Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association
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
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.
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
• 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
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
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.
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
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
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