Strawberry Moon Walk and Last Week’s Updates

We would like to thank everyone who showed up to the Moonlit Walk this past Monday! To those that could not make it, last Monday was the Strawberry moon. Called such by the Algonquin tribe as it indicated the ripening of fruits and strawberries. In Europe where strawberries are not native it is called the Rose moon. It was also the first time in almost 70 years that the full moon and the summer solstice have lined up.
Speaking of strawberries, fresh picked strawberries from Skidmore’s Community Garden, and all of its other veggies, fruits and sometimes herbs, are sold to the dining hall throughout the year. The Community Garden, like the North Woods stewardship program is run by the Office of Sustainability. Ruth, a fellow Skidmore student, is our garden manager and does a great job of growing all sorts of delicious items that are then sold to the dining hall.
This past week has been full of activity! On Tuesday we also met a new member of the Sustainability team, Jen a recent graduate from University of Virginia, Sana and I are very excited to begin working with her. We would also like to give a huge thanks to Erika Schielke in the Biology department for meeting with us and giving us some very helpful pointers for our project on the mapping of invasive and protected species in the North Woods.

More updates to come, stay tuned!

Happy exploring,

Yesenia and Sana

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From Garlic Mustard to Japanese Barberry

This week, we started removing Japanese barberry from the North Woods! Barberry or Berberis thunbergii is an invasive shrub species in the woods. It is native to Japan and was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s as an ornamental Barberry_1plant. Walking through the North Woods, Yesenia and I often run into visitors who have said that they too have barberry growing in their yards for ornamental purposes. Barberry tolerates a wide range of soils and grows in both full sun and shade. In the North Woods, it is often found in shaded areas along the edges of the woods as well as the edges of trails. The removal period of barberry is late spring early summer.

Managing the spread of barberry has proven to be challenging. The stems of the plant are leathery and the root systems grow both horizontally and vertically into the soil, making it difficult to pull out a single plant. It is impossible to remove barberry without digging around the plant and using a pitchfork for leverage. Clippers can be used to cut down long stems as they have short needles that can prick you.

Barberry_3The removal of barberry from the North Woods is a long-term initiative taken on by the North Woods stewards. Every year, stewards go out and manage, map, and prevent the spread of invasive species in the North Woods. We are working very hard to tackle the barberry that we come across in the next two weeks!

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Hello from the 2016 North Woods Stewards!

Greetings! Sana and I have started our positions as the North Woods stewards. For the next 10 weeks we will be doing a lot of work in our beloved North Woods. We will be maintaining trails/updating kiosks, removing invasive species, working with GIS/GPS systems to aid in mapping, community outreach and some independent projects of our own. Since our start we have already had some wonderful opportunities for learning about the North Woods, and have met and walked through the woods with some local and very knowledgeable individuals like Jackie Donnelly, a local naturalist and plant expert and Kurt Smemo, Assistant Professor at Skidmore. This past Wednesday we a very fun and informative walk with Bob Jones, Associate Professor, who has a wealth of knowledge on the history of the woods and other woodland properties owned by the college. We look forward to learning, exploring and helping to keep the North Woods a place where people can enjoy and admire nature.

Be sure to check back oo stay up to date on our efforts and events in the North Woods, please feel free to email Sana or myself if you have any questions about the North Woods this summer,

Happy exploring!

Yesenia (Class of 2018) & Sana (Class of 2017)
Join us on Facebook at “Friends of the North Woods

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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

boardwalk1  boardwalk3boardwalk2

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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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