Editor’s Note: Walter Medwid, the Executive Director of Northern Woodlands, is on blog duty this week.
Before joining the team at Northern Woodlands, I served as Executive Director at NorthWoods Stewardship Center, a non-profit conservation organization in northern Vermont. A common refrain heard around the NorthWood’s office was that Vermont is like the country used to be, the Northeast Kingdom is like Vermont used to be, and the northeast corner of the Kingdom is like the Northeast Kingdom used to be.
Regardless of the validity of such comparisons, that corner of Vermont does contain some authentically beautiful country. If the Kingdom’s rich concentration of un-fragmented forestland – under various ownerships – were colored green on the state map, it would rival far better known protected tracts in the northern forest region. The near-boreal habitat adds another interesting dimension, with the likes of black-backed woodpeckers, spruce grouse, gray jays, and good numbers of moose and bear.
The area is also distinctive in its concentration of mountain hiking trails. NorthWoods and author Luke O’Brien just published a hiking guide to these trails entitled Northeast Kingdom Mountain Trail Guide. Besides maps, the guide contains brief histories of the area and its fire towers, as well as other tidbits of interest that add depth to the hiking experience. While I was only peripherally involved in this guide while with NorthWoods, to see the book in hand is cause for some personal celebration and this blatant plug.
Beyond the text and maps that guide the hiker from point A to B, the grounding in Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) history and land ownership transitions reinforce the significant changes that forested landscapes have undergone over the decades, despite present appearances that may suggest little has changed over time. Ironically, calls to establish a new iteration of the CCC model under present economic conditions can be heard from various voices. How different would a 21st century CCC be from a 20th century one?
Sometimes a hike is just a hike – simple physical exercise in the great outdoors. NorthWoods’ new guidebook can support that endeavor. But it can also provide rich context to your journey through this neck of the northern forest.