Winter Regulars in Williston

By josh • 251 Birds, Architecture, Nature, Wildlife • 6 Mar 2014

Williston (Chittenden County)
Five Tree Hill Country Park
Town #44

Most Vermonters think of Williston as the epicenter of Chittenden County’s late development boom, a little bit of Anyplace sprawl off the highway outside Burlington.  While that’s certainly true of Tafts Corners and its tributaries, much of Williston remains mostly unchanged if exurban.  It has always been one of the more scenic towns in the state, with a very nice historic core, Mt. Mansfield looming to the east, and, if you’re up on the ridge south of the village, expansive views of much of the Champlain Valley and the Adirondacks.

Five Tree Hill Vista

(You can click on that image to make it bigger, but please don’t look too closely- it’s a lousy stitching job.  No tripod and a new lens…)

One of the more interesting elements of the landscape is the University of Vermont, nearly six miles away.  The city of Burlington is tucked down the hill between UVM and the lake.  Lake Champlain is completely frozen for the first time in half a decade.  Here the compression from the telephoto lens is such that it’s hard to tell that the lake is actually thirteen or fourteen miles wide at this point, and if there’s open water to be found in the winter, this is the place you can usually find it.

UVM from Five Tree Hill

If you enlarge that photo and look closely, you can just make out the massive wind farms in Clinton County, New York on the horizon on the right (north) side of the image.

As you can see, I visited Five Tree Hill Country Park in mid-February on what turned out to be the stereotypical Vermont February day- cold and crisp, clear and bright. From the parking area and a short walk to the east there are broad views of the main range of the Green Mountains, including an unusual perspective on Mt. Mansfield to the northeast and a typically dramatic look at Camel’s Hump rising above the foothills to the east.

Camel's Hump

Also at the crest of the hill just east of the parking area there’s an historic barn being rebuilt, and with the sheathing off it’s possible to get a good look at the timber frame.

Sunset Hill Barn

The park is owned by the town but accessed by a trail crossing private land. The parking area along Sunset Hill Road is well marked, and there’s a map there that is somewhat useful.  The markings in the woods are a bit confusing though, and I think I probably spent some time on the VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) Trail unnecessarily.

Five Tree Hill Sign  Five Tree Hill Map

I didn’t see much for wildlife on this day, which isn’t terribly surprising for midday in February.  That didn’t bother me much though, given the perfect conditions for snowshoeing.  The trail passes by a small pond and along a streambed through both various stages of hemlock-northern hardwood forest and  large areas of white pine and white cedar, so on another day you might expect more diversity.  Here’s the list:

  • Rock Pigeon (1)
  • Blue Jay (1)
  • American Crow (5)
  • Black-capped Chickadee (9)
  • Tufted Titmouse (1)
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet (2)
  • American Robin (1)

Also, 14 snow machines, 14 humans on snow machines, 9 other snowshoers, 4 cross country skiers, and six dogs.

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