By Aaron Retherford
Editor’s note: The WORLD will explore the different activities available within the Barre Town Forest and the greater Millstone Trails network. This week, we’ll focus on the weekly Nature Walks.
The Barre Town Forest might officially only be a few years old, but it has plenty to offer anyone who wants to explore whether it is on foot, bike, ski, or snowshoe.
Marianne Kotch leads nature walks on Tuesdays with Suzy Klinefelter, a former schoolteacher who helped create the nature trails behind Barre Town Elementary School. Klinefelter is very knowledgeable about the ferns and wildflowers along the trails.
In their third year of leading nature walks, the duo has learned to be flexible. Kotch said they decide on the route based on who is attending and if anyone has limitations. She said all ages are welcome.
“We have taken babies and leashed dogs to senior citizens and anyone in between,” Kotch said.
Walks typically last about an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the weather. Three of the first four Tuesday walks in June have been cancelled, so weather can be an issue.
Summer heat and mugginess can be uncomfortable, but Kotch and Klinefelter make it a goal to reach at least one “cool spot” on the hikes. These spots can feel like walking into a refrigerator thanks to the unique landscape. Ice forms within some of the rock piles during the winter, but because it doesn’t fully melt, it cools the nearby area in the summer.
The guides also try to incorporate one lookout point into each walk, so participants can view the expansive quarry systems.
Kotch said there are about 25 miles of trails good for the nature walks, so the guides try to vary the outings each week. There are also Sunday morning walks once a month led by Denise Bergeron, who offers another unique perspective of the trails since she has lived in the neighborhood for years and knows the woods very well.
Kotch said she and Klinefelter try to add some local history to their walks if they see new faces.
Kotch had been a member of the recreation commission until this past May, but she’s still a loyal volunteer and would like to encourage more people to come enjoy the walks.
“There’s a lot of variety in the trails. There are hard trails and easy trails. The views from some of the lookouts are amazing,” Kotch said. “You’re walking through our industrial history basically. Back around 1900 when all those quarries were being worked, there were no trees. They’ve all grown up now. There are lots of abandoned quarries throughout the forest, and many are filled with water now. It’s just an amazing landscape to walk along in the woods and see these quarries and realize people worked those quarries…You’re really walking through Barre’s history.”
There are also special events from time to time. At 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 11, Washington County Forester Dan Singleton will lead a special walk on identifying invasive plants.
All walks begin at the Barre Town Forest kiosk, at 44 Brook St. in Websterville. For more information, email Kotch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out which part of the Millstone Trails we’ll focus on next, visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vtworld.news for the latest update.