Eyes and Ears for South Hill
Friday, February 17, 2012
Madison here, the ICNL student intern for Spring 2012. The Stewards Program is off to a great start this semester! We've had two trainings so far, the first on how to find your parcel, and the second covering the online resources available on this website. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see lots of new faces at the informational meeting and trainings. Upcoming topics for trainings include animal tracking (depending on snow) and winter medicinal plants with Prof. Jason Hamilton and a tour of the non-timber forest products sites around South Hill Natural Area. Please feel free to share any suggestions for training topics, or if you feel like you could lead one you are more than welcome to! Any topic related to the natural lands of South Hill is fair game.
We've got an order in for Steward t-shirts, which will use the new logo design. Also, the sap is running fast in the Sugarbush, so syrup may be available earlier than usual this year! Visit the "contact us" page for purchasing information.
Also, our Winter Photo Contest is officially underway! Check out /naturallands/2012winterphotocontest/ for more information.
Stay tuned to email for dates/times of trainings (remember, we ask you to do 3 each semester!), and for news about when the non-timber forest products class is boiling at the Sugarbush!
Warm socks and winding trails,
Sunday, July 17, 2011
A documentation of my backpacking adventure in the Adirondacks
As a kid growing up I always had an affinity for the outdoors – 90% of my summer days would be spent with my cousin, either playing in his backyard river or in my tree house. A few times a year our families would go camping, but it was pull-your-car-up-to-the-campsite style. We’d go hiking and swimming, make our campfire and smores, and sleep in tents. It was an experience in living with nature, but in a “front country” way, and I’m sure we left our traces.
As an Environmental Studies major at Ithaca College, I’ve learned about the affects that agriculture, industrialization, fossil fuel usage, resource depletion, etc, have on the land and other living beings, but I hadn’t taken much time to examine how our recreation – our attempt at reconnecting with nature – can have such a negative impact on the very nature that we are trying to appreciate.
Does that mean that we shouldn’t appreciate nature first hand? Should we stay confined in our homes and just let nature be nature, so we don’t inadvertently destroy it? No. Instead, we need to learn to enjoy nature in a way that also respects it and maintains its ability to be fully enjoyed by future generations. One way to do this is to practice the principles of Leave No Trace: Outdoor Ethics.
This past weekend was a whole new experience for me. I had never been backpacking before; I never had to personally carry everything in and everything out of a campsite. The first principle of Leave No Trace is “plan ahead and prepare”. Well, what exactly was I supposed to prepare? Luckily, the course instructor provided us with a very detailed list of items to bring, and I did my best to come up with them all. I didn’t have a very compact sleeping bag, so it took up more than half of my pack, and I couldn’t find any non-cotton clothing (important because cotton does not dry fast once it gets wet). When I checked the forecast for the next two days, there was no rain predicted for my time on the trip so I figured I would be okay – oh how very wrong I was… I woke up in our tent in the middle of a thunderstorm, but luckily I only had to deal with being soggy for the hike back to the loj on the last day.
Among the most important items to bring was a good pair of hiking boots, which luckily I had. Good shoes helped me abide by the second principle: “Travel and camp on durable surfaces,” because it allowed me to walk directly through a patch of mud along the trail, as opposed to walking around it and gradually making the trail wider. You might think that your footsteps alone won’t make the trail any wider, but if every single person who walked that trail went around the mud, then there’d be a substantial impact.
Now I will admit, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for me was the idea of having to follow principle #3: “Dispose of waste properly”. I’m the type of person that will do just about anything to avoid having to use the bathroom out in the middle of the woods. But in the end I will admit, it wasn’t that bad. I managed to escape with no physical or emotional scaring (aside from a few mosquito bites on my rear!)
There was also the issue of trash and food waste. I had always believed that food waste was no big deal, because it would just decompose anyway, right? But it’s important to not just throw your food waste in the woods around you. You don’t know how your apple core might affect the wildlife in that area, or what kind of wildlife your apple core might attract to your campsite (and who knows, you might end up looking like a tastier treat than that apple core!) Most wildlife in this area will not want to eat you, but nonetheless, you still don’t want to attract them to your campsite for health and safety reasons.
Because this was a trainer’s course – meaning that upon completion I will be able to teach awareness workshops – a big focus of the course was learning how to teach others. Each one of the students taking the course was assigned a principle on which to lead a small lesson, and after the lesson the instructors would give us feedback on our teaching. Principle #4 was mine to teach: “Leave what you find”. When you’re hiking or camping, often times you’ll find interesting objects, both natural and otherwise, and many people like to take souvenirs home with them to remember their time in the woods. Leave No Trace encourages that instead of taking an object home, either take a picture of it, or even draw it. Appreciate the object for what it is, but leave it there for someone else to appreciate after you leave. You may not think that one little object will make a big difference, but if everyone took something from the land then the experience of hiking or camping in that area would be significantly affected. After I explained all this, I took the group outside and asked everyone to find something interesting that they might want to keep. I then asked everyone to give one reason why it might not be a good idea to take that object back with him or her. It was a fun exercise to see what people picked and what their explanations were.
The last three principles of Leave No Trace are “Minimize campfire impacts”, “Respect Wildlife”, and “Be considerate to other guests”. For more information about these principles and others, check out http://www.lnt.org/programs/principles.php
I’m looking forward to incorporating Leave No Trace into IC Natural Lands’ workshops, and training sessions for the Stewards program. If you have any ideas or want to get involved, let me know! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Amber Zadrozny, ICNL Intern, Environmental Studies '13
Friday, April 1, 2011
As I walked along the trails of South Hill this past weekend, a new thought occurred to me. I was wandering up there alone, simply observing my surroundings and thinking about how vastly different everything looks from season to season. Everything appears so bare now – cold, deserted, dead. Heading from the power line cut back into the forest by post #9, I gazed upon the area that I remember pulling endless amounts of Japanese stilt grass from. I looked at the ground in disgust, thinking of how many hours I will probably be spending next fall in the same spot, pulling even more newly seeded stilt grass. Suddenly the thought occurred to me that even though we use the phrase, “the dead of winter”, really nothing here is dead – it is simply in hibernation, hidden under a 6-inch blanket of snow. That monstrous stilt grass seed is lying in wait, ready to spring from its shell at a moment’s notice. The same could also be said about the beautiful ferns and the precious endangered glaucous sedge. Nothing is dead; the forest is merely a sleeping giant.
Environmental Studies ‘13
Saturday, February 12, 2011
When I walk up to my parcel, it sometimes feels at first that I am leaving behind the world of the living, walking into a timeless, dreamlike setting that is permanent and unchanging. However, that feeling quickly fades; a few steps into the forest, and immediately my surroundings burst into life. There are a thousand eyes, four thousand little animal feet scurrying across the forest trail as they rush to sense the newest disturbance.
You can always tell how accustomed someone is to nature by the speed with which this change comes over them. At first, people who have spent their lives in cities walk an entire trip such as this crashing through the underbrush, their footsteps heavy enough that they can be heard from a half mile away. To them, the forest is no different from a classroom corridor, and the life around them nothing more than the artwork which hangs on display. Yet, slowly, you can listen to a change overcome them. Where once they snapped branches, they learn to bend them, then eventually to move in ways that leave the area nearly undisturbed. Soon, those people who travel through the trails often become like ghosts, experiencing the world around them but creating only a faint stirring in their passing.
However, few ever become like the forest eyes. No matter how many times I visit my parcel, still it amazes me how the animals can appear so suddenly. I think I'm walking without making much noise, and suddenly I hear a twig snap under my foot. In the corners of my vision I see a blur of movement, and when I turn my head a pair of shining black deer eyes are staring back at me. We stand frozen for a moment, each examining the other without so much as taking a breath. Then suddenly, the deer shakes its tail twice, and immediately after darts off in the opposite direction, seeming to conjure four or five companions from the air nearby who leap away with their leader and are moments later invisible once more.
When I walk up to my parcel, I feel that I am walking into a world bursting with life. Yet, it is a subtle life, one no more evident or imposing than the flash of white along a deer's fluffed tail, or the whisper of the wind against his fur as he disappears between the sentinel trees.
- Matt Obetz
Class of 2013
Saturday, February 12, 2011
The eerie stigma of Halloween, even though a bit childish, manifests itself in my conscious this time of year, giving a haunting quality to...well… just about everything. So, Venturing into the woods is certainly a chilling experience, but of course one must uphold their steward duty.
To capture the way the forest brings out its spooky side for Halloween I brought my camera and came out with some creepy images. And, if I had let my mind wander I could have had quite a bone-chilling experience. For example, there was a fallen tree with a hollowed out trunk. To take this photo I had to wedge myself in-between two trees, facing directly into the dark abyss. All the while, the constant rustling of leaves kept me on my toes and at any moment I was ready for a bat flutter out of the trees base. Luckily, I witnessed no such occurrence and, after spooking myself out with some “dark” images, I made my way to the edge of the woods. And, like a happy ending to a nightmare my last photos were of some beautiful blue berries dancing in the wind. (Well I suppose the happy ending depends on whether the berries are poisonous or not…)
Happy All Hallows Eve
- Brian Chick
Class of 2014