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Fall 2022 Newsletter - Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association

Read the latest news on Lily Pond Highlands, a Field Note on porcupines, news from our board of directors, and free upcoming hikes and other events.

Read the latest news on Lily Pond Highlands, a Field Note on porcupines, news from our board of directors, and free upcoming hikes and other events.

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Pinnacle News

Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association

Fall 2022

New Conservation Easement Protects Lily Pond Highlands in Perpetuity

In May 2022, the Windmill Hill Pinnacle

Association signed a conservation easement

with the Vermont Land Trust and the Vermont

Housing & Conservation Board to permanently

protect the ecologically diverse 615-acre Lily

Pond Highlands.

Located in the Vermont towns of Athens,

Brookline, and Townshend, west of Hedgehog

Gulf and Grassy Brook Road, it is connected to

the Pinnacle’s 2,100-acre reserve to the east via

the Town Line Trail.

Our management goal is to allow the

Lily Pond forest to mature into old growth

conditions and store a significant amount of

carbon while also providing old forest habitat

that is underrepresented in the region and will

support a diverse range of species.

Lily Pond Highlands. Photo credit: Jerry Monkman /

EcoPhotography. Courtesy Open Space Institute.

An extensive ecological assessment was conducted at Lily Pond Highlands in 2021 by ecologist Brett

Engstrom, helped by Andrew Toepfer who assisted with fieldwork, cartography, and information on

cultural features. The assessment brought to light important features of the land:

• The report called Lily Pond “a natural pond and gem” and said that a total of 34 wetlands

covering approximately 22 acres “are by far the most important habitat for rare, threatened,

endangered, and uncommon plant species.”

• The parcel also contains brooks, many acres of mast trees used heavily by black bears, and food

sources and denning spots supporting a wide range of wildlife.

• The report also logged 10 plant species listed as endangered, rare, or uncommon, 12 vernal pools

of which six are state-significant, nine wetland and forest communities that are state-significant,

and habitat for wood turtles (an uncommon Vermont species).

Public access via a trail (with parking area) will be provided once preparatory work is completed.

The Pinnacle is extremely grateful to the many generous individuals, foundations, and granting

organizations whose contributions have made the purchase and conservation of Lily Pond Highlands

possible, including: the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board; the Open Space Institute’s Appalachian

Landscapes Protection Fund which supports the protection of climate resilient lands for wildlife and

communities - the Fund is made possible thanks to major support from the Doris Duke Charitable

Foundation; The Davis Foundation; Fields Pond Foundation; William P. Wharton Foundation; Bafflin

Foundation; and the Windham Foundation. The Vermont Land Trust was an invaluable partner and

provided leadership assistance, strategic support, and technical expertise to make this project a success.

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News from the Pinnacle Board of Trustees

Field Note: The Usually Shy, Solitary Porcupine Comes Out of Its Shell in Fall

WHPA is sad to say goodbye to trustees Rosalyn Shaoul

and Nora Gordon, who stepped down from the board at the

end of June.

Rosalyn has been a longtime hiker on Pinnacle trails and

with Libby Mills wrote the invaluable history of the Pinnacle,

The Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association’s Story: How did they get

all that land? (The book is available for a donation of $25 or

more.) We are fortunate that Nora is continuing to work with

Pinnacle trustees on projects such as eradicating invasives.

We thank Rosalyn and Nora for their countless hours of

work and energy to ensure the fulfillment of our mission.

We welcome the following new board trustees and are

looking forward to working with them on the Pinnacle

Ridgeline, Lily Pond Highlands, Athens Dome, and the Bald

Hill Reserve:

• Noah Hirschl, Brookline. Sociologist, avid adventurer,

and lover of nature and the outdoors.

• Mike Oster, Westminster West. Background in biology and has worked in the field of

experiential outdoor education for nearly 20 years.

• Laura Swoyer, Westminster West. Background in marine

biology and environmental education. Works full time

as a photographer.

Also this summer, Jennifer Latham has taken over as chair

of the Pinnacle board from Silos Roberts. We thank Silos for

his four years of tireless leadership of the board, which

included several major advances, including the acquisition

of the Lily Pond Highlands parcel, the development of a new

strategic plan, and an update to the land management plan.

The work and leadership by Silos, who remains on the board,

are helping us lean into the future.

Among other officers, the vice chair is now Camilla

Roberts, who also played a critical role in the Lily Pond

project; Molly Wilson continues as secretary; Bob Gay

continues as treasurer; and Sean Long is assistant treasurer.

The Pinnacle is always looking for volunteers! Please

contact us at WHPAtrails@gmail.com.

New board chair Jennifer Latham

Pinnacle trails are open for hikers, bikers, birders, and more

Former board chair Silos Roberts

Pinnacle trails are open for visitors, with the Pinnacle cabin open for day visitors and overnight

reservations (call 802-376-8365 for reservations). Please observe social distancing and other safety

measures. People who are not fully vaccinated should wear masks while in the cabin.

Please leash your dog on Pinnacle land

By Liz Bergstrom

Porcupines have poor eyesight

and move slowly, yet most

predators don’t dare to go after

them. Fishers, coyotes, great

horned owls, and bobcats do

sometimes hunt this mammal.

One of the most common

(and understandably alarming)

misconceptions about the North

American porcupine is the idea

that it can throw its quills. The

truth is, this animal prefers to run

away from danger. However, if

a porcupine feels threatened by

a potential predator, it may turn

around and strike out with its tail.

It has tens of thousands of hollow,

barbed quills on its tail and back

that detach easily upon direct

contact. This can lead to painful

outcomes for people, dogs, or

other animals.

These animals are solitary

for most of the year, but from

September through December you

might hear strange vocalizations

as they seek out a mate. Their

mating calls can include squeals,

grunts, whines, shrieks, squawks, and screams.

Their courtship also includes a “dance” and

rubbing each other with their noses. The males

have epic fights with each other to win over a

potential partner.

Female porcupines usually carry a small litter,

only one baby at a time, who will be born next

year between April and June. Only the mother

raises the juvenile, known as a porcupette.

The North American porcupine is mostly

nocturnal but does forage during the day

and is a good climber, so you may spot one

eating or sleeping in a tree. Porcupines prefer

coniferous forest or forests with a mix of conifers

and deciduous trees. They make their dens in

places such as hollow logs, stumps, rock ledges,

or burrows dug by other animals. Instead of

hibernating in winter, they hide out in their dens

during bad weather.

The North American porcupine is good at climbing trees and prefers to avoid

confrontation. Photo: Tom Murray/Flickr Creative Commons

These prickly animals are vegetarians, eating a

mix of flowers, leaves, seeds, berries, twigs, roots,

and buds in summer. In winter, porcupines subsist

on tree bark and evergreen needles. Porcupines

sometimes gnaw on shed deer antlers, which

are high in nutritious minerals. Their persistent

chewing can damage trees or structures made out

of wood, such as sheds.

Porcupines are one of the largest North

American rodents, second only to the beaver,

and like their cousins, they are surprisingly good

swimmers. They weigh about 20 pounds and

are two to three feet long. If you’re lucky, you

might see the same one from year to year, because

porcupines can live as long as 18 years in the wild.

Like most wildlife, they are best appreciated from

a respectful distance!

You can learn more from Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

The Pinnacle has clarified its policy about dogs. Dogs are allowed on most Pinnacle land and

trails and are required to be leashed at all times. This policy is similar to what is in place in Vermont

State Parks, helps protect wildlife, and respects the comfort and safety of other hikers and

dogs. Thank you for your cooperation.

2021

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Join Us for Upcoming Autumn 2022 Events

Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022: Accessibility Day. 11 a.m.

Accessibility Day is an opportunity for people

who have difficulty walking to get a vehicle ride

to a beautiful site on the Pinnacle ridgeline for a

picnic lunch. Please register with board member

Tony Coven at 802-387-6650. Meet at the plow

turnaround at Old Athens Road. Because of the

popularity of this free program, and the need

for 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicles, advance

registration is required for a ride from the

turnaround to the ridgeline site. Bring water and

a bag lunch, and dress for chilly weather.

Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022: Table at the Putney School’s

Harvest Festival.

Visit the Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association’s

table at the Harvest Festival, where you can view

maps and obtain T-shirts and books in exchange

for donations. The free festival will be held at the

Putney School, 418 Houghton Brook Rd, Putney,

VT from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022: Bald Hill Hike. 1–3 p.m.

Vanessa Stern, a former WHPA board member,

will lead an autumn walk on Bald Hill along the

gorgeous Saxtons River. The 55-acre Bald Hill

Reserve (conserved by WHPA) and the adjacent

Bellows Falls Union High School Forest and Basin

Farm trails total over 300 acres. RSVP to Vanessa

Stern by email or call 802-463-4948. Please wear

good hiking footwear and bring water. We’ll

meet at the 232 Covered Bridge Road kiosk in

Westminster, VT. *PLEASE NOTE: Date has been

changed to Sunday, Oct. 23, not Oct. 22 as listed in

our spring newsletter.

Athens Dome hikers in fall 2021

Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022: Athens Dome Soapstone

Quarry Hike. 12:30–4 p.m.

Board member Camilla Roberts will lead a

fall hike on Athens Dome to explore the historic

soapstone quarries complex, including several

quarries, cellar holes for the workers and draft

animals, the infamous “yellow boarding house,”

and the pitsaw to prep slabs for transport to

Cambridgeport. Meet at the parking lot of the

Nature Museum in Grafton, VT, at 12:30 p.m. to

carpool to the starting point (where parking is

limited). Bring water, snacks, and good hiking

footwear. Weather dependent. Email Camilla

Roberts to register, or call her at 802-869-1388.

Check our website, windmillhillpinnacle.org,

for updates on our hikes and other upcoming

free programs. All are welcome!

Thank you to donors who gave in honor or memory of a special person! You can read the full list on

our website.

Please share photos and videos from your hikes on Pinnacle trails by emailing them to

WHPAtrails@gmail.com or posting them to the Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association’s Facebook page.

PO Box 584

Saxtons River, VT 05154

Email: WHPAtrails@gmail.com

Website: windmillhillpinnacle.org

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