Staying on the Trail

Throughout the summer, the North Woods Stewards are responsible for maintaining the health of the North Woods. This includes, but is not limited to trail maintenance, invasive species management, community outreach, and independent projects of our choosing. One day, when Facilities Services was aiding us in removing fallen trees from the trail, we noticed a significant patch of the blue trail was very muddy, and that a cut-around path had started to develop. This concerned us because in order to continue to protect the woods, we need to prevent habitat destruction, erosion and further fragmentation of the woods.

We decided to build a boardwalk on this area of the blue trail, not far from where the red and blue trails meet, near the North Woods apartments.  Two years ago, Matthew Folts, and Dean Phillips, both Project Managers in Facilities services, provided incredible support for boardwalk projects, and agreed to the same again for this one. Dean and Matt, built every frame of the almost 200-foot boardwalk, and we gathered volunteers to get them in, working a little at a time every week. Once all the frames were in the woods, volunteers helped bolt the frames together, and level the boardwalk. Hammering in the planks was by far the most fun part of this project, and also drew in more volunteers! Paul Lundberg, Assistant Director of Construction Services, spent a Friday afternoon teaching us the right way of setting the boards onto the planks, and hammering in the nails without hurting our fingers. This project took over a month to finish, but once the last nail was in, we were very proud of everyone’s hard work.

Many parts of the trails in the North Woods, such as the red and blue trails, are very wide, as they were originally carriage trails created in 1879. Over time, people created smaller paths to see and explore more of the natural beauty the woods, while inadvertently cutting into natural habitats. This is the on-going challenge for those working to manage lands, balancing recreation with conservation. Many Skidmore community members, including professors, staff, students and stewards have tried closing these auxiliary trails using braches and natural objects to promote use of the already established main trails.  Our hope is that Skidmore students, faculty, staff and Saratoga community members will continue to help us in our efforts to protect the woods. The boardwalk will hopefully be an indication to all those who wish to enjoy the woods in the future that staying on the trails is a vital part of this protection process.

We made a short video that showcases the project and hopefully inspire others to get out there, and help look after our woods. To check out this video and others about the North woods, or just to stay updated click here.

Urvi Kalra ’18, North Woods Steward

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Sunday Morning Mindfulness Walk

This Sunday, Suzanne Rancourt led a very peaceful mindfulness walk through the North Woods. Suzanne is an expert on Native American philosophies and native plants, as well as stress reduction methods. We all met in the Wilson Chapel before beginning our walk. There, Suzanne talked about ways to be more present in one’s surroundings and more aware of one’s own body. Next, we headed into the North Woods where we all walked in total silence. We all focused on the woods’ beauty and tried to fully experience our surroundings.  We walked for about 40 minutes along the Spirit Trail and the Red Trail. After the walk, we headed back to the Chapel to stretch and talk about our experiences. Everyone left with a feeling of calm, relaxation, and introspection. We want to thank everyone who came out, and Suzanne for guiding us in this activity!

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Finishing Up Summer Projects

With only two weeks left, the Stewards are hard at work finishing up our summer projects. One project that we have been working on is a field guide of the North Woods’ plants, trees, animals, and birds. We have talked to local experts and done our own research to create a fun, engaging, and comprehensive view of the varied species that inhabit the North Woods. We want the field guide to be accessible to everyone in the Skidmore community so that students and staff alike can learn about our unique resource. It is exciting to compile all of our research and see our work pay off! In addition, we recently finished creating a new map of North Woods with GIS. We plan to post large maps at the kiosks by each trailhead to the woods. We also plan to add the map to our brochure, so that hikers can take a map with them as they walk. Our other projects include a short informational video about the North Woods and a history lesson about the woods. We are excited to see everything coming together!


The New North Woods Map!

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A New Invasive in Town?

There are only 3 weeks of summer left for the Stewards! Still, we are continuing to work hard to remove invasive plants in the woods. Recently, we have started research about an invasive species that we have never worked with before. Goutweed, also known as bishop’s-weed and snow-on-the-mountain, has infiltrated the North Woods. Goutweed was first introduced in America as an ornamental plant, and it was identified as invasive as early as 1863. Goutweed forms a dense mat that prevents other plants from establishing.


It also displaces native plants, thereby decreasing the diversity of the shady forest floor. Although the stewards will not have time to start managing and removing goutweed this summer, we hope that future stewards can begin to tackle this growing (no pun intended) problem.

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A Spooky and Historic Lantern Tour

On Friday night at 8:00 PM, the Stewards lead a spooky historic tour through the North Woods. We walked in the dusky light of the forest, aided by the glow of lanterns (including some cool solar-powered lanterns!). We made a loop around the Red Trail, and discussed the Mahican people who once made the woods their home, the old Woodlawn property run by Henry Hilton, and rustic Glen Mitchell Hotel once frequented by elite New Yorkers. We also talked about Angeline Tubbs, a woman better known as the Witch of Mount Vista or the Witch of Saratoga. Tubbs’ ghost is still thought to haunt the woods today! To read more about her, see the interesting article from The Saratogian linked below. Overall, the tour was a success, and we want to thank those who came out to walk with us!

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Japanese Barberry Update!

Over the last two weeks, the Stewards have been hard at work eradicating invasive Japanese Barberry by the Orange Trail. It is a tough job! The Barberry is dense and has sharp spines which makes it difficult to pull up. However, removing this invasive plant is important because it displaces native species, changes the pH and nitrogen levels of the soil, and provides an exceptional environment for ticks. We have pulled up nearly 300 plants so far, and hope to pull many more by the end of the summer. In addition, removing Barberry is a great chance to explore the woods. For example, last week we saw a giant centipede on the forest floor!

giant centipede

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A Walk in the Woods

We would like to thank everyone who came out last Friday to walk through the North Woods with us! We discussed some of the woods’ rich history, unique plant life, and diverse geology. For example, did you know that about 600 million years ago the woods were under a tropical body of water called the Iapetus Ocean?

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We walked for about an hour along the Spirit Trail, Red Trail, and Blue Trail– and we spotted a toad and more than 30 red efts along the way! It was certainly a fun and refreshing way to start the morning!

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Starting Week 4!!

We cannot believe that we have already spent three weeks as North Woods Stewards! We have been hard at work pulling up invasive garlic mustard in the woods, and today we will start eradicating barberry. We have also been helping out in the garden; building trellises, weeding beds, and snacking on ripe strawberries and snap peas!

Last week we worked with Sustainable Saratoga on their Centennial Tree 2015 Project. The Centennial Tree Project celebrates Saratoga’s Centennial by planting 100 large-growing trees (i.e. oaks, tulip poplars, American elms, maples) in high-impact locations on both public and private property throughout the city. We helped to plant trees at the three Saratoga Springs Housing Authority properties: Stonequist, Jefferson, and Vanderbilt. We were happy to help out with this important initiative, and we hope to work with Sustainable Saratoga again soon!

 Tree Planting!

Happy Exploring!

Katie and Urvi

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Welcome from Your 2015 North Woods Stewards!


We are the 2015 summer North Woods Stewards and we welcome you to a summer of exciting exploration and learning! Over the past two weeks we been removing and mapping invasive species in the woods, removing trash, and planning future events for the community. We have also been helping out in the community garden (see their blog here: Moreover we are working towards creating a field guide for the North Woods, putting together curriculum for future stewards, and creating a video about the North Woods. We are looking forward to the next month and a half! Feel free to contact us with any questions or suggestions!

Join us on Facebook: “Friends of the North Woods”

Happy exploring!

Katie & Urvi

Katie Cuthbert,

Urvi Kalra,

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Yet Another Wonderful Walk in the North Woods with Jackie Donnelly

Thank you again to everyone who came out to our nature walk in the North Woods with Jackie Donnelly! We caught a last glimpse of some of the wildflowers and other plants before winter comes. Highlights included the American Basswood, which you can spot by its lopsided leaves, and Snakeroot, which was the cause of death of Abraham Lincoln’s mom! Yep, you heard me. There is actually a disease called Milk Sickness that is contracted when a human drinks milk from a cow that has eaten the leaves of a Snakeroot plant, and is poisoned by that milk. Crazy right? Well we also got to explore the variety of wildflowers still present throughout the woods, and reveled in the patch of milkweed as you enter the Woods from Falstaff’s parking lot by the power line. This milkweed is an incredibly vital resource for local pollinators, as species such as monarch butterflies (and bees as well) rely on it for their survival.

If you wanted to come on this walk but couldn’t make it, I will do my best to share the funnest of facts, and more, on the nature walk through the North Woods THIS FRIDAY FROM 2-3 PM for Parent’s Weekend! All are welcome!!!!

Your North Woods Steward,


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