Practice Slope 2017-2018

Second Work Session
Sunday, Oct 7, 2018

The fine mist brought out the fall colors as we tackled the final section of the Practice Slope slated to be cleared - a copse of thin, crowded maples near the Tower Trail.  We're building more brush piles on this slope than we have on some of the others.  There are significant swaths of wild blueberries coming in on some portions of this slope that were cleared last year, and we don't want to bury them under mats of brush.  The Forest Service puts a lot of effort into maintaining blueberry patches for wildlife, including using controlled burns to knock back competing vegetation.  Blueberries bounce right back after a burn.  We won't be doing any controlled burns on Hogback, but we'll be exploring what other options we have to help encourage this natural wild blueberry patch to thrive.

The crew:  Diana Todd, John Winn, Alan Baker, Staley McDermet.

How to build a brush pile: heave!

First Work Session
Saturday, Sept 22, 2018

The wind was howling when we arrived at the mountain, and it just didn't feel safe to be cutting trees, even small ones like our project tackles, with those gusts ready to play havoc with our well laid plans about where we intended each tree to fall.  So we decided to go on a trail clean-up hike instead, with a stop at what we think is the oldest cellar hole in the conservation area. 

 

It's about 150 yards uphill from the well-known and well-preserved Bishop cellar hole that is just off the Grant Road entrance to the conservation area.  This cellar hole is much smaller and more deteriorated than the Bishop cellar hole.  The small building that it supported was situated just inside the property line of the first 100 acre parcel purchased by Sylvester Bishop, in 1779.  We think it may have been the first house that Bishop built as he cleared the land.  (He was the first settler to work this piece of land.)

 

Sylvester Bishop later bought additional parcels, including the one that borders Grant Road.  Under his son's management, the farm eventually grew to 220 acres.  Much of that land became the Hogback Ski Area, and later the Hogback Mountain Conservation Area.

We cleared fallen logs and small saplings from the cellar hole and the surrounding area, and picked up some many-decades-old beer cans and bottles.  Those are before and after shots on the right, showing the crew: Jack Widness, John Winn, Diana Todd, Kalin Noble, Sarah Noble.  Not pictured, Alan Baker.  (He took the photos.)

It was a pleasant hike on a windy day.  We took the Cross Mountain Trail, pruning back some of the ferns as we went, to the middle of the former Meadow ski slope, and picked up the Bishop Trail there.  After stopping at the two cellar holes, we came back to the parking lot via the Rim Run.  A good morning's work.  Thanks, everyone!

Fourth Work Session

Sunday, Nov 12, 2017

We're halfway through our ten-year plan!  Two and a half former ski slopes reopened to increase habitat variety on the mountain.  Two and a half more to go.  Actually, we got more than half of the Practice Slope cleared this year, even though we got rained out on one of our planned work days.  Thank you to everyone who has helped over the past five years.  We've done amazing work.  Take a hike up the Tower Trail and you'll pass all three slopes we've worked on.  Compare the fresh cut slopes of the Practice Slope, the first opening you'll come to, to the regrowth that is already more than 10' high in places on the Meadow, the first slope we worked on, in year one of the project.  The Meadow is the ski slope at the junction of the Tower and Bishop Trails.  The final open slope that you'll pass before reaching the fire tower on Mount Olga will be the Great White Way, where you'll see growth that's now one and two years old.  Confused about where the ski slopes are?  Look at a map here.

Looking down from the top (above) and looking up from the bottom (below).

The crew, from left:  Toby Welch, Diana Todd, Amanda Whiting, Staley McDermet, Nancy Anderson, Taylor Burt, Bob Anderson, Todd Smith.  Not pictured: Mike Purcell.

Third Work Session

Saturday, Oct 21, 2017

One of the side benefits of the ESH (early successional habitat) project is that wonderful views open up when the steep former ski slopes are cleared.  If someone told you that the view we opened today on the Practice Slope showed a gift shop, restaurant, and cars, you might think, "Ugh."  But the reality is vibrant: range upon range of wooded hillsides in their late autumn glory stretching to a blue and misty horizon, wildness incarnate, with the buildings and cars in the middle distance providing a thin ribbon of connection to human civilization.

We had a great crew and enjoyed a day of unsurpassed weather - sunny, dry, pleasantly cool.  One more work day on this slope this year is coming up on Sunday, Nov 12.

The crew:  Tom Prunier, Jimmy Prunier, John Winn, Robert Feinberg, Nancy Anderson, Diana Todd, Mike Purcell, Malcolm Moore, Bob Anderson, Amanda Whiting.  Not pictured: Robert Spring.

Brush cutters proved useful on some sections of this slope.

Rocky outcroppings on the upper section of the slope host a lush and varied collection of mosses.

Second Work Session

Monday, Oct 9, 2017

Rained out.

First Work Session

Sunday, Sept 10, 2017

Great weather plus an energetic crew got us off to an impressive start on Phase 3 of the 10-year plan to increase habitat variety on the mountain by re-opening five of the former ski slopes, one every two years, then letting them regrow.  Back when Hogback was an operating ski area, the Practice Slope was the trail that came right down into the parking lot, so it is the part of our project that will be most visible from the highway.  We're not clearing the bottom portion of the slope, just the part uphill from the Tower Trail.  For one thing, the lowest section is not part of the Conservation Area.  It belongs to our neighbors at the gift shop and Southern Vermont Natural History Museum.  For another, it's best to have a bit of buffer between the highway and the area aimed at wildlife.

The crew:  Standing - Nancy Anderson, Staley McDermet, Bob Anderson, Alan Baker.  Kneeling - Amanda Whiting, Laura Schairbaum, Diana Todd, Mike Purcell.

A chainsawyer and a hauler working together make a very efficient team.

By opening up the slope to the sun, we expect the blackberries to flourish, providing dense packets of nourishment to many kinds of wildlife in the late summer and early fall.

Have you seen these white caterpillars?  Don't touch them!  Apparently they can give you a nasty rash similar to poison ivy.

We've got three more work days planned for this fall:

- Monday, Oct. 9 (Columbus Day)

- Saturday, Oct. 21

- Sunday, Nov. 12

Third Work Session
Sunday, Oct 21, 2018

The Practice Slope is now nicely opened up.  We left some specimen oaks when we cleared/thinned the big copse near the Tower Trail.  These will provide food that lots of different animals rely on, from birds to bears.  We also left the stand of still-small evergreens, and a cluster of birches.  Nearby is the patch of wild blueberries that is coming on strong.  Some aspen (locally known as popple) is coming up in the blueberry patch.  If we want the blueberries to thrive, we'll have to cut out the popple to give the berries more sun and a bigger share of the available nutrients.

We've left a few copses higher up the slope.  Most of these are on steep, rocky outcrops.  Cutting them wouldn't dramatically contribute to developing the new woody growth we're aiming for.  Others are thin stands or even just single trees, in the midst of patches of hay-scented fern.  Cutting those trees would likely just encourage the fern rather than generate new woody saplings, so we're leaving well enough alone, and calling the project done.  Good work, folks!  Thanks to all the volunteers.

The crew: Diana Todd, John Winn, Staley McDermet.

Wild blueberries.

Second Work Session
Sunday, Oct 7, 2018

The fine mist brought out the fall colors as we tackled the final section of the Practice Slope slated to be cleared - a copse of thin, crowded maples near the Tower Trail.  We're building more brush piles on this slope than we have on some of the others.  There are significant swaths of wild blueberries coming in on some portions of this slope that were cleared last year, and we don't want to bury them under mats of brush.  The Forest Service puts a lot of effort into maintaining blueberry patches for wildlife, including using controlled burns to knock back competing vegetation.  Blueberries bounce right back after a burn.  We won't be doing any controlled burns on Hogback, but we'll be exploring what other options we have to help encourage this natural wild blueberry patch to thrive.

The crew:  Diana Todd, John Winn, Alan Baker, Staley McDermet.

How to build a brush pile: heave!

First Work Session
Saturday, Sept 22, 2018

The wind was howling when we arrived at the mountain, and it just didn't feel safe to be cutting trees, even small ones like our project tackles, with those gusts ready to play havoc with our well laid plans about where we intended each tree to fall.  So we decided to go on a trail clean-up hike instead, with a stop at what we think is the oldest cellar hole in the conservation area. 

 

It's about 150 yards uphill from the well-known and well-preserved Bishop cellar hole that is just off the Grant Road entrance to the conservation area.  This cellar hole is much smaller and more deteriorated than the Bishop cellar hole.  The small building that it supported was situated just inside the property line of the first 100 acre parcel purchased by Sylvester Bishop, in 1779.  We think it may have been the first house that Bishop built as he cleared the land.  (He was the first settler to work this piece of land.)

 

Sylvester Bishop later bought additional parcels, including the one that borders Grant Road.  Under his son's management, the farm eventually grew to 220 acres.  Much of that land became the Hogback Ski Area, and later the Hogback Mountain Conservation Area.

We cleared fallen logs and small saplings from the cellar hole and the surrounding area, and picked up some many-decades-old beer cans and bottles.  Those are before and after shots on the right, showing the crew: Jack Widness, John Winn, Diana Todd, Kalin Noble, Sarah Noble.  Not pictured, Alan Baker.  (He took the photos.)

It was a pleasant hike on a windy day.  We took the Cross Mountain Trail, pruning back some of the ferns as we went, to the middle of the former Meadow ski slope, and picked up the Bishop Trail there.  After stopping at the two cellar holes, we came back to the parking lot via the Rim Run.  A good morning's work.  Thanks, everyone!

Fourth Work Session

Sunday, Nov 12, 2017

We're halfway through our ten-year plan!  Two and a half former ski slopes reopened to increase habitat variety on the mountain.  Two and a half more to go.  Actually, we got more than half of the Practice Slope cleared this year, even though we got rained out on one of our planned work days.  Thank you to everyone who has helped over the past five years.  We've done amazing work.  Take a hike up the Tower Trail and you'll pass all three slopes we've worked on.  Compare the fresh cut slopes of the Practice Slope, the first opening you'll come to, to the regrowth that is already more than 10' high in places on the Meadow, the first slope we worked on, in year one of the project.  The Meadow is the ski slope at the junction of the Tower and Bishop Trails.  The final open slope that you'll pass before reaching the fire tower on Mount Olga will be the Great White Way, where you'll see growth that's now one and two years old.  Confused about where the ski slopes are?  Look at a map here.

Looking down from the top (above) and looking up from the bottom (below).

The crew, from left:  Toby Welch, Diana Todd, Amanda Whiting, Staley McDermet, Nancy Anderson, Taylor Burt, Bob Anderson, Todd Smith.  Not pictured: Mike Purcell.

Third Work Session

Saturday, Oct 21, 2017

One of the side benefits of the ESH (early successional habitat) project is that wonderful views open up when the steep former ski slopes are cleared.  If someone told you that the view we opened today on the Practice Slope showed a gift shop, restaurant, and cars, you might think, "Ugh."  But the reality is vibrant: range upon range of wooded hillsides in their late autumn glory stretching to a blue and misty horizon, wildness incarnate, with the buildings and cars in the middle distance providing a thin ribbon of connection to human civilization.

We had a great crew and enjoyed a day of unsurpassed weather - sunny, dry, pleasantly cool.  One more work day on this slope this year is coming up on Sunday, Nov 12.

The crew:  Tom Prunier, Jimmy Prunier, John Winn, Robert Feinberg, Nancy Anderson, Diana Todd, Mike Purcell, Malcolm Moore, Bob Anderson, Amanda Whiting.  Not pictured: Robert Spring.

Brush cutters proved useful on some sections of this slope.

Rocky outcroppings on the upper section of the slope host a lush and varied collection of mosses.

Second Work Session

Monday, Oct 9, 2017

Rained out.

First Work Session

Sunday, Sept 10, 2017

Great weather plus an energetic crew got us off to an impressive start on Phase 3 of the 10-year plan to increase habitat variety on the mountain by re-opening five of the former ski slopes, one every two years, then letting them regrow.  Back when Hogback was an operating ski area, the Practice Slope was the trail that came right down into the parking lot, so it is the part of our project that will be most visible from the highway.  We're not clearing the bottom portion of the slope, just the part uphill from the Tower Trail.  For one thing, the lowest section is not part of the Conservation Area.  It belongs to our neighbors at the gift shop and Southern Vermont Natural History Museum.  For another, it's best to have a bit of buffer between the highway and the area aimed at wildlife.

The crew:  Standing - Nancy Anderson, Staley McDermet, Bob Anderson, Alan Baker.  Kneeling - Amanda Whiting, Laura Schairbaum, Diana Todd, Mike Purcell.

A chainsawyer and a hauler working together make a very efficient team.

By opening up the slope to the sun, we expect the blackberries to flourish, providing dense packets of nourishment to many kinds of wildlife in the late summer and early fall.

Have you seen these white caterpillars?  Don't touch them!  Apparently they can give you a nasty rash similar to poison ivy.

We've got three more work days planned for this fall:

- Monday, Oct. 9 (Columbus Day)

- Saturday, Oct. 21

- Sunday, Nov. 12

visits since Sept. 2016

webmasters:  Bob Anderson and Diana Todd