, excluding park entry fees.
Hikes this season covered trails such as Chandler Ridge, Rattlesnake Cliff and Falls of Lana in Salisbury, all of which are about ten miles from Middlebury College’s campus. Rattlesnake Cliff is well known in the region for its breeding peregrine falcons and views of Lake Dunmore. The Falls of Lana hike features waterfalls and views of Rattlesnake Cliff. “Is It Really Ethan Allen’s Cave?”, a 1.5-mile out-and-back hike to Ethan Allen’s Cave in Salisbury, educates hikers about Vermont and the Revolutionary War.
Jill Brooks, a park interpreter at Branbury National Park, has been heavily involved in this year’s programming. She and other Vermont State Park employees serve as guides for the hikes. Outside of this program, Brooks organizes programs for day visitors at the park, including campers and beachgoers. These programs include science education and activities geared toward children at Branbury National Park.
The hikes have helped participants get outside and engage with the area’s historical and scientific significance, Brooks said. Tflu dawn of time 2020 whhey have encouraged hikers to become more connected with the nature around them. While the hikes are for people of all ages, this season Brooks has focused on creating hikes catered toward children, to help them interact with nature.
“A big part of the guided hikes is just being able to tell folks more about the areas we’re exploring,” Brooks told The Campus. “I’ve also been doing this fall as part of this programming some things that are geared more specifically towards kids, like doing a little story hour followed by an easy hike to a beaver dam that kids might be interested in.” Not only do the hikes help participants engage with and appreciate nature, but they give people the chance to make connections with fellow hikers. Brooks said she has found the community building aspect to be a particularly special part of the program.
Brooks has been leading a program that begins at the Moosalamoo Campground and goes to the Voter Brook Outlook. “It’s just like a three-mile round trip loop, but when we get to the overlook, we spend an hour there doing some watercolor painting, and that’s been really fun,” Brooks said. “[It is] such a great way to connect with nature and observe more deeply and have nice conversations with people,” Brooks said.
The hikes have been popular among participants, particularly because they are accessible and free of charge. “The people who have come out on hikes and done the programming have really positive feedback and are often very impressed that this is just being offered for free in the community,” Brooks said.
Despite the numerous educational and recreational benefits to the hikes, the program has not been as popular this year as organizers had anticipated. Brooks added that she had hoped turnout would be higher.
The program is set to receive funding for the next two years to continue leading guided hikes for locals. It will follow the same time frame, running from Labor Day through Indigenous People’s Day. While exact plans for next year have yet to be finalized, organizers intend to format the hikes similarly to this year. The location of the hikes is also expected to remain the same, but with goals to expand onto different trails in the area. Brooks said she hopes new hikes will give participants the opportunity to interact with areas that are not as well known.
“I think it would be great to try to focus on leading hikes on trails that people might not be as familiar with in the local area,” Brooks said.
Brooks emphasized that the hikes are free and available to everyone, regardless of age or skill level. She hopes to boost the hikes’ popularity for the next season in fall 2023 and encourages Middlebury College students to look into the program next year.
More information about the hikes and upcoming events in Addison County can be found on the Addison County Independent Calendar of Events.
The Middlebury Campus is the student-run weekly newspaper of Middlebury College. Founded in 1905, our staff has published thousands of stories pertaining to the campus and surrounding community.

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